Pros and Cons of Buying Land in Colorado

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Pros and Cons of Buying Land in Colorado

Bart Waldon

An abundance of breathtaking natural scenery, plentiful year-round recreation and a diverse range of geographies across 104,000 square miles help explain Colorado’s popularity for land buyers seeking places to vacation, settle or invest. According to 2022 Colorado census estimates, over 5.8 million people call the Rocky Mountain State home already – the second fastest growing nationally. Additionally, research shows Colorado contains over 66 million acres of total area with federal agencies managing 36% of that acreage, mainly as parks and forests, while the state itself holds trust of additional 4% of land. 

For individual investors and developers, around 15% of Colorado's terrain offers viable prospects spanning mountains, plains, deserts and plateaus. However, interested land buyers must carefully weigh pros like idyllic settings, booming metro regions and promised opportunity against cons like inconsistent policy, development constraints and wildly fluctuating sales data that complicates predicting stable returns on raw land investments in Colorado.

Overview of the Colorado Land Market

The Colorado land market ranges from affordable rural lots to high-value slope-side acreages in popular ski towns. Overall, the average price per acre in Colorado is estimated around $2,100 - significantly lower than land prices in coastal states. Much of the land value depends on location within the state, property improvements and access, intended land use and current market conditions.

Lower-priced land is readily found in rural farming and ranching communities. Smaller parcels tend to cost between $2,000-$10,000 per acre. For buyers wanting to live in Colorado's mountains and forests, steep slopes and remote forest land is typically priced $5,000-$20,000 per acre. High-end development land near Denver or other Front Range cities runs $200,000-$500,000 per acre.

Recreational counties with ski resort towns also demand premium prices, sometimes over $1 million per acre in the hottest luxury home markets. Overall, Colorado offers affordable acreage compared to many parts of the country - especially given its abundance of natural beauty and outdoor attractions.

Pros of Buying Land in Colorado

There are many benefits to buying land in Colorado depending on your goals as a buyer:

1. Abundant Outdoor Recreation

From skiing and snowboarding to boating, hiking, hunting, fishing, mountain biking and more - Colorado delivers endless options for outdoor enthusiasts all year long. Purchasing recreational land allows you to have direct access to these activities right in your backyard.

The state has 52 peaks over 14,000 feet tall, 44 state parks and seven national parks/monuments like the famed Mesa Verde and Rocky Mountain National Park. Owning property near any of these incredible destinations will allow you to enjoy world-class outdoor recreation on a regular basis.

2. Healthy Return on Investment

Both rural and urban Colorado land has a track record of steady appreciation over the decades, making it a relatively safe investment (depending on broader economic factors of course). Even lower-cost farmland and ranches have seen modest value increases over the years.

And as Denver and other Front Range cities continue expanding, development land around growing population centers often proves extremely lucrative over 5-10 year investment timelines.

3. Low Property Taxes

Colorado ranks #39 in the U.S. for state property taxes, with an average effective tax rate around 0.51% - less than half that of New Jersey (#1) and many other states. This saves land owners substantially over their entire duration of property ownership.

Specific tax rates do vary across Colorado counties and municipalities though, so buyers should be sure to thoroughly research the rates in any areas of interest before purchasing land.

4. Relaxed, Fulfilling Lifestyle

Part of land ownership appeal in Colorado is enjoying a lower key, more relaxed mountain lifestyle after leaving highly urbanized regions of the country. Small towns like Telluride, Crested Butte, Durango and Steamboat Springs are known to attract entrepreneurs, creatives and outdoor lovers seeking better work/life balance.

Living in colorful Colorado communities embedded in nature enables land owners to follow their dreams and passions instead of just chasing career status or wealth. The fulfilling lifestyle land ownership facilitates is a major perk for many buyers.

5. Cozy Mountain Living

Colorado is synonymous with mountain landscapes and fresh alpine air. For families, retirees or location-independent workers now embracing remote work options - owning a property tucked into the state's forests and valleys offers ultimate cozy living.

Land can be bought and held for future cabin or estate construction once additional funds become available. And sites with existing housing sell regularly to buyers wanting to fulfill lifelong dreams of living amongst the soaring pines and peaceful vistas Colorado offers.

Cons of Buying Land in Colorado

However, purchasing rural or recreational land also comes with downsides depending on your situation. Be realistic about the following potential disadvantages before moving forward:

1. Long, Harsh Winters

While winter is peak tourist season in ski towns, much of the state still sees exceptionally cold temps and heavy snow from November through April. Rural land may be completely covered in white for months, limiting accessibility and outdoor activities to just the hardiest souls during this time.

Be prepared for winter storms, freezing pipes, snow removal demands and more if buying land in the mountains. But those willing to adapt to winter realities can still find beauty and joy during the coldest months.

2. Limited Connectivity

Outside of major population centers, many areas still lack reliable cell signal or residential internet access. This poses challenges for both primary residents and remote workers/digital nomads hoping to use rural land as a basecamp.

Be sure to thoroughly vet connectivity options on any land parcels that catch your interest before purchasing. Some locations now offer satellite internet, but service levels and pricing varies widely across providers. Careful research is required to ensure adequate connectivity.

