|Squeezed: How much apartment will $1,500 get you in Boulder County? Not much
Renters get less for more as apartments shrink
By Shay Castle
What can you rent in the Boulder Valley for $1,500?
Erie: 1,360 square feet / $1.10 per-square-foot average
Longmont: 1,200 sq. ft. / $1.25
Lafayette: 1,150 sq. ft. / $1.30
Broomfield: 1,100 sq. ft. / $1.36
Louisville: 1,050 sq. ft. / $1.43
Boulder County: 870 sq. ft. / $1.73
Denver (city): 840 sq. ft. / $1.78
Boulder (city): 760 sq. ft. / $1.99
Just how much apartment will $1,500 a month get you in the Boulder Valley? That depends on where you’re looking.
In Erie, for example, that amount can rent a roomy 1,360 square feet, according to a recent report from online rental marketplace Apartment List — enough for three bedrooms, a couple of bathrooms and a decent-size kitchen.
Renters in the city of Boulder will be a bit more squeezed: $1,500 a month will afford just 760 square feet of space.
That’s decidedly more than the shoeboxes available in New York or San Francisco for that price (340 square feet, in case you’re wondering). Still, Boulder apartments remain among the most costly in the state, fetching more than comparable units in Denver, itself among the priciest markets in the country, alongside major metros like Boston, L.A. and Washington, D.C.
“Apartments tend to be smaller in the most expensive markets,” said Chris Salviati, who authored the study for Apartment List, so the disparities “are more extreme.”
For example, he said, Denver — where $1,500 a month pays for 840 square feet of living space — is 2.1 times more expensive than Indianapolis, the most affordable of the major metros at 1,770 square feet for $1,500.
In fact, compared to Denver, the rest of Boulder County is a steal. Apartments in Louisville at that price average 1,050 square feet; in Lafayette, 1,150. Longmonters can call 1,200 square feet home for $1,500 per month.
But generally, the trend across the nation has been one of renters paying more for less. In 2006, the average apartment was 1,015 square feet. Ten years later, that had shrunk 8 percent, to 934, according to leasing platform Rent Cafe, an affiliate of real estate software company Yardi.
Meanwhile, median rents during that time rose 41 percent, from around $600 in 2006 to just shy of $850 in 2016, according to Census Bureau data compiled by Time magazine.
In response to increasing costs, many renters locally are fitting more people into apartments, said Bob Danos, owner of Longmont property management company PML.
“I’m seeing a lot more two-family households under one roof, splitting the rent,” Danos said. “A lot more people with roommates than what you’d see before.”
Danos said Apartment List’s per-square-foot figures sounded “a little high,” arguing that Longmont, for instance, was in the $1 to $1.10 range on average. (Apartment List has before admitted that listings for luxury units skew its data, and has taken steps to correct that imbalance.)
Prospective tenants don’t typically inquire about price per square foot, Danos said, nor are they considering the total square footage. Typically, the most important factors are numbers of bedrooms or bathrooms.
Apartment List’s Salviata said it is important to visualize rental costs in this way because it throws into relief just how expensive things have gotten.
“Stating it in terms of the number of square feet you can get a fixed price point helps put the disparities across markets into a unique perspective,” he said. “Most people have a sense, for example, that apartments in Denver are (less) expensive than those in San Francisco, but probably don’t realize that in Denver you get 2.5 times more space for the same price.”
Shay Castle: 303-473-1626, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/shayshinecastle