The Centennial State’s housing market has been on fire since the 2020 housing boom. But after hitting its peak in April of 2022, the market has been cooling, creating an opportunity for homebuyers to make moves in, or to, a state that saw some of the nation’s steepest competition.
House hunters have more options than just Denver or Boulder. In fact, Colorado boasts more than 73 cities. To uncover some of Colorado’s hidden gems, Orchard analyzed the most populous cities for quality of life, home affordability, and housing market competition. The result is a list of the top 15 under-the-radar cities where housing is relatively affordable, homebuying isn’t as competitive, and there’s a high standard of living.
The town of Firestone takes our top spot, thanks to affordable home prices ($569,975 median listing price), above average schools, and reasonable competition for homes. Houses in Firestone spend an average of 66 days on the market. The town, situated in Weld County, also boasts a strong community spirit, with an annual Fourth of July celebration, a Harvest Festival, and a holiday tree lighting ceremony. However, residents will have to get used to a longer commute time than others on our list, averaging a little more than 32 minutes.
The town of Erie takes our second place spot. With a population of around 31,000 people, Erie offers a suburban lifestyle with easy access to larger cities like Denver and Boulder. Erie's high-quality public schools (the top ranking on our list overall), diverse housing options, and convenient location make it a popular destination for families and young professionals looking to settle down in the Front Range region of Colorado.
That popularity has made list prices in Erie higher than other towns on our list, coming in around $733,750. However, the modest commute, exceptional schools, and high employment rate for the town bump Erie to our number two spot.
The low median listing price of $405,000 and quality schools make it an ideal location for young families. An easy average commute of just 24 minutes, strong employment, and standard competition for homes bumps Cimarron Hills to the number three under-the-radar place to live in Colorado.
Cimarron Hills is situated east of Colorado Springs and offers a suburban lifestyle with easy access to the city's amenities. The town is known for its natural beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities, including world class hiking trails. The community also features a growing economy, with proximity to outposts of Lockheed Martin, FedEx, and Progressive Insurance.
Of our top 15 under-the-radar places to live in Colorado, Parker has the steepest competition for housing, with homes spending an average of 55 days on the market. Even though houses sell faster here, the easy average commute time (just 26 minutes), phenomenal school ratings, and the highest employment rates of all the cities we analyzed, keep Parker in our number four spot.
Parker is known for being a family-friendly town, with high-quality public schools, plenty of parks and open spaces, and ample community events. As a bonus, Parker also has easy access to both Denver and Colorado Springs. But be prepared to pay a little more for all of these amenities — the median listing price in Parker is $665,000.
Nestled just north of Lake Pueblo State Park, Pueblo West is known for its natural beauty. Just a short drive from Colorado Springs, this community offers a small-town feel with all the conveniences of suburbia. It also has the lowest cost per square foot of our top 15 under-the-radar cities (though not all of the cities we looked at in Colorado), and is a great place for house hunters looking to get the most out of every dollar they put down on their new home.
Pueblo West has just a 57.4% employment rate — tied for the lowest on our list. But the lack of competition for affordable housing (homes here spend a median of 71 days on market) make Pueblo West a solid contender for under-the-radar places to live in Colorado.
Colorado Springs is the second-largest city in Colorado and our number six under-the-radar city. The city is known for its stunning mountain views and avid outdoor recreational lifestyle, including hiking, biking, and skiing. The city is also home to several military bases, including the United States Air Force Academy and Fort Carson, which contribute to a strong economy. The median listing price in Colorado Springs is $444,500 and homes spend a healthy average of 64 days on the market, making it a great place to buy.
Littleton has a strong education system, with several high-quality public and private schools in the area. It also has the least amount of competition in our top spots, with homes spending an average of 76 days on market.
Littleton also offers an outdoors, suburban lifestyle with easy access to both Denver and the Rocky Mountains. The city is known for its historic downtown area, which features shops, restaurants, and other attractions, as well as its several parks and open spaces, including the popular Chatfield State Park.
Welby takes our number eight spot, with the lowest listing price ($368,750) of our top 15 but highest cost per square foot ($272). This community offers a suburban lifestyle with easy access to Denver and the surrounding area. Welby is known for its parks and open spaces, including the popular Welby Gardens Park, which offers hiking and biking trails, picnic areas, and a playground.
