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Is the Cost of Living in Colorado Springs High?

Posted by Susanna Haynie on December 28, 2018
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There are many reasons to move. Colorado Springs has received national exposure as one of the best places to live, and this is one of the many reasons more people are considering a move to Colorado Springs.

There is no question that it is beautiful here. The Springs is a medium sized city. Its close proximity to the Front Range and Pikes Peak provides endless possibilities for outdoor activities and a healthy lifestyle. If you are serious about your plans to move to Colorado Springs, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and do some research: Is the hype real? What’s there? What’s not? Most importantly, pull up your cost of living calculator and learn how much it will cost to move here and how much it will cost you to live here.

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The Council for Community and Economic Research in Arlington, VA released its cost of living index report earlier this year. The report indicated that cost of living expenses in Colorado Springs rose to 97.7% in Q2 2018. This is the highest rate since 2004 when it was 98.4% of the national average. So far, new residents from more expensive parts of the country, like California and northeastern states, are having an easier time adjusting to our living expenses. Colorado Springs is growing and determined to accommodate the expansion.

Below we will go over six major categories of expenses so you can have a clear idea of how Colorado Springs compares to your current location.

Related Reading: MIT’s Living Wage Calculation for El Paso County

1. Housing

Housing and it’s affordability is the largest expenditure of every living expense calculation. Housing affordability has suffered over the past few years all over the country. Colorado, and particularly Colorado Springs, has experienced a very high increase in home sales prices. It is considered one of the hottest real estate markets, and includes one of the hottest zip codes in the nation in 2018 for home buyers and sellers.

Buying a Home

The latest third quarter housing statistics (NAR Aug 2018) compare Colorado Springs to the rest of the country. The report indicates that Colorado Springs home buyers pay about 19% more for their homes than the national average. The National Association of Realtors reports that Colorado Springs has a $315,700 median home price for existing, single family homes, while the national median home price is $264,333. However, $315,700 looks affordable when compared to a whopping $450,100 median home price in Denver (or $543,000 in Boulder!).

Related Reading: Colorado Springs vs Denver: Where Should You Live?

Colorado Springs at $315,700 compared to cities across the United States:

  • Washington DC: $426,000
  • Denver, CO: $450,100
  • Boulder, CO: $543,000
  • Portland, OR: $399,000
  • Las Vegas, NV: $ 294,000
  • Seattle, WA: $502,000
  • Richmond, VA: $263,000
  • Memphis, TN: $180,000
  • Tampa, FL: $236,000
  • Charlotte, NC: $245,000

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Owning a home

Since we have had 3 significant freak hail storms this year, it is expected that Colorado Springs home owners insurance rates will increase substantially. Property taxes are more expensive in newer subdivisions than in older ones. The price tag depends on age of the neighborhood and size of the home.

Renting a Home

Graph with data for Colorado Springs, Denver, and national average rent prices

Numbers from apartmentlist.com

The average rent prices above (from Apartment List) show that Colorado Springs rent prices are just above national averages, but still below Denver rates. Colorado Springs saw a month over month change of -.1%, but a 1.5% increase from last year. Denver rental prices are higher and have  increased year over year by 1.9%.

The good news is that Colorado Springs is almost even with the national median rental prices at $955/mo for 1 bedroom and $1,231 for 2 bedrooms. Be prepared for average rents to continue to climb in Colorado Springs in the near future. The supply of affordable rentals is starting to catch up with overall demand, and this will help stabilize the rental market.

Smaller downtown condos and apartments (Studios, 1BR and 2BR) will be trendy in 2019.  Especially those with multiple on-site amenities such as pools, rec centers, workout studios and reception areas. These types of rentals usually come with increasingly higher rents.

Short Term Rentals

Short term rentals under 6 months are becoming increasingly harder to find. Many Home Owners Associations (HOAs) have started establishing rules that prohibit leases under 6 months in order to avoid negative impacts on neighborhoods. Expect short term rental prices to increase in price as the supply decreases. Corporate rentals have always been more expensive. With an increase in short term prices, companies might start to consider purchasing homes to rent to their temporary employees.

Many home owners are adding onto their homes (when zoning allows) in order to rent out space and bring in extra income.

Utilities

The cost of utilities depends, of course, on the size of your home. But your lifestyle and the time of year can also impact this expense. In the summer, you may pay more for air conditioning and for water if you have a yard. (Local note: air conditioning is not a standard feature on Colorado Springs homes!) In the winter, gas or electricity for heating your home will be more expensive.

Many home builders have started building high performance and smart homes. These homes use significantly less energy than a mid century modern home from the early sixties.  Colorado Springs Utilities offers rebates for energy saving appliances or added features in a home. This might be a way to lower your cost of living if you own your own home.

Numbeo indicates that the cost of utilities (including electricity, heating, cooling and water) will average about $150 per month. If you have a current utility bill on hand, then go ahead and calculate the cost according to your current or estimated usage using the Colorado Springs Utility bill calculator.

Internet and cable can cost anywhere from $65 to $150+, depending on the service and speed you prefer.

2. Transportation

Public transportation

Public transportation in town is available from Mountain Metro Transit. Public transportation has never been ideal, but it will get you to where you are going.  The basic fare of $1.75 could also lower your cost of living expenses.

