Kevin Costner’s popular Yellowstone TV series, where life-long Montanans struggle to maintain their land from incoming wealthy land developers, has hit too close to home for many local residents facing housing price hikes due to a new wave of gentrification.
The show, which centers around the fictional Dutton family’s ambition to hold onto the largest ranch in the U.S., premiered in 2018 and has grown into one of the most watched programs in the nation, sparking interest in the ranch-lifestyle for many wealthy Americans.
Cities like Bozeman and Kalispell became the largest growing micro-cities in the U.S. last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, with many ranch-style houses in the cities going for more than $1 million.
The changes have brought not only a spike in housing prices, but also contempt for the show as life-long residents like Ginger Rice vowed not to watch Yellowstone anymore because it doesn’t portray the reality of life in Bozeman or Montana.
‘It’s really sad, frustrating, that local people can’t afford to live here anymore,’ Rice told CNBC.
The hit TV series, Yellowstone, has helped contribute to a recent boom in Montana that has seen housing prices soar over the last three years, causing life-long residents to struggle to buy a home or afford rent
Ginger Rice (above), of Bozeman, said her family is struggling to find a place to live after their landlord refused to renew the rent on their three-bedroom home. She said two-bedroom apartments cost three times what the home did
Housing prices have skyrocketed in Darby, where Yellowstone is filmed, as well as Bozeman and Kalispell, which became the fastest growing micro-cities in the U.S. last year
Come homes are going for more than $10 million, including the one pictured in Waterfowl Way, in Bozeman
The $10 home not only includes access to a lake, but also a clear view of the Montanan mountainsides
Yellowstone follows life on a family ranch led by Costner’s John Dutton
Yellowstone follows the story of the Dutton Family, led by John Dutton who controls the largest ranch in the US.
The drama, set in the modern day, comes from Dutton’s ambition to hold onto his wealth and land, which is constantly under attack by greedy land developers, a Native American reservation and the titular national park.
Kevin Costner plays John, the sixth-generation patriarch who runs the ranch.
Luke Grimes, known for his roles in American Sniper and Fifty Shades of Grey, takes on the role of John’s son, Kayce Dutton, a former US Navy SEAL who is married to a local Native American woman.
English actress Kelly Reilly plays John’s daughter, Beth Dutton, a financier and master manipulator who suffers from substance abuse and his loyal to her father.
Cole Hauser – an acting veteran who’s been in Dazed and Confused, Good Will Hunting and The Break Up – also stars as Rip Wheeler, John’s right-hand man and Beth’s love interest.
The show’s popularity has grown since its pilot episode garnered 2.83 million views in 2018. By the season three finale, The World is Purple, the show saw more than 5 million people tuning in.
The recent season four double-episode premier had about 8.38 million viewers, with the finale drawing in more 9.3 million viewers.
Rice said that the show has been both a blessing and a curse for Montana as it faithfully depicts the country-side vistas and beautiful snow-capped mountains from its filming location in Darby.
The show has also provided millions of dollars to the state, with production spending $72 million during the latest fourth season as businesses in the state also enjoyed another $85 million economic boost, according to the University of Montana.
The downside, however, is that the growing economy and beautiful sights have attracted wealthy city folk who are willing to spending millions of dollars on housing so that they, too, can enjoy the country life.
Rice said that the new, wealthy, residents were pricing out families who have lived in the cities for generations, with her own daughter finding it impossible to find a new house after the landlord refused to renew the lease on her three-bedroom home.
‘My daughter says we’ll never be able to afford a house,’ Rice told CNBC after the family could only find two-bedroom apartments at three-times the cost of what they were paying for their house.
‘We tried to save but everything’s going up and up and up.’
Montana, the eight smallest state by population in the U.S., now has more than 1 million residents, according to the 2020 Census, a growth of nearly 10 percent since 2010.
Last year, Bozeman added 3,211 new residents, and Kalispell saw its population grow by 3,681.
Since 2019, Bozeman saw its median home price soar from $545,000 to $849,000 as of April 2022, with a year-over-year increase of more than 25 percent, according to Realtor.com.
