Hamilton, MT is a town where metropolitan comforts coexist with arcadian lifestyles. Nestled in the heart of Bitterroot Valley, it is the economic center for all the farms, ranches, and orchards in the region. Moreover, its lively downtown area is filled with homegrown breweries, great restaurants, and an emerging local art scene
Located near the Bitterroot National Forest and only 45 miles away from the city of Missoula, Hamilton has access to both urban amenities and outdoor recreational activities, especially with US Highway 93 passing straight through the town and Bitterroot River winding around its eastern border.
As the county seat of Ravalli, Hamilton is also Bitterroot Valley’s largest community. With almost 5,000 residents, the community enjoys a relatively low cost of living, many job opportunities, and positive home appreciation rates.
Real estate trends
For relatively rural states like Montana, the influx of new homeowners from other states has not only pushed residential home sales upward but also brought changes to its economy and residential communities, with house prices outpacing Montana’s average household income.
- The “Zoom Boom” is driving demand. With work-from-home options becoming fully or semi-permanent for workers, people from highly urbanized places like Washington, Oregon, and California are making the move to more rural states like Montana. Many homebuyers prefer small communities that can provide both suburban or off-grid lifestyles and city amenities, such as Bitterroot Valley, Mission Valley, and south of Flathead.
- High demand and low inventory has led to a surge in home prices. Despite the tight housing inventory across the country, Ravalli County had record-breaking home sales in the first half of 2021, which is a solid indication of buyer demand in the area. This is good news for property sellers, but not so much for buyers, especially when demand pushed Bitterroot Valley house prices up by 44% in the first quarter.
- Hamilton can offer a better homebuying experience. Hamilton’s real estate market is relatively friendlier to buyers compared to big cities like Missoula, reporting a well-balanced market for July 2021. Prices range from $100,000 to $19.5 Million, but you can expect median home prices to be within $350,000 to $500,000 based on recent market data from the Ravalli County area.
- Purchasing a Hamilton, MT property is a good investment. Appreciation rates for homes in Hamilton have been going strong for the last ten years, with a cumulative appreciation rate of 50.1% since 2000. Short-term real estate investors have found great returns in the past year alone, with appreciation rates reaching 10.21%. This means homes in Hamilton appreciate higher than 91% of the cities and towns in the country and higher than 70% of Montana.
- Most of the newcomers are returning residents. Out-of-state homebuyers looking to relocate to Montana often have some sort of tie to the state, whether it’s the place where their family lives or its where they were originally from. But those who are completely new to the area cite safety, security, and Covid-19 concerns as their main reasons for moving, hoping that Montana’s wide-open spaces, fresh air, and natural wildlife can provide a better quality of life.
55.38% of Hamilton’s housing units consist of single-family detached homes, making it the most common property type in town. Residential properties within the $250,000 to $1.5 Million price range usually have the following features:
- Property sizes ranging from 1,500 to 4,750 square feet
- Two to four bedrooms and one to three bathrooms
- Indoor amenities such as vaulted ceilings, a master bedroom on the main floor, basement features, separate office spaces, and fireplaces
- Exterior and lot features such as a patio area, porch, detached garage, private driveway, swimming pool and hot tub, fencing, and a barn or shed
Hamilton homes tend to have history. Most were built during the years between 1970 to 1999, while around 24% of the housing stock were built in the years before 1939. But despite the age of these listings, many have been recently renovated and upgraded. However, if you’re looking for newer constructions, there’s a substantial number of homes (16% of total housing) built after the 2000s.
And because of Hamilton’s rich history, there’s a wide range of architectural styles to choose from. Aside from the Queen Anne-style mansion of Hamilton founder and copper magnate Marcus Daly, you can still see remnants of Hamilton’s economic boom in the 1900s through unadorned frame cottages and Montana-style Prairie homes and ranches present in most neighborhoods.
Bungalow-type houses are also common in Hamilton’s single-family housing market, most of which draw stylistic influences from craftsman, colonial revival, Art Deco, and modern architecture.
Luxury homes and investment properties
Mountain homes and log cabin homes dominate the luxury housing market in Hamilton. Whether you purchase one as your main home, vacation house, or as an investment for rental use, a luxury property in Hamilton is a great asset to have. These properties are priced around $900,000 to $19,500,000, and for good reasons:
- Sprawling acreage. Luxury properties and listings can be on lots as large as 370 acres, which can accommodate a wide range of exterior features and building structures like a 2- to 6-car garage, barn, gazebo, guest house, swimming pool, and more. These wide spaces can also accommodate more bedrooms and bathrooms than mid-range homes, with some having as much as 18 bedrooms and 12.5 bathrooms.
