Possibly moving to Denver for a new job. HELP.
August 13, 2014 9:10 AM   Subscribe

My husband is interviewing in Denver this week and seems to have a good shot at getting the job. We currently live in Meridian, Idaho (just outside of Boise) and have lived here practically our entire lives. I've never lived out of state, though my husband has. Help this security-needing, plan-making, organizational freak make sense of a big-for-me move!

A couple things: job is in the tech field and he would work in downtown Denver, we expect the salary to be 85Kish. I'm a mom and have stayed at home up to this point and will probably continue to do so. We have a 3-year-old and are hoping to have another sometime soon. We are 30.

- we live in a 1,600 sf home in a well-kept neighborhood. Our home was built in 1992 but had been recently roofed, painted, re-carpeted when we purchased for $148,000 (recent estimate for our home has been around $180,000). 3 bedroom, 3 car garage, nice yard. We'd eventually be looking for something similar. Give me an idea of where we could get this and what it would cost us! (Zillow is only so reliable.)

- OR renting! What areas do we want to live in? What areas are best for a young family? We like parks, libraries, nearby coffee, close proximity to shopping, safety, family-friendly and inexpensive. We are fairly social, have no pets, like to get out and explore.

- so if it wasn't clear from the above, what are the good family-friendly suburbs? Not too pricey, not too far out, with decent public transportation options into downtown?

- give me an idea of utility cost, if at all possible! Or where I can get that information!

- what about grocery costs? Best places to shop? (Can you tell I do the budgeting around here?)

- any other pertinent information, opinions, rants, etc. I've been to Denver twice in the last 12 years and was a bit overcome by the sprawl, but didn't have a lot of time to myself to explore.

Thanks in advance for anything you can offer!
posted by gracious floor to Work & Money (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not terribly familiar with Denver, so I can't speak to specific neighborhoods, or cost-of-living items like groceries and electricity. I have, however, made a few distant, multi-state moves.

I'd recommend renting an apartment for at least a year before you buy a house. That way, even if you end up having bad luck with the rental, you have a year to learn the area -- where are the best neighborhoods, the best schools, and most convenient-to-job areas. You have the added bonus of your child being only 3 so he won't be changing schools (that can have some devastating effects on children); he'll only start school once you're in the Denver area.

I'm not sure what's reasonable for a storage unit -- when I moved from a single-family home in the Boston area to a two-bedroom apartment in the DC area, my employer paid my moving expenses, and I sent a little more than half of my furniture and stuff to my parents' basement in NY. I moved it again only once I had bought a house again (by that time I was in the Baltimore area, where I live today -- due to yet another job change; that company which was so willing to pay my moving expenses and so excited to have me as an employee laid me off unceremoniously after only a year of working there). So I got free storage.

Depending on how long it takes to sell your house in Idaho, you could get stuck paying rent and a mortgage payment for some time. (I moved during the housing bust so it took a year and a half to sell my house in MA and I took a bath on the price.) You need to be prepared for that. Maybe you can rent your house while it is on the market -- I had mine simultaneously listed with the same Realtor for rent AND for sale, but I had no bites on either.
posted by tckma at 9:34 AM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

As someone who has done three big moves in the last seven years, let me say that renting for a year is a good idea. It is extremely hard to find your 'forever home' from a distance. There is intense pressure to buy something -- anything -- so that you can focus on your actual move and stop spending money/time on travel back and forth just to look. You will be tempted to let him make the final visits once you have settled on a set of options. Mistake. You both want to be there every time you visit a property you are considering. Whether it be your first visit, inspection, or final walk-through. Memory fades and you both want to make sure you remember the house the same way before you close. Nothing sucks more than having your partner end up disappointed in a house you thought they wanted.

It's much less hard to find an agreeable once you have been in the area for a while and can actually look from a local home base.
posted by rocketpup at 9:51 AM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks so much for that advice. That definitely makes sense. Where would you all advise looking for rentals?
posted by gracious floor at 9:55 AM on August 13, 2014

Look, here's the housing situation here right now.

1) Housing in Denver is crazy expensive - there's signs that it's about to slow down, but so far it hasn't. You are not going to find what you have in Boise for anywhere near that price unless you are willing to live far, far out in the suburbs, which means what could be an awful commute. Housing inventory is also extremely low. What you listed as what you want? Everybody wants that. And there's 10,000 of them moving to the Denver area every month.

2) Renting is also a nightmare. I've heard numbers like a "1%" vacancy rate. Landlords can and are extremely choosy.

I would still recommend renting for a year if you can. Schools in the Denver area are wildly variable. Areas are variable, and the transportation options are rapidly changing with the addition of the lightrail. You can learn about the area and decide what you absolutely want for your housing options and what you are willing to compromise on. You may decide you're willing to give up a decent yard for less commute time, for example. Or vice versa. You may decide that Littleton, while nice, is too sprawley with grocery stores and coffee too far away and you'd rather live in Lakewood in a smaller, 1950s house.

