NOCO’s popularity has grown, increasing home values at a sharp rate. University towns Fort Collins and Greeley consistently make national lists for quality of life, amenities and popularity. That’s good news for homeowners, but hard for buyers. However, there are other Northern Colorado small towns nearby that offer similar lifestyle bennies at comparable or lower prices.
We asked local real estate expert MJ McCarthy to identify great up-and-coming towns north of Denver. Here are 8 Northern Colorado small towns you should consider. To compare these home prices, note the price per square foot for their larger neighbors:
- Fort Collins: $158;
- Greeley: $114;
- Boulder: $349; and
- Denver: $260.
Erie was once only known by Denverites as the town next to the Colorado National Speedway. But being right off-25 a relatively short hop to Northern Denver, DIA, Boulder and Longmont has made it a prime target for home shoppers. Spanning Boulder and Weld counties, Erie now boasts a modern, 63,000-square-foot community center with pool, an active arts culture and plenty of family-friendly activities.
- Median sales price: $441,000
- Price per square foot: $147
On the east side of I-25 from Erie is Dacono. The name is an amalgamation of Daisy, Cora and Nora – three early residents of the area settled in 1901. Originally a town for coal miners, Dacono is now a thriving city community of over 4,500. It was recently ranked the safest city in Colorado, and the town is developing fast thanks to its currently low cost of living.
- Median sales price: $327,000
- Price per square foot: $177
Firestone is a new community north of Dacono along the I-25 corridor. The area was planned with 35+ parks and miles of trails, including the Firestone/Legacy trail along the old train tracks that served early coal mining operation. St. Vrain State Park is the only Colorado state park to be annexed into a town. Oil and glass operations continue in town, which is a source of some complaints. Of the Northern Colorado small towns on this list, expect Firestone to make a lot of national “best of” lists.
- Median sales price: $365,000
- Price per square foot: $142
Windsor is spans Larimer and Weld counties. Established as a farming community in the early 1870s, Windsor was known for wheat and sugar beets. The town grew when Kodak spurred economic development. Since then, other support industries such as the Owens glass company (serving Budweiser) established roots. It’s a family-friendly, safe small town with lots of new housing planned. Windsor’s drawback is severe weather, from localized flooding to tornado warnings (no significant touchdowns since 2008).
- Median sales price: $350,000
- Price per square foot: $124
Hudson has been around since the 1880s with a history of farming. Sitting 16 miles east of I-25, you can easily commute to UNC Greeley and DIA (roughly 25 miles), Longmont and Denver (30 miles each). It’s still a small town and lack of inventory has limited recent sales figures to larger new builds with big lots. But, there are still homes under $200K (some are manufactured).
- Median sales price: $373,000
- Price per square foot: $157
Johnstown was settled in the 1860s with strong agricultural ties. Economic development and a strong sense of community have propelled Johnstown to national lists like green cities and secure places to live. The historic downtown is in the process of restoration and there are 8 maintained community parks. You’ll find a combination of rural properties and new home developments.
- Median sales price: $336,000
- Price per square foot: $116
We’re not sure what the town motto – “home of 500 happy people and a few soreheads” – means but does seem like it’s a friendly place to live! It’s a looks a bit off the beaten path, sitting 41 miles northeast of downtown Denver off I-176. But if you work in north Denver (i.e. Thornton) or the DIA area, it’s under 35 miles away. Like Windsor, it’s in the flight path for strong thunderstorms and tornado warnings (though nothing significant since 1982).
- Median sales price: $279,000
- Price per square foot: $101
An agricultural, oil and coal hub from the 1800s, Wellington is known as Colorado’s Northern Gateway. It’s right off I-25, just 20 minutes north of Fort Collins and about 35 minutes south of Cheyenne, Wyoming. It’s a small town with big civic pride, from parades to community events. Have fun at Centennial Park or try the Disc Golf Course. The town has put considerable effort into its open space and parks plan, such as Boxelder Creek Trail Open Space. Wellington is growing and expect to find a lot of new homes. More amenities are sure to follow.
- Median sales price: $289,000
- Price per square foot: $114
Northern Colorado has plenty of new home construction to beat the low-inventory competition. You’ll get more house for the money and bigger lots; for more inexpensive homes, look for older existing dwellings and manufactured homes. Be sure to use an agent to represent your interests for existing and new construction.
MJ McCarthy is Regional Director of Redefy Colorado.
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