Moving to Colorado. Looking for Advice
February 11, 2007 9:02 AM   Subscribe

Moving to Colorado. Looking for advice

I know this is a pretty board question, but I'm hoping to leverage the collective wisdoem of my fellow Metafilterians.

My wife and I have finally decided to make the leap and move to Colorado. In order of likelihood, these are the areas we're considering:

1) Colorado Springs
2) Outside/around Boulder
3) Evergreen area west of Denver.

I'm looking for any/all advice on the following things:

Trusted realtors; good mortgage companies; good/bad neighborhoods; property pricing, general things to avoid/look for; etc.

Any wisdom or experience (even if I have mentioned it above) you can offer would be appreciated.
posted by gb77 to Grab Bag (29 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'd like to throw out Fort Collins as another spot to consider on your list. It's a cool town since there is a large college on the northern end, and more white collar tech on the south end. That means that you can live in a suburb type area while still being only 10 minutes away from the oldtown college inspired area.
posted by cschneid at 9:29 AM on February 11, 2007

Yeah, I was going to say Fort Collins too, or Loveland just to the south. Boulder never seemed too bad, when I've visited. The concept of good/bad neighborhoods doesn't really apply to the areas you mention, except Colo Springs, which basically is a bad neighborhood (lifeless and oppressive compared to your other options).
posted by sleevener at 9:46 AM on February 11, 2007

Thanks for the comments.

As for "except Colo Springs, which basically is a bad neighborhood (lifeless and oppressive compared to your other options)." can you be more specific? Why don't you like CO Springs?
posted by gb77 at 10:11 AM on February 11, 2007

I personally think CO Springs is fine if you're, um, in the air force? Or an evangelical? Not to stereotype everyone who lives there, but yeah, it's a lot more conservative than Boulder, Denver, or Fort Collins. It's also not as pretty (in my opinion,) due to the the detritus of tourism and roadside stuff.

FWIW, a couple years ago I saw two billboards around CO Springs: one said "Get the US out of the UN" and the other had George W Bush flanked by George Washington and Abe Lincoln. If that doesn't give you the shivers, you should definitely check out CO Springs.

I for one, second Boulder (though it's pricier than the other options) Denver or Fort Collins. In that order.
posted by np312 at 10:20 AM on February 11, 2007

Thanks again, everyone. Keep the wisdom coming.

I'd heard rumors that CO Sp was a tad... conservative, which does make me nervous as we're looking for a new home, not a political/religious enclave.

What we'd really love is a foothill/mountain-esque setting, but our budget only runs to 275k, so that could be tough.
posted by gb77 at 10:32 AM on February 11, 2007

I grew up in Ft. Collins and Denver, and I absolutely concur with the notion of considering Ft. Collins and dropping Colo. Springs from your list. As others have said, unless you're in the air force or an evangelical, I can't imagine the mountain view making up for feeling as isolated as that place can make you feel. Ft. Collins is a great town -- I didn't appreciate it half as much as I should have growing up there. Good people, beautiful setting (go west of town if you want to live in the hills), and great resources all-around.
posted by scody at 10:46 AM on February 11, 2007

Colorado Springs is home to a rather large number of fundamentalist Christians and anti-tax conservatives - who also happen (for the most part) to run the local government. If you're part of that crowd, I suppose the place is heaven, but if you're not... well, it can seem a bit screwy. My chief complaint about Colorado Springs, however, is that it's an ugly, sprawly mess. As far as natural setting goes, I think it's better located than Denver, but the city itself isn't very attractive at all.

As for Boulder... I live within Boulder's "sphere of influence", so to speak. I'm kind of torn about the town, to be honest. All things considered, it's a pleasant enough place to visit and hang out in, and if you're of fairly liberal persuasion, I suppose it's just as much heaven as Colorado Springs is for conservatives. I don't think Boulder "works" very well, however. The city has a lot of anti-growth policies that, while keeping sprawl in check and open space unmolested, has simply pushed development into surrounding cities. Traffic is a real pain... simply getting in and out of Boulder can be difficult, as there're only a few routes available, and traffic in town can be a nightmare. It's also extremely expensive. I have friends who work in Boulder and make fairly good money, yet can't live in Boulder (or any of the surrounding suburbs) due to the cost of living.

