Boulder, Colorado, is a beautiful town in the Rocky Mountains.
When people think of expensive areas, they usually think of San Francisco and New York, but you might be surprised to find that Boulder is rather expensive as well.
You may want to evaluate the expense versus the value before you go on a vacation or move to the area.
Here are the top 10 reasons Boulder, Colorado, is so expensive.
Why Is Boulder Colorado So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)
1. One Of The Best Places To Live In The United States
Boulder, CO, was given the prestigious title of “best place to live in the United States” by U.S. News for 2021 and 2022.
A place is bound to cost more when it’s constantly considered one of the best places to live in the United States.
The publicity of the title draws people to the area, bringing up the prices with them.
The population of Boulder went from 97,385 in 2010 to 108,250 in 2020, and the numbers are still on the rise.
What puts Boulder at the top of the list?
When making their decision, U.S. News considers the quality of life, job market desirability, and value among over 150 metropolitan areas to determine the top spot.
Despite only having a rating of 6.0 when it comes to value, the impressive 8.2 quality of life and 8.5 job market ratings, as well as the high desirability rating of 8.5, catapults it into the top spot with an overall score of 7.6.
Quality of life attempts to gauge the happiness of the residents as well as crime, health care, and commute time.
Interestingly enough, Boulder only ranks at the #100 spot in the list of the best cities to retire.
Are you interested in learning about the other cities in the country that measure up to Boulder as some of the best cities in the country?
The runners-up for best places to live in the United States include:
- Raleigh, NC: 7.5
- Quality of life: 6.9
- Job market: 7.5
- Value: 7.7
- Desirability: 8.5
- Huntsville, AL: 7.4
- Quality of life: 7.0
- Job market: 8.1
- Value: 8.7
- Desirability: 5.5
- Fayetteville, AR: 7.3
- Quality of life: 7.2
- Job market: 7.4
- Value: 8.1
- Desirability: 5.6
- Austin, TX: 7.3
- Quality of life: 7.0
- Job market: 7.5
- Value: 6.5
- Desirability: 7.8
- Colorado Springs: 7.3
- Quality of life: 7.0
- Job market: 7.5
- Value: 6.5
- Desirability: 7.8
Think that’s the only title Boulder’s earned?
Not even close.
Here are the other accolades awarded to the town (according to Wikipedia):
- The 10 Happiest Cities: No. 1, Moneywatch.bnet.com (2011)
- Top Brainiest Cities: No. 1, Portfolio.com
- Ten Best Cities for the Next Decade: No. 4, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine
- Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index: No. 1, USA Today (2009)
- Best Cities to Raise an Outdoor Kid: No. 1, Backpacker Magazine (2009)
- America’s Top 25 Towns to Live Well: No. 1, Forbes.com (2009)
- Top 10 Healthiest Cities to Live and Retire: No. 6, AARP Magazine
- Top 10 Cities for Artists: No. 8, Business Week (2007)
- America’s Foodiest Town: No. 1, Bon Appetit Magazine (2010)
- Best housing market nationwide based on home price growth: SmartAsset (2019)
- Best housing market nationwide based on home price growth and stability: SmartAsset
2. Real Estate
In U.S. News’s assessment of Boulder, they acknowledge that the city’s biggest downfall appears to be the cost of homes.
Boulder was originally a suburb of Denver.
When more and more people started coming to the area, Boulder became a city in its own right.
While the two cities attempt to accommodate all of the people coming to the area, there’s only so much space to go around.
The median price for a single-family home in 2021 was over $1.3 million.
Part of the appeal of Boulder real estate involves the scenic views and the large yards compared to more compact locations.
In fact, Boulder has height restrictions for new residential construction.
These sanctions are in place to ensure that the values of the homes already in the area don’t go down thanks to obstructed views.
Unfortunately, as more people move to the area, there’s less and less space for everyone, especially without the ability to build upwards.
The result is more demand than supply, driving up the prices.
University buildings and commercial buildings can still build upwards.
Boulder, CO Neighborhoods
Picking the best neighborhood for you can make all the difference in how much you love your new home.
See the following Boulder, CO neighborhoods:
- The Hill: student-friendly district
- Chautauqua: expensive and luxurious residential neighborhood
- South Boulder: suburban district filled with old and new residents
- North Boulder: artistic district
- Gunbarrel: farm district
Not only do certain neighborhoods have a certain prestige, but they also provide the best scenery and the best commute.
Of course, you’ll have to pay for the privilege of living in the most high-end neighborhoods.
Boulder, CO Rent
Renting is rather expensive, too, with a one-bedroom apartment costing about $2,000 per month.
Of course, actual rent prices vary based on the amenities of the building and the location.
Boulder, CO Homelessness
In Boulder, CO, there are currently an estimated 450 homeless people.
