In 1893, Katharine Lee Bates sat atop Pikes Peak and wrote “America the Beautiful,” one of the most well-known patriotic songs of our time. Just about 100 miles away from that summit at the base of the Rocky Mountains sits Denver, Colorado. With its blue skies and panoramic mountain views, Denver a.k.a. the Mile High City is perhaps one of the most beautiful areas in the country.
Maybe this inherent beauty is why moving to Denver is appealing to so many people. Metro Denver is one of the fastest growing metros in the nation with an estimated 2.7 million people. Nearly 25% of those residents live within the city limits.
Would you move to Denver? The area boasts a strong economy and is an idyllic mountain getaway that will take your breath away, both literally and figuratively. But some argue that it’s overcrowded and expensive. We’re exploring some other reasons why you might want to stay or stay away. These pros and cons should help you decide if living in Denver is in fact the right choice for you. Have some advice you’d like to share with potential residents? Let us know in the comments below!
1. The best places to live in Denver are diverse and eccentric.
One pro of living in Denver is that regardless of which neighborhood you choose, you won’t be far from quality views. The metro is surrounded by 140 miles of panoramic mountain views, totaling 200 visible peaks.
That said, the very first step to becoming a Denverite is picking a neighborhood. Living in Denver is an experience, and because so many people want to do it, picking a community can get competitive and pricey (more on that later). Decide whether any of the following areas suit you, then figure out if you can afford it.
Top Denver Neighborhoods:
Fast-paced living with a relaxed vibe is possible in any of the following city neighborhoods. However, each area offers a little something different, which make picking the right one that much more important.
We spoke with seasoned broker and real estate agent, Irene Glazer of Live Urban Real Estate for some insight. “Preference on which neighborhood to choose can vary widely based on taste and budget,” Glazer explains. “Do you like urban, suburban, hip, up-and-coming, walkable, trendy, affordable, accessible to mountains/downtown, parks? Denver has a wonderful array that will fit most any lifestyle.”
Glazer gave us a sampling of a few Denver neighborhoods that have their own unique charm and character.
Harvey Park — This neighborhood is located in Southwest Denver and is bounded by South Sheridan, Hampden, Lowell, and Jewell. Built in the 1950’s, it’s known for its selection of some of Denver’s best and most affordable, mid-century modern architecture. Cliff May-style California Contemporary homes fill the neighborhoods’ quiet, suburban-like streets.
Prices in the low $400,000s.
Platt Park — This area is located in Southeast Denver and is bounded by Downing, Broadway, Evans and I-25, Platt Park is seeing many of its older homes remodeled for 21st century living as well as quite a few new builds and pop-tops. The neighborhood is lovely, charming and walkable with one of the best/quaintest shopping districts, South Pearl Street. Don’t miss the summertime Farmer’s Market because it’s arguably the best in the city.
Prices range around $500,000.
Sunnyside — Located in Northwest Denver, Sunnyside is bounded by I70, 38th, Federal and I25. It’s an up-and-coming neighborhood and is already pretty well discovered, yet in transition.
It’s easy to take a bike ride or a walk downtown, and there is easy access to get out of town. This area has a wonderful mix of old architecture as well as new (mostly attached) homes. Trendy coffee shops, restaurants, boutiques and home goods stores are starting to pop up everywhere.
Home prices have increased rapidly in the last few years with the average price in the $500,000s.
Denver Suburbs to Consider:
Denver is a good place to raise a family if you have the right resources, like a stable job and a steady income. Bringing some kids along for the move? Check out some of these top rated Denver suburbs.
Arvada — Olde Town Arvada has one of the cutest “Main streets” of any suburb.
Home prices are affordable and the homes are spacious.
Englewood — This is a suburb with a lot of variety. There are small, affordable homes with character located near the fun and funk of South Broadway, suburban “tract” style homes near the Denver Tech Center, and also sprawling mansions in Cherry Hills Village.
Wheat Ridge — This suburb is close enough to the city yet a world away. There’s tons of new development happening on 38th ave with breweries, restaurants and a Lucky’s Market (coming soon). This is where NW Denver seems to be moving next.
