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Old 06-09-2007, 04:26 PM
 
Location: seattle, wa
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Question Billings or Missoula or Great Falls ?

My husband and I are planning to move to Montana within the next year. His job will allow him to transfer to either Billings or Missoula or Great Falls. Of these three areas, which would you recommend? We are both 50 years old, no children. We hope to find a home with about an acre or two of land. Neither of us is particularly interested in outdoor activities. Which of these cities generally has milder winters? Does the cost of living differ a lot in each of these three cities? Are they equally clean and well maintained? I would really appreciate opinions and advice from people who actually live there. What do you like and dislike about these cities? Can anyone help? Thanks!
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Old 06-09-2007, 05:26 PM
 
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Billings is in the flatlands with rimrocks around. Great Falls is in the flatlands with some mountains way off in the distance, to the south and west. Missoula is definitely in the mountains, with pretty green mountains at your doorstep. You have the beautiful Mission Mountains to the north and the Bitterroots to the south. I mean, you can be in the mountains within an hour even if you're in Billings or GF, but the areas immediately surrounding those two towns are rather flat. This alone turns many out-of-staters away from Billings and GF.

Missoula and Billings have milder winters, with Great Falls winters slightly colder. GF is also windy as hell. They all get around equal amounts of snow. Summers in Missoula are the mildest, although I suppose the GF wind helps cool things down there as well.

They're all pretty clean towns with easy paces of life. Missoula definitely has the strongest economy, which also means the highest real estate prices. But depending on where you're coming from, even the most expensive areas of Missoula will probably be cheap to you. Missoula has the University, so it's definitely the most exciting and intellectual. Missoula is liberal (more liberal than NYC, which says something), whereas GF and Billings are conservative.

The nay-sayers will deride Missoula as being a bunch of yuppy transplants, which I guess is sort of true. But it's all relative; compared to San Francisco or Seattle or something, Missoula isn't yuppy at all. To you it might be what you're used to. As a native New Yorker, I'd definitely pick Missoula.
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Old 06-10-2007, 11:34 AM
 
Location: seattle, wa
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Thanks, NYMTman Your input has been very helpful. Since I last posted, I've been reading that the cost of living is lower in Billings than Missoula and Great Falls. Also, that jobs are more plentiful in Billings. As I mentioned previously, my husband will have a job waiting for him, but I will need to find something for myself as soon as possible after we move. Do you know if it is possible to find a decent home in Billings or Missoula for under $250,000? We are hoping for 3 bdrm/2 ba with an acre or more of land. Are we being unrealistic? Our home here in Seattle was $270,000 (2 years ago).
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Old 06-14-2007, 04:39 PM
 
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Billings, hands down. But dont forget to check out Kalispell too!
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Old 06-14-2007, 08:02 PM
 
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In Billings, you'll probably be able to get a house + an acre of land for $250k. For Missoula, that might cost you closer to $300k. But that's just off the top of my head.
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Old 06-18-2007, 12:21 PM
 
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Billings is the warmest, but also has humidity in the summer. Love Missoula, but it is surrounded by hills - like a bowl - and the air can get bad because it just sits there. Often temperature varies very little from morning until night. Outside Missoula, you wouldn't have that problem. Missoula is a nice jumping off place. You could go to Idaho, Glacier Park, south is great. Billings is hard for short trips. Not a lot nearby.

You really need to visit first. They are all completely different towns. Haven't been to Great Falls in years, but of the people we know who live there, they want to leave. Not sure why. I guess you can tell, I can't really answer your questions. If you visit, you will get a feel for the towns.
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Old 06-18-2007, 06:44 PM
 
Location: Great Falls, Montana
529 posts, read 1,333,900 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sk012 View Post
My husband and I are planning to move to Montana within the next year. His job will allow him to transfer to either Billings or Missoula or Great Falls. Of these three areas, which would you recommend? We are both 50 years old, no children. We hope to find a home with about an acre or two of land. Neither of us is particularly interested in outdoor activities. Which of these cities generally has milder winters? Does the cost of living differ a lot in each of these three cities? Are they equally clean and well maintained? I would really appreciate opinions and advice from people who actually live there. What do you like and dislike about these cities? Can anyone help? Thanks!
Great Falls Montana has the lowest cost of living out of the three. We have mountains on 3 sides, east, south, and west.
15 minutes in either direction south or east puts you into the mountains (Highwoods, Little Belt, Big Belt). 30 minutes puts you directly at the base of the mighty Rockies.