While not an epidemic swarming the area, it’s a significant number, and the government works hard to provide dignified housing for the homeless.
Boulder has a homeless program known as Homeless Solutions for Boulder County (HSBC) with the following goals in place:
- Establish safe and welcoming spaces.
- Provide public resources on homelessness.
- Facilitate basic services.
- Transition homeless to permanent housing.
About 17% of the homeless are unsheltered while the rest are in shelters or transitional housing.
3. High Income Opportunities
In order to offset the cost of real estate, employers in the area pay a higher wage than average.
The average household income in Boulder is $104,668.
The largest employers in Boulder are:
- University of Colorado Boulder: 9,473
- Boulder Valley School District: 4,500
- Boulder Community Hospital: 2,380
- Boulder County: 1,959
- Ball Corp.- 1,600
- IBM: 1,400
- City of Boulder: 1,351
- Google: 1,350
As you can see, the major industries include education, healthcare, tech, and government jobs.
People who live in Boulder also have the option to commute to Denver if they have more opportunities in the capital.
When the weather permits, a large majority of people who work nearby ride their bikes to work.
In fact, more people bike to work in Boulder than in any other city in the US.
Boulder is also a great place for people who want to start their own businesses.
You’ll find a lot of mentors, and a lot of residents prioritize supporting local businesses compared to large businesses.
However, you may find yourself swallowed up by the competition if you attempt to open up a business in an already saturated market, such as beer and health food products.
4. Progressive Politics
Colorado is known for being rather progressive when it comes to its politics, encouraging more and more like-minded people to flock to the area to get away from the conservative mindsets of their hometowns.
Just over 77% of the population in Boulder County voted Democrat in the last presidential election, and the area is considered “very liberal.”
It’s not just centralized in Boulder.
Most of the state tends to lean left.
Currently, the Colorado governor and both of Colorado’s U.S. Senators are Democrats.
The progressive and liberal mindset attracts people from a wide range of demographics, but particularly younger people.
For that reason, Boulder is a rather young town with an average age of 27.5 years.
One of the first signs of just how liberal the area is was when Colorado became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, which tends to fall on the progressive and liberal side of things.
Residents can have one ounce of marijuana in their possession and up to six plants at home.
The progressive decision increased the city’s value substantially, and Colorado may become a great source of what to expect for the future.
5. Natural Resources
Boulder is made for people who like the outdoors.
The town offers the nearby Rocky Mountains and forests to explore, along with rivers, lakes, and creeks.
Not only are the sights stunning, but they provide a lot for people to do during all seasons.
You can go swimming in the summer and hike or bike along the different trails in the spring and fall.
During the winter, you can snowboard or ski at the numerous resorts.
It’s important to note that the area is at a higher elevation than you may be used to.
The high altitude can sometimes lead to dizziness and getting drunk more quickly than usual, which will come into play when you visit the restaurants and breweries in the area.
The climate gets all four seasons with hot summers and cold winters, allowing people to enjoy different activities at different times of the year and make the most of the rich environment.
In order to keep the area pristine, the city makes a point to monitor and identify environmental concerns in Boulder and implement litigation that resolves the issue.
One recent issue the city noticed was waste produced by the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site.
They also notice that the current maintenance program for the Bobolink Trail on South Boulder Creek can’t accommodate the heavy traffic it receives.
Boulder houses a wide variety of wildlife thanks to the vast natural habitat nearby.
Some of the mammals commonly found in the area include:
- Mountain lion
If you run into an animal on your path, you should discreetly get to safety and call animal control right away.
Pets are often at higher risk than humans.
Verify all enclosures at your home are properly secured and always keep an eye on your pet when you let them outside.
6. Outdoor Activities
There are few better places in the country for people who enjoy outdoor experiences.
With all of the opportunities around you, it’s almost impossible not to get active.
With all of the outdoor activities available, it’s no wonder that Boulder is one of the fittest cities in the country!
Most people don’t rely on the gym but rather on nature for their workouts.
The skiing and snowboarding in Boulder are top-notch.
The best ski and snowboarding spot in the area is about 20 miles away at Eldora Ski Resort.
At Eldora Ski Resort, you will enjoy 10 ski lifts and eight terrain parks that cover 680 acres.
You can rent skis or snowboards if you don’t have your own, and you can even get lessons.
People come from all over the world to enjoy the facilities, so naturally, the draw will bring up the cost of things in the area a bit.
With so much wilderness in the area, you will find many trails that vary based on the scenery they provide as well as the difficulty of the hike.
The best trails in Boulder include:
- Wonderland Lake Loop Trail
- Flatirons Vista
- Chapman Drive and Tenderfoot Trail
- Rattlesnake Gulch
- Mount Sanitas
- Green Mountain West Trail
- Red Rocks Trail
The Boulder area has a couple of beautiful reservoirs, manmade lakes, that people can enjoy in the summer:
- The Boulder Reservoir
- Chatfield State Park Reservoir
- Union Reservoir
You can swim and sunbathe on the beach in all three locations.
