Willow Springs Ranch, construction

Developments like Willow Springs Ranch are rising to meet demand, as more people look to buy homes in Colorado Springs while keeping their jobs in Denver.

Homes in north Colorado Springs and El Paso County are looking more and more attractive to people who work in Denver but want to live here — and the real estate market is rising to meet them.

While hard data is lacking on the number of buyers who are selling their Denver homes, moving here and commuting to work, real estate agents and developers say they are getting inquiries from people who will keep their jobs in the Denver vicinity.

It’s a migration that became noticeable around 2015 and has picked up speed ever since, especially in the last few years.

“You’re spending money in gas, but the trade-off is the lower cost of living,” said Harry Salzman, broker/agent with Salzman Real Estate Services at ERA Shields Real Estate.

Denverites aren’t the only buyers, of course, but they are helping to fuel the residential building boom in the Tri-Lakes area and north Colorado Springs.

“We’re projecting that 30 percent of our buyers will be relocating their permanent residence and continuing to work in Denver,” said Bridget Myers, vice president of Polo Brown Co., developer of Willow Springs Ranch. The 214-acre development west of Interstate 25 and Baptist Road has 399 home sites, and states on its website that it’s only 35 minutes from the Denver Tech Center.

Buyers in the Colorado Springs region “are getting more home and more land than when you’re dealing with Denver metro area homes,” said George Nehme, broker associate with LIV Sotheby’s International Realty and chair of the board of directors of the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors.

“We’ve had several sales in our office in the last three months that were a third to half of the price that  [Denver metro homes] were selling for,” Nehme said.

QUALITY OF LIFE

“For a long time, we’ve had an average of 20 percent, maybe 25 percent lower cost of housing,” Salzman said. That could save a buyer $75,000-$100,000 or more on a home purchase; taxes and utility costs are lower as well.

“For the last couple of years, I-25 has been a mess, but that’s winding down now. So from Monument to south Denver, you’re 35-40 minutes away,” Salzman said, pointing out that commutes from one end of Denver to the other can take that long.

The high quality of Lewis-Palmer School District 38 is another draw for families, he said, “and if you have kids, there’s a whole lot to do. I mean, you’ve got a terrific, all-around quality of life in the northern part of El Paso County, and it’s a definite upgrade from a lot of parts of south Denver.”

Single-family homes in Colorado Springs appreciated in value 19 percent between July 2020 and July 2021, according to the Pikes Peak Multiple Listing Service, Salzman said.

“If you can buy a home now, you’re going to have a fabulous investment,” he said. “So when you look at the lower cost of what your monthly payment is, because of the price of housing and the lower interest rate, you ought to take a look at living in the northern part of El Paso County instead of Denver.”

PS_0813 Focus|HelenRobinson2 copy 2.jpg

The developer of Willow Springs Ranch, a 399-home planned community in Monument, anticipates that almost a third of the buyers will commute to Denver for work. 

Buyers from Denver and other high-priced markets who can work from home are also helping to fuel the demand for homes in north El Paso County, Nehme said.

“Having that second office, having more workspace and staying in a home-type environment — that’s going to work for them,” he said.

Although the lack of inventory and factors like materials supply issues have driven new home prices upward, that hasn’t stopped these buyers.

They’re willing to pay a little more, Nehme said because they’re coming from areas where prices are much higher.

“Some people are selling higher-end homes and wanting to downsize to a more comfortable-sized home that works for their family’s needs, and pay cash if they’re able to do that,” he said. And buyers looking for larger homes can get more for their money.

Overall, single-family and patio homes in Colorado Springs are selling at breathtaking speed. On average, homes are staying on the market only seven days; that’s the shortest time in the past year. Last July, and as recently as February of this year, the average time on the market was 20 days.

In all of Colorado Springs, 1,844 single-family homes sold in July, Nehme said. In the 30 days preceding Aug. 9,438 homes were sold in the Monument area.

Some of those sales were due to “the constant movement that happens in Colorado Springs, because we have such a huge military presence, as well as corporate changes,” he said.

But new homes are being built at a rapid pace as builders try to keep up with the demand.

NEW DEVELOPMENT

At developments like Sanctuary Pointe and Forest Lakes in Monument, as well as Flying Horse North at Colorado Highway 83 and Stagecoach Road, custom homes are going up — and they’re in demand. 

A recent client had to get on a waiting list for a lot in Flying Horse North, Nehme said. 

“We finally were able to secure that for our client,” he said.

Sanctuary Pointe, off Baptist Road on the east side of I-25, has filled up rapidly but still has a few lots available, according to its website.

Forest Lakes and Flying Horse North, where higher-priced, custom homes are being built “are going pretty strong,” Nehme said.

New developments also are coming online with offerings at all price points.

Cloverleaf, a 38.78-acre subdivision near the intersection of Higby Road and Jackson Creek Parkway just outside Monument, was approved by the El Paso County commissioners in February. It will feature 125-135 single-family lots, on which “more moderately priced” homes will be built, said Jerry Biggs, president of the developer, ProTerra Properties.

“There’s not a lot of inventory available in the north end of the city,” Biggs said. “Part of what the market really needs is affordability.”

Although demand is high, developers face hurdles to get projects off the ground.

“It takes you years to get approvals,” Biggs said. “Drainage costs are extremely expensive, and it’s hard to know what costs are going to be.”

PS_0813 Focus|HelenRobinson3 copy 2.jpg

The developers of Cloverleaf, a community that’s planned just outside Monument, say its home sites will appeal to mid-market buyers.

Biggs said he expects to start moving dirt in the fall and to start marketing lots by end of the year, with the first homes to be built in mid-2022.

Earthmoving has already begun at Willow Springs Ranch, Myers said. She expects construction on the development’s first 94 homes to begin in September along Baptist Road. Willow Springs builders will offer to construct homes at a variety of price points.

“We did not want to bring a high-end, custom community and outprice all the buyers that are having a hard time finding homes,” Myers said.

What makes these developments attractive to buyers, and especially to those who now live in metro Denver, will be the amenities that can’t be found there.

Willow Springs Ranch, for example, features more than 100 acres of protected wildlife habitat open space, ponds, creeks and trails, Myers said.

“Our vision has always been for wide open spaces,” she said. “I would think that there is a tremendous amount of interest to drive to Denver and then come home and enjoy that.”

Reporter

Jeanne Davant is a graduate of the University of North Carolina. She worked for daily newspapers in D.C., North Carolina and Colorado, and has taught journalism and creative writing. She joined the Business Journal in 2017.