So, I guess you could generalize by saying Boulder is a liberal paradise full of rich, white people who have little contact with those outside their borders. It's provincial in a way you wouldn't expect. It's a cool place, no doubt, but it's often hyped as THE place to live in Colorado... I just wonder if many of the people doing the hyping have ever actually lived there, however. Reputation and reality are two entirely different things.

Moving on to Evergreen... I can't offer many thoughts, as I haven't spent much time up there. It's one of the larger (perhaps the largest) of Denver's foothill suburbs. A lot of people who live up there commute down into Denver every day. Be prepared to pay a lot for a house and be prepared to stay home when a winter storm comes through. So far this season, Denver has received 62.1" of snow. Evergreen has received 110.2". I know a few people who live in the general vicinity (or elsewhere in the foothills), and they love it. But they also admit that it can be awfully inconvenient if you commute in and out of Denver every day.

And, yeah, Fort Collins and Loveland are worth taking a look at. As is Longmont (which I live just outside of). Fort Collins may very well be my favorite city in Colorado.

Oh, and on preview... 275K won't get you much (if anything) in the foothills. Or Boulder. It can get you a fairly normal single-family home in most of the other places mentioned, however.
posted by jal0021 at 10:52 AM on February 11, 2007

I lived in Boulder for 2 years and loved it. Boulder like Fort Collins has a downtown where you can walk and shop. I found that in Colorado Springs and Denver I was always in my car getting from place to place. This may have changed because I have been a way for 5 years but it’s not likely. Boulder has a much more “tree hugging, dirt worshiper” feel to it (that being the reason I chose to live there). I moved from NYC to Boulder and I have to say that the best thing was how seriously people took their outdoor plans. In NYC if you stand someone up at a bar you don’t get asked out again. Same is true for people in Boulder and outdoor plans. You can get casually asked “want to go out climbing tomorrow?” and if you say yes you had better be out sitting on your curb ready to go come 6am. I found this to be a wonderful thing. The only downside is cost. It is not a cheap town. But if you have a decent job and are not hoarder of stuff you will get on fine. Last note it has a nice mix of places to go out; dirty college dives and upscale hipster bars. Also if you go, you must go to Kathmandu in Nederland (just up the canyon).
posted by Morgangr at 10:52 AM on February 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've lived in Boulder for four years (as a college student attending CU), but I have friends in Denver and CO Springs. I really can't reccomend Boulder enough given your other options; the quality of life here is just that good!

- Everywhere sells and serves organic everything.
- You're in the outdoor sports mecca of the world: Ride bikes alongside the T-Mobile team. World class climbers giving you a spot while bouldering. Biking, hiking, and skiing just outside your door.
- A decent music scene (with Denver right next store, you can see pretty much anything).
- ROCKING public transportation.
- Central location between Denver + Ft. Collins.

Downsides? Everyone is smarter, faster, and in better shape than you are. It costs a shitload to live here. Lots of pretensious yuppies and their CU attending kids.

It's all worth it, though.
posted by jstef at 11:00 AM on February 11, 2007

I lived in Colorado Springs for four years. In that time, the city very noticeably sprawled out to the north and east. And yes, it is a conservative stronghold. Focus on the Family's home base is there, as is Fort Carson (Army), the Air Force Academy, NORAD and Falcon Air Force base. So if your politics are to the left (or even center) and you want to be able to get around without utilizing a car -- although I think that there's now a decent transit system in town -- you may want to look elsewhere.

