The Mile High City continues to be ‘elevated’ in both altitude and national rankings when it comes to “best of” surveys. It’s no wonder Denver’s population has grown by 20 percent since 2010.
This year, the U.S. News and World Report ranked Denver as the 2nd best place to live behind Austin, Tex. The latest, Wallet Hub’s Best Big Cities to Live In, places the Mile High City 13th in the nation. Wallet Hub compared the 62 largest U.S. cities based on 56 key indicators of attractiveness. According to the site, its data set ranges from the quality of public schools and life expectancy to job opportunities and property taxes.
Some might be surprised that Denver doesn’t find itself in the top 10 in this survey. But, unsurprisingly, the city found itself in the middle of the pack in affordability (32nd), education/health (23rd) and safety (24th). The categories that pulled Denver into the top 15 were economy (7th) and quality of life (18th).
Housing affordability has been a thorn in Denver’s side for the last decade. In 2009, the median price of a Denver home was $220,000; today, it’s $465,000 (more than double). But there is good news for potential home buyers.
Latest figures from the Denver Metro Area Realtors show that home prices are starting to drop and houses are staying on the market longer, creating more leverage for potential buyers. More importantly, inventory has increased and mortgage interest rates have dropped.
And fortunately, there are still neighborhoods in Denver that offer both affordable homes and are positioned close to the action and allure of the city. Homes in these communities are well below the median list price of Denver homes for sale and enjoy being within a five-mile radius of central downtown.
Check out our list of top 5 Denver neighborhoods for first time home buyers. Jenny Usaj, employing broker/owner of Usaj Realty, gives her take on each neighborhood and why a real estate purchase might be beneficial in each vicinity.
Keep in mind, some of these numbers can be deceiving. The average list prices, instead of the median (midpoint), can be misleading since the figures include homes selling for land value and new condo/townhome developments that may represent only a small part of the neighborhood, thereby skewing the figures to the high end. The property valuations give you the range of how the city of Denver is assessing homes in the area.
1. Sun Valley
Average list price: $688,750
Denver property valuation: $284K
“This neighborhood is in the midst of radical change and available homes can be sparse. Most of the recent real estate transactions represent homes purchased for the land and as a result, slant the average list price of homes. The majority of the 1,500 residents in Sun Valley live in public housing but soon the neighborhood will see a $240 million investment that will result in dramatic improvements and development of the area. From townhomes to apartment complexes, there will be a mix of homes spanning all income levels. In the end, 750 mixed income housing units will replace 333 public housing units, and 202 moderate income and 215 market rate homes will be made available. Although this is a small neighborhood, its location just south of Mile High Stadium makes it a great investment for a longer hold. The River Mile Development will eventually link to the area, making it much more pedestrian friendly and enable easier access into downtown. As a result, it’s expected more service industries, restaurants, grocery stores and employers will move into the area. Meow Wolf will also be a strong draw to the area which opens in 2021.”
Average list price: $635,833
Denver property valuation range: $284-293K
“The average list price in June is deceiving but illustrates how quickly this neighborhood is changing. Small two and three bedroom homes can be found for less than $300,000 but land and new builds are driving up the ‘average’ price. There were only six listings in the neighborhood in June. The stock in this area is rising quickly … and fast! Once a forgotten community in the shadows of I-25 and I-70, the neighborhood is now on the map. Adjacent to RiNo, the World Trade Center Campus, the Rock Drill development, I-70 tunnel construction, and the National Western, it’s obvious Globeville is going to be transformed. This area will not be a sleepy neighborhood, cut off from Denver, for much longer. The next few years will be filled with construction and orange cones but if you can wait it out, there will be unbelievable appreciation as these projects come to fruition.”
Average list price: $310,271
Denver property valuation range: $285-297K
This past May, the Denver City Council approved a rezoning proposal for the site of the old AT&T building for the development of 700 apartments and condos. While not everyone in the neighborhood is excited about this growth, it will provide much needed housing in this area. Being so close to downtown and with employers moving into RiNo, Elyria/Swansea is prime for new construction. Again, it is a bit of a wait, but the values will rise as the National Western, RockDrill and planned bike paths all start to link Elyria-Swansea with downtown Denver and other key attractions.
Average list price: $368,099
Denver property valuation range: $287-302K
“Just a stone throw from downtown Denver, this neighborhood allows homeowners to have an easy commute to work and quick access to the mountains via 6th Avenue. This area is also just minutes away from the popular Belmar Shopping Center in Lakewood. With the development of Sloan’s Lake and the River Mile project, this neighborhood will likely have a steady increase in value.”
Average list price (June 2019): $343,500
Denver property valuation: $287K
“While a bit industrial, this area is surrounded by big developments and its proximity to downtown are likely to make it the next “in” place. A short bike ride on the South Platte River Trail and you’ll find yourself in LoHi on the patio of a brewery. It’s no wonder the developers are already coming to this area. Check out the new townhomes starting at $547,000 at 2742 W. 2nd Ave. If you build it they will come in Denver.”
(Editor’s note: This blog was originally published in March of 2016. It has been completely updated and revised to reflect current market information).