Great Falls beats the other two out in recreation year round. The oldest operational ski area in the state is just down the road (Showdown).
Great Falls is the only city in the state you can water ski through the middle of.

For 250K you can have a home built new on a few acres (Great Falls).

Crime and drug abuse is highest in Missoula.

Missoula is dark and gloomy during the winter months, and can have any number of burning bans on wood stoves as a result of the poor air quality found during the winter months too.

Great Falls and Billings are sunny throughout the winter months.

Both Great Falls and Billings afford much more opportunity in the job markets while Missoula does not.
Missoula doesn't have a grounded economy, Great Falls and Billings does.
When the housing boom goes bust, so will Missoula. Great Falls and Billings are much more focused and maintain a certain diversity in various industries so they won't go bust.

Great Falls and Billings would most likely resemble the Montana that everyone has come to love over the years, while Missoula is just something that drove out of California back in '89.

Missoula is crowded and cramped, Great Falls and Billings are not.
Billings has prostitution (street walkers), Great Falls and Missoula does not.

Folks in Missoula aren't as welcoming or friendly (they are much too self absorbed), whereas the folks in Great Falls and Billings are very welcoming and friendly.

Missoula jobs pay the lowest in the entire state, Great Falls and Billings pay the highest.

Each maintains it's parks and streets pretty well, but be prepared for more litter and beer cans scattered about in Missoula.... it's a party town.

Great Falls is closer to Glacier National Park. Billings is closer to Yellowstone National Park. Missoula is the farthest away from both.

Most all of north Idaho, the Bitterroot, and parts north into Lake County, Mineral County and Sanders County all dump their garbage in Missoula.
Missoula is also the location of one of our nations larger superfund cleanup sites.

Great Falls and Billings aren't even remotely close to any superfund cleanup sites.

In Missoula, you have to pay before you pump your gas. In Great Falls and Billings, you don't.
Gasoline is cheaper by the gallon in Great Falls. Missoula has the highest price per gallon.

I'm originally from Dillon. I lived well over 20 years in Missoula, and have lived in Great Falls since 1991. I have a sister in Billings, a brother in Phillipsburg,... we visit frequently.
My family came to Big Hole country in the 1870's and we haven't ever left.

We also own, albeit ever so collectively, land west of Darby Montana (up the south fork) and up Sula pass.... we 3 frequent the cabins on a regular basis, so this puts me having to go through Missoula much more than I would care to.

Last edited by GiftShoppeGuy; 06-18-2007 at 07:14 PM..
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Old 06-18-2007, 09:49 PM
 
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Quote:
I'm originally from Dillon. I lived well over 20 years in Missoula, and have lived in Great Falls since 1991. I have a sister in Billings, a brother in Phillipsburg,... we visit frequently.
Philipsburg is a lovely town! Maternal side of my family is from there, and Pburg is definitely my favorite tiny town in the state - ranking only behind the larger Bozeman and Missoula overall.

Anyway, I might as well be a homer and boost Missoula more...

I personally think Missoula has the best location. Glacier Park is all of 10-15 minutes further from Missoula than it is from Great Falls, but the drive is much prettier. Just take 93 past Flathead Lake and through Kalispell and Whitefish (lovely towns themselves). You can pick Flathead cherries along the way, which, by the way, are the greatest cherries ever. All the while being surrounded by lush, green mountains. Missoula might often be overcast and rainy, but it pays off in the form of greenery that GF and Billings can't match.

And then there's Testy Fest. I'll leave it to you to figure out the details about that, but it's a weekend of fun for the whole family, only a few miles out of town

Missoula feels younger with the University (which I attended). You have more things going on, like the Rolling Stones concert last September (October?). The guy whose name I cannot remember from Steppenwolf is also coming to Missoula soon, according to my mom. Mom is also a big Missoula booster, despite being a Philipsburg/Galen native.

And finally, Missoula does have a booming economy. Sure, it may bust, but other trendy areas that have been booming for far longer than Missoula, such as Boise, Jackson, and Vail, have yet to bust and likely never will. Compare this with Great Falls which have been dealing with a stagnating population and home prices for decades. GF might catch up to Missoula's population with the latest annexation, but Missoula could easily annex Bonner or East Missoula and be Montana's second city once again.

