Folks wanting to buy in rural Boulder County are often frustrated by the lack of properties on the market and wonder why there are so few. As a Boulder County rural property broker for more than 30 years, I have seen the changes that have led to this situation. Let me explain.
I started my career by working with elderly farmers who were too old to continue working, many who were second or third generation owners of their land, some descendants of the original homesteaders. They were a special generation of people that made up the rural history of Boulder County. Over the years, I bonded with these people and they with me. They were very similar to my grandparents in Canada who owned a dairy farm in Alberta. They made me feel like I had family close by.
Some farmers I worked with needed money to survive the rising costs of owning and operating a farm in Boulder County. I helped many of these farmers ease their financial burdens by negotiating conservation easements on their properties. But others had to outright sell their farms. Some of these sold properties were bought by other farmers, but mostly they were acquired by city folks wanting to experience life in the country. But back then there were far less city folks competing for country properties than there are now.
But by far the biggest competitor that has affected the rural market is Boulder County Open Space. They have completely changed the landscape of rural Boulder County with their ongoing purchases, and I’ve found most locals are completely unaware of this. Boulder County has deep pockets and can easily and usually does outbid regular buyers. Boulder County spends taxpayers’ money to pluck the most prime pieces of land, driving up values in the process and removing more properties from the marketplace. Currently they own somewhere between half and two-thirds of all rural Boulder County land. And of course, it’s not like we can make more land.
Between buying up land and imposing tough building regulations (stricter than in the City of Boulder), it seems Boulder County does not want families taking up residence on rural properties. This is truly sad, as some of our most wonderful farmland is not being utilized and our small farm and ranch heritage is being lost.
Thus, after decades of homestead properties being bought by Boulder County, there are simply way fewer properties left, and this number will only continue to get smaller and smaller as time goes on. Add to this fact that privately owned rural properties do not change hands as often as urban ones and you can see why there are so few rural properties for sale at any given time. Additionally, while there is less inventory every year, there is an ever increasing amount of city folks competing to purchase them.
One can appreciate why rural buyers have to make some concessions from their idyllic visions when looking at properties. They need to consider what changes can be made to improve not-currently-perfect properties that are in a good location (the most important factor when buying). Boulder County Land Use has succeeded in intimidating future landowners but the process to make improvements is actually quite doable. There are strict rules one needs to navigate within those, but an experienced rural broker can help you understand these. Unfortunately, we can’t make any more land but we can improve current properties.
By Karen Libin. Karen is the owner and managing broker of KL Realty, and has more than 29 years of experience in the Boulder County real estate market. Contact Karen at KL Realty, call 303.444.3177, e-mail [email protected] or visit klrealty.net.