I'm trying to say this as gently as I can, but you need to get rid of all your expectations. Your husband's salary is good, but it's not going to get you into a neighborhood with everything you want and little commute unless you are prepared to pay a significant portion of it to housing. It's best to come here with an open mind, a list of must-haves and a separate list of what you want but you're willing to sacrifice. Because if you decide to rent, you may end up throwing yourself on the first thing that you find and your application is accepted.

For buying and getting a better idea of prices, I recommend Remax, not zillow. A surprising number of realtosr here don't put their houses on the web for god knows what reason, and zillow is often very behind in scraping stuff.

I don't want to depress you, Denver is a great place to live. But commuting can be an absolute nightmare here, and the kind of neighborhood you live in is going to be largely dependent on how much commute your husband is willing to put up with. For now, I suggest looking into the Lakewood, Golden, Littleton, Applewood, Arvada, Thorton areas, and perhaps Stapleton. Spend some time on the RTD site for specific neighborhoods for options about busing and rail transportation.

Utilites and groceries are probably similar to Boise - in fact groceries might be cheaper due to the options and being on a major trucking route.
posted by barchan at 9:57 AM on August 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Padmapper and Craigslist for renting.

Be warned, it's going to be hard to rent from far away - you'll probably need to come here for a weekend.
posted by barchan at 9:59 AM on August 13, 2014

Here's a link to the Denver neighborhood guide. One reason to rent would be to find a neighborhood that feels like you - there's a lot of different variety in neighborhoods around the area. When we first moved here we lived in Evergreen, an area in the foothills, which we liked and hated to leave - I'm a small town mountain girl- but the commute was killing us so we moved near City Park and to our surprise love living near the heart of the city.
posted by barchan at 10:03 AM on August 13, 2014

These won't tell you much about neighborhoods, and usually only show apartment COMPLEXES, however:


If you'd rather live in an individual apartment, or half a duplex, or something, get a local newspaper from Denver and look in the classified ads. Denver Craigslist might work but I always find Craigslist kind of iffy for anything over $100.

In my case, when my company flew me down for an interview, they included one day for the interview and one day for apartment hunting (by that point the interview was merely a formality to see what I looked like, I think). My interview was at 8 AM and lasted 30 minutes, so effectively I had two days for apartment hunting. That was plenty for me -- BUT -- I was not married and had no girlfriend at the time, so I was the only person who had to look at apartments. I also had a college friend who had lived in the area for several years by that point, and she was more than happy to take a day off of work while I was there for my interview to show me around.

Your husband's interview trip may include a day or two for apartment hunting. He should use it if he wants the job. Yes, it's ideal if you're there with him too, but it's better than nothing. In my case a single day for apartment hunting was plenty, but you're definitely going to want to look at any apartment he's looked at and hasn't ruled out -- you're going to live there too, after all.

If he gets the job, and if they are a good company, he should be able to negotiate a start date such that you have time to travel down to Denver with him on an apartment hunting trip. On that trip you should look at any apartment he really liked, and possibly add more apartments to your search.
posted by tckma at 10:04 AM on August 13, 2014

Get a referral to a realtor in the Denver area and tell them what you need. Make sure they know you are interested in buying in a year. Lots of real estate companies also have rental departments so they can advise on prices. Also depending on where his job is, Aurora or Golden or some of the other areas would be good to look in
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:06 AM on August 13, 2014

As far as what your home is worth,for the love of all that is holy don't pay any attention to Zillow as they don't use all the information needed to make a proper estimate. Ask your Realtor to do a CMA instead.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:10 AM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

If he's working downtown and you don't want to live close enough for him to walk/bus/bike to work, try to get a place close to a light rail stop. I imagine he'd be getting off at the 16th and California stop, if that's helpful. Englewood or Littleton might be places to consider where he could drive or bus to the light rail and get downtown that way, and from what I know of those areas, are good for families.
posted by jabes at 10:13 AM on August 13, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks again, all. Barchan- thanks for being honest! That's exactly why I love Metafilter.
posted by gracious floor at 10:18 AM on August 13, 2014

Response by poster: I will be spending some time on these links, folks. Thanks again!
posted by gracious floor at 10:20 AM on August 13, 2014

In terms of neighborhoods, I really like the City Park, City Park West, and Congress Park areas in Denver--they have a nice mix of retail and residential, feel very walk-able, and are close to lots of playgrounds and the zoo for entertaining kids. (My brother lives in Congress Park and his neighborhood is full of families with toddlers and young kids.) You don't get that sprawling suburbia feel you can get in other parts of Denver that I also think is one of the worse aspects of the city. As a bonus, depending on where your husband's job is, the commute might not be too bad if you're living in downtown Denver. Downsides: you probably won't find a place as large as where you're living (the single-family houses are expensive or older and smaller), and you may or may not love the schools. I know some people would never consider sending their kid to a Denver Public School but I think that's kind of overblown, especially at the elementary school level your neighborhood school can be quite good.

