Who in their right mind would leave Colorado? The proximity to the mountains, the mild weather and what are the other benefits? I don’t ski, I don’t camp and traveling to the mountains has turned into a traffic nightmare. To answer that question, that would be me. I left.
I grew up in Aurora, a southern suburb of Denver. Aurora, and the Denver area in general hold the standard mix of wonderful, tragic and painful memories for me. It is where I became who I am, where I have struggled, triumphed and learned many valuable lessons.
I love the area how it was, back when it was still fairly small, affordable and I could find a new job immediately if something were to happen to my employment. The average middle class family could afford a home, and I could afford a place to live, regardless of my income level at any given time. Those days are long gone.
As my income progressed and I grew in my career, Denver also continued to grow. When I reached an income threshold of $60K, I should have been able to afford a small home or at the very least, a condo. Rents continued to rise, and I never could catch up.
When I reached the income threshold of $75K. I did end up purchasing a home in Denver. The caveat was that a second income of the same level was absolutely required. I ended up purchasing a home with a then boyfriend. Let’s just say there is a lesson there, however the frustrating part of the whole situation, is that I should have been able to purchase a home on my own.
When that situation didn’t pan out, the home had to be sold. The value of that home inflated $100K in the 2 years I lived there and for the last year of that tenure, I paid for the place on my own. The house was too big for me. Although I managed to pay the $350K mortgage on that home, I hated having to live off a strict budget. I was laid off twice in the time I lived there, and although I could always make up income with freelance work, I was never comfortable doing so. I made the decision to sell.
Naturally, I had to divy up the proceeds, but it sold within 24 hours of listing with an all cash offer, $40K over asking price. This is the problem with Denver. When we purchased the home in 2016, we lost 12 homes due to being outbid by other offers. The home we purchased was outdated, but the saving grace was that the home was inherited by an original owner, and she wanted to sell to a native to the city, so she awarded the home to me, even though she had higher offers.
With my proceeds, I likely could have purchased something small, but I wasn’t willing to pay what I would have had to for it. I remember what the cost of real estate was just a mere 10 years ago, and the level of inflation frankly scared me. I didn’t feel comfortable investing in a city in which couldn’t keep me employed (layoffs are common in my industry) and salaries never increased, despite the extreme growth in cost of living in the city.
I decided to move south to Colorado Springs and rent until I came to a final decision on where I wanted to live. For some reason, I thought Colorado Springs would be more affordable (wrong). When I started looking at real estate down there, my native stigma voice was always in the back of my mind, making comments such as, “Why would anyone pay that much to live in Springs?”. Exactly.
Even though I could have purchased a home in Springs, the price just wasn’t up to par with my expectations. Plus, in the event of a layoff from my existing remote job, there were exactly zero jobs for me to fall back on in the area. Between that and the looming threat of constant wildfires and floods (in the area I would have deemed appropriate to live), I decided that I wasn’t going to purchase a home there either.
Now don’t get me wrong, Colorado Springs had its beauty and perks, such as being able to explore the mountain roads within minutes, living with Pikes Peak in my face and other fun explorations, but the novelty does wear off. I have had access to mountains my whole life, and although I appreciated their beauty, it wasn’t a big part of my life.
In casual conversation, a friend asked me, “If you could choose anywhere to live in Colorado, where would it be?”. My answer? I couldn’t come up with one. I couldn’t think of a single place in Colorado that was rich with jobs, smaller in population and affordable in the state. That is when I knew it was time to explore other potential areas.
I have always loved the desert Southwest. Arizona and New Mexico, however the water situation is something that I consider frightening. There were no jobs in New Mexico, and the only jobs for me in AZ were in Phoenix. Nothing wrong with Phoenix at all, with the exception of the water. I have this strange feeling the Phoenix will not last forever, so sadly, that was out.
My daughter always split time between Colorado and Michigan, where her father lived. I visited the Midwest once or twice over the years and fell in love with the water, the rivers, the lakes and the green landscape. I looked into areas in MI, OH and Iowa. I also specifically wanted to set roots in a city that was no larger than Colorado Springs, roughly a population of 300K or less. I required a strong job market and plenty of access to water-related activities.
For several months, I began my research, narrowing down a couple of places to visit and review. I fell absolutely in love with Wisconsin. The city of Madison is rich with jobs, full of affordable housing, low in population, is set on lakes and is surrounded by rivers. Lots of them. The best part? It is nowhere near flat. Having visited MI and OH in the past, I expected more flat land loaded with trees. Wrong. There are plenty of bluffs and hills.
If I really want a “city experience” (unlikely), Chicago is only a 2 hour drive south. I enjoyed the idea of not living in a land-island, like Denver. There are many cities and new places to explore within a hour or more drive from Madison. It is nice not being limited to Cheyenne and Santa Fe as destination cities. One can only visit those so many times.
Madison checked all the boxes for me. Reasonable housing costs, beautiful landscape, oodles of jobs and of course, the most precious resource, water.
Before I made the move, I met my permanent boyfriend in Madison and made several visits, in all seasons, to determine it was the place for me. After a year, I finally took the plunge and built a new home there, where we moved into in May of 2019.
A couple of months in, I am very happy with my decision. There have been many changes in my life and I am exploring many new activities. This blog will encompass all of that, along with many other things that may or may not be relevant to the move. I look forward to this new journey.