When it comes to noncoastal metro areas with the most expensive home prices, Colorado takes spots one to four, with Greeley now on the highest-cost list, according to a study from the real estate research firm Zonda.
“Housing affordability generally improves as one moves away from the coast, but even inland markets are reaching affordability extremes,” said Ali Wolf, Zonda’s chief economist, in a blog post that highlights just how expensive it has become to live along Colorado’s Front Range.
Wolf set out to identify the five most expensive noncoastal markets with a population of 250,000 or more, and her report also includes lists for the top five in 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010.
Boulder tops the list with a median home price of $833,622 and Denver came in next at $636,651. Fort Collins was third at $593,282 and for the first time ever, Greeley showed up in fourth place with a median price of $573,957. Greeley, whose metro area covers all of Weld County, edged out Portland, Ore., which came in at $569,876 and is nearly coastal with the Pacific Ocean 60 miles away.
Compared to surrounding parts of the northern Front Range, Greeley and Weld County have long been considered a haven of affordability. Land costs are relatively lower, regulations lighter and builders more active.
“Greeley, which ranked outside the top 10 in 2010, appreciated over 200% from 2010 through today, outpacing the national growth rate of 120% during the same time,” Wolf said of home prices there.
Greeley’s relative affordability, about 10% below the rest of the region, drew in residents priced out of surrounding counties. But builders were unable to keep pace.
Over the past four decades, Boulder and Fort Collins were regulars on the top five most expensive noncoastal housing markets and Denver would pop on and off. Boulder, in fact, ranked first on the lists for 1980, 2000 and 2010. Even during the S&L housing bust, it managed to cling to the fifth spot in 1990.
Gains have also gone way beyond what overall inflation can explain. In 1980, no non-coastal market had a median price above $100,000, Wolf said. The median price for Boulder, the most expensive interior city at the time, was at $86,248.
A $100,000 home back in 1980 would be the equivalent of $390,000 home today, Wolf said. But in the case of Boulder, rather than rising four or five times with inflation, homes are about tenfold more expensive. In Fort Collins, which also made 1980’s most expensive list, prices are nearly eight times higher.
Even as recently as 2000, home values were much more reasonable, even though Boulder, Fort Collins and Denver also claimed the top three spots. Metro Denver, back then, had a median price of $196,053, which ranked third overall.
On Monday, Realtor.com showed only one single-family home available below that 2000 median price in Adams and Arapahoe counties, and none in Denver County. Options were more plentiful for older condos under 1,000 square feet.
Since the start of last year, the typical mortgage payment, between higher rates and higher home values, is up 73%, according to Zonda. Income gains have come nowhere close to matching that, and Wolf cautions that one of the coping strategies buyers may pursue is to relocate to more affordable markets.
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