East Coast vs. the Rocky Mountains? Fast-paced vs. laid-back? Entertainment and culture vs. the great outdoors?
For people contemplating moving from New York City to Denver, these considerations are paramount. But when you consider the cost of living, favorable climate, and work-life balance, it’s easy to see why New Yorkers pull up stakes and make the move west.
According to Axios, more people are moving to Colorado than leaving. The burgeoning tech industry is committed to recruiting and retaining workers along the Front Range, especially when flexible work schedules are offered by many employers.
The Centennial State continues to attract young, rich talent. While housing costs exploded during the pandemic, residential real estate in Denver is still more affordable compared to New York prices.
When moving from New York to Denver, it’s good to know what to expect. Usaj Realty broker and New York native Irene Schiavo relocated to Denver 12 years ago and has never looked back. While she still misses her family and friends in Manhattan, she is a strong advocate for the Colorado lifestyle.
Below she reflects on the differences between New York City and Denver, and what people can expect when moving from New York to Denver.
How does the New York real estate market compare to Denver?
It’s nearly impossible to compare these two markets without addressing the differences in population and area. According to the 2020 census, Manhattan is home to about 1.6 million people, on only a mere 22 square miles. Combined, the other 4 boroughs are about 275 square miles with a population near 7.2 million people. The suburbs of NYC extend across three states, known as the tri-state area, made up of bedroom communities with easy access to the city. When accounting for this area, the population increases to 20 million. Comparing that to Denver, with a metro area of 8,400 square miles and a population of 2.6 million people, there is quite a discrepancy in size and density.
In Denver, sales and inventory have decreased since the pandemic. In September of 2022, the New York real estate investment firm NORADA reported that there was no change in New York home prices compared to the year prior. The median selling price was $800,000 and inventory and price per square foot both decreased. Specific to the NYC market, trends were the same, with the median sale price being $635,000. It is critical to note that the averages are being driven by wide ranges in prices as neighborhoods and amenities vary greatly.
The pandemic did result in a significant number of people looking to relocate, many to the surrounding suburbs (as more space was needed and working from home became the norm).
Another major factor in housing costs are property taxes and HOA/co-op fees. In the suburbs of NYC, it is common for annual taxes on a single-family house to range between $10,000 and $25,000.
NYC is also home to many co-ops as well as condominiums. Knowing and understanding the difference between the two is helpful when deciding on where to live.
What do you think is the biggest adjustment people in New York will have to make when they move to Denver?
While I can’t speak for all transplants, my biggest adjustment was to the lack of water, the smaller scale of the Denver metro area, and how different the culture is in general. For example, NYC and the surrounding areas are made up of many diverse ethnic enclaves, the pace is faster (unless, of course, you’re stuck in unavoidable traffic), and in general, people are more direct.
Upon relocating to Denver, I took a proactive role in seeking out communities that felt like home, while simultaneously immersing myself in the Colorado culture, and learning and growing along the way. For example, I am a proud owner of snowshoes and yak trax, have tried fry bread, bought hatch chiles and peaches from the side of the road, and have learned about and honored influential people who helped shape the landscape of Colorful Colorado.
I have been in Denver for 12 years, and during this time have seen the community transform. The performing arts scene has grown, the food scene has developed considerably, the traffic has increased (feels like home!) and public transportation has improved. Denver is on its way to becoming a cosmopolitan metropolis.
Describe some of the popular neighborhoods in Denver and how they compare to areas in New York
It should be of no surprise that my preferred neighborhoods in Denver feel and look like neighborhoods in NYC. I recently showed a client an apartment in The Perrenoud Building on 17th Ave. The client, having been raised in a suburb of NYC, and I instantly fell in love with this building, designed and built by the Perrenoud sisters in 1901. The building has an original birdcage elevator, mosaic tile floors, hand-carved wooden banisters and built-ins in each apartment. We felt like we were in a pre-war building in Manhattan.
In short, I would say that the older and established neighborhoods around town feel most like NY – Congress Park, Park Hill, Highlands and Cap Hill. The mature trees and sidewalks with a diverse representation of residents are most like NYC neighborhoods.
Describe the restaurant and entertainment scene in New York compared to that of Denver
This may be my favorite question to answer because, well, I love to eat, listen to live music, and attend Broadway shows and sporting events. Again, the scale of these activities in Denver is much smaller than in NYC. The Big Apple is home to more than nine professional sports teams, Broadway and the Theater District, NYC Ballet, Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall, not to mention many smaller venues for live music, so there is never a shortage of entertainment at your fingertips in NYC.
While NYC is home to many Michelin-rated restaurants, in my opinion, the prize gem of dining lies in hole-in-the-wall restaurants scattered throughout family neighborhoods. You can quite literally take a culinary tour of the United Nations through the various neighborhoods, savoring flavors and textures from around the world. Plus…bagels and pizza. No explanation necessary.
The Denver food scene, while different from NYC, has made its mark. Denver is home to many exceptional dining experiences from Uchi Sushi to hole-in-the-wall restaurants like 9Thai on Colfax. There are top-notch steak houses, farm-to-table establishments, and some of the best breakfast burritos I’ve ever had.
I feel fortunate that many musicians and bands I enjoy make a stop in Denver on their national and world tours. I recently discovered and started frequenting Sofar shows…if you haven’t been to one, be sure to check it out. Up-and-coming artists share their craft, be it spoken word or music, in a secret, intimate setting. Plus…we have Red Rocks! There are not many places where I can do sun-rise yoga and stay for a concert later in the day. I also love that Denver is home to all major sports – it’s a great way to build community.
Denver and NYC are both home to a variety of expertly curated museums. I love visiting the traveling exhibits at the Denver Art Museum and learned so much about Colorado at the History Colorado Museum. My favorite museums in NYC are Ellis Island, the Tenement Museum and the Transit Museum. The last three highlight my favorite period in time and I love to imagine what life was like for my grandparents walking the cobblestone streets of lower Manhattan.
What is the biggest upside and downside to moving from New York to Denver?
Without a doubt, the lack of traffic, lower cost of living, and the weather! While NYC boasts one of the best public transportation systems worldwide, car travel will cost you in time and money. The weather, oh the weather! So many days of sunshine here in Colorado! With the mild climate, and how rapidly the snow melts, each snowfall feels like it’s the first of the season.
The biggest downside to moving from New York to Denver is personal as most of my family and many friends still reside in and around NYC. I miss them terribly, but I am fortunate to return a few times a year to see everyone, enjoy the food and, well, honk the car horn incessantly!
What is your best advice for people moving from New York to Denver?
Enjoy it! Yes, the people here really are this nice. Between the locals and the many transplants, it is easy to make friends in Denver as well as finding your community & space. Oh…and don’t forget the lotion. Buy all of the lotion you can and a humidifier – the arid climate will do a number on your skin.