What to Know About Relocating to Boulder

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So you’re considering planting your life in Boulder? Beyond the “usual” —  more days of sunshine than Miami, a cultural commitment to intellectual and physical health, ardent love of quality food and dazzling outdoor adventure — what does a Boulder relocation offer you?

A welcoming community

Unlike some parts of the country, in which your family needs three or four generations to be considered real contributors, northern Colorado quickly welcomes newcomers. With government research laboratories (NOAA, NIST) and University of Colorado Boulder bringing visiting scholars and scientists for sabbatical years, and with aggressive hiring in our burgeoning tech and entrepreneurial industries, for decades, our local culture has invited new transplants to get involved right from the get-go.

Boulder places of worship, libraries and museums actively encourage dynamic community engagement. For example, the Museum of Boulder not only explores the untold/underrepresented roots of our community and what will be tomorrow’s history, but their mission also empowers the museum to function as a community center. In addition to permanent and rotating exhibits, they host rooftop yoga and dance classes, blood drives, film screenings, benefits, community conversations on relationships and parties of all kinds. They shine a spotlight on other non-profits, as well as local artists and musicians. The museum provides a multitude of volunteer opportunities; currently, it is asking for community help preparing a latinx Voces Vivas exhibit.  Additionally, the Museum of Boulder continuously asks for suggestions/interpretations about what in our current Boulder experience should be preserved for future generations.

As a newcomer, in addition to getting involved with opportunities at our big institutions, you have informal groups and events to choose between. New residents can pop into countless vibrant options: hiking and skiing groups, language tables, cycling clubs, bluegrass picks, the Thursday night cruiser ride, the Conference on World Affairs, film festivals, kundalini/hot/goat yoga, encaustic painting or mushroom foraging. Or, tongue in cheek, I ask, why choose? Like many Boulderites, you may want to retire and enjoy them all.

A (relative) real estate safe haven

In addition to being exceptionally welcoming, relocation to Boulder has historically offered seasoned investors an exceptional investment opportunity. Due to its dependable price growth and lack of volatility, Boulder’s real estate market is one of the safest, most consistent in the U.S.

For the past 10 years, Smart Asset has ranked Boulder within the top 10 cities for real estate growth and stability among the 358 U.S. metropolitan areas evaluated yearly. Smart Asset looks at statistics from every quarter from 1996 to Q4 2020, evaluating odds of a 5 percent loss in home price and home price growth since 1996.

For 2020, Boulder claimed the No. 3 spot for the second year in a row. Situated in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, with green space surrounding the city that effectively limits sprawl/home inventory growth, the Boulder area saw home prices climb 238 percent between 1996 and 2020, the 17th-highest growth rate in the Smart Asset study. Plus, the odds of a 5 percent price drop in Boulder within 10 years of a home’s purchase were just 1 percent.

When people are relocating from most other parts of the country, they frequently don’t understand the compounding power of the market here. Most people need to see an apples-to-apples comparison of appreciation rates between Boulder and their metro area of origin to understand the wealth-building power of the Boulder housing market.

Depending on where you’re coming from, the price of housing can feel either daunting or elating. For people coming from more expensive markets like Seattle, San Francisco and Brooklyn, making a robust offer with an extremely committed contract will help these more affluent buyers get under contract in a multiple offer scenario. For those stretching their finances to get into Boulder County, there are techniques that an experienced agent can help you implement to acquire a property. Getting into the market is the hardest part; once you have your home, you will hopefully start reaping the benefits of our historic price appreciation. Buy and hold!

5 tips on how to successfully relocate

No matter whether you plan to rent or buy, your transition will create a lot to manage.  Here are tips for success:

1. Stay Organized

In order to manage the stress of leaving your current location and planting in Boulder, keep detailed lists for both locations.

2. Know What is Available To You:

If you’re being moved by an employer, get clear on what benefits (if any) they are offering.  Some employers will pay for your personal property to be packed, movers and/or help for a trailing spouse to find work. Although expensive, having your home unpacked and organized by professional organizers will minimize the impact on your professional life.

