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Lending Tree ranked the 50 most expensive towns in the US by looking at home values and median income to determine affordability. My top three choices in Colorado for least affordable markets would be: Aspen, Telluride, and Vail; not one was on the list! Who made the list? How accurate is the analysis?
How was the list calculated?
Lending Tree determined the median home price and income to determine affordability based on median rents and median mortgage payments. They then organized the top towns based on “least” affordable for residents in each of the various towns.
Who made the top 10 list?
- Vineyard Haven, MA
- Summit Park, UT
- Breckenridge, CO
- Jackson, WY
- Steamboat Springs, CO
- Heber, UT
- Juneau, AK
- Hood River, OR
- Hailey, ID
- Easton, MD
Two of Colorado’s ski towns made the list, Breckenridge and Steamboat. Both are expensive ski towns, but I am very surprised that they were in the top 10 on the list. I would have thought Aspen would have been top on the list with a median home price of 1.6m and median income around 65,000.
Two red flags in the study
The first red flag was that Vail, Aspen, and/or Telluride were not on the list. They are all very expensive markets with much higher median home prices than the ones in the study above. The second red flag were two additional Colorado cities that were on the list: Montrose, CO (29th) and Craig, CO (50th). Both cities are very affordable with median home prices under 200k. The low cost of living is what is attracting residents to these two cities. For example, many Craig residents commute into Steamboat as prices are considerably lower. Montrose on the other hand is attracting many Denver residents that could sell their houses and then pay cash for a house in Montrose
The lending tree analysis to determine the most expensive towns in the United States is deeply flawed:
- More expensive towns are excluded: If the purpose of the study is to name the top 50 most expensive towns, then why are the most expensive towns not even included like Aspen, Vail, Telluride, Park City and countless others.
- Median incomes are incorrect: The study includes only individual median income. For example in Breckenridge the individual median income is 31k while the joint median income is 54k. If you are single, you could theoretically get a roommate, why would someone need to buy the median home which has 3 bedrooms? If joint median income is included the affordability changes considerably
- Study makes no sense: I’ve read through the study multiple times and it just doesn’t appear to pass the basic smell test. I’ve done loans in all the towns mentioned in Colorado and I can’t understand how either Montrose or Craig are on any list of expensive places to live in Colorado, let alone on a national scale.
Although the headlines were novel and got picked up in various papers throughout Colorado, the results of the study are deeply flawed. Breckenridge and Steamboat Springs are expensive places to live, but not in relation to many other ski towns in Colorado and throughout the Western United States. Don’t believe the headlines, Breckenridge and Steamboat are not in the top ten most expensive places to live in the United States, they are likely somewhere near the bottom of the 50 most expensive places to live with Aspen and Telluride leading the way.
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Written by Glen Weinberg, COO/ VP Fairview Commercial Lending. Glen has been published as an expert in hard money lending, real estate valuation, financing, and various other real estate topics in the Colorado Real Estate Journal, the CO Biz Magazine, The Denver Post, The Scotsman mortgage broker guide, Mortgage Professional America and various other national publications.
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