It’s not just urban legend that young families leave Colorado in despair when they realize the unaffordability of a new home on the Front Range. Mission Homes co-founder David Gregg recalls one of the company’s first closings: “A newlywed couple bought one of our homes and thanked us over and over. They were almost ready to move to the Midwest because they couldn’t find an affordable home to buy until they found us.”

This story is not unique. If you’ve tested the home-buying waters in either Boulder or Denver metro areas, you know that inventory is way down while prices are touching the sky. The market has pushed first-time homebuyers to the margins.

Mission Homes Colorado, with deep roots in Berthoud and an ironclad commitment to charitable giving, builds energy-efficient, two-bedroom cottages in four models ranging from 900 to 1,200 square feet and starting in the mid $200s. In fact, there are 36 Mission Homes cottages coming soon, including eight main-floor ranches, at the master-planned PrairieStar community in Berthoud.

Berthoud at a Glance

Berthoud, a statutory town in Larimer and Weld counties, is home to nearly 10,000 people. “The town is going through a growth spurt,” Gregg says, “later in life than neighboring communities like Windsor and Erie.” When the housing recession tore through the Colorado market in 2008-2011, projects that were about to start in Berthoud were shelved,” he recalls. “We’re seeing those projects happening now, and it’s good for the town’s finances and supports local jobs. There’s a lot of effort at the town level on the part of elected officials and staff to maintain the quaint character of the downtown area.”

So what about these Mission Homes “cottages”? Three models—the Elliot, Taylor, and Livingstone—are two-story, two-bedroom plans with variations on the number of bathrooms and square footage between 928 and 1,184. The Saint is the company’s ranch-plan cottage offering two bedrooms and two bathrooms for those wanting complete main-floor living. Each plan is designed to be inherently livable, equipped with a full-sized, fully functional kitchen and enough space for traditional furniture pieces such as sectional couches and queen-sized beds. “We consider the houses we build authentically affordable,” says Mission Homes’ Director of Operations D.J. Gregg. “Their attainability is due to a choice to design homes smaller than the typical new home, but in doing so, we’re ensuring that buyers are not asked to give up functionality or full-size features.” Mission Homes’ cottages start nearly $150,000 lower than the average home sold in Larimer County, according to D.J.

First-time homebuyers, young professionals, young families, retirees and downsizers all will find their place in a Mission Homes cottage. The cottages are designed to benefit anyone who wants to spend less money on their home and invest more time enjoying life. “We want teachers, first responders, clergy, veterans, senior citizens, and anyone whose only present choice is to rent or live outside of Berthoud to be our neighbors,” says co-founder Stephanie Gregg. “If the only financial choice available to you is to rent or live outside of Berthoud, one of our Mission Homes cottages may be a perfect fit.”

Two words you hear a lot in Colorado are “affordable housing.” Yes, it exists, but in nearly all cases those homes are only for rent and subsidized by local housing authorities with income limitations enforced on tenants. Where the homes are for sale, deed restrictions ensure a buyer can’t come in and flip them for big profits. Regardless of how much equity a buyer may have in the home, the deed restriction, not the market, dictates the resale value. For some, that’s not an attractive proposition.

Affordably built, affordably owned homes not offered by municipal authorities just aren’t found on the Front Range. And that’s what makes a Mission Homes cottage so special. David Gregg brought his 30 years in architecture and homebuilding in Colorado to their new venture in 2018 with a sense of purpose about serving a population that the industry at large is ignoring. “I fell in love with the simplicity of cottages, and I wanted to pursue them exclusively as a narrow-focused building model,” he explains.

Mission Homes presold all of its first 52 cottages with little money spent on advertising. The cost savings of relying on word-of-mouth advertising and referrals instead of big-budget marketing endeavors are passed on to their buyers. The company has hosted municipal housing authorities and state legislators alike, all wanting to learn more about the cottages and the business model, which is decidedly people-first. Every aspect of the cottages is scrutinized for efficiency because the goal is a home that’s affordable to live in, not just to buy. For example, Mission Homes uses a 50-year roof shingle, its foundations are designed far more conservatively than the industry standard, and it uses rebar in its concrete slabs and sidewalks, which is becoming a rarity. The company does not skimp on high-efficiency furnaces and tankless hot water heaters; the average anticipated monthly energy costs are around $70.

Homeowners aren’t the only ones who benefit from the sale of a Mission Homes cottage. The company gives 25 percent of the net profits of the sale of a home to 10 local, regional, and international nonprofit organizations. Buyers have the opportunity to choose from Berthoud nonprofits to receive their new home’s designated portion of those profits.

It may be obvious to readers by now that there’s something more going on with Mission Homes than making money hand over fist. “Our Christian faith teaches us to help the needy and care for the poor and teaches that much is expected from those who receive many blessings,” says David. “My wife Stephanie and I have set up our company according to ‘conscious capitalism’ principles, following the examples of companies we admire such as Toms and Bombas.”

So, before you give up on the Front Range and hit the trail for cheaper pastures, consider Mission Homes Colorado. With their gorgeous cottages, their charitable heartbeat, and their intention to make dwellings authentically affordable for those in need, a new home might be a lot closer than you think.

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By Darren Thornberry, At Home Colorado. Photos by Jonathan Castner.