2. The housing market is really competitive.
There are so many opinions out there as to whether or not living in Denver is affordable. Some stats say yes it’s affordable (compared to metros like New York City), but rapidly increasing rental prices and fast selling homes say otherwise. While living in Denver is much more affordable than living in places like Los Angeles, it’s still pricey. Overall, housing costs are approximately 32% greater than the national average.
Before moving to Denver, make sure you’re able to spend within your means, which means allotting no more than 30% of your salary to housing costs. If you’re looking to buy or rent before relocating, make sure you give yourself plenty of time. Finding a place is highly competitive so most people use a rental agent. If you opt to rent, make sure you know your rights as a Colorado tenant.
Denver Housing Market Stats
Irene Glazer also helped us understand just how the housing market has changed over the past few years. Here are some highlights:
The Denver housing market has been appreciating at a double-digit clip since we started our climb out of the recession in about 2013. This past year we saw a bit slower appreciation of about 8%.
Our Average sold price in metro Denver finished out at approximately $475K in 2017, and the prediction is that we will be around $500K by the end of 2018.
Inventory is still the biggest buzz word, and we are still extremely short on it, without a reprieve in sight.
We are about to enter the “Market Compression” phase in our annual real estate cycle where demand picks up before homes are listed, creating our early spring frenzy. This creates additional challenges as inventory levels typically continue to fall through January. If demand picks up, multiple offers, bidding wars and heightened flash sales could accelerate pricing earlier than expected in 2018.
Not sure whether you should rent or buy? According to Glazer, weighing expected appreciation, even at modest rates of 6% (Denver’s historical average), against impending rent increases, it is still more advantageous to own vs. rent in the Denver market.
3. The cost of living in Denver won’t break the bank, yet.
The biggest hurdle new residents face when moving to Denver is housing costs. Other than that, most cost of living expenses fall somewhere in the middle compared to other metros.
Cost of Living Factors:
- Taxes — Property taxes are relatively low, sales tax is high, and income tax falls right in the middle at 4.63%.
- Health Care — Costs about 5% more than the national average.
- Groceries — You’ll pay about 4% more than the national average.
4. You might get paid more money for the same job in Denver.
Higher paying jobs are available in Denver because so many top companies want to be headquartered here. However, that means the competition for a quality job is that much more intense. Also, wages in Denver might not be as high as they need to be.
As of 2015, the average median income in Denver was $58,003, which is only 3.8% greater than the national average. This is partially good news for people looking to relocate for a higher base salary. However, even if you can afford living in Denver today based on your current salary, average salary increases aren’t keeping pace with rising rents.
This discrepancy between rising housing costs and salary could cause an issue a few years in and force a move further outside the city. Make sure you have a job in hand and some additional savings before relocating to this highly competitive city.
Top Denver Industries & Companies:
- Tech — Startups like Baker Technologies or more established companies like HomeAdvisor.
- Aerospace — The Boeing Company, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman.
- Agriculture — Love Grown Foods, Leprino Foods, and Nutrien.
- Fast Food — Chipotle, Qboda, and Boston Market are all headquartered here.
5. Once you adjust to the altitude, the weather is incredible.
The quality of life in Denver is highly desirable, once you get used to the height. Contrary to popular belief, Denver is not located in the Rocky Mountains. It is a mile or so above sea level though and that can take your body some time to adjust. For most people, the pros far outweigh the cons as far as weather is concerned.
What it’s Like Living in Denver:
- There’s an estimated 300 days of sunshine every year. Even though the summers are hot, they lack humidity, which makes them more comfortable.
- The sky is bluer and the stars are brighter than other parts of the country due to the high-desert climate and elevation.
- Some of the top weekend vacation destinations are located within a few hours of Denver.
- The temperature can rise or fall by 40 degrees in a day due to the altitude.
- Since the air is thinner, there are lower levels of oxygen, which can take a toll on your body if you’re not used to it or have an ongoing medical condition.
Tips to Acclimate to the Altitude:
- The air is really dry, which can dehydrate your body if you’re not drinking enough water. Make sure to drink more water than you normally would.
