Business

Your House May Actually Be Worth Less Than It Cost 15 Years Ago

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Thanks to Denver's red-hot housing market, Mile High City home values are currently higher than they were at their pre-recession peak, though perhaps not by as much as some frustrated home buyers might have expected. But while Colorado as a whole has experienced a similar boom, there are plenty of places in the state where homes are worth considerably less than they were a decade and a half ago.

These are among the takeaways from a new report from LawnStarter. "How Resilient Is the Denver, CO Housing Market?" uses data from Zillow to compare today's home values to those prior to the Great Recession of the late 2000s and early 2010s.

Plenty of communities have yet to recover from this downturn: The study's authors note that the median home value in the United States is only about 86 percent of what it was prior to the recession. Likewise, just 34 percent of U.S. homes boast a current value that surpasses the respective top price back in those good old days.

The Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metro area is doing much better than that, with median home values hitting 127 percent of the pre-recession figures. That makes Denver the most resilient city among the 100 largest American metros — and Colorado is considered the most resilient state in the country as a whole.

But there's a lot more to the story than that, as we discovered when we looked into a data set provided by LawnStarter research analyst Katie Kutcha. Turns out that of the fourteen biggest metro areas in Colorado, only six have median home values higher than before the recession, with the eight others landing between 4 percent and 36 percent lower. And even though all but one spot (Guffey) in what's known as Denver's core-based statistical area (CBSA) has home prices under the pre-recession peak, 45 of 148 Colorado communities analyzed still haven't climbed above this mark.

These figures are even more surprising given that home values in these parts actually reached their most elevated point way before the 2008 collapse of the national housing market. "Denver is an oddity in that it hit its peak value in December 2002, at $291,000 in today's dollars," reveals Kutcha, corresponding via email. "Colorado did the same."

As a result, homes in nearly a third of Colorado's most significant communities have less value than they did fifteen years ago, even given the state's robust recovery in recent years. According to Kutcha, "the CBSA of Denver hit bottom in May 2011, and first surpassed it's pre-recession peak in January 2015," almost four years later.

The Colorado places doing best tend to be those that have experienced the greatest growth in income and population. "Of course, Denver's population is booming, explaining much of its recovery," Kutcha acknowledges — and this phenomenon doesn't seem to be on its last legs yet. She points out that "Zillow's forward-looking projections predict that Denver metro area home values will rise by 3.4 percent in the next year, and that Colorado home values will increase by 3.7 percent (not inflation adjusted)."

The wealth isn't being spread evenly, though. Below, see three separate lists, illustrated with LawnStarter graphics: Colorado metro areas ranked by the percentage of home value recovered since the 2002 peak, the metro Denver cities that have recovered the highest percentage of their peak value, and cities from across the state that have recaptured the lowest percentage of their peak value. They're followed by a link to the complete data set, with information about dozens of other cities in the state.

COLORADO METRO AREAS RANKED BY THE PERCENTAGE OF HOME VALUE RECOVERED SINCE THE 2002 PEAK

Number 1: Boulder, CO
Peak median home value (in today's dollars): $390,000
Current median home value: $497,000
Percentage recovered: 127%

Number 2: Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO
Peak median home value (in today's dollars): $291,400
Current median home value: $371,100
Percentage recovered: 127%

Number 3: Fort Collins, CO
Peak median home value (in today's dollars): $277,300
Current median home value: $348,400
Percentage recovered: 126%

Number 4: Greeley, CO
Peak median home value (in today's dollars): $229,800
Current median home value: $278,700
Percentage recovered: 121%

Number 5: Sterling, CO
Peak median home value (in today's dollars): $115,800
Current median home value: $126,700
Percentage recovered: 109%

Number 6: Colorado Springs, CO
Peak median home value (in today's dollars): $242,400
Current median home value: $258,900
Percentage recovered: 107%

Number 7: Pueblo, CO
Peak median home value (in today's dollars): $147,900
Current median home value: $141,400
Percentage recovered: 96%

Number 8: Durango, CO
Peak median home value (in today's dollars): $361,400
Current median home value: $345,300
Percentage recovered: 96%

Number 9: Montrose, CO
Peak median home value (in today's dollars): $252,900
Current median home value: $221,200
Percentage recovered: 87%

Number 10: Edwards, CO
Peak median home value (in today's dollars): $788,600
Current median home value: $681,600
Percentage recovered: 86%

Number 11: Glenwood Springs, CO
Peak median home value (in today's dollars): $557,600
Current median home value: $473,400
Percentage recovered: 85%

Number 12: Grand Junction, CO
Peak median home value (in today's dollars): $250,600
Current median home value: $204,100
Percentage recovered: 81%

Number 13: Craig, CO
Peak median home value (in today's dollars): $209,900
Current median home value: $160,500
Percentage recovered: 76%

Number 14: Steamboat Springs, CO
Peak median home value (in today's dollars): $664,600
Current median home value: $423,200
Percentage recovered: 64%

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts