We all know that living in Montana isn't cheap. The last few years have only made it more difficult to make a living while keeping up with the increased costs of housing. Places like Bozeman and Missoula are very expensive and several Montanans are finding themselves being "priced out" of those cities.

For years, we've heard about the middle-class and how it's the backbone of the country.

Folks who work hard, pay a mortgage each month, try to put a little away for a rainy day, while attempting to save for retirement and the kid's college fund. Of course, there is the yearly family vacation and the new car every 6 years or so.

So what is considered middle class in Montana? For our little experiment, we'll take a look at the 3 biggest cities in the state. Bozeman, Billings, and Missoula.

According to the middle-class calculator from cnn.money.com, the middle-class income for Bozeman and Gallatin County is between just over 37 thousand to 113 thousand dollars per year. Yet, the average home will cost you 739 thousand dollars based on information from realtor.com.

How about Billings and Yellowstone Country? According to the calculator middle-class would be just over 34 thousand up to 104 thousand dollars a year. The average home price? 325 thousand dollars a year per realtor.com.

Well, that's a whole lot cheaper than Bozeman, but how about Missoula?  Let's find out.

Real estate sign indicating sold house
Ryan McVay
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According to the calculator, the middle-class income in Missoula and Missoula County is between just over 30 thousand to 91 thousand dollars a year.  The average home price for the area? 552 thousand dollars per realtor.com.

So, you might be asking, if you're living in Gallatin County how do you buy a 700 thousand dollar home on 40 grand a year, the answer is, you don't. Heck, you can't buy a 700 thousand dollar home on 100 grand a year.

How much would you need to make per year to afford a 700 thousand dollar home? Great question.  According to bundleloan.com to afford a 700 thousand dollar mortgage, you would need to have a yearly income of 215 thousand dollars a year, or a monthly income of 17 thousand dollars.

While Bozeman and Gallatin County have a real crisis on their hands regarding housing, both Billings and Missoula are in a better spot, but still are quite high based on what is considered "affordable" according to the average middle-class salaries.

I've heard lots of folks hoping for a "crash" or for the market to correct itself, however, as I talk to my realtor friends, they tell me that is likely not going to happen.  They believe that the costs will either stay where they are or continue to rise.

So what has to happen?

That's a great question and apparently one that no one has an answer for.  Folks will continue to sell their homes to the highest bidder (why wouldn't you?), which will continue to increase the prices.  That's great if you plan on leaving Montana and moving somewhere that offers reasonable housing, however, if you plan on sticking around, well it looks like we're in trouble, because middle-class incomes won't cut it here in Montana.

Credit: money.cnn.com, realtor.com, bundleloan.com

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