- Unparalleled views. Hamilton luxury homes are often located on waterfront, hilltop, or wooded properties, which provide privacy and unobstructed views of Hamilton’s natural scenery, such as the Bitterroot Mountains, Bitterroot River and its streams, and the forested areas of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.
- Exclusive community amenities. Some properties are part of private communities like the Stock Farm Club, which offers access to its Tom Fazio-designed golf course and amenities for fly-fishing, horseback riding, and shooting. The Club also offers spa treatments, fitness classes, and tennis and hiking programs.
- Top end luxury features. Luxury homes are defined by the comfort, convenience, and opulence offered by its interior and exterior features. You can expect these homes to have stone fireplaces, cathedral ceilings, grand living areas, theater or media rooms, furnished basements or den areas, and expansive outdoor living areas. Other properties can also have features like horse barns, artisan creeks or ponds, or a private shooting range.
Living in Hamilton, Montana
Economy and cost of living
Hamilton is a great place for families, retirees, or people who want to live a healthier and more natural lifestyle. The cost of living in Hamilton is 13.3% lower than the national average, with residents enjoying more affordable housing and rent, utilities, transportation, and goods and services compared to other towns and cities in Montana.
Agriculture is Montana’s leading industry, contributing around $4.6 Billion to the state’s economy in 2019. Not only does it drive Montana’s economy, but it is also one of the largest contributors to the national agricultural industry.
Ravalli County agriculture is particularly unusual in its diversity, with 98% of its farms classifying as small-scale or family-owned and operated. Hamilton’s farming cooperative provides residents with a wide range of agricultural produce, ranging from forage crops like alfalfa to the Native American plant the valley is named after – the Bitterroot
Weather and climate
Hamilton enjoys a dry climate with cold temperatures. Summer seasons are short and warm without too much humidity, making it perfect for fly fishing, golfing, hiking, and other outdoor activities. When winter comes around, you can expect fresh powder snow that’s great for skiing around the months of November to March.
Hamilton, MT schools
The Hamilton School District (HSD) is one of the top 10 best school districts in Montana, as well as the second best school district for athletes in the state. This includes Hamilton High School, Hamilton Middle School, Daly Elementary School, and Washington Primary.
One of the notable programs the HSD has implemented is its Transformational Learning program for K-12 students. Born out of necessity during the Covid-19 pandemic, Transformational Learning goes beyond online learning to provide each student with a unique educational program tailored to their specific needs and strengths.
You can learn more about HSD and its other programs here.
As the central trade area for all the farms and ranches in Bitterroot Valley, Hamilton’s culinary scene is second to none when it comes to locally sourced produce and home cooked meals. Here are some of the local favorites:
- Bouilla. This “fresh food oasis” serves gourmet sandwiches, salads, and tapas-style dishes made from scratch, as well as a variety of craft beers and wine. If you get the chance, try their grilled portobello mushroom sandwich, ahi tuna grain bowl, and ginger kombucha.
- River Rising Bakery. This Hamilton staple is your go-to for breakfast or brunch. Everything on the menu is homemade, from the mushroom tapenade used in their turkey and wild mushroom gourmet sandwich to the gluten-free muffins and cookies. They also offer a wide range of coffee and tea specialty drinks.
- Coffee Cup. If you’re a newcomer to Hamilton, this family diner serves meals that can make you feel right at home. Their bestsellers are traditional American comfort food like eggs benedict, biscuits and gravy, corn beef hash with eggs sunny side up, and fried chicken.
- Westslope Distillery. Wind down with some friends at this community-oriented distillery’s tasting room, where you can sample the best spirits and craft cocktails Montana has to offer.
- Hiking. With the Bitterroot National Forest to the west, the Sapphire Mountains to the east, and the rest of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness stretching along the length of the Valley, there’s no shortage of hiking trails and green spaces to explore. A favorite trail is the Blodgett Canyon Overlook Trail, which is great for all skill levels and features breathtaking views of the Valley. It’s recommended for birdwatchers and wildflower enthusiasts as well!
- Biking. Mountain bikers can follow two trails: Ward Mountain near the south of Hamilton and the Buttercup trail along Sleeping Child Road. You can also ride along a 45-mile-long paved bike path that parallels the US 93, from Hamilton to Lolo. There’s even an annual Lost Trail Bike Fest where hundreds of cyclists ride a part of the Transamerican Bicycle Trail in the Lost Trail Pass area.