There are some highlights, though. There are great outdoor activities right nearby: Barr trail, Waldo canyon, great mountain biking roads up the front range. Decent downtown area. There are some decent restaurants in the area: the Blue Star, MacKenzie's Chop House, Adam's Mountain Cafe, etc. (I don't know if Mataam Fez is still open, but it is/was a superb Moroccan place.) Bristol Brewing Company, a fantastic microbrewery, is located in town. They have a minor league baseball team, the SkySox, but their stadium is unfortunately located smack dab in the middle of the sprawl. $275K will get you quite a bit more in Colorado Springs than in Denver or Boulder. Oh, and Colorado Springs has some of the best thrift stores anywhere.

Were I given the choice, though, I'd probably move to Fort Collins rather than the Springs. The atmosphere of the town is totally different. It's a university town, not a military town.
posted by cog_nate at 11:31 AM on February 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Colorado Springs is, at its core, a small military town that has grown and grown and grown. As others have said, it is swarming with conservative evangelicals. Focus on the Family, probably the single largest and most powerful conservative Christian organization, is based on the Springs. (In fact, it has its own zip code). Other major evangelical churches have sprung up alongside it. This conservative religious presence, combined with the sizable military population, makes the town very conservative and conformist.

Another striking aspect of Colorado Springs is how poor it seems to be. Certainly, there are nice suburbs, but the town has an overriding sense of glories past, not present. It is a run-down place.
posted by thewittyname at 11:59 AM on February 11, 2007

gb77, sorry about not being more specific before, but I didn't want to make assumptions about your politics. Everyone else nailed it for me, though. If you like art, books, thoughtful discussion, etc, Colo Springs won't be the place for you. If you like the idea of an ambient chill in the air that has nothing to do with the temperature, and if you like driving everywhere, then by all means, move there.
posted by sleevener at 12:20 PM on February 11, 2007

I lived in Boulder for one year post college, and had a wonderful time there. The big drawback is, as everyone mentioned, cost. I did fine when working as a geologist, but being unemployed there was pretty raw.

Everything I have to say has already been said above, so let me just echo that you should consider Boulder and Ft. Collins, and avoid Springs.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 12:21 PM on February 11, 2007

Great input, everyone, thanks. It's a big help. Keep it coming.

Given what I've heard here, I think I agree with everyone: Co Spr wouldn't be a good match for us and that we've perhaps short changed Fort Collins.

I'm planning a trip out to CO next month; I'll have to put Fort Collins on my itinerary.

posted by gb77 at 12:34 PM on February 11, 2007

I'm from Colorado Springs, and I went to school in Fort Collins. Having spent several years in both places, I'd say cog_nate's absolutely spot on.

You can definitely have a great time in Colorado Springs if you stay close to downtown (80903) or near the Patty Jewett golf course (80907) or on the west side of I-25 in Old Colorado City (80904) or Manitou (80829), generally where the older homes are. The entire east side seems to spread from 1970s split levels and ranchers to spanking new sandcolored mcmansions surrounded by big-box stores the further east you go. Bleah. And if you're on the west side, and if you like exercise and views, the foothills are right there and you can get out the door and into a lung-busting workout within minutes. The downtown area's coming along nicely. Check out Kimball's, a smallish indie theater on Pikes Peak with two screens. Shugga's on South Cascade is a sweet little bar with an airy disposition. Blue Star is fantastic, with great staff and a great wine list. Unfortunately, Mataam Fez is gone, but in its place is the Metropolitan restaurant/bar, which is underground and cozy. And Adam's Mountain Cafe in Manitou is not to be missed -- lots of great surprises and also some sticky little dives there near the arcade. Gertrude's on Colorado Avenue is damn fine for brunch, and La Petite Maison down the street is tasty and very special. The area's generally not great for live music, but Denver's about an hour away. Lots of sunshine there, btw.

Boulder's prohibitively expensive and can be aggressively pretentous, but it's quite lovely. If you can get up in the mountains or maybe in Lyons, you'd be set. But you wouldn't be able to walk to shops, or make it to Lucille's for chicory coffee and biscuits the size of your head.