For public transportation and commuting to Denver, FLEX rides by Bustang offers express coaches.  An adult ticket is $12 per ride up to Denver, and you can save 10% or more by buying multiple tickets at one time.

Downtown Bikes

Downtown Partnership recently established PikeRide.  At several PikeRide rental stations, users can pay with a credit card or phone, unlock a bike, and ride to wherever they need to go.

Cars

The growing Colorado Springs population means a significant increase in traffic. If there are no accidents on the road, you can still get from one end of town to the other within 45 minutes. I predict this time will increase over the next few years. Increasing traffic and a continuous freeze and thaw cycle mean our streets are taking a beating. It shows in the amount of potholes!

Gas Prices

KRDO’s gas tracker shows gas prices (Dec 27, 2018) at an average of $2.23 with some gas stations selling as low as $2.05.

Auto Insurance Rates

In 2003, Colorado became a fault state. This means that you can file a claim directly with the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier. Minimum insurance requirements are:

  • $25,000 per person for bodily injury.
  • $50,000 per accident for bodily injury.
  • $15,000 per accident for property damage.

The national average for the annual cost of car insurance is just above $900 (DMV.org), while Colorado Springs’ average annual car insurance expense is $1,379.

car insurance rates for Colorado Springs

via valuepenguin.com

3. Income

In 2017, the median household income for Colorado Springs families was $65,593. This was a nearly 1% increase over the previous year and a 6.5% increase over the past 3 years. Colorado Springs is about 8% above the national median house hold income of $60,336. (source: Census ACS )

While Colorado Springs and its economy are growing, the increase in household income is not keeping pace with the growing housing costs and cost of living.

The unemployment rate increased slightly to 3.9% in November 2018 in Colorado Springs and 3.5% in Denver.

Related Reading: Colorado Springs Job Opportunities

4. Food

Several websites indicate that grocery prices are comparable to that of national average or even slightly lower. Colorado Springs has an estimated monthly food budget of roughly $300 for a single person.

Plan on spending at least $15 per person when you dine out depending on the type of restaurant you choose. A couple of my personal favorite inexpensive and delicious restaurants are The Green Line and El Taco Rey.

Related Reading: Must Visit Colorado Springs Restaurants

5. Daycare

The cost of daycare is expensive in any part of the country. Expect a weekly cost of $260 to $340/week for an infant. Daycare expenses typically decrease as the child grows, and most centers offer discounts for multiple children. Be sure to ask for discounts but don’t expect significant price cuts. A recent Colorado Springs Moms Blog report quoted a local mother saying her cost for 2 toddlers in daycare is $450/week.

6. Entertainment

The amount you spend on entertainment really depends on what you are looking for. For example, you can go to the movies for about $8/person. Of course, there are many other opportunities for fun, and some are more expensive than others. However, Colorado Springs has so many parks that offer free (and healthy) activities such as hiking and biking.

Related Reading: 5 Parks to Visit in Colorado Springs

Neighborhoods

The older and more historical neighborhoods tend to be in the southwest area of town. Colorado Springs has expanded to the east and north. As a general rule of thumb, this means the newer homes tend to be further east and north from the center of the city. However, there are still plenty of homes from the 1970’s and 1980’s all over the Springs. Here are some general facts about Colorado Springs’ neighborhoods.

  • Usually the more expensive homes are found in the north and southwest/west (west of I-25).
  • You’ll find more land with your home on the east side of town and up north in Woodmoor and Black Forest.
  • Many of the 70’s and 80’s homes have split levels.
  • Don’t be surprised if your home does NOT come with air conditioning.
  • You get the most bang for your house buying buck in Fountain Valley.
  • Horse properties can typically be found on the north or east sides of town or in Woodland Park.
  • Most century homes are in Old Colorado City, Manitou Springs and downtown Colorado Springs.
  • Colorado Springs is expanding to the east where there are many new construction subdivisions. (Download our complete list of New Construction in Colorado Springs)
  • Colorado Springs now has many multiple master planned communities with attractive amenities like pools, rec centers, community rooms, and tennis courts. Banning Lewis Ranch even has its own schools.
  • Homes on the west side are more likely to have structural damage than homes in other parts of town.
  • The west side offers many hiking trails for outdoorsy people.
  • The further north you go in Colorado Springs, the colder the weather gets as you increase in altitude.
  • The further east you go, the windier it gets.

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Trends in Colorado Springs

The cost of living in Colorado Springs has steadily increased over the past few years, and it will likely continue that way. Home prices are expected to continue to increase, but not quite as rapidly as recent years. Household income will increase as well. Minimum wage is increasing to $12/hour by 2020.

Historically, Colorado Springs’ growth has always been a step or two behind Denver. This is beginning to shift with plenty of projects and plans underway to catch up to Denver, and it’s starting to show as this Forbes article reports. Our cities will never be the same and Colorado Springs is growing up.

As I did my research, I noticed that the cost of living data displayed a huge range of numbers. This is partially caused by the fact that cost of living and other statistics are measured differently by various sources. These numbers are then assembled by other parties and frequently don’t provide the most accurate or up-to-date statistics. Since statistics are a snapshot of one moment in time, use this information as such. The bottom line: Colorado Springs has become more and more expensive over the last few years, and the highest expense is housing. This is not likely to change in the near future. The only way to get an accurate analysis of housing prices is to call your real estate professional (719-321-0800) and speak with them.

 

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