Why he ditched the Bay Area for Colorado — buying a house in 15 minutes - MarketWatch MarketWatch Site Logo MarketWatch logo
After 8 years in the Bay Area, web designer Mike Rothermel, who’s in his mid-40s,his wife and 9 year-old daughter realized their time in the tech capital had expired. Fed up with the Bay Area’s high prices and harder lifestyle, Rothermel craved the ease of life and lower costs in Boulder, where he’d grown up.“Everything costs less and people are less competitive. You don’t have to make more than your neighbor or drive a better car. We don’t feel that pressure here,” says Rothermel of Boulder.
Thanks to the pandemic, the family bought a house sight unseen — a trend that’s increasingly happened over the last year. “I grew up in Boulder, so we called our old realtor and looked at some houses on video and after seeing one of them for 15 minutes, we put an offer in. We didn’t even see it in person until we closed and owned it,” says Rothermel. When moving into a somewhat competitive market like Boulder County, Rothermel said a short video walkthrough is what had to be done. “Even though it’s not as hot as the market in California, there are usually multiple offers within 24 hours of a house being listed on MLS and we needed to win,” says Rothermel.
Now living and working in Boulder — Rothermel’s employer allows all employees to work anywhere now — he has come to appreciate the slower paced lifestyle. “There’s less people and the people in Colorado are more relaxed. I can still go to the local hardware store and park right in front. In the Bay Area, you have to circle the Home Depot parking lot a couple times before you find a spot and then you have to worry that your car will be broken into,” says Rothermel.
Something that struck him after they moved was that their new neighbors knocked on their door to say hi and welcomed his family with handwritten notes and fresh homemade pastries. “You can assume everyone in Boulder is nice, until you have a reason to think otherwise. There’s a sense of community and longevity, that people are here to live, not just make money in tech,” says Rothermel.
It’s also a move that saves him money. He’s now living in a house that’s three times the size and a third as old for less money than he was paying in the Bay Area. “We had to go buy furniture because when we unpacked we realized every closet wasn’t full to the brim,” says Rothermel. Another bonus, “Everything is cheaper in Colorado,” he says. From real estate to gas, groceries and meals at restaurants, the cost of living is less all around.
Rothermel says there are things he misses about the Bay Area, including “friends and a couple favorite restaurants.” But he adds: “I don’t miss traffic, crime or taxes.”(Indeed, Boulder has a lower crime rate than San Francisco and commute times are shorter, according to Sperling’s Best Places, and Colorado’s income tax is significantly lower than California’s top tax rates.That said, the cultural offerings in the Bay Area are top-notch, and it has plenty of other perks, too.)
Dreaming of moving to a less pricey city too?Here are some resources to help you make that decision