Amid coronavirus outbreak and social unrest, weary city dwellers escape to Montana, creating a property gold rush

Their living room didn’t just seem bigger than the photos on Zillow that had led them to make a $559,000 offer after 24 hours in Montana, a place they had never been. The 2,300-square-foot house was twice the size of the two-bedroom condo they sold in Brentwood, Calif., before packing their cars and driving 16 hours northeast, released from the confines of the coronavirus pandemic and the jobs Robert had grown to hate and Valentina had lost.

This was the 19th walk-through their broker, Charlotte Durham, had done for out-of-state clients since Montana’s virus shutdown ended in late April and its real estate market flipped into hyperdrive. Buyers fleeing New York, Los Angeles and other densely populated U.S. cities say they want to leave the coronavirus clusters and social justice unrest behind.

Even as the state’s fierce winter looms, the transplants are pushing house prices to record levels. Some are

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