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.
The Best Places to Live in 2019
What are the best qualities of your hometown? It may be that it’s easy to get around, there are plenty of job opportunities or it attracts new residents every year. To determine the Best Places to Live rankings, U.S. News looks at data on the country’s 125 most populous metro areas, including the cost of living, job market, crime rates, quality of education and more. The data is weighted based on the responses from a survey of more than 2,000 people throughout the U.S. to determine what matters most to them when picking their next place to live. Read on for the 25 Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2019.
Updated on May 17, 2019: This slideshow was originally published on April 9, 2019, and has been updated to reflect a change to the methodology in the desirability category, which did not affect the overall Best Places to Live rankings.25. Melbourne, Florida
25. Melbourne, Florida
Metro Population: 568,183
Median Home Price: $198,425
Median Annual Salary: $48,240
After ranking No. 29 in 2018, Melbourne moves up four spots this year, in part due to its rapid growth in population and high-quality high school education. The Quality of Life score for Best Places to Live factors in college preparedness among high school students, access to quality health care, property crime and murder rates, morning commute and overall well-being.24. Salt Lake City
24. Salt Lake City
Metro Population: 2,399,521
Median Home Price: $324,198
Median Annual Salary: $47,272
Salt Lake City is recognized for its strong job market, ability to attract new residents and overall quality of life. The biggest contributor to the Utah capital’s ranking at No. 24 is its affordability. Salt Lake City residents spend just 22.14% of the median household income on housing costs, which includes mortgage payments, rent, property taxes and utilities.23. Portland, Maine
23. Portland, Maine
Metro Population: 525,776
Median Home Price: $223,367
Median Annual Salary: $48,970
The most populous metro area in Maine may be one of the smaller places in the top 25, but Portland residents are quite happy. Of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., Portland ranks sixth on the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, which asks residents how they feel about their hometown.22. Greenville, South Carolina
22. Greenville, South Carolina
Metro Population: 872,463
Median Home Price: $172,067
Median Annual Salary: $43,230
Situated in the mountains of South Carolina, Greenville takes the No. 22 spot on the list. Greenville gets its best score for affordability. Residents of the metro area benefit from having to spend just 21.44% of the median household income on housing expenses.21. Dallas-Fort Worth
21. Dallas-Fort Worth
Metro Population: 7,104,415
Median Home Price: $248,375
Median Annual Salary: $51,250
The most populous metro area in the top 25, Dallas-Fort Worth’s highest score is for population growth due to net migration. The Dallas-Fort Worth area grew by 5.7% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.20. Charlotte, North Carolina
20. Charlotte, North Carolina
Metro Population: 2,427,024
Median Home Price: $213,983
Median Annual Salary: $50,150
Moving up two spots from 2018, Charlotte gets its highest score from fast and sustained population growth. The Charlotte metro area grew by 7.06% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration alone.19. Washington, D.C.
19. Washington, D.C.
Metro Population: 6,090,196
Median Home Price: $376,767
Median Annual Salary: $69,210
After ranking No. 8 on the 2018 Best Places to Live list, the District of Columbia fell back this year to No. 19. While the nation’s capital continues to have a strong job market and high median annual salary, the area’s cost of living has increased and net migration slowed between 2013 and 2017. The metro area grew by just 1.88% due to net migration during that time period.18. Sarasota, Florida
18. Sarasota, Florida
Metro Population: 768,381
Median Home Price: $237,260
Median Annual Salary: $42,680
After ranking No. 34 in 2018, this metro area on the Gulf Coast of Florida jumps 16 spots to No. 18. Sarasota is the third-fastest growing metro area out of the 125 places on the list. Between 2013 and 2017, Sarasota saw a population increase of 13.1% due to net migration.17. Boise, Idaho
17. Boise, Idaho
Metro Population: 677,346
Median Home Price: $221,475
Median Annual Salary: $43,880
Idaho’s capital makes the list with high scores for population growth due to net migration and housing affordability compared with its median annual household income. Boise’s lowest score, however, is in desirability among U.S. residents when considering where they would want to live.16. Asheville, North Carolina
16. Asheville, North Carolina
Metro Population: 445,625
Median Home Price: $248,500
Median Annual Salary: $41,210
Set in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville receives its highest score for desirability, where it ranks 16th out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. Additionally, the Asheville area grew by 6.16% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration.15. Nashville, Tennessee
15. Nashville, Tennessee
Metro Population: 1,830,410
Median Home Price: $248,883
Median Annual Salary: $47,110
Nashville takes the No. 15 spot overall, with many U.S. residents viewing the Tennessee metro area as a desirable place to live. People are also acting on that feeling, as Nashville has grown by 6.88% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration alone.14. San Jose, California
14. San Jose, California
Metro Population: 1,969,897
Median Home Price: $1,080,017
Median Annual Salary: $77,180
The capital of Silicon Valley climbs three spots from No. 17 in 2018. With a median annual salary of $77,180 and an unemployment rate of just 2.6%, San Jose continues its reign as the metro area with the strongest job market out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S.13. Grand Rapids, Michigan
13. Grand Rapids, Michigan
Metro Population: 1,039,182
Median Home Price: $181,533
Median Annual Salary: $44,770