I really liked Fort Collins, and there's a lot of life there due to the university. It has miles and miles of convenient running/biking trails and pretty generous bike lanes. Good restaurants. Friendly people. A bit more progressive. It's been years since I spent more than a day or so there, but it's truly worth checking out.

On preview: It's not run down -- Platt Avenue's an armpit, but every city has armpits.
posted by mochapickle at 12:37 PM on February 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

But there is a Lucille's in Fort Collins! Yes, very much go.
posted by mochapickle at 12:47 PM on February 11, 2007

Speaking of great breakfasts and Ft. Collins, is Vern's up in Laporte still serving those incredible cinnamon rolls? God, we'd stop off there all the time on our way up to Laramie to get a couple of those, hot and dripping with melted butter... spectacular.
posted by scody at 12:56 PM on February 11, 2007

Breakfast Burrito at the Ever-Open Cafe (if it's still open)
posted by sleevener at 1:01 PM on February 11, 2007

I would look into either Longmont or Ft. Collins if I were you. I won't cover Ft. Collins as much because other people have done a smashing job of it, but many of the outdoor benefits others have mentioned apply anywhere else on the Front Range. You're always near a gorgeous view, and with people who generally are quite active outdoors.

Boulder is a nice college town, but isn't necessarily all that practical. As others have mentioned, it is an extremely expensive place to live, but more than that I've always found the traffic into and out of Boulder to be terrible. Whether taking the Diagonal, HWY 36, or coming off of Arapahoe or Baseline, if you do not time it right, you're going to get stuck in a parking lot. So if you plan to work in Boulder but live elsewhere (or vice versa) this could really bump up your commute. You could probably make it work if you adjusted your schedule to be on and off the roads at times other than rush hour, but the practicality of doing that depends heavily on your circumstances.

If you're not into college towns then I think Longmont is like a good compromise between Ft. Collins and Boulder. It is generally cheaper, and more practical. I don't think you could go wrong with either Longmont or Ft. Collins. I've lived in Longmont for years and soon will be moving to Ft. Collins to transfer to CSU. I don't think you can go wrong at either place.
posted by icebourg at 1:03 PM on February 11, 2007

My fiance is from CO, and I've spent quite a bit of time there. She's lived in Boulder, Fort Collins and now a tourist town called Estes Park in the mountains, and she has good and bad things to say about all of them. I have to say though, I loved Fort Collins, thought it was a great little town.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:07 PM on February 11, 2007

Colorado Springs is home to a rather large number of fundamentalist Christians and anti-tax conservatives - who also happen (for the most part) to run the local government. If you're part of that crowd, I suppose the place is heaven, but if you're not... well, it can seem a bit screwy. My chief complaint about Colorado Springs, however, is that it's an ugly, sprawly mess.

We moved to Colorado Springs around four years ago because my husband got a job at Colorado College. We'd live in Denver in the mid 90s, and I was excited about going back to Colorado, I was anxious about the Springs because of this reputation.

But I've found that the Co Springs I live in - downtown, close to CC - is a different place, a sort of liberal oasis. All of my friends and most of my neighbors share my pinkocommielefty views, and many of them are motivated by the more conservative nature of the Springs to be active in local politics. While the city's conservatism is not subtle, it doesn't have any immediate ramifications on my life. The community of friends I have here is one of the strongest I've had anywhere, and I think it's in part to this siege mentality.

When I was younger, I would have lamented the lack of cultural activities here - Denver and Boulder win in that area, no contest. But as a busy working parent, I find the Springs to be one of the most comfortable places I've ever lived. We avoid the sprawl since pretty much everything we need is a short bike or car trip away. We could afford to buy a modest house in a good school system - something I despaired of doing in Denver or Boulder. The hiking here is amazing, the public library system is one of the best in the country, and CC is an amazing school.