Highlands Ranch is a master-planned community located in Douglas County, Colorado, approximately 12 miles south of Denver. The community is known for its high-quality public schools (ranked number three overall) and amenities, including parks, open spaces, and the popular Highlands Ranch Mansion.
The high quality of life here comes at a cost, though. Highlands Ranch is home to the highest listing prices of our top 15 spots, coming in at an average of $675,000. Low commute times, a strong employment rate, and great schools boosted it to our number nine spot.
Incorporated in 2001, Centennial is one of Colorado’s newest cities. It’s home to several large employers, including Arrow Electronics and Comcast, and is just 15 miles south of Denver. The presence of these companies contribute to a strong employment rate of 67%. Centennial is known for its excellent public schools and high quality of life with easy access to the state’s capital. The median listing price in Centennial is $625,000.
Johnstown is a town located in Weld and Larimer counties in Colorado, approximately 45 miles north of Denver. With a population under 20,000 people, Johnstown offers a small-town lifestyle with easy access to larger cities like Fort Collins and Loveland. It also has one of the highest employment rates on our list at 72%. Like many Colorado towns, it is known for its natural beauty and quiet, family-friendly community. Homebuyers looking to settle in Johnstown can expect to pay around $181 per square foot.
Security-Widefield is situated 10 miles southeast of Colorado Springs and is part of the Colorado Springs Metropolitan Area. The community is known for its scenic views of the Rocky Mountains, its proximity to outdoor recreational opportunities, and strong military presence. The employment rate and school ratings are lower here compared to our other top 15 towns, but housing is affordable: Homes here have some of the lowest listing prices of our top spots, averaging just $397,000.
Broomfield is situated between Denver and Boulder, and is part of the Denver Metropolitan Area. The high employment rate of over 70% is thanks to the presence of large corporations, small businesses, and startups. The city is known for its well-planned suburban neighborhoods —which contribute to an easy average commute time of just 26 minutes — and excellent schools.
Broomfield also boasts a variety of cultural and recreational amenities, including the 1stBank Center, the Broomfield Symphony Orchestra, and the FlatIron Crossing shopping mall. Expect to pay more for these conveniences — the average listing price in Broomfield is $622,450.
Our number 14 spot is also part of the Denver Metropolitan Area, located about 28 miles south of Denver. Castle Rock is known for its scenic beauty, with its stunning mountain views, rolling hills, and abundant wildlife. The town is named after a prominent rock formation that towers over the downtown area, which was once used as a landmark by Native Americans and early settlers. Castle Rock has a rich history, dating back to the mid-1800s, and is home to a number of historic sites and landmarks.
Today, the town is a thriving community that offers a mix of small-town charm and modern amenities. Homes in Castle Rock have an average listing price of $668,500 and spend an average of just 58 days on the market.
Rounding out our top 15 under-the-radar cities in Colorado is Windsor, a town about 60 miles north of Denver. The family-friendly town of Windsor has above average schools, strong employment rates of just under 70%, and an average listing price of $649,950.
Windsor boasts a small-town charm and friendly community, with a population of just over 35,000 people. The town’s history dates back to the late 1800s, and it is home to a number of historic sites and landmarks. The town is also a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, with easy access to hiking and biking trails.
As competition eases, house hunters who have been discouraged in recent years now have the opportunity to break into the market. All of our under-the-radar cities in Colorado showed promising signs of growing inventory, with listings in our top cities spending an average of 50 days or more on the market. As prices normalize, homebuyers can use tools like rate buydowns and mortgage recasts to navigate rising interest rates.
For more hidden gems, see our reports on the top under-the-radar cities in Texas, and the top under-the-radar cities for LGBTQ+ homebuyers.
And you can keep up with Denver real estate trends here.
Orchard’s proprietary under-the-radar score combines a variety of home sale data and quality-of-life factors. To find the top under-the-radar cities in Colorado, we applied these metrics to the state’s 50 largest cities by Census population, which includes cities, towns, and Census designated places (CDPs).
Here’s what we looked at and how much it accounted for:
Winnie Ng contributed to data collection and analysis for this report.
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