FoCo housing prices may push new families to Wellington

As Fort Collins residents scramble for scarce apartments with high rents attached, smaller towns around the city, like Wellington, quietly offer high-quality homes at cheaper prices.

“The farther away you get from Fort Collins, the lower the prices are,” said Dave Pettigrew of Pettigrew Realty in Fort Collins. “And there’s lots of land available in Wellington, so that’s where most of the growth is going to happen.”

The average rent in Fort Collins increases every year, currently reported by the Colorado Division of Housing at $1,215.97 a month, inflated by a historically low vacancy rate of 1.6 percent. Metro Denver rents averaged $1,117 in the second quarter, up from $1,073 in the first quarter, according to the Denver Metro Vacancy & Rent Survey.

Colorado Division of Housing director Pat Koyle called the average rent and vacancy rate in Fort Collins “extreme,” and said renters may be stuck in an endless loop — unable to save up for a purchase down payment because rents continue to climb.

Pettigrew Realty and the Kinzli Team, both of which have housing available in Fort Collins and Wellington, list the median price of a home in Wellington as about $50,000 less than in FoCo.

“Incomes have not kept up with the housing prices in Fort Collins,” said Kinzli team member Kareen Larsen. “Young families can afford so much more in Wellington than in Fort Collins.”

Wellington also has a trick up its sleeve to entice new homeowners — the U.S. Department of Agriculture loan program, which allows buyers to purchase a home in Wellington for little to no money down if they are willing to pay for a buyer’s closing costs. Homes in Fort Collins do not qualify for this program.

Koyle attributes Fort Collins’ high housing prices to a variety of factors, including the recent floods, which took many houses in Northern Colorado temporarily off the market.

Other Realtors attributed Fort Collins’ prices to the growth of Colorado State University, as well as the booming business market.

“As CSU continues to grow, more and more students are looking to live in their own place,” Said Lee Oldenburg of Poudre Properties. “And as industries plant roots in Fort Collins, there are more jobs available and we are seeing more people coming into town for work.”

Oldenburg said that the influx of people into the bustling city only continues to push rent and mortgages through the roof, as property owners realize they can up their charges without suffering business losses.

As rent increases, Koyle said that renters in Fort Collins can expect to see a direct influence on property turnover rates.

“When rent goes up, many people either can’t afford it or are not happy about it, so landlords look to turn over their property because a new tenant will be happier,” Koyle said.

With this kind of housing market, the small town of Wellington may be looking more and more appealing to new renters and potential homeowners alike. Wellington has more than doubled its population in the last decade, and is issuing more building permits each year for new construction of housing.

Though Fort Collins is limited in its ability to grow and build, Wellington has ample opportunity to build housing, and Realtors like the Kinzli Team are promising newly constructed housing in Wellington for those looking to evade the expensive living in Fort Collins.

“People love this area, but there aren’t enough homes for sale to fill the demand,” Pettigrew said. “Fort Collins really just doesn’t have any room to grow, and as the price of homes go up, it’s going to pull everyone out to places like Wellington.”

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