- Camping and wildlife watching. There are 26 developed campgrounds with 1,500 miles of access to trails and fishing spots around Bitterroot Valley. Just exploring the trails from Lolo to the Lost Trail Pass can give you 25 prime birding and nature viewing sites. Kiwanis Park, located at the west end of Madison Street, is also a popular choice among families. It connects to the River Park and Trail, where you can engage in a variety of wildlife sightings.
- Fly fishing and boating. The Bitterroot River flows north between the Bitterroot and Sapphire Mountains, and Hamilton is located right along its banks. You can enjoy a peaceful float trip down the river or cast a line at one of its many fishing access sites. Lake Como and the Painted Rocks State Park are also nearby, where you can go boating or swimming, fish at one of the snow-fed streams, or have a nice picnic.
- Skiing. One of Montana’s best ski resorts is the Lost Trail Ski Area, which covers 1,800 acres across two different mountains. It has an annual snowfall of over 325 feet and more than 60 named routes downhill. The winter season in Hamilton is also great for cross-country skiing at Chief Joseph Pass, Lake Como, and Skalkaho Snowpark.
- Farmers Markets (on Bedford, 2nd , and 4th Streets). Every Saturday morning starting from May to October, the Hamilton Farmers Market Cooperative provides venues where the community can buy local produce, bread pies, crafts, and other products from Bitterroot Valley farmers and businesses.
- Culture Crawl. This monthly art walk is organized by the Hamilton Downtown Association every second Saturday, featuring works of local artists and craftsmen from various art galleries and boutiques in Downtown Hamilton.
- Montana Professional Artists Association Show and Sale (June). The MPAA’s Summer Annual Show features Montana’s best artists and their work at the Bitterroot River Inn in Hamilton for a whole weekend. Guests can visit to view their group show, as well as buy some of the artists’ paintings, photos, and sculptures.
- Hamilton Players. From putting on ad hoc productions to presenting consistent four show seasons each year, the Hamilton Players have provided world-class entertainment to Hamilton and the rest of Bitterroot Valley for 25 years. You can watch one of their productions at the Hamilton Playhouse or check out upcoming shows and events here.
- Hamilton Daly Days. This annual tradition is one of the most anticipated events in Hamilton. Held during the 4th weekend of July, vendors from all over Montana set up food tents, sidewalk sales, children’s games, and other fun activities. There are also musical performances, iconic Wiener Dog Races, Jerry Wessel’s Car Shows, and a Friday Night Street Dance.
- Annual Hardtimes Blue Grass Festival. The Hardtimes Blue Grass Festival is a musical event dedicated to that “old timey mountain feel” that comes with traditional bluegrass music and family-friendly gatherings in a down-to-earth setting.
- Bitterroot Celtic Games & Gathering. Organized by the Bitterroot Celtic Society, this annual event aims to educate, celebrate, and promote Celtic heritage in Bitterroot Valley. Held every 3rd weekend of August at the Daly Mansion in Hamilton, visitors can watch and participate in Scottish and Irish dancing, adult Highland athletic competitions, whiskey tastings, dog herding demos, and Celtic crafts.
- Ravalli County Fair and Labor Day Weekend. This 100-year-old, four-days-long annual fair is the largest event in Ravalli County, held in the Ravalli County Fairgrounds on Old Corvallis Road. Starting off with a Fair Parade, spend an entire weekend full of family friendly activities and entertainment, cultural and historical exhibits, community food vendors, art booths, carnivals, rodeos, music, and more.
Keep updated with Hamilton’s community events and festivals through their newsletters here.
Real Estate Market
2020 was a landmark year for the US real estate market, characterized by a surge in demand, record-breaking home sales, and rising home price listings. This momentum continued well into the first half of 2021, coinciding with migration to small cities and micropolitan areas.
While the real estate market has been great for sellers, it continues to be challenging for homebuyers and investors. And despite news of the market slowing down, sky-rocketing prices still push out a lot of buyers looking for affordable homes.
Towns like Hamilton, MT are starting to get a lot of demand, and it’s important to work with a real estate agent who has a solid local network and in-depth knowledge of its communities.
Find your dream home in Hamilton
Hamilton, MT real estate has gone through major changes in recent years. Finding the perfect property can be difficult without the professional skills, expertise, and local network of a Bitterroot Valley Realtor.
My name is Lyric DeVries Johnson, and I’m a third-generation Realtor from DeVries Real Estate. As a Bitterroot Valley native, I know Hamilton like the back of my hand. With my local connections and unique contract strategies, I provide my clients with off-market properties and the best deals in the local market.