Anaconda is Discovered
By Steve Gillman - 2007 - 2014
This is the follow-up to our story about buying
a home in Anaconda, Montana. The most recent updates are
at the bottom of the page.
Our 2007 Trip to Anaconda
The house had a full basement, a garage with opener, hardwood
floors and a sun room. How's that for affordable? We sold the
home five months later for a small profit and moved on to places
with better jobs. Two years later we started this website on
cheap houses based on our experience touring the country looking
at towns to live in. Anaconda was originally the centerpiece
of the site.
Now we have an internet business that allows us to live where
we want, and we live in Colorado. But through the years we've
wondered whether Anaconda had been "discovered." We
were curious enough to drive the 900 miles to see, so as I write
this, I'm sitting in our room above the Harp and Thistle Inn
looking out at downtown Anaconda, and up at the surrounding mountains.
Anaconda - A Beautiful and Affordable Town
We came into town yesterday, Tuesday afternoon, August 7,
2007. It looked the same initially, but then we saw Rocky
Mountain Brewing, a new brew pub. They have great food we
are told, which we will try to verify later. There are other
new businesses here and there, but what surprised us most was
that almost all the businesses we had thought would fail when
we left town five years ago are still here.
We went to the visitor's center. A new dinner train travels
the twenty miles of hills between Anaconda and Butte, we were
told. After mentioning our previous home to the the lady at the
desk, she told her own story about buying a house for $13,000
three years ago. After she got tired of fixing it up, she sold
it for $20,000 and bought another. The really cheap houses are
all fixer-uppers now, she explained. Home prices had at least
doubled in the last five years.
We took a real estate guide and went to Washoe Park, where
we parked in the shade and laid in the Van for an hour looking
over the current listings. Someone had parked their RV on the
grass nearby, apparently camping right there in the city park
- Anaconda was apparently still easy-going enough for that (when
we lived here people who came for a softball tournament camped
in the park). Prices had gone up we noticed, but there were still
five houses under $50,000, and the sixth listing was $60,000
for two small houses, one with all new siding and paint. However,
when we drove by the homes, they all appeared to be fixer-uppers.
There were a couple nice homes ready to live in for under $100,000,
but the days of really cheap houses in Anaconda are over.
(The home we bought for $17,500 five years ago, would probably
sell for close to $80,000 now. We sold it for $28,000 in 2002.)
Still, even at twice the price, the homes here are still affordable,
and the town itself is cheap to live in. After getting our room,
we walked to the Classic Cafe on Park Avenue, a cafe/restaurant/bar
(there are a lot of these combinations in Anaconda) to use the
wireless internet connection. An hour or two of work, a large
basket of French fries, three beers (me) and two cups of herbal
tea (Ana), and we asked for the bill.
It was $8.25! Beers are $1.25 each, tea $1, and the the fries
$2.50. That's the Anaconda we remembered. Today we'll have to
see if the McDonald's still has 25-cent coffee after five years.
The meals are cheap, the groceries are cheap, and entertainment
is cheap as well. The Washoe Theater (classic art-deco - one
of the most beautiful theaters in the country) is just $4, so
we may go see a movie later tonight.
At Nickel Annies Casino - just four blocks from our
hotel - we spent an hour dropping $5 in nickels into our favorite
slot machines. The first two dollars were on the house. You get
a dollar or two each (depending on the day) just for signing
in. I bought a beer for $2, and the second one was free (I'm
glad everything is within walking distance).
This was just our first afternoon and evening in town. Today
we might drive into the mountains, to a little lake we love,
down a dirt road at about 8,000 feet altitude. It's one of the
more beautiful places around, but we'll keep the location our
own little secret for now. The bottom line is that Anaconda still
has cheap houses, a low cost of living, and is a beautiful place
More Information on Anaconda Real Estate
Some two bedroom homes are selling for as much as $150,000,
and at least one home shopper told us he couldn't find anything
livable for less than $150,000. As mentioned, we did find that
while prices had doubled (or more), there were still decent homes
under $100,000. A photo of one is below.
Asking Price (August 2007): $65,000
Two Bedrooms - One Bathroom - New Roof - New Paint
- Oversized Lot
The most significant thing about home prices in Anaconda at
the moment is the unpredictability of pricing. The home above
was superior (to my wife and I) to another two-bedroom that had
a price of $115,00 on it. It seems that the town is just beginning
a boom time in real estate, and sellers aren't sure how to price.
The west side of town is preferred by most people, as reflected
in the higher prices there. I personally like the east side for
its proximity to the stores and casinos and library, but there
are some neighborhoods here that are full of real rough houses.
Some of them have been empty for years. The rough part of town
here is an entirely esthetic issue though -- there is no serious
The home that is for sale for $115,000 (mentioned above) was
apparently purchased for somewhere between $25,000 and $30,000.
There are still plenty of homes here that will sell in that range
when they hit the market. If you like the idea of building "sweat
equity," there are many opportunities.
More than one person told us about the Governor's new home
up the highway at Georgetown Lake, as well as about the million-dollar
homes there. With a golf course right in town, and resort home
owners in the area that need to shop somewhere, it seems that
the long economic slump may be over for Anaconda Montana.
My wife Ana did some research online about Anaconda homes,
to see what has happened to real estate prices in this beautiful
Montana town. After spending some time looking at listings she
is convinced that prices have generally dropped since our last
visit there in 2007, which makes sense given the declines seen
almost everywhere in the country.
On the other hand, they haven't fallen back to the prices
we saw when we bought a great home there for $17,500 in 2002.
There are no more homes under $10,000, for example, and there
were several when we lived there. In fact, there are fewer than
10 which are listed for under $50,000 - this in a town that inspired
this website and its name.
Six of the nine homes that are under $50,000 have only two-bedrooms.
Most of the nine appear to be fixer-uppers. There are more than
30 listings which are priced under $100,000 at the moment, and
Ana tells me there are some nice looking ones around $80,000.
They seem to be old, like almost all Anaconda homes in the heart
of town (where we would choose to live; there are newer homes
just out of town), but they look like they are well cared for.
Anaconda is still a small town, and probably will be smaller
than it was in the 70s for many years to come. But with a great
golf course in town, a ski resort up the hill twenty minutes,
and wilderness all around, it is still an intriguing place, and
still has homes at reasonable prices.
Checking recent listings for homes for sale, it seems that
a decent house in Anaconda will cost you at least $100,000. The
few homes listed for under $80,000 at the moment are clearly
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