- Take it easy upon first arrival and do some yoga where you focus on your breath.
- Make sure to get enough sleep if the altitude makes you feel drowsy.
- At higher elevations, the sun is more intense, so always wear sunscreen!
6. Traffic is undesirable, especially if you’re an avid skier.
One difference between Denver and other large cities is the amount of weekend traffic headed out of the city toward the mountains. Ski traffic is something you’ll want to account for if you move here since Denver is situated 75 miles or so from world-renowned ski resorts. Expect heavy traffic on Friday and Saturday in the winter.
But that isn’t the only time you’ll run into traffic in Denver. Since the city exploded with growth in the past decade, traffic within the metro can get congested too. Luckily, Denver is geographically small so getting to and from hot spots shouldn’t take too long during non-rush hour times. Also, if you live and work in the downtown area, biking in Denver is a viable alternative to sitting in rush hour.
Tips for Getting Around:
- Be careful of where you park because the sides of the street change to accommodate street sweeping.
- Consider a car with four-wheel drive or one that can handle more rugged roadways.
- The city has added new light rail lines in 2016, including one that goes to the airport. Other light rails connect some suburbs to the city.
- Denver is a highly bike-friendly city. It’s estimated that between 6-7% of downtown employees commute to work by bike.
7. Denver is a beer destination and is on its way to becoming a food destination.
Craft brew fanatics will love that Denver is home to the second most microbreweries next to Portland. In fact, the area has been coined as the Napa Valley of Beer. But if you’re looking to enjoy a pint or two during happy hour, remember to drink some water too. If not, you might feel buzzed sooner than you would in cities closer to sea level. Beer can have more of an effect due to thin air.
We spoke with Editor of Rocky Mountain Food Report, Dionne Roberts, on how the food and drink scene has evolved. “Denver’s craft culinary and beverage scene continues to show rapid growth with the influx of diverse and gifted chefs, brewers and distillers,” Roberts explains. “More people want to be a part of the mountain culture and that adds depth to the growing number of options and cultivates a higher sense of quality in the cuisine.”
Roberts also shared with us some recommendations for potential residents to visit while in Denver.
Places to Drink:
- Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales — Specializes in unique, blended and barrel-aged sour beers with industrial airplane-esque decor and meticulous brewing processes.
- Epic Brewing Company — Offers a fun, community tasting room with a lineup of dozens of flagship and elevated craft beers.
- Black Shirt Brewing Company — Relays an approachable rock n’ roll edge in their stylistic, aptly-named beers, live music performances and funky brewery atmosphere.
- Great American Beer Fest — This festival has the largest variety of beer served of any public tasting across the country. You’ll be hard-pressed to try them all, since there are over 800 breweries and thousands of beers present.
Places to Eat:
- Euclid Hall — Located in the heart of Larimer Square with a focus on elevated pub fare, a great ambiance and thorough attention to providing locally sourced ingredients.
- The Pig & The Sprout — This spot is conveniently located near Union Station, and just as the name advertises, the food accommodates carnivore cravings as well as lighter options with a solid cocktail and beer selection.
- Beatrice & Woodsley — A whimsical, cozy restaurant with a seasonal craft menu on Broadway that boasts a fairy tale interior perfect for date night or intimate gatherings.
- 16th Street Mall — Located in downtown Denver, this one-mile section is packed with tons of cafes, brewpubs and restaurants. After a night out, play one of the ten public pianos on display.
8. There are plenty of fun things to do in Denver.
Relocating to Denver is a much more enjoyable experience when you know there’s a ton you’ll want to do once you arrive. Do any of the following interest you enough to start packing up your belongings and heading to Denver?
Professional Sports Teams:
- Denver Broncos — NFL Super Bowl Winners in 2016.
- Colorado Rockies — MLB team lost in a wildcard playoff game in 2017.
- Colorado Avalanche — NHL team that won eight division title games in a row–the longest streak in the league.
- Denver Nuggets — NBA team that has yet to reach the championship round in the playoffs.
- Arrowhead Golf Club — Spend a leisurely day hitting some golf balls further than you normally would. No really. Due to the high altitude, golf balls can reportedly go up to 10% farther.
