What to Know Before Moving to Colorado
Get your hiking boots – and your wallet – ready for a new life in Colorado.
When you move to Colorado expect to find residents who stay active and spend a lot of time outdoors.(Getty Images)
Colorado offers a strong job market for people in a variety of industries, access to the outdoors many dream of and thriving communities of young professionals looking for new and exciting opportunities, both personally and professionally. Thinking of relocating to Colorado? Make sure you get the full picture of both positives and negatives. Here’s what you need to know about moving to Colorado and what you should expect when you get there.
Should You Move to Colorado?
The two most populous metro areas in the state, Denver and Colorado Springs, hold the Nos. 2 and 3 spots, respectively, on the U.S. News 2019 Best Places to Live ranking. Both places are considered highly desirable among U.S. residents, have thriving job markets and healthy population growth due to net migration. Young professionals in particular are flocking to Colorado to work in technology, aerospace, health care and at startup companies.
While there are plenty of people moving to Colorado for the first time, people are also returning after spending a few years in different parts of the country. Ryan Nicholson, 32, grew up in the Colorado Springs area before moving to Washington for college. He says moving to Colorado was never part of the plan, but when he and his wife, Carrie Smith Nicholson, 35, thought about where they wanted to live next, the details fell into place.
“On our list, we wanted to be near the mountains, we wanted to be centrally located and we wanted four seasons,” says Nicholson, a personal chef. “It clicked one day that Colorado is pretty much the top of our list.” The couple has since started a podcast, “Hashtag Colorado Life,” for residents and visitors looking to explore more of the state.
How to Move to Colorado
If you know you’re making the move to Colorado, the next step is to decide which city is right for you. The state's largest metro areas are Denver and Colorado Springs, with outer suburbs including Aurora, Glendale, Security-Widefield and Fountain. Smaller metro areas such as Boulder, Pueblo and Fort Collins offer more options. Do your research to find the setting that best fits your needs, factoring in job availability, commute time, access to stores and restaurants and distance to airports and major highways.
Steve Charlett, a Realtor with Re/Max Masters Millennium in the Denver metro area, says it helps to know “where (you’re) going to be working, and what is your tolerance for commuting, to get the type of housing you’re looking for.”
If you need more time to decide where to live, you could rent for a couple of months or even a year to decide on the city or neighborhood that’s right for you. Charlett says he’s had clients rent properties from the property management side of the brokerage he works for while they search for a home.
Here’s what you need to know about moving to Colorado:
- Don’t expect a rock-bottom cost of living.
- Property taxes are low.
- Residents are active.
- Winter doesn’t need to slow you down.
- Altitude sickness is a thing.
- Marijuana is legal, but there are still laws surrounding it.
- Colorado is a swing state.
Don’t Expect a Rock-Bottom Cost of Living
While Colorado is certainly a cheaper place to live than major cities like New York and Los Angeles, it’s not cheap.
Denver’s cost of living requires 23.42% of the area's median household income, about on par with Austin, Texas. Colorado Springs requires only slightly more at 23.6%, but the median household income is nearly $10,000 less in Colorado Springs than it is in Denver. If you’re looking for minimal housing costs, you’ll want to explore suburbs and smaller towns for housing options, although the majority of jobs are in the pricier city centers.
Property Taxes Are Low
One reprieve in housing costs are the low property taxes homeowners in Colorado benefit from. Counties, on average, collect 0.6% of a property’s assessed value each year, according to Tax-Rates.org, making the average annual property tax payment $1,437.
Residents Are Active
If you’re hoping to be out and about while you’re in Colorado, you’ve got the right mindset. From hiking in summer to skiing in winter, Coloradans are active and take advantage of their scenic surroundings.
Local municipalities are dedicated to making it easier for everyone to enjoy the outdoors as well. Charlett says there are biking trails all over the Denver metro area that connect to parks, creeks and lakes that make bike commuting an option and allow easy travel from one scenic spot to another.
On Nicholson and Smith Nicholson’s podcast, the couple discuss daytrips and visits to different towns, excursions aimed at viewing fall colors, outdoor events and festivals – all activities you’re likely to see plenty of Colorado visitors and residents partaking in. And if you’re a fan of craft beer and farmers markets, you’ll feel right at home in many parts of Colorado.
Winter Doesn’t Need to Slow You Down
Winter is big in Colorado, and snow sports attract many people to the state. Colorado Ski Country USA reports that there were 13.8 million ski resort visits in the 2018-19 season. If skiing is not your thing, you can also get outdoors in the winter for activities including ice climbing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing.
Even if you don't live in the mountains, expect your fair share of snowfall. Denver, located just east of the Rocky Mountains, gets an average of 56.4 inches of snowfall per year, according to the National Weather Service. Charlett says snow in the Denver area isn’t much to worry about, though: “It’ll be melted within a few days,” he says.
Altitude Sickness Is a Thing
Prepare yourself for the change your body goes through as it adjusts to lower oxygen levels at a higher altitude. Common symptoms as your body struggles to adjust include headaches, vomiting, exhaustion, dizziness and trouble sleeping. You’ll likely also find yourself getting dehydrated faster and out of breath while walking.
It takes a while for your body to fully adjust to the altitude, so don’t try going for a rigorous run the second you arrive in Colorado. In fact, it’ll likely take months or more to completely overcome the altitude adjustment.
“Even now, I've lived here for almost four years, and I don't notice the altitude for the most part, but when we go hiking or we go driving into the mountains at all, I still get symptoms of altitude sickness and I still have problems with it. So it's definitely something you're going to notice," Smith Nicholson says in the "Living at High Altitude: Colorado Secrets" episode of "Hashtag Colorado Life."
Marijuana Is Legal, But There Are Still Laws Surrounding It
To legally possess and consume marijuana, you must be at least 21 years old, and the amount in your possession must be 1 ounce or less of THC. Marijuana is still prohibited by federal law, and it can’t be taken across state lines or through the airport.
You are not legally allowed to consume marijuana in any form in public, and you can be ticketed for doing so. Additionally, it is illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana. Individual counties and cities may have additional restrictions, so it’s important to read up on the laws where you plan to live before buying, keeping or consuming marijuana in Colorado.
Colorado Is a Swing State
Colorado is home to both of left- and right-leaning residents. Denver, the largest city in the state by far, is considered a fairly liberal place, while some smaller towns tend to be a bit more conservative. Nicholson notes Colorado Springs is typically considered more conservative than Denver as well.
Politically, the governor is a Democrat, while Colorado has one Republican and one Democrat for its U.S. senators, and the state's members of Congress are similarly split between the two parties. Going into an election year, Colorado is considered a swing state, so prepare for plenty of candidate visits and more campaign calls than you likely want.