Finding an affordable Denver and Front Range home is getting harder, thanks to a solid economy, an attractive lifestyle and low inventory. We asked local real estate expert MJ McCarthy to identify five neighborhoods where young professionals and families can still find an affordable home.
The key to finding an affordable Denver home is to look in an up-and-coming neighborhood. These are under-the-radar neighborhoods already experiencing transformation or growing as a new neighborhood.
Sunnyside was once that North Denver neighborhood people avoided. Blighted. Tagged. The “other side of the tracks”. But its convenient location and an influx of development, plus an active community group, has led to a revival. Sunnyside will soon be as attractive and sought-after (expensive) as its southern neighbor, the Highland district.
Expect to find hip eateries and shops, with tree-lined residential streets sporting historic bungalows alongside scrape-and-build modern construction. The local community group, Sunnyside United Neighbors, Inc. (SUNI) works hard to bring new businesses and amenities; SUNI also puts on friendly gatherings and community events.
Sunnyside is just south of 1-70, bounded by N. Federal, W. 38th Street and the Union Pacific Railway. Commuters will rejoice as RTD opens the G line through Sunnyside, with a stop at 41st and Fox, this year. The median home price as of February 2017 is $448K, but there are still finds under $325K.
Sketch. That’s the term Denverites used to describe this once-derelict neighborhood. But loyal locals and new folks looking for affordable housing didn’t give up on it. The transition from avoidable to desirable has been so significant that Realtor.com recently ranked Montbello (80239) the hottest suburban housing market in the nation.
An official Denver neighborhood (not a suburb), Montbello’s revival is coming in the form of new construction and renovated homes. Diversity and culture are central to this diverse neighborhood, and it has the potential to become like Northfield/Stapleton (minus the ginormous shopping center).
Montbello is north of I-70 where I-225 converges, bounded by the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Havana Street and Chambers Road. Pena Boulevard to Denver International Airport is one exit east. The median home price as of February 2017 is $288,000 with an average of $150 per square foot.
The boom of the River North Art District (RiNO) has led to the discovery of its neighbor, Cole. It’s currently welcome relief to the high prices of RiNO, but expect home values to rise as the Denver Coliseum gets overhauled and more businesses come in. The Cole Neighborhood Association champions improvements and public works projects to better this affordable Denver community.
Its convenience to the I-25/I-70 interchange (the Mousetrap), downtown, and all the goodies in RiNo make it ideal for young professionals. Urban eateries and craft brewers are moving in as well. Families will enjoy its proximity to City Park, the Zoo and museums, as well as Coors Field. Diversity is changing Cole from a predominately Latino population to a balanced mix of backgrounds.
Cole is probably the hottest up-and-coming neighborhood you’ve never heard of. – MJ McCarthy
Cole is north of MLK Boulevard and bounded by Downing Street, Walnut Street, 40th Avenue and York Street. The median home price as of February 2017 is $372,000 with an average of $355 per square foot.
Once called the least desirable neighborhood, Barnum’s potential could one day earn the most desirable spot for affordable Denver housing.
The name comes from its former landowner, circus tycoon P.T. Barnum; he had high hopes for the area, but he and his animals never came to the winter home he imagined. Established as a neighborhood in 1878, Barnum became a neighborhood of working-class families in unremarkable small homes. For years, it languished in depression, with the majority of its homes in disrepair and very little value placed on the area.
But Barnum’s proximity and view of the city has led to an influx of investors and hopeful home buyers, especially first-timers. Its renewal landed the neighborhood on several national 2016 up-and-coming lists. Although it has a way to go before it becomes as desirable as Sunnyside, Barnum is an oasis of urban affordability likely to pay off big for homeowners. The neighbors are mostly Latino, but expect to see more diversity as buyers flood in.
Barnum sits between 6th Avenue and W. Alameda Avenue, between S Perry Street and Federal Boulevard. The median home price as of February 2017 is $252,000 with the price per square foot at $225.
Founders Village, Castle Rock
Founders Village is a neighborhood in the City of Castle Rock, 30 miles south of Denver on the I-25 corridor. Situated in Douglas County – one of the richest counties in America – Founders is that affordable gem few know about. Here you’ll find easy-care tract homes in a family-friendly suburban setting. Although it lacks the diversity of urban neighborhoods, the locals are friendly with all who visit or move in.
What you pay for in windshield time is offset by a huge sense of community and an abundance of activities for families. The annual star lighting in charming downtown Castle Rock seems right out of a Hallmark movie. Like a less expensive Highlands Ranch or Parker, Founders Village has open space, parks and trails, rec centers and a top-notch school district.
The Promenade at Castle Rock will soon be one of the largest shopping malls (including the outlets) in the country. The downside of Founders is distance to Denver, traffic in town and the cost of water.
Founders is the affordable Parker. – MJ McCarthy
The median home price as of February 2017 is $328,000 ($150 per square foot), but you can still find homes in the $200Ks. Founders is significantly less than its sister neighborhoods, The Meadows ($399K), Red Hawk ($401K) and Plum Creek ($434K).
Affordable Denver area homes can be found. Most neighborhoods have a few hidden gems, and up-and-coming areas are ripe for those who have vision for the future. To expedite your search, use a brokerage with a technology platform that keeps you informed of the latest properties that fit your criteria.
MJ McCarthy is the Regional Director of Redefy Colorado.
Home prices: Realtor.com
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