If you want to get a little more for your money and/or into a different (arguably better though it depends on the school itself!) school district, I'd recommend looking west at Golden. You may be able to get a place near the light rail, which would make your husband's commute much better, and the town itself is very family-friendly and walkable.
posted by iminurmefi at 10:38 AM on August 13, 2014

Also I meant to add re: grocery costs, I find groceries to be extremely inexpensive here. Sprouts Farmers Markets are great for fresh produce and the prices are straight-up cheap most of the time, and then Safeway and King Soopers (a Kroger store) are the two main grocery stores in the area. Both double coupons and are reasonable on prices. I personally prefer Safeway lately. My boyfriend and I eat most meals at home, bring our lunches to work, etc., and spend about $70 a week on groceries (very little meat, but tons of produce).
posted by jabes at 10:38 AM on August 13, 2014

Compare cost of living between Boise and Denver:
Groceries 6% more
Housing 35% more
Utilities 12% more
Transportation 7% less
Health Care 2% more
This calculator lists many groceries, services etc. in more detail.
posted by travelwithcats at 10:40 AM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Something to consider if you cannot afford to cover rent in Denver and a mortgage on an empty house in Idaho: your husband could go and rent a room on a month-to-month basis while you wait for your house to sell. Since you don't need to get there before school starts this year you have the luxury of time. And then he'll have had a chance to cruise around in his off hours and whittle down neighborhoods that really suit your family and your finances.

If you're planning on buying a house eventually (as opposed to a condo or whatever), I would recommend renting a house in one of the neighborhoods you check out and like, if you can. Winter home care is probably something you're used to, but I'd say try it out in Denver before you commit.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:58 AM on August 13, 2014

I've been in Denver for a half century (oh my). It's a nice place to live and has a lot to offer. I'll stick to straightforward answers to your questions:

What areas are best for a young family?
There are plenty of interesting areas. I suspect the challenge will come in the cost to live in these different spots and your requirements for schools.

Washington Park, for example, is great and close to downtown -- but it's pricey and schools iffy.

Highlands is up and coming as an "in" spot -- cheaper but similar school issues.

The Lowry area is basically a redeveloped Air Force base. Pretty close to downtown and some interesting housing options.

We live in Centennial, south of town. It's a family friendly suburban area, and you can be close to light rail to get downtown. It's pretty suburban, so maybe not as interesting as the areas mentioned previously. We used to live in Wash park, and I preferred that, but we needed a bigger house and better schools.

University Hills is a nice area with moderately sized/priced houses. There are some blocks of Cherry Creek School District (very good) there as well.

Pearl Street area is a kind of less expensive (a little) Wash Park. It has a nice street of "walk to" shops and restaurants.

- give me an idea of utility cost, if at all possible! what about grocery costs?
Overall cost of living is probably higher than where you are at, but not off the charts. I suspect Xcel energy can provide info on utility costs.
- Best places to shop? (Can you tell I do the budgeting around here?)
King Soopers, Safeway, Whole Foods (aka "Whole Paycheck"), Sprouts Market
Like a lot of cities this size, Denver does have sprawl. I find the outer suburbs less interesting, and closer to the city more interesting... but that's just me. The mountains and sunny days are really the best things going here. If you ski, hike, or just like to explore the mountains, you will enjoy. If you bike or run, there's some good opportunities in town. Culturally/Atttraction-wise, Denver has some pretty decent stuff, though I'd say not on par with a lot of somewhat bigger cities.

I do love our blue skies and sunny days. Even when it snows, even if it snows big, it's always followed by a bright crispy sunny day. Summer can get warm, but never humid. Fall is fantastic -- and there's changing aspens to see in the hills.

Altitude may affect you for a while.

The pot legalization has not impacted any of my day-to-day life... ie. I'm not seeing much of a change here. We're not users, and have a 15 year old daughter, so it is discussed a lot here, but I don't fear she'll get into it just 'cause it's legal here.

Best of luck!
posted by ecorrocio at 12:02 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Tell your husband to ask for more money before he signs anything. 85k isn't that huge in Denver.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:15 PM on August 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would echo barchan's mention of online apartment finders and add that you can search by neighborhood on the Rent.com Denver page plus if you click Local Info they give a little run-down of the area re renting. We used them to rent in Los Angeles and they've got this promotion thing about reporting your eventual lease then receiving a hundred dollar visa card. It wasn't until a few months later so it didn't help with the move but hey no complaints.
posted by TimiB at 9:48 AM on August 14, 2014

I live in Denver, love it, and am always happy to discuss it. Please feel free to MeMail me if you have specific questions.
posted by Sheppagus at 10:17 AM on August 19, 2014

« Older Tennis - US Open itinerary logistics question   |   I want to get stoked on vitamins and nutrients. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.