Why Are Fort Collins Real Estate Prices So High? The Aspenization of Colorado*Opinion
Aspen, Colorado is like Heaven. Only more expensive. Lol.As real estate prices and cost of living expenses rise all over colorful Colorado, is it possible that we are seeing the spread of an Aspen-esque desirability for our whole state? Methinks yes. Consider the following. Aspen is nice. Very nice. Amazing, perhaps. Awesome? For sure. But why is this little mountain hamlet so much more expensive than its nearby counterparts? In my opinion, part of it is credible, another part is buzz, and the final part is investment that followed the credible buzz.
Aspen is legit. Top to bottom, east to west, inside and out, the town of Aspen, and the rest of the Roaring Fork Valley, for that matter, is truly spectacular. Stop anywhere and snap a photo, and you are a Canva session away from a legendary postcard. There is no doubt about it. The place is stellar. It leaves mouths agape, camera phones out of storage and checking accounts depleted.
The skiing is fabulous, the night life is bumping, and the amenities are second to few. It’s been the mountain playground for the rich and famous for decades. But, is it that much nicer than other Colorado mountain towns? Strip away the fabulous infrastructure, and ask yourself, “Why did this town become the Beverly Hills of the Rocky Mountains, instead of Vail, Steamboat, Breckenridge, etc?” Why? Because buzz is as buzz does.
Buzz is hard to quantify, difficult to classify, and challenging to explain. Once it takes hold and takes off, it can be impossible to contain. Aspen is, without a doubt, one of the more beautiful towns and areas of Colorado. With a lower elevation, it has a different variety of trees than the high country of Summit County, which is rife with conifers and not much else. The mountain skis like a dream, featuring more experts-only terrain than Steamboat, fewer catwalks than Vail, Breck and Keystone, and even smaller crowds than the latter three as well.
But does that really make it worth that much more than Steamboat? To your average just-better-than-pizza-and-french-fries skier or rider, it’s not much different than a day at Copper Mountain or Beaver Creek. Without the investment and buzz that took off in the middle of the last century, Aspen would be Telluride, or Crested Butte.
But, Aspen was marked.
The way buzz works is this—people experience something. They talk about said experience in a way that makes others curious enough to go check it out for themselves. The experience for the new people over-delivers, and the process is rinsed and repeated over and over. Then, the people who found the buzz invest in that buzz and make it even better. It has rarely been explained better than in this Vanity Fair article from Mark Seal. Here he details Aspen’s (then, 2006) ranking of fourth most expensive residential real estate market.
Aspen is America’s fourth-most-expensive residential real-estate market, with a median home price last year of $2.7 million, just behind Jupiter Island, Florida, and Montecito and Atherton, California. The other three are bedroom communities for Miami, Los Angeles, and Silicon Valley, respectively, but Aspen is “a suburb of every metropolitan area in the U.S.,” according to veteran contractor Steve Hansen, who has built everything from the new Prada store to Prince Bandar’s palace. Vanity Fair
It was buzz and investment that led Aspen to its exclusive spot on the summit of a very expensive mountain. What happened was people went to Aspen. They raved about Aspen because it and the areas surrounding are actually that awesome. More people went there. A credible buzz ensued, and investment in improving Aspen’s awesome followed.That is how Aspen became what it is.
And that is exactly what is happening across the rest of Colorado right now.
The Aspenization of Colorado
In my opinion, the reason why the real estate prices and cost of living have been rising the way they have is similar to the events that occurred to make Aspen what it is. People visited. They were blown away. They didn’t want to stay away, and hungered with all their heart to have a part of this amazing place all to themselves. They claimed their little piece, and for their efforts were rewarded with experience that outperformed their expectations.
That is what I see and hear happening in Fort Collins, Loveland, Windsor, Timnath, Boulder and Denver…and the many other parts of the state. People come here hoping they’ll like it better than, say, the Twin Cities, or Atlanta, or Pittsburgh(me), or Anywhere, U.S.A. And they do. They like it so much they love it, and they love it more than they thought they could. They share their experience with their network, many of whom are not living in Colorado. Those folks think, “Hmmmm…” and consider a visit. Or a relocation. The demand for a high quality of life is omnipotent, and the supply is low.
So, what happens? That’s right. Prices to purchase a piece of that quality of life go up. Very simple.