The House Hunt

I live over 1,000 miles away from Denver and have never seen it’s fair mountains/plains. And yet, I expect to, upon pulling into Denver for the first time with my car loaded with all my earthly positions, to pull up to my dream house, move in, and sleep there that night.

And so I wonder how people did this before the internet, and how people would do it if they had no connections already.

Our entire house hunt has been done on the internet, mostly through Craig’s List. There seem to be plenty of houses available, so we’re not worried. Prices seem high, compared to Indiana- I’ll probably pay in 1 month in Denver what I paid for housing for this entire summer in Indiana.

And let me tell you about some of these houses I’m seeing for reasonable prices – forget Washers and Dryers, these have hot tubs, HDTV’s included. After living in a dorm or pretty crappy off-campus houses for the last 4 years, these places are like palaces.

And some even look like palaces. There was one house on Craig’s List that had a beautiful 3 story Victorian house as the picture. Intrigued, I read more. The caption read something like, “The house you will be renting is behind and to the left of the BEAUTIFUL VICTORIAN HOUSE in the picture.”

Also interesting is figuring out what the area around the house is like. All these areas of Denver- I’m sure they hold meaning to locals, but Cherry Creek, Lodo, Lakewood- they mean nothing to me. So simply looking for houses is helping me learn a bit about Denver… but there is only so much you can know.

So, my dear readers, my questions to you are these: Where should I live? What places should I avoid at all costs?

6 Comments so far

  1. valerie on June 12th, 2008 @ 7:26 am

    Hmm..I’m not going to be much help on this one since I lived in Denver too long ago. My neighborhood was Capitol Hill, pretty well described by Wikipedia. can help you with comparable rents.

  2. John Wilker (den_johnw) on June 12th, 2008 @ 9:50 am

    When we moved here. I came out for a week since my wife was already here for work. I went out twice with a realtor, by the end of the second day, house picked out. It probably woulda been one day, but we had no clue where we wanted, so she picked a wide area to show me to help narrow it down.

    So that said, if you can spare a day, weeekend, whatever. I’d find a realtor, have ’em put together a days worth of houses (assuming you narrow it down via craiglist or something) and just bang it out.

  3. barbara on June 12th, 2008 @ 12:58 pm

    I have lived in Denver 30 years…I love it. The neighborhoods each have their own character, it just depends on your life style. I am in the Cheesman Park area near Capitol Hill which is an urban setting. There are lots of parks scattered throughout the city and a great bike path system that will take you to all parts of the city and suburbs.

    Besides craigslist there is backpage, plus property management companies that could be a source. I am a realtor so if you want some guidance, just let me know.

  4. marksol on June 14th, 2008 @ 7:45 am

    My wife and I did the same as you are doing and rented a house entirely through craigslist from D.C. Our story has a happy ending, but it could have gone the other way.

    It’s really important to know where you think you’re going to work, as the Denver metropolitan area has the traffic patterns of a city with a much higher population density than it actually has. Mostly on the interstates (I-25, I-225, & I-70) which the inhabitants use as main traffic arterials, and, at the same time, cannot handle merge situations to save their lives. So, every day, between 8am and 10am, then again from 4pm until 6:30pm, many large parts of the interstate system within Denver and Aurora (the other large city stuck the Denver’s East) are parking lots. So, the closer to work you live, the better, especially now with high price of gas.

    I needed to live near Denver University, and coming from D.C. where I spent 15-30 minutes commuting 1.5 miles to school, I wanted something closer and easier, so we narrowed our search for rental homes to within a mile from campus. I have a dog, so that narrowed our search as well. We emailed people to give us the address of the house if it wasn’t listed in the ad, and those that would not divulge their address were also filtered. Memorizing the address of the school, Google maps became our best friend. The satillite photos of the house also helped us to ask questions via email about the yard (does it have a fence, a garage, etc).

    Some words of wisdom: inside Denver there are good and bad neighborhoods, of course.

    – Ask about planned construction projects. Despite the housing situation, many areas like mine in the mile or two around D.U. from Colorado Blvd to Downing St (on the east and west borders) and from Evans St to Alameda (south to north borders) thave houses built in the 1920’s to 1940’s and are being sold for their lots and rebuilt. At least one or two houses per block are in this category, so be sure ask if there are any construction projects planned for next door or accross the street. These houses take from 10-18 months to complete. They are noisy: workers can begin construction at 7am (and they do!) and finish after 6-7pm. If you have no driveway and park on the street, which is common, much of your parking will be monopolized by the workers. Along with construction trailers, construction debris, etc.

    – Everyone here waters their lawn – ask about the owner’s desires for a lawn and sprinklers. Our lawn care is included in the rent, we don’t mow the lawn or rake leaves, but we do have to pay the water bill. Last summer, that ran about $80-130 per month, mostly because of watering the lawn every third day with the in-ground, automatic sprinklers. I’m not a fan of green lawns in the desert or arid areas, so I find this wasteful, but at least I don’t mow the lawn on saturdays. Some people even water every day…

    – Ask about parking. See above. Also, some places in denver require parking permits, like near DU due to students. Not expensive, but a pain to deal with.

