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Old 06-07-2017, 06:44 PM
 
86 posts, read 82,685 times
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We currently live in the mts of Prescott AZ and want to move to Montana. Our friend is moving to Helena but we're not sure if that city is for us. We have been told how gorgeous Bigfork/Flathead Lake is but it is very small and maybe White Fish might suit us better. We would want a little acreage and little or no neighbors in a rustic home. I guess I'm asking for some feedback. We're conservative also. Any outstanding problems, other than the winter?
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Old 06-08-2017, 09:22 AM
 
Location: Earth
1,442 posts, read 3,569,406 times
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You might keep the place in Prescott for a while, in case you run screaming back to it when Winter sets in ... it will be the great equalizer. Winter travel and road maintenance need to be a key consideration in choosing where you think you want to live.

The area is growing rapidly. You won't find what you're after anywhere close to Bigfork or Whitefish ... that's all been snatched up and you'll be driving a fair amount to get anything with acreage/privacy and still 'affordable' ... but that is subjective and depends on your budget/means. Needing a good paying job with health benefits will add complexity to your plan, so it's always good to show up with money AND a job.

Don't get sucked into a fantasy about 'living in MT' without looking carefully at all the angles, and by all means if you've never even spent time here, start planning some mini-vacations throughout the year to spend time in different areas through the seasons and scope things out.
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Old 06-08-2017, 09:50 AM
 
41 posts, read 40,026 times
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The entire Flathead region (Kalispell and surrounding communities) have been experiencing accelerated growth for the better part of two decades and have all the subsequent problems that come along with that growth i.e. expensive housing market and conversely a lack of affordable housing, traffic congestion, shortage of jobs that pay a living wage, and a burgeoning meth/opioid epidemic.

Depending on your station in life will influence how you perceive and experience the area. If you're a younger couple just starting out with no education or financial stability your "Montana dream" will soon become a nightmare when you discover your minimum wage paycheck(s) barely cover the essentials like rent, food, utilities, etc.

On the other hand if you're older, educated, established, financially stable, your "Montana dream" can very much become a reality. Buy your acreage, build your log home, raise your horses, and isolate yourselves from the riff-raff that inhabit the Flathead.
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Old 06-08-2017, 05:02 PM
 
86 posts, read 82,685 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shuffler View Post
You might keep the place in Prescott for a while, in case you run screaming back to it when Winter sets in ... it will be the great equalizer. Winter travel and road maintenance need to be a key consideration in choosing where you think you want to live.

The area is growing rapidly. You won't find what you're after anywhere close to Bigfork or Whitefish ... that's all been snatched up and you'll be driving a fair amount to get anything with acreage/privacy and still 'affordable' ... but that is subjective and depends on your budget/means. Needing a good paying job with health benefits will add complexity to your plan, so it's always good to show up with money AND a job.

Don't get sucked into a fantasy about 'living in MT' without looking carefully at all the angles, and by all means if you've never even spent time here, start planning some mini-vacations throughout the year to spend time in different areas through the seasons and scope things out.
thanks but we're very familiar with cold mountain weather. Also the listings I've seen on Zillow show many very affordable homes in Bigfork so I guess I'm confused by your comments. We are retired so luckily we don't have to worry about finding employment. I guess I should have mentioned that. Any other info about Bigfork that would help us? Thanks.
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Old 06-08-2017, 05:23 PM
 
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Bigfork. Overcast in the winter---many gray days. Many winter days have a fog bank.

I like Big Fork in the summer a lot. It's a great summer home location.

In the winter the lake water recedes & I think it is not so picturesque.
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Old 06-08-2017, 08:52 PM
 
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Whitefish is almost twice as populated and much, much more dense, though it depends exactly where you are and it is not dense by typical city standards. It is an official town. Bigfork is an unincorporated, spread out place. Whitefish has the ski resort nearby but is pretty busy year around. Bigfork leans toward being a summer place, with a focus on the lake (but with some theatre). Whitefish has a few dozen national name stores (not huge ones). Bigfork has few national stores beyond the hardware store. It has some local stores but you might be running into Kalispell more often from Bigfork.


Extended visits are a good idea, summer & winter. If you really like it, maybe buy early next spring. Or if you are ready to go, by September.


There are plenty of conservatives both places. More progressives in Whitefish. Bigfork is somewhat older on average.

Last edited by NW Crow; 06-08-2017 at 09:09 PM..
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Old 06-09-2017, 07:41 PM
 
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(not an expert: have lived in FH Valley two years)

Big Fork = cheaper, less progressive, tiny downtown but if you get close to Flathead Lake it darn near feels like living by the ocean. Big Fork has more hills than nearby Kalispell and I like it for that. You won't enjoy driving to Kalispell in the winter to stock up. Schools are tiny and all on the same campus. I've heard Big Fork is friendlier than nearby Kalispell, and I'm guessing that has to do with lots of transplants and retirees. My sense going there is it's more attractive to retirees or hardcore outdoors people because there's just not much there town-wise.

Whitefish = more expensive property (and a resort sales tax), very attractive and larger downtown, resort town, lots of progressives and Canadians. More local bigger stores, closer to Glacier Park (always a good thing). Probably a better place to live if you're very active outdoorsy types who order fancier coffee drinks and $200 hiking shoes, but still plenty of pockets of down-to-earth people. Winter sports people can't go wrong there.

I'm guessing Big Fork is going to give you the property you're looking for.