3. Distance From Major Airports

Colorado only has one major international airport in Denver. So land owners must drive 3+ hours across the state to access regular national flight connections or global travel hubs. Small regional airports serve some resort towns on a seasonal basis. But lack of convenient air access remains an issue - especially for overseas buyers spending parts of the year away.

4. Potential Water Issues

Between an arid climate, recent wildfires and ongoing development pressures - some Colorado regions face water scarcity issues. Wells on rural land run the risk of drying up depending on drought conditions.

Additionally, obtaining well permits takes substantial time, and drilling costs quickly add up if accessing subsurface water proves difficult on a site. Always verify historical rainfall, nearby waterways, aquifer data and regulations before purchasing any land parcels.

5. Steep, Winding Roads

Hilly or mountainous land means navigating narrow, winding backroads into towns and amenities. Winter snow piles and ice pose added hazards for drivers unfamiliar with these challenges. And finding direct routes over mountain passes not requiring 4WD vehicles may prove impossible to certain locations.

Make sure roadways adequately serve your property's access, parking and transportation needs before purchasing any rural land parcels.

Key Tips for Buying Land in Colorado

If the advantages outweigh the drawbacks for your situation, below are a few vital tips when buying land in Colorado:

  • Research county zoning rules, development regulations, terrain challenges, permit needs and other locale-specific factors on target land parcels
  • Vet all access roads/trails leading onto and around the property through on-the-ground site visits across different seasons
  • Pay for professional property inspections assessing vegetation, flood risks, soil stability and other important attributes
  • Evaluate cell and internet connectivity directly onsite to confirm remote working/living capability
  • Examine parcel boundaries, easements, water rights and history to avoid disputes down the road
  • Determine utility availability including electric, septic approval, trash services before developing land
  • Consider legal and tax implications for out-of-state buyers owning Colorado land
  • Connect with knowledgeable real estate professionals specializing in land deals across different regions of the state

Taking these key precautions ensures your new Colorado land purchase meets expectations and aligns with future visions for enjoying or profiting from the property.

Choosing the Right Land Specialist Makes All the Difference

Navigating the positives and negatives of buying land in Colorado becomes much simpler by partnering with specialized real estate firms focusing on land transactions. Over many years helping clients buy and sell properties across the state, the most experienced land specialists have completed hundreds of successful deals matching buyers with ideal parcels suiting their needs.

Top land professionals provide customized acquisition services including:

  • Detailed property assessments
  • Competitive cash offers to sellers
  • Addressing liens, back taxes, title issues
  • Site clean-up, preparation and development
  • Targeted marketing to qualified buyers
  • Handling negotiations, contracts, closing logistics

Reliable land specialists enable clients to avoid common headaches with vacant land deals. Their start-to-finish approach expertly manages the entire buying or selling process - allowing you to focus on the fulfilling parts of land ownership rather than getting bogged down in transaction details.

The perfect Colorado acreage exists for every buyer - it just takes connecting with the right land consultant to discover it! They will learn about your goals, preferred locations and needs, then leverage their expertise to identify premier properties where you can thrive.

With personalized guidance simplifying every step, the best land professionals make finding and securing that dream plot of Colorado land much more achievable. Don't just shop for vacant land on your own - partner with seasoned experts for the smoothest and most satisfying transaction possible.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What kind of land is available for purchase in Colorado?

Colorado has an incredibly diverse landscape, so all sorts of land is available, from rugged mountain acreage to open prairies and secluded forests. You can buy bare land to custom build your dream cabin, land with existing homes, large ranches and farms, and vacant plots for commercial use. There are tons of options depending on your budget and what you want to use the land for.

How expensive is Colorado land compared to other states?

On average, land in Colorado costs around $2,100 per acre, which is cheaper than a lot of other states, especially along the coasts or large cities out East. But prices vary a lot based on factors like location within CO, property improvements, land use, market conditions, etc. Rural farmland can be found for $2K-$10K per acre while development land near Denver can be $200K+. either way, some good deals exist!

Is buying land in Colorado a good investment?

History shows both rural and urban CO land appreciates nicely over decades, making it a relatively safe long term investment - if global economic factors cooperate of course! Development land near growing Front Range cities can be extremely lucrative. And even lower-cost farms/ranches have seen values inch up over time. So if investment return is important, land here makes sense compared to other parts of the US.

What challenges or downsides might I face buying Colorado land?

Great question! Cons can include long harsh winters if in the mountains, lack of cell/internet in rural areas, large distances to airports & cities, potential water scarcity issues, winding roads to properties etc. But being informed about possible downsides ahead of time allows you to weigh the pros/cons and prepare properly. Partnering with a knowledgeable land specialist assists hugely as well.

What tips do you have for buying land wisely in CO?

Researching zoning rules, access roads, utility availability, market conditions etc. in target areas beforehand. Also inspect parcels across seasons to confirm usability year-round. Paying for professional land assessments provides peace of mind too. And above all, connect with an experienced land acquisition firm to guide you, since they handle everything from property vetting to contract details and closing!

About The Author

Bart Waldon

Bart, co-founder of Land Boss with wife Dallas Waldon, boasts over half a decade in real estate. With 100+ successful land transactions nationwide, his expertise and hands-on approach solidify Land Boss as a leading player in land investment.


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