Grand Rapids ranks sixth out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for affordability. The western Michigan metro area also scores highly for quality of life, which takes into account the quality of public high school education, commute time, property crime and murder rates and general happiness among residents, per the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index.12. Madison, Wisconsin
12. Madison, Wisconsin
Metro Population: 640,072
Median Home Price: $247,967
Median Annual Salary: $52,190
Madison takes the No. 12 spot in the Best Places to Live ranking, in large part due to the metro area’s job market. Madison residents benefit from a median annual salary of $52,190, which is above the national average of $50,620. The unemployment rate, at 2.2%, is 1.7% better than the national average of 3.9%.11. Huntsville, Alabama
11. Huntsville, Alabama
Metro Population: 444,908
Median Home Price: $167,300
Median Annual Salary: $53,600
Huntsville is the smallest metro area in the top 25 Best Places to Live. This northern Alabama metro area is the most affordable place to live out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. and offers a flourishing job market, with many local companies focused on science, technology, engineering and math.10. Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina
10. Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina
Metro Population: 1,824,266
Median Home Price: $249,294
Median Annual Salary: $53,788
The Raleigh and Durham metro area continues to be an attractive place for people to relocate, thanks to its affordability and job market. Research, technology, education and health care are consistently growing industries in the area.9. Seattle
Metro Population: 3,735,216
Median Home Price: $442,333
Median Annual Salary: $63,120
Moving up one spot from 2018, Seattle ranks No. 9 this year thanks to its consistently strong job market and high desirability among U.S. residents as a place to live. The job market contributes to its reputation as a great place to live, with Seattle ranking seventh out of the 125 metro areas on the list for desirability.8. Portland, Oregon
8. Portland, Oregon
Metro Population: 2,382,037
Median Home Price: $375,425
Median Annual Salary: $55,330
U.S. residents view Portland as a highly desirable place to live, with the city taking the No. 1 spot in that category in a four-way tie with Colorado Springs, Colorado, Honolulu and San Francisco. Additionally, a strong job market and consistent growth in population due to net migration over a five-year period leads to the Rose City’s rise in the rankings.7. San Francisco
7. San Francisco
Metro Population: 4,641,820
Median Home Price: $768,517
Median Annual Salary: $69,700
Ranking No. 20 in 2018, San Francisco jumped to No. 7 this year. San Francisco continues to have a strong job market, and even more U.S. residents are saying they would like to live in the City by the Bay. San Francisco received a perfect score for desirability.6. Minneapolis-St. Paul
6. Minneapolis-St. Paul
Metro Population: 3,526,149
Median Home Price: $237,367
Median Annual Salary: $56,030
Minnesota’s Twin Cities metro area takes the No. 6 spot, continuing its climb up the rankings after scoring No. 9 in 2018 and No. 17 in 2017. A major reason for Minneapolis-St. Paul’s jump is the metro area’s low cost of living. Area residents spend just 21.5% of the median household income on housing expenses.5. Des Moines, Iowa
5. Des Moines, Iowa
Metro Population: 623,113
Median Home Price: $178,942
Median Annual Salary: $50,600
Des Moines takes the No. 5 spot this year, with continued growth in its job market, sustained net migration to the metro area and solid quality of life scores. Des Moines also maintains a low cost of living compared to the median household income.4. Fayetteville, Arkansas
4. Fayetteville, Arkansas
Metro Population: 514,166
Median Home Price: $177,942
Median Annual Salary: $45,830
This fast-growing metro area in Arkansas has long been a strong contender in the Best Places to Live ranking – and this year is no different. A low cost of living compared with household income, strong population growth due to net migration and high quality of life scores all contribute to Fayetteville’s No. 4 ranking in 2019.3. Colorado Springs, Colorado
3. Colorado Springs, Colorado
Metro Population: 698,595
Median Home Price: $286,700
Median Annual Salary: $50,050
At No. 3 in the overall Best Places to Live list, Colorado Springs also shares the top spot for desirability as a place to live among U.S. residents with San Francisco, Honolulu and Portland, Oregon. High marks for college preparedness among high school students and a consistently strong job market help Colorado Springs rank near the top of the list this year.2. Denver
Metro Population: 2,798,684
Median Home Price: $393,842
Median Annual Salary: $57,400
After taking the No. 3 spot in 2018 behind Colorado Springs, Denver is back in second place in 2019. Denver remains desirable to U.S. residents and has a flourishing job market, but migration to the area has slowed over the last couple years.1. Austin, Texas
1. Austin, Texas
Metro Population: 2,000,590
Median Home Price: $292,500
Median Annual Salary: $51,840
For the third year in a row, Austin is the No. 1 Best Place to Live in the U.S. The capital of Texas continues to receive interest from the tech industry, contributing to a strong job market and high desirability among Americans as a place to live. Aside from the job opportunities, new residents are attracted to Austin for its eclectic arts and music scene, which are highlighted in the annual South by Southwest festival, which features music, film and television attractions.The Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2019:
The Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2019:
- Austin, Texas
- Colorado Springs, Colorado
- Fayetteville, Arkansas
- Des Moines, Iowa
- Minneapolis-St. Paul
- San Francisco
- Portland, Oregon
- Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina
- Huntsville, Alabama
- Madison, Wisconsin
- Grand Rapids, Michigan
- San Jose, California
- Asheville, North Carolina
- Boise, Idaho
- Sarasota, Florida
- Washington, D.C.
- Charlotte, North Carolina
- Dallas-Fort Worth
- Greenville, South Carolina
- Portland, Maine
- Salt Lake City
- Melbourne, Florida
She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.
Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at email@example.com.