You can bring your dog to all locations, too (just make sure to pick up after yourself).
The Boulder Reservoir is the largest in the area, and it can get crowded.
However, it has a lot of parking, and you will have access to concessions.
The influx of people to the area created such horrible traffic, it’s no wonder people try to bike to work.
You will immediately notice the congestion as well as the lack of parking downtown.
To resolve the problem, the authorities are tossing around the idea of a new transportation tax.
However, nothing has been approved quite yet.
As of now, transportation in Boulder is funded through the income generated by the 0.15% local sales tax and the standard.
Bike paths throughout the city make travel easy, even around the busy streets.
Many of the streets also include a separate lane specifically designated for bikes.
The city also often promotes carpooling and other methods of reducing emissions and traffic.
You can also take advantage of the town’s elaborate bus system.
The city’s local bus routes are:
The regional Boulder city routes are:
- Flatiron Flyer (Denver)
- FLEX (Fort Collins)
- BOLT (Highway 119)
- AB (Denver International Airport)
- J (Longmont)
- NB (Nederland)
You will be pleased to know that getting to Denver is a relatively easy task that only takes about 45 minutes to an hour using Highway 36, but the traffic can get congested.
You can also find a bus or shuttle from Boulder to Denver from downtown and numerous other spots around town.
8. University Of Colorado
Another major draw of Boulder is the University of Colorado.
The university significantly contributes to the lower average age of Boulder residents as well as the liberal mindset.
The University of Colorado Boulder has 30,000 students currently enrolled and ranks as the third-best university in the state with a wide range of graduate and postgraduate degrees.
Just some of the famous alumni who graduated from the University of Colorado include:
- Matt Stone: award-winning broadway playwright and co-creator of South Park
- Trey Parker: award-winning broadway playwright and co-creator of South Park
- Robert Redford: actor
- Steve Wozniak: co-founder of Apple
- Dalton Trumbo: blacklisted screenwriter from the Cold War era
9. Downtown Boulder
Boulder has a stunning 49 miles of downtown with a wide range of restaurants and more than 150 shops to enjoy.
You can find apparel stores, home and kitchen stores, music stores, liquor stores, book stores, craft stores, health stores, thrift stores, and pet stores.
About 70% of the businesses downtown are proudly local businesses.
Even if you don’t have money to shop thanks to the high prices in the area, you can enjoy watching the street performers and looking at the spectacular architecture (especially the Dushanbe Teahouse).
Food And Beer
Boulder has become a serious foodie destination in its own right.
The residents in the area build up an appetite when they enjoy the outdoors, and they expect a good meal to satisfy their hunger.
For the opportunity to explore numerous options in one place, visit Avanti F&B and Rosetta Hall food halls.
If you or someone you love is celebrating a special day, you can try one of the more upscale dining options available to you as well.
Of course, Boulder emphasizes healthy food as well.
Most restaurants promote organic food and locally-grown food that is not only better for the body but also better for the environment.
Even more than the different restaurants, you will hear about the different microbreweries in the area.
The breweries are known for brewing unique beer on-site.
In many cases, you can’t find the different local Boulder beers in other cities.
The best breweries in Boulder are:
- Wild Provisions Beer Project
- Twisted Pine Brewing Company
- Westbound and Down Brewing Company
- Boulder Beer Company
- Kettle and Spoke Brewery
Don’t forget to grab a case of beer for when you go back home.
10. Artistic Community
There’s a thriving artistic community in Boulder, and the city supports the artists in the area.
The Boulder government has an art and culture office that supports the city’s artistic residents.
Four of the programs they develop include:
- Grants program: The city’s grant program funds some of the best art projects that they come across over a wide range of mediums and skillsets.
- Public art program: Boulder wants its city to express the people inside of it, so they allow local artists to beautify public spaces with their unique creations.
- Professional artists program: Boulder offers amenities for artists to hone their craft and perform through training facilities and venues.
Many people think that Boulder is a hipster paradise.
It’s filled with young people, vegan restaurants, bacon-themed restaurants, microbreweries, and legal dispensaries.
They also don’t call pet owners “owners” but rather pet “guardians” as no one should have the ability to own another living thing.
For people who tend to think outside the box of the status quo, you may find a lot of value in surrounding yourself with people who share a similar mindset.
Boulder, CO is one of the best places to live in the entire United States.
It’s also one of the most expensive places, especially when it comes to real estate.
However, you get a lot of value for what you pay.
Enjoying a local craft beer in your hot tub surrounded by your best friends and snowcapped mountains?