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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: wing117 on July 25, 2016, 11:44:03 AM

Title: Affording Housing in Colorado/Moving-to
Post by: wing117 on July 25, 2016, 11:44:03 AM
Hello Mustachians!

The wife and I recently came to the decision that North Carolina is not the state for us for many, many reasons after being here for 6 years and spent hours discussing over a map the pros and cons of different states and cities and coming up with a general 3-4 year plan to exit NC. Our short-list includes Colorado and the Denver/Colorado Springs/Longmont area in the #1 spot. The one catch we're noticing is the crazy house prices to us.

My question is, to those who live in Colorado, are we missing something? Are there cheap(er) areas we should be looking at? We've been looking at single family homes in the 1500-1800 sqft range (which would be half the sqft we have now). These are going for $280k+ minimum, realistically 300-350k is a more appropriate price range to be looking into. I'm coming from an area with 150-200k can buy you a rather large house/property. How do mustachians justify these costs? Should we be looking at renting instead? Is it just sticker-shock?

Also, we are in the beginning stages of planning a trip either this fall or next spring to scope out the towns/state. What are some key things/places/events/parks we should check out while we're there scoping things out?

(and can anyone recommend companies to keep my eye on for IT Systems Admin jobs?)

Edit: Also, my wife is a letterpress operator/owner and graphic designer, so any tips there would also be appreciated!
Title: Re: Affording Housing in Colorado/Moving-to
Post by: begood on July 25, 2016, 12:38:04 PM
Following. Being a Tarheel born and bred, I'd always expected to move right back to NC when the opportunity presented itself. Between climate change and the political shift, I've come to the slow realization that maybe my home state will not be my retirement state.

Colorado is high on my list, and Colorado Springs in particular. In fact, I did a Zillow search for houses just this morning! But yeah, the prices are like they are here in the Philly burbs, which is to say HIGH for NOT MUCH.
Title: Re: Affording Housing in Colorado/Moving-to
Post by: RosieTR on July 25, 2016, 01:09:38 PM
Hi, Wing117!

Well, I can say that you're not missing anything in terms of sticker shock for housing. There are a variety of reasons for this, from frequently being known on "Best Places to Live" lists (as diverse as Outside magazine and US News and World report, who are each looking at different factors), to a good economy (not much of a "bust" in 2008/2009 compared with many other places), as well as other regional things-natural disasters in CO Springs and Northern CO in 2012 and 2013 wiped out a lot of houses and put pressure on the market in those areas.

I would definitely consider renting first. There are some signs that the real estate market is softening a little, though the underlying support is there for a flattening out of prices rather than a steep drop. There is low unemployment and fairly diverse economy but wages have not kept up with housing costs so that is why I think it will flatten. Housing is less expensive in 1) smaller towns/cities and 2) either east or west of the Front Range. The jobs are fewer for condition 1 and the commute worse for condition 2. Also keep in mind that there are good historical reasons people tend to cluster at basically the base of the mountains: wildfire risk to the west and hail alley to the east.

All that said, it really is absolutely stunning here (there's a reason housing is rather expensive!). It's difficult to put down a list of places to see, because there are so many. I would recommend checking out the places you may want to live and the places you may want to visit given whatever activities you're into. If you love water-related things like fishing or paddleboarding, you may want to find places closer to a reservoir. If you love downhill skiing, you may want to be on the west side of Denver for quick access to I-70. If you want good hiking, you can find that anywhere-you just adjust your altitude per the season/conditions you want. The only time of year that's slightly meh, in my opinion, is about Halloween until about the New Year-it's fairly dry but cold, and everything is brown but not covered in snow (usually) down low. You won't have to go too far to find snow, however, but the skiing or snowshoeing is better usually starting in January. Earlier in fall is pretty-it's not the colors you get back east but the weather is usually dry and sunny and often a pleasant temperature (mid-60s give or take).

CO springs to Longmont is probably about 2-2.5 hours or so drive, so you can easily check out each area you mentioned even if you only have 4 or 5 days. Try to spend at least a whole day in each, getting a bit of a sense of the place. If possible, find a local brewery or coffeehouse or café and ask the people there about the area. Also, you might check surrounding smaller cities and see what the housing/commute is like. CO Springs is more conservative, with a large military presence, Denver has all the amenities and traffic of a major city but if you need/want to travel a fair bit it may be worth being closer to the airport than other places, Longmont is a much smaller city (~100K) and may have reasonable housing. I would imagine there would be job opportunities for IT in any of these locations.
Title: Re: Affording Housing in Colorado/Moving-to
Post by: wing117 on July 25, 2016, 04:21:58 PM
Thanks for the response! I appreciate the outlook on the housing market. With the prices where they are, my gut feeling was that the homes were severely overvalued, which is the worst time to buy. It sounds like it's less of overvaluation and more of traditional demand outstripping supply. Depending on how the market is in the next 24-36 months, we will seriously consider renting.

I guess the biggest deciding factor for specific location to live will hinge on job locations. I cycle to work daily now and if I move to Colorado, I definitely don't want to give that up. I couldn't stop being mustachian the moment I move into MMM's back yard! :)

I actually ran some numbers this afternoon on the cost savings of down sizing and leaving our current home - from on going construction/remodeling costs, upkeep and maintenance cost and time, furnishing costs, property and income tax savings, etc... And moving to a smaller home that's more expensive, requires less remodeling, in a city that is more walkable/livable with lower prop and income taxes, will actually end up saving us money and free up a decent amount of time in our lives. So although the cost of houses is much more on the surface, I think in the long run it may end up being cheaper.

We are definitely hiking, fishing, camping and stargazing kind of folks. The Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango interests me to no end.

Any mores tips would be appreciated!
Title: Re: Affording Housing in Colorado/Moving-to
Post by: Beaker on July 26, 2016, 08:55:04 AM
First off, Rosie's comments are spot-on and generally excellent.

I would agree that prices are high, but probably will not crash. They've been driven by continuing immigration from all over the place, including some Californians who think housing still looks cheap compared to the west coast. Net immigration to the city of Denver (excluding the metro area) has been averaging several hundred per month for the last few years - which is a lot of housing to add every month. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending which side you're on) rents are equally nuts. They've been increasing around 7-10% per year for several years straight. There was a point last year where the rental vacancy rate in some of the suburbs (Aurora, I think) was at 0%. I assume that was rounded down, but it's still crazy.

I don't really know IT Admin jobs in particular, but you might want to start looking at the area along Hwy 36, which runs between Denver & Boulder. There are a lot of bigger tech companies around there (Oracle, Google, whoever bought StorageTek, Amazon is opening an office, etc). You could try Boulder, but it's mostly a startup hub (which means they probably cheap out on admins) and much of it is eye-wateringly expensive. You may also want to extend your search up to Fort Collins, which is about 70 miles north of Denver. It's smaller and cheaper, but there's a good state university there, and they say it has surprisingly good bike infrastructure.

Downtown Denver has a lot of medium and large companies, which might be more fertile grounds for you. The bike infrastructure is just OK, but the city has been putting a lot of effort into it lately so it's improving rapidly. The light rail is also pretty good, so you might consider something near that. They just finished the A Line out to the airport, which also hits all the suburbs on the way, which is really nice for getting to/from the airport and also makes commuting from further suburbs (eg, Green Valley Ranch) a bit more palatable.