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Anaconda is Discovered

By - 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 to live.

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.

Cheap House In Anaconda

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 crime.

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.

2011 Update

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.

2014 Update

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 fixer uppers.

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Houses Under Fifty Thousand | Anaconda Five Years Later