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Best Cities for Homeownership in Colorado

The results of Colorado’s population growth can be seen in its hot housing market. In LendingTree’s list of the best cities for homeownership in Colorado, six out of the 10 cities experienced double-digit home value appreciation from 2013 to 2017. The state is ranked 16th in the nation for home price appreciation, which increased by 6.74% between the fourth quarters of 2017 and 2018, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Simultaneously, eight out of the 10 cities on this list experienced a decrease in their monthly housing costs in the same time period, making them more affordable right now for homeowners. From 2013 to 2017, 65% of homes in the state were occupied by their owners.

Even with such a high return on investment, some areas of Colorado are paying off more for homeowners than others.

To uncover the best cities for homeownership, LendingTree examined metro and micro areas across Colorado to weigh the components that affect a homeowner’s finances and quality of life, which we believe includes everything from the median home value to the average commute time to the unemployment rate.

Here is what we found:

Key findings

  • The Edwards Micro Area is the highest-ranked metro area in Colorado for homeownership. This area has the highest median home value ($472,800), the lowest unemployment rate (2.7%) and a negative housing cost change from 2013 to 2017 (-7.57%). That’s a positive!
  • The Fort Morgan Micro Area is the second-highest ranked metro area in Colorado. While this area does not have a high median home value ($171,000), it does have a low unemployment rate (4.5%), short average commute time (17.6 minutes), high median home value appreciation from 2013 to 2017 (15.93%) and slightly lower housing cost in terms of change (-1.61%).
  • The Pueblo Metro Area is the lowest-ranked city in Colorado. It has a low median home value ($154,400), the highest unemployment rate (9.3%) and housing costs remained stable between 2013 and 2017 (0.01%).

The best cities for homeownership in Colorado

1. Edwards

Essentially alpine living at its best, Edwards is home to some of the country’s most sought-after ski communities, including the town of Vail. Considered one of the nation’s wealthiest small towns in 2017, according to Bloomberg Business (No. 2 behind Summit Park, Utah), the median home value for 2013 to 2017 in Edwards is the highest on this list at $472,800. Home values appreciated by 4.21% in that period, but even with the high home values, homeowners here have seen lower housing costs in recent years — a drop of 7.57% from 2013 to 2017. The unemployment rate in Edwards is the lowest on this list at 2.7%, and workers spend an average of just over 22 minutes commuting for their jobs.

2. Fort Morgan

With its wide northeastern terrains, Fort Morgan has the lowest median housing value in our Top 10, at $171,000, but homes still appreciated by 15.93%. Homeowners have lighter housing costs — a decrease of 1.61% from 2013 to 2017 — and the unemployment rate is on the lower end of this list at 4.5%. Residents here spend an average of 17.6 minutes commuting, which is the shortest time on this list.

3. Durango

The liberal arts education provided by the local Fort Lewis College makes Durango a thriving arts scene where the median home value is $366,700. From 2013 to 2017, house values appreciated by 5.95%, while costs fell 0.56%. The unemployment rate is 4.4%, and workers travel an average of 21.4 minutes for their jobs.

4. Boulder

Nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains is Boulder, where the University of Colorado is located and home values appreciated significantly from 2013 to 2017: 21.41%. Homeowners pay top dollar for their homes in the scenic college town with mountain silhouettes everywhere you look; median home value was $425,900, and monthly housing costs increased by 1.48% in the same period. The unemployment rate in Boulder at that time was 5.2%, and the average workers spent around 23 minutes commuting.

5. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood Metro Area

With the influx of people moving to the Denver–Aurora–Lakewood Metro Area, new home construction and, subsequently, available real estate have increased in recent years, according to a market trends report released in December 2018 by the Denver Metro Association of Realtors (active inventory was up 46.8% between November 2017 and November 2018). Consequently, home sales have dropped, according to the report. Still, home values in the Denver–Aurora–Lakewood area, which includes Colorado’s capital city and government center, have appreciated more than any other city on this list at 27.77%, and monthly housing costs went up 0.83% from 2013 to 2017. The median home value was $320,200 in the same time period. The unemployment rate for this area in our study was 4.6%, and residents here spend the longest time among the cities on the list commuting to their jobs, at an average 27.5 minutes.

6. Greeley

Home to the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley has a population of about 100,000. About 50 minutes north of Denver, Greeley is convenient for homeowners who work in the capital city but aren’t keen on paying its high home prices. Homeowners here can enjoy the fact that their homes have appreciated by 26.57% — the second-highest on this list, right behind Denver–Aurora–Lakewood. The median home value in Greeley was $253,900, and housing costs dropped 0.58% from 2013 to 2017. The commute for Greeley workers is the second-highest on this list at an average of 26.7 minutes. The unemployment rate here was 5.3% for the years reviewed.