Kalispell also saw its median home price skyrocket from $335,000 in 2019 to $575,000 in 2022, a nearly 37 percent increase year-over-year.
Median housing prices in Darby, where Yellowstone is filmed, rose form $550,000 in 2019 to more than $774,000 as of April, a nearly 24 percent increase year-over-year.
Costner, center, portrays the patriarch of the Dutton family in Yellowstone as he plots with his family on how to maintain control of the largest ranch in the U.S. while opposing forces seek to gentrify the land
The show appears to have inspired many to move out to Montana in recent years, with multiple ranch style homes similar to those on the show going for more than $1 million. Pictured, a home for sale in Bozeman for $1.37 million
Where the median prices for a home in Bozeman was $545,000 in 2019, now stand luxury homes priced at more than $1.6 million (above) as wealthy city folk look to live in comfort while enjoying their share of the country life
Rather than the modest homes most in Bozeman are used to, the new homes are tailored for the wealthy
Many of the high-end homes for sale feature photos of the outdoor space provided in order to better entice those looking to fulfill their Yellowstone cowboy fantasies
Even homes that are far from being secluded ranches are going for $1.1 million in Bozeman
One home going for sale in Bozeman for $1.37 million includes a sprawling kitchen complete with new appliances
Life-long residents aren’t the only ones impacted by the cost of living increase as lower-income arrivals who dreamed of living out west are finding it difficult to join in on the growth.
Veterinarian Chris Kimbrell told CNBC that he has been struggling in Bozeman after fulfilling a childhood dream last year to move to Montana from Georgia.
Kimbrell said he fell in love with Bozeman during a family vacation when he was nine, often returning to Montana for fly-fishing during college.
Although he dreamed of living in Bozeman, he said the decision to move last year was a difficult one due to the soaring housing prices.
‘If it wasn’t for a family member who’s letting me live on his property, I would really have to think hard about moving out here,’ Kimbrell told CNBC. ‘Rent and housing is becoming extremely expensive.’
He added that the local support staff at his veterinary clinic told him they were being priced out of housing.
Sean Hawksford, 27, of Bozeman, echoed the worries as he told NPR that he had been rejected 18 different times when trying to purchase a new home in the city for his new family.
‘I laid in bed for three hours without falling asleep because my mind was just going into absolute overdrive of importance for me to provide a place for us to live together,’ Hawksford said.
Veterinarian Chris Kimbrell said it’s been difficult for him to live out his dream of living in Montana as he’s currently staying with family while trying to find a home for himself. He said local staff at his clinic are being priced out
Throughout the state, new luxury complexes are going up to take advantage of the wealthy looking to move
Meanwhile, life-long residents are taking to mobile homes and trailer parks as they can’t afford to live anywhere else
Habitat for Humanities said the state was facing a housing crisis as the luxury homes continue to go for sale amid the state’s push to get more and more people to move to Montana
Proponents of the wealthy newcomers said they have brought millions to the state’s economy and typically invest in projects that help preserve the pristine countryside
Habitat for Humanity described the situation as a housing crisis as it pushed on lawmakers to create better affordable housing opportunities for life-long residents, many of whom of taken to living in mobile homes and trailer parks.
‘Montana has quickly become inaccessible to those who live and work here, let alone those seeking to ‘come home,” the group said in a statement regarding Gov. Greg Gianforte’s push to ask more former residents to move back as the state enjoys an economic boom.
Robert Keith, founder of the Beartooth Group, who’s lived in Montana for 15 years, is betting on the state siding with economic growth over gentrification worries due to all the money coming in from the wealthy new residents.
Keith told CNBC that the new homebuyers not only bring in capital, but typically invest in land conservation and have helped fund projects to make sure Montana remains a pristine, rural state.
‘I think we can all agree there aren’t enough dollars going into conservation,’ he said. ‘By doing something good for the world, we’re making it more valuable financially and environmentally.’
It’s not the first time the struggle has played out in Montana after the Academy Award winning film A River Runs Through It popularized fly-fishing in the state in 1991, bringing a wave of rich Hollywood folk to settle in the area the following year.