As others have said, MT winters are no joke. For me it's not the snow or the cold but the grey eternal winter. Kalispell has one fewer sunny day a year than Seattle, to give you a sense of perspective.

You can actually still find properties in Kalispell with a few acres even in town and not very expensive, but it's hit or miss with what part of town and you could be surrounded by roads, etc. Columbia Falls also offers such properties and it's even closer to Glacier Park though not as attractive downtown wise as Big Fork or Whitefish.
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Old 06-09-2017, 08:10 PM
 
86 posts, read 82,685 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NW Crow View Post
Whitefish is almost twice as populated and much, much more dense, though it depends exactly where you are and it is not dense by typical city standards. It is an official town. Bigfork is an unincorporated, spread out place. Whitefish has the ski resort nearby but is pretty busy year around. Bigfork leans toward being a summer place, with a focus on the lake (but with some theatre). Whitefish has a few dozen national name stores (not huge ones). Bigfork has few national stores beyond the hardware store. It has some local stores but you might be running into Kalispell more often from Bigfork.


Extended visits are a good idea, summer & winter. If you really like it, maybe buy early next spring. Or if you are ready to go, by September.


There are plenty of conservatives both places. More progressives in Whitefish. Bigfork is somewhat older on average.
Thanks for the helpful info. We're leaning towards Bigfork.
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Old 06-09-2017, 08:19 PM
 
86 posts, read 82,685 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrwumpus View Post
(not an expert: have lived in FH Valley two years)

Big Fork = cheaper, less progressive, tiny downtown but if you get close to Flathead Lake it darn near feels like living by the ocean. Big Fork has more hills than nearby Kalispell and I like it for that. You won't enjoy driving to Kalispell in the winter to stock up. Schools are tiny and all on the same campus. I've heard Big Fork is friendlier than nearby Kalispell, and I'm guessing that has to do with lots of transplants and retirees. My sense going there is it's more attractive to retirees or hardcore outdoors people because there's just not much there town-wise.

Whitefish = more expensive property (and a resort sales tax), very attractive and larger downtown, resort town, lots of progressives and Canadians. More local bigger stores, closer to Glacier Park (always a good thing). Probably a better place to live if you're very active outdoorsy types who order fancier coffee drinks and $200 hiking shoes, but still plenty of pockets of down-to-earth people. Winter sports people can't go wrong there.

I'm guessing Big Fork is going to give you the property you're looking for.

As others have said, MT winters are no joke. For me it's not the snow or the cold but the grey eternal winter. Kalispell has one fewer sunny day a year than Seattle, to give you a sense of perspective.

You can actually still find properties in Kalispell with a few acres even in town and not very expensive, but it's hit or miss with what part of town and you could be surrounded by roads, etc. Columbia Falls also offers such properties and it's even closer to Glacier Park though not as attractive downtown wise as Big Fork or Whitefish.
Thanks! We're hikers but not hard-core "active outdoorsy types". We do want to be around the down-to-earth people, not interested in snobs. :-) A friend of ours is moving to Helena but too big for us. I heard from someone that crime is going up in both Helena and Kalispell which is to be expected I guess with the increase in population. Again, thank you for your time.
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Old 06-11-2017, 12:50 AM
 
Location: Northern Rockies
148 posts, read 109,698 times
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Whitefish is more expensive and you may have a bit more trouble finding a 'rustic' home on acreage near there. Most of the homes on acreage near WF tend to be more modern and luxurious, although often with faux rustic decor. Bigfork's housing supply will lean a bit more in the 'rustic' direction. Also, Bigfork likely has a much better supply of affordable options in secluded, forested areas, while the forested areas around Whitefish are mostly near the lake or resort and are very spendy.

Bigfork is conservative, and Whitefish is liberal. The average dude living in Whitefish is way more concerned with the latest powder dump than state or federal politics, but the precinct data suggests that most people here do ultimately pull the lever for the Dems. I'm a solid R however and I don't mind it, and folks here are much less sanctimonious/judgmental than coastal liberals. Everywhere else in the Flathead ranges from conservative to extremely conservative. Republicans pile up huge numbers in this valley, and we often provide the margin of victory to Republican candidates statewide.

Whitefish gets somewhat more snow than Bigfork, and tends to run a degree or two colder. They both hold snowcover through the winter, but the snowpack in Whitefish seems like it's often twice as deep as Bigfork. Compared to other areas like Helena, we don't get strong chinooks, so we don't spike into the 50s in the middle of winter like they do. On the other hand, the mountains of Glacier Park and the Bob tend to block the worst of the arctic cold fronts. My view is that the lack of 'snow eating' chinook winds is, in fact, a blessing -- persistent high quality snowpack means we have a wealth of snowmobile, skiing, and snowshoeing opportunities in every direction, even at the valley floor. Consider picking up some type of winter activity, otherwise you'll go stir crazy. Alcoholism and depression/suicide disproportionately affect our state, in part because people tend to fall into 'hibernation' during our long winters. Winter is actually my favorite season here, but you have to accept it on its terms and get out and enjoy the snow.

Both downtown Whitefish and downtown Bigfork are picturesque with lots of galleries, restaurants, shops, etc. They're both geared toward tourists, but Whitefish gets greater numbers of them since it's just bigger. Bigfork is smaller and with less locals-oriented shopping, but the drive to Kalispell is easy. Perhaps consider mounting snow tires for the winter months.

One suggestion would be to look into the Happy Valley area just south of Whitefish on the way to Kalispell. It's outside of town and away from Whitefish Lake, so it's relatively affordable, yet still heavily forested with great properties.
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