Of course, you'll definitely want to visit, as I'm biased and the three towns feel entirely different from one another. The differences are all subtle and subjective, and you probably won't get a good feel for them online.
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Old 06-18-2007, 11:12 PM
 
Location: Great Falls, Montana
529 posts, read 1,333,900 times
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Missoula only beats out Great Falls city proper by 363 people. And barely so by the annexation of the Rattlesnake, Grant Creek and the Lower Miller Creek areas. (I was corrected on the count. It's not 200, but rather 363)

By the difference in city populations, Great Falls is hardly stagnating.
And yes... A Coldwell Banker Home Price Comparison Index listed Great Falls as the most affordable area of 348 markets in the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

http://www.giftshoppeguy.com/images/Greatfallscitylights.jpg (broken link)

If the UM lost 364 students, then Great Falls would be second in population again. This next round of annexations will put us over the top with a minimum average total of 61,190 to Missoula's current city proper of 57,053.

Missoula can't/won't annex anything east of the hellgate canyon until the fed clears up the superfund site at Milltown.... They could go after Frenchtown, or Big Flat though... but I find it unlikely. Even if Missoula could annex Bonner, Milltown and East Missoula, they would still come up short for city proper with 60,816 (they actually couldn't annex Milltown anyway for the simple fact that Milltown would never give up their post office, and neither would Frenchtown or LoLo).
Further complicating matters for Missoula, is the fact that the city is not solvent. It's wading around in red ink and, exists on borrowed money. Billings and Great Falls both have substantial surpluses.

I can see Whitefish or possibly Big Sky running a continuous boom, but Missoula doesn't have what Whitefish, Boise, Jackson or Vail has, so when the bust comes, it will bust.

Boise has heavy industry, and Whitefish is just another Jackson or Vail.
Missoula can't survive on just old folks and party animals.... without something substantial to support them in the long term.

Years ago, places like Butte and even Garnett were a going concern too.. Look what happened to them. Where are they now? In 50 years, folks will be talking about Missoula, like we talk about Butte or Anaconda now. That's they way it works around here.

The only thing that's driving Missoula's economy is retirement money and Pell..... that's it.
Old folks will die off and students will graduate..... and with the budget strained at the federal level, I don't see much more of an increase in student population over what exists now, and baby boomers will only live to be so old before they kick off to the great Bitterroot in the sky.

Last edited by GiftShoppeGuy; 06-18-2007 at 11:48 PM..
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Old 09-03-2007, 07:57 AM
 
1 posts, read 12,822 times
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Default Pleasantly Confused

What a great debate!

I woke up this morning in Chicago, on my way home to London England, dreading all that a major world city has to offer in the forms of congestion, expense, lack of space, rudeness, stress, you know the usual and I was thinking about coming back to America and always fancied Montana.

I've been to all three locales (Missoula, Great Falls and Billings) and was most impressed by Billings. But that was twenty years ago when I was a college student cutting wheat. Frankly, just getting out of Kansas made ANYWHERE look better. But I seemed to remember swimming pools and tennis courts in people's backyards and a genereal high standard of living which I certainly didn't expect. True it was July/August and we were parked on a ridge overlooking the city but I thought it was mighty impressive the one night I was there.

Spent some time in Great Falls as well, and thought that was pretty dullsville. But of course I was a city slicker from the Windy City so of course I knew everything then ...

However from reading GiftshoppeGuy's excellent and succinct breakdown of the three towns, I was ready to pack my bags and head west to GF!

Finally, I was in Missoula in the late 90's/early 00's as a guest of a dear friend who was an outdoor enthusiast and had also gone to school at Montana but was actually from Philly (he now has since moved to Seatlle due to his work, etc...) but was most impressed with the scenery, the open spaces, and general feel of the place. I remember walking into the wrong house, because I misread the address, and being absolutely gob-smacked that the door was open and I just walked right in! You know that would never happen in Chicago and certainly not London.

So now I am utterly and totally confused and bemused (this is natural for me folks...) but I appreciate the banter though. It really gets me thinking. I mean, I live in one of the most fashionable, expensive parts of London and the world perhaps, but it's all getting a bit much. I don't necessarily have the means to settle in England, nor would want to, afterall it's 53 million people crammed onto a little island, all saying "sorry" all the time or "oi!" It's cool, it's unique, but I don't think it's for me anymore.

So I guess it'll have to be Missoula.

Or perhaps Great Falls?

Nah, Billings is the one. Definitely! Final answer...

But Missoula is so pretty. And there's nothing like a bit of scenery and laid-back liberal lifestyle to charge the spirit and inner soul.

SO MISSOULA!

Aw heck, I dunno...

Help!

MKB
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