- The Stanley Hotel — Horror fanatics should take an hour trek outside of Denver to visit this historic landmark that inspired Stephen King’s 1977 bestseller, The Shining. Want a glimpse into the paranormal? Take their Night Spirit Tour and explore some creepy spaces.
- Red Rocks Amphitheatre — Chances are if you want to see one of your favorite big time musicians live, they will have played at Red Rocks. Music sounds incredible here and the views are unforgettable.
- Denver Performing Arts Complex (The Plex) — Enjoy a variety of seasonal events on this four block strip, like Broadway Theatre, ballet, and opera.
9. Taking advantage of the great outdoors is easy all year round.
Denver is the ideal location for adventure seekers looking to explore thrilling mountain peaks and valleys. But you don’t have to be an adrenaline junkie or avid skier to enjoy outdoor life in Colorado. There are dozens of day trips suitable for the entire family all year round.
Desirable Green Spaces:
- Washington Park — Take a pedal boat across Smith Lake for a perfect afternoon with the family.
- City Park — Hike the Mile High Trail in this park and get a five-kilometer workout exactly one mile above sea level.
- Confluence Park — Take a kayak out and explore man-made kayak chutes located minutes from downtown.
Ideal Ski Destinations:
- Vail Mountain Resort — There are 5,289 acres of skiable slopes at this legendary ski spot.
- Ski Cooper — Skip the long lines and hassle at this lesser-known resort with 400 acres and 39 well kept trails.
- Winter Park — This is the longest running ski resort in Colorado with over 3,000 acres of award-winning terrain to explore.
- Mount Evans — Climb the highest paved road in North America and eventually reach the summit at 14,260 feet.
- Rocky Mountain Ziplines — Zip through sections of the Rocky Mountains and take in the sights on over 6,000 feet of cable.
- Private Foothills Tour — Take a four hour trek through the Foothills of Denver. There are many stops built into the tour. If you have kids, make sure to stop at Dinosaur Ridge, which is optional.
10. People openly smoke marijuana in Denver.
Colorado was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, which might not impact your life in Denver as much as you think. According to a survey by the Colorado Department of Public Health, only 13.6% of residents partake in recreational marijuana use, and fewer of them smoke every day. While this figure is much larger than the national average, some argue that many pot smokers in other states keep their habit behind closed doors. Regardless of where you stand on this issue, there are some things you should know.
- If you wish to smoke pot in your apartment, make sure it is allowed in your lease agreement before you light up.
- You must be over the age of 21 to buy and legally smoke pot in Colorado.
- Public use of marijuana is illegal, so don’t expect to find people lighting up in the streets.
- Certain hotels restrict the use of marijuana on their premises, so be sure to find a smoke-friendly establishment if you’re planning a trip and wish to smoke.
- Just because marijuana use is illegal, that doesn’t mean your boss has to agree. Your company can legally administer drug tests and create policies banning the use of marijuana.
- If pregnant, the CDPH advises strongly against the use of marijuana. If any newborn baby tests positive for THC, the hospital is advised to contact child protective services.
Make relocating to Denver a relatively simple process.
If you’re planning a move to Denver, creating a checklist of everything you need to do can be helpful. In order to be considered a resident of Denver, you must be employed, own a business, or reside in Denver for at least 90 days. Don’t forget some of these essential steps to becoming a Denverite.
Moving to Denver Checklist:
- Before registering your car, update out of state vehicle titles using this form. Be sure your car will pass required emissions tests before bringing it into the state. If not, you may have to sell the car before you move.
- Transfer your license within 30 days and register your car within 90 days at the DMV.
- Decide whether or not you want to update your organ donor status.
- Register to vote in Colorado online.
- Learn about the requirements for residency as it relates to higher education.
- Change your address and have your mail forwarded using this form from the USPS.
- Sometimes relocation dates don’t match up exactly. If your belongings arrive before you have access to your home, consider temporary self storage in Denver.
We hope you learned a thing or two about life in Denver. Would you ever move here? Do you have some insight you’d like to share? Let us know in the comment section.