    – Houses here don’t often have central air-conditioning, but, if anything, swamp coolers which perform the same task. Mine doesn’t have either, but the owners left us two window units. Since the nights get cool (lately in the low 50’s) this isn’t a problem if you leave windows open at night, then the only warmer time in the house is late afternoon to early evening when the heat has built to its max, before going down again for cooler night temperatures. Good to know, good to ask about. You’ll want easy to open/close windows, not the older kind which "fall closed" or are painted shut – you’ll be using them in the older houses.

    – Driver and Vehicle licsensing. If you get Colorado plates and license, these are not through the same agency. Vehicles are registered through the city, and drivers licenses through the state. All can be found through their website. Vehicles older than 8 years or so are cheap the register, but newer ones are not: Denver’s sales tax is 8% and new cars registered in Denver make you wonder why the roads aren’t better than they are :)

    – See how close to the interstate it is. As they have so much traffic on them all the time, they have a lot of road noise. Depsite the sound walls, they still are audible background hums at our house a half mile away. We can hear the occassional motorcycle or tractor-trailer gunning their engine before a long shift. Mildly irritating when on a "quiet" 6am walk.

    – Lastly, if you can, have anyonen run by a place a take pictures for you and give a general impression of the neighborhood. That’s the best way to check it out from afar. My wife’s father had a friend who drove by ours and didn’t see any obvious "gotcha’s."

    Then, after a dozen emails back and forth, I sent the $2000 security deposit check 3/4 of the way accross the country to someone I didn’t really know, hoping they actually owned the property I had an unsigned lease for. Anxious sigh. The plan was to sign it upon arrival and final inspection of the property. I also booked a month at an extended stay hotel ($80 per night, extendable to $1400 for a month) so in the worst case that the house was not theirs, occupied by others, or not even there, we were not homeless and didn’t have to search for such a hotel. We only stayed the night we arrived in denver, and the house worked out the next day. That was last August.

    The house next door to us is almost finished 9 months later after it’s construction began, and our sprinkler tech just activated our sprinklers yesterday to rejuvenate the dry, brown lawn in which the house we rent sits. Our dog has a nice yard to play in, and our next door neighbor is very nice and friendly: she a pleasure to talk with It’s 7:40am, and I hear the pleasent chirp of birds outside the window, as my neighborhood is pleasently quiet and for the most part safe.

    Our story worked out, but I can see a dozen places where it might not have.

  5. marksol on June 14th, 2008 @ 7:55 am

    And for areas, I live around DU, so I know those areas better. I don’t like Aurora much for many reasons.

    Coby-merrill neighborhood is nice (North of Evans, south of Alameda, east of University, and West of Colorado)

    Washington park area is nice (the closer to the park, the more pedestrian traffic, etc) which is west of University, East of Broadway, North of Evans, and South of Alameda. This is another block of town next to Coby-merrill.

    Lakwood is also nice. It’s got some really pretty areas and is not smack dab in the middle of traffic. It’s a little closer to the mountains and has good access to Rt 6 which is another major east-west road connecting Golden, Co (where coors is from) to south-denver at I-25

    Golden itself is also very nice and smaller town feel than denver.

    Check out google maps and the traffic at the times when you’d be driving to see where the sticking points are.

  6. jbreazeale on June 15th, 2008 @ 7:59 am

    Unless you have a very specific area in mind, I’d recommend renting for awhile. My husband and I have lived in Denver for the past 10 years and lived/worked in South Denver, the Denver Tech Center, Cherry Creek, Downtown, and the Hwy 36 corridor (the NW road from Denver to Boulder). Not surprisingly, there are advantages and disadvantages to each.

    If you can’t live close to where you work, consider this

    – the rush hour traffic is worse from West to East (in the morning) and from North to Central. South Denver/DTC/Highlands Ranch – lots of people either live in this area, southeastern Aurora, Parker (south of Aurora), or Castle Rock (south of Denver), so you’ll see heavy traffic throughout. So, if you can plan your commute to be in the opposite direction, it’s a good thing!

    – Public transit’s pretty good in Denver (not compared to a huge metro area, but still…), however, it focuses primarily on getting people from the outlying areas to downtown in the morning and from downtown in the afternoon. If you’re trying to get between the suburbs, it’s not always so easy. Also, they’re really developing up and down the light rail lines, so some good condo/apartment options that also have convenient stores and restaurants.

    For specific info on Denver and its neighborhoods, check out For info on the surrounding Denver Metro area, try

    FYI, my husband and I now live in Stapleton and love it (although it seems to inspire a love/hate response in others, not much ambivalence here!). It’s a couple of miles south of I-70 and about halfway between I-25 and I-225, so the commute to just about anywhere is ~20 minutes. We also enjoy the tons of open space and like being able to walk to the grocery store and restaurants, but it does weigh heavily towards the family+kids+dogs crowd.

    Good luck in your search and welcome to Denver!

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