To misquote Stein there's not much there here, but we make day trips to Denver a few times a month for the restaurants, shopping, museums and films. While I miss Denver, and would gladly move back there had I lots more money or a time machine to go back about 10 years, I'm always struck by how hard it is to get around and how expensive everything is. I'm glad it's so convenient to visit, but I'm happy with my day-to-day existence in the Springs

Send me an email if you are still interested in exploring the Springs. I can send you the name of our realtor, if you'd like.
posted by bibliowench at 2:43 PM on February 11, 2007 [3 favorites]

Thanks for the CO Springs perspective, Bibliowench. Just to make sure we're covering all our bases, I am planning to swing down there and look around. I'll drop you a line if we get serious about house hunting. Thanks for the offer.

posted by gb77 at 3:24 PM on February 11, 2007

I don't see mentioned what industry you work in, but some friends of the family moved to Canon City a few years back (they're retired) and absolutely love it.
posted by notsnot at 3:30 PM on February 11, 2007

We've been having a fuckload of snow lately (there has continuously been snow on the ground since before Christmas which is a bit unusual even here) and we could easily get another foot of it (although... it seems to be easing off and warming up) so I hope you've got the actual move planned for sometime in the summer, not the spring.
posted by sleeplessunderwater at 3:33 PM on February 11, 2007

To answer NOTSNOT's question: I'm a writer, and my wife is in the medical field -- so I work out of my home, and her skills are highly transferable. We've heard that Fort Collins's medical infrastructure is expanding, so that's attractive.

We don't have children (unless our four dogs count), so we're pretty free to go wherever seems the best fit for us.

Again, everyone, thanks for taking the time for offering your wisdom. We're grateful.

posted by gb77 at 4:08 PM on February 11, 2007

I lived in Colorado Springs for seven years (late 80s to mid 90s) when my husband was stationed at Fort Carson (oh how I loved wearing my peacenik T-shirts on post) lol... It was just starting to become a conservative/fundamentalist hotbed at that time, and it definitely felt oppressive, so I can imagine that it's probably gotten worse in that regard... That being said, it was also my experience that Colorado Springs had a large population of liberals/progressives, they just weren't as politically powerful as the conservatives, but they provided plenty of well-needed balance culturally and socially...

I went back to visit two years ago and I was shocked at how overly sprawled the city had become... It's an ugly place now... The only strong point in favor of living there is the proximity to Pikes Peak (we lived off post in an older, low-priced neighborhood, but our front window opened up to a majestic view of Pikes Peak).
posted by amyms at 4:12 PM on February 11, 2007

You might also want to check out Grand Junction.
posted by konolia at 4:24 PM on February 11, 2007

I'd definitely recommend Longmont, which I just moved from. There are 2 hospitals within 20 min and and 275K will definitely find you a house, as opposed to Lyons, which while pretty and in the foothills, is more expensive. Boulder house prices are definitely limiting, as people have said. My realtor there is no longer in the business, but I can give you the name of her former company, if you are interested.

I do miss Longmont. It's a strange mix of cowtown and tech/yuppy with restaurants to prove it. You can find plenty of authentic Mexican food, but there are also lots of new Japanese, Indian, Thai, and Vietnamese restaurants.
posted by artifarce at 5:00 PM on February 11, 2007

Not to add more complexity to your choice, but from what you're asking about, you might also consider Golden. Its more of a community than Evergreen because it has a definite downtown area. Doesn't get quite as much snow. It does have a (very small) college (School of Mines). Its close to Denver/Boulder (about 30 min each way) so you have access to medical facilities. Its like a mountain town, but its not in the mountains so you get the benefits of a close community environment without any of the development problems that the mountain towns have. If you live in the town or in the outlying residential environments (which are quite nice) you're not too far from anything. Its a growing community, they're developing downtown, but they're not in a hurry about it either.

It also has a bit of history from the gold rush days, and is the home of the Coors brewing company.
posted by kookywon at 11:09 AM on February 12, 2007

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