7. Montrose

On the western side of Colorado is Montrose, where the median home value at the time of our study was $210,500. Homeowners here experienced an 8.62% drop in monthly housing costs, and their homes appreciated by 4.21% from 2013 to 2017. About 60% of the homes in Montrose are owned by their residents. The median monthly cost for homeowners is $1,198 — lower than the state’s average costs of $1,623 — from 2013 to 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The unemployment rate in Montrose is tied for highest on this list with Grand Junction at 8%. However, residents who do have jobs have one of the shortest commutes, at an average of 17.8 minutes.

8. Fort Collins

Founded as a military fort in 1864, Fort Collins had the highest housing cost increase in our Top 10, at 2.30%. The median home value here is $309,800, and it appreciated by double digits at 24.72% from 2013 to 2017. Homeowners paid a monthly median of $1,603 for their mortgage and housing costs. The unemployment rate is 5.3%, and the average time the locals travel to work is about 23 minutes.

9. Grand Junction

Known as Colorado’s wine country due to its numerous wineries, Grand Junction has the second-lowest median home value in the state, $207,300. Homeowners here experienced a drop in both home values and housing costs from 2013 to 2017, by 3.13% and 7.42%, respectively. About 56% of homes in Grand Junction were owned by their residents, and the unemployment rate is tied for the highest on this list with Montrose, at 8%. Residents here spend an average of about 20 minutes traveling to work.

10. Colorado Springs

Home to the U.S. Olympic Committee and the U.S. Air Force Academy, from 2013 to 2017, Colorado Springs homes appreciated in the double digits, by 11.41%. The median home value in our study is $243,100, and homeowners saw their housing costs decrease by 1.60% from 2013 to 2017. The unemployment rate was 6.8% at that time, and the average commute time was just over 23 minutes.

Homebuying tips for Colorado

If imagining your home in front of gorgeous mountain silhouettes is your dream, then Colorado might be the right place for you. The state is currently experiencing an overall upturn in home prices, meaning homeowners are seeing their investments pay off.

Stacey Malcolm, broker and owner of boutique real estate agency, Savvy Realty, points to a relatively low cost of living and well-known companies with more job opportunities moving to the state as reasons why Colorado’s housing market is so hot right now. But a booming real estate market also means there are more people getting into the industry, meaning homebuyers should be extra cautious when putting together the best team for their dream home.

Besides doing your due diligence and finding a real estate agent who is local to the Colorado area you’re targeting, Malcolm suggests shopping around for the right lender. Make sure your lender is capable of advising you properly and troubleshooting any issues that may arise along the way, suggests Malcolm, as homebuying is one of the biggest and most important financial decisions you’ll make in your life.

Consider researching and interviewing a few lenders to identify who you feel most comfortable with. How do you know if a lender is capable? Below are a few questions Malcolm suggests asking lenders during your interview process:
1. What are mortgage interest rates based on?

Interest rates should be based on mortgage-backed securities or mortgage bonds, NOT the 10-year Treasury Note.

2. What is the next federal economic report or event that could cause interest rate movement?
A professional lender should always have this information, as weekly economic reports and events can cause rates to fluctuate.

3. When the Fed “changes rates,” what does this mean… and what impact does this have on mortgage interest rates?
On the same day of the decision, mortgage rates will move in the opposite direction as the Fed rate change.

4. Do you have access to live, real-time mortgage bond quotes?
A lender should always have access to real-time quotes, otherwise they are someone reading yesterday’s newspaper and behind on current trends.

Methodology:

The methodology for this LendingTree study was simple and straightforward.

1: Collect metropolitan statistical areas (“MSAs”) and micropolitan statistical area from the U.S. Census Bureau using 2017 population data.

2: Each MSA and micropolitan statistical area was ranked on a scale from 31 (Best) to 1 (Worst) for five different metrics. Those metrics are:

Median Home Value (31- Highest Value, 1- Lowest Value)

Unemployment Rate (31 – Lowest Rate, 1- Highest Rate)

Average Commute Time (31- Shortest Time, 1 – Longest Time)

Median Home Value Appreciation (2013-2017)(31- Greatest Appreciation, 1- Smallest Appreciation)

Median Change in Yearly Housing Costs (2013-2017)(31- Smallest Cost Change, 1- Greatest Positive Cost Change) — The formula for this metric is:

(((Monthly Housing Costs for 2017 *12)+(Real Estate Tax for 2017))/ ((Monthly Housing Costs for 2013 *12)+(Real Estate Tax for 2013))-1)

3: An average score was then calculated for each MSA based upon the scores they received for each metric.

4: The MSAs and micropolitan statistical area were then ranked on a scale of 1 (Best) to 31 (Worst) based on their average score.

5: All metrics were ranked equally.

Data:

All data were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau. More information on where the data came from is provided below:

2017 Median Home Value, Monthly Housing Costs, Real Estate Taxes

  • Filtered for all MSAs
  • Then filtered for Financial Characteristics for housing units with a mortgage —  2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

2017 Unemployment Rate and Median Commute Time

  • Filtered for all MSAs
  • Then filtered for Selected Economic Characteristics — 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

2013 Median Home Value, Monthly Housing Costs, Real Estate Taxes

  • Filtered for all MSAs
  • Then filtered for Financial Characteristics for housing units with a mortgage — 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates
 

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