As Bozeman booms with newfound tech wealth, Missoula remains true to its humble roots as a haunt for Forest Service employees, University of Montana undergrads, and wildland firefighters. Homes are affordable — a 1925 Craftsman in town goes for around $250,000 — and the vibe is decidedly down-home: Think dives like the Oxford Saloon, where chicken-fried steak is the breakfast special and a daily poker game has a $300 pot limit. "Pretentious people don't last long here," says Brent Ruby, co-founder of the energy bar company Omnibar.
Yes, that same craftsman house sold for $100k in 2005, when its cost was more in-line with average Missoula incomes. But 10 yrs later, incomes haven't really risen while that house goes for 2.5x more.
So it's "affordable" if you move here with a trust fund, nest egg, or other income-substitute to carry your mortgage.
Not all houses have seen the same cost spike. My own is only worth a couple thousand more than I paid for it in late 2003. Why would the exemplar craftsman house have gone up by 2.5x but not others? You'd have to ask the realtors, who set the prices by their willingness to work to sell a house. Realtors will not work to sell your house unless it's up to Modern Standards of Convenience as measured in major US metropolitan areas where people make several multiples higher in annual pay.
If your house is a typical Missoula house from the first half of the 1900s, and hasn't been renovated to make it from a 2 small bedrooms 1 bath into a 1 huge bedroom 1 small guest room and 2 baths, the realtor won't try to sell it for you. They'll happily list it, but they won't work on the sale. Why? They are catering not to Missoula residents working 9-5 jobs in Missoula, but rather to the readers of articles like the one quoted above. They are eager to sell your house if it resembles something from a chi-chi neighborhood in a hot-'n'-happenin' big city well outside Montana's borders (read: already primped and fancied up by a 5-year resident who bought, pumped up and flipped for profit then moved on to the next hipster valhalla), but otherwise they'll tell you your house isn't worth much other than as a raze-and-replace, which value the new "developer" would put at maybe 50% of your property tax assessment.
As to Brent Ruby's statement about pretentious people? Brent has to be caught in a memory timewarp, and has to be thinking of the Missoula of the early 1990s. Given the article's March 9 2015 date, it's baffling to read this from Brent. As of Spring 2015, Missoula was over-run by pretentious people. The number of fancy-schmancy trinket seller boutiques, breweries, distilleries, yoga studios, and "lifestyle gyms" now well outclasses the down-home simple places. You want a burger & beer? Hope you have $25!
As to the Oxford? Nobody goes there any more because the gentrifying yuppies have done their best to shut the place down, they've done everything but torch the place. Oxford regulars are now hounded as "homeless panhandlers" and anyone who isn't wearing $1,000 in outdoor lifestyle wear is harrassed by Missoula Po-Po under suspicion of Ravalli County residence and/or vagrancy.
But hey, it's a hype mag. Don't fault it for hyping and hiding reality behind the hype.