3. Give Yourself Time To Find Your Home

When relocating here, recalibrate your expectations for finding a home to our historically tight supply. Whether initially renting or buying, current supply and demand for both rentals and sales suggest that inventory will remain low in the coming years.

Super important: if you decide to rent, in order to retain your initial buying power, your income will need to increase at the same rate as the real estate market’s appreciation. To actually come out ahead in that equation, your yearly income needs to rise at a higher rate than yearly increases in home prices. Keep interest rate trajectories in mind with this calculation as well.

We’ve had clients look for houses, decide they needed to rent to save more for a down payment, then a couple of years later be shocked that the $750,000 homes they looked at before were now $1 million. While significant price appreciation is not guaranteed, it has occurred regularly here for decades. Make sure your housing choices make sense for you today as well as in three to five years.

4. Understand How The Market Works:

Learn the rental and/or sale markets. Find resources like our blog/videos to familiarize yourself with how many properties in your price range can be expected during different seasons. If you’re moving forward with a purchase, understand current list-to-sale price ratios in your micro-market prior to offering.

Additionally, understand the seasonality of our markets. You may find regular (non-student) rentals throughout the year, while most student rentals are advertised/pre-rent in winter and turn over in August. In the sale market, historically most inventory comes between President’s Day and Memorial Day, with a secondary market after Labor Day. In 2020 and 2021, the market has functioned beyond these historic parameters; be sure to recognize and plan for current trends, which may vary from pre-pandemic trends.

5. Familiarize Yourself with Neighborhoods and BVSD

Get to know our neighborhoods. If your company is paying for house-hunting trips, consider renting Airbnbs in different neighborhoods that you’re interested in exploring. Chat with neighbors, walk the streets, identify nearby groceries, coffee shops and restaurants. Which neighborhoods feel like home?

Once you’ve identified acceptable neighborhoods, learn a bit about the correlating neighborhood schools. Local schools contribute significantly to value, so it is important to understand their impact. If you have school-age kids, tour schools during their winter open houses. Boulder Valley School District offers plain vanilla, STEM, STEAM, IB, TAG, arts, bilingual, Montessori and Waldorf-esque neighborhood and charter school options; people relocating usually have a different open-enrollment calendar than locals. Be sure to check the BVSD website for the most up-to-date relocation open enrollment info.

Why Boulder?

Planting in the Boulder area is worth it. Need evidence? Every year, Boulder receives local and national accolades for myriad strengths.

In 2020, it was honored with the following kudos:

  • No. 5 Most Vibrant Arts City Among Medium Cities — SMU Data Arts, September 2020
  • 12 Best Day Trips in the Rocky Mountains — Lonely Planet, September 2020
  • No. 7 of America’s 100 Best Small Cities — BestCities.org
  • No. 3 of the 30 Most Creative Small Cities in America — Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF), April 2020
  • 9 Best Outdoor Towns in the U.S. — The Discoverer

In 2019, Boulder won even more raves:

  • The 9 Best Outdoor Towns in the U.S. — The Discoverer, July 2019
  • Top 20 Places to Spend Christmas in the USA — Green Global Travel, November 2019
  • No. 1 Most Bikeable City in the U.S. — People For Bikes
  • No. 1 of the 50 Best College Towns in America — Best College Reviews
  • 10 Best Underrated Cities to Visit in the U.S. — Complex.com, January 2019
  • 20 Cities to Visit in Your 20s — CarRentals.com, February 2019
  • As you explore relocating, hang in there! It is a lot of work to transition from one place to another.  But know that living in Boulder is worth the considerable effort of transition. You’ll soon be here, riding gravel Saturday morning and picnicking before outdoor Shakespeare Saturday evening with your new best friends.  Every day you’ll revel in Colorado’s glory. Come join the fun.

Catherine Burgess is founding real estate agent of Burgess Group/Compass Boulder.

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