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Institutional Investors and Second Homes in Boulder, Colorado

In addition to being a professional real estate agent, I also study housing in Boulder. I recently published a report on changing patterns of ownership in the city. Specifically, the report dives into the rise of institutional investors buying multifamily property and affluent buyers purchasing second homes. The research is all original and the first of its kind. Below is a brief, simplified summary.

The full report is linked here


Changing Patterns of Ownership in Boulder: What It Means for Our Community

In recent years, Boulder has seen significant changes in who owns our homes and rental properties. These changes, driven by broader economic trends, have the potential to reshape our community in many ways. As a local real estate professional, I want to share what these changes mean for Boulder and how we can work together to ensure a bright future for our city.

The Growing Presence of Institutional Investors

Over the past decade, large institutional investors, such as investment firms and real estate trusts, have increasingly purchased multifamily rental properties in Boulder. These investors bring some benefits, such as professional management. However, their focus on maximizing returns can sometimes lead to higher rents and reduced maintenance compared to traditional landlords.

Here in Boulder, notable properties like The Providence and The Lotus have been acquired by institutional investors like Blackstone. While these investments indicate confidence in our local market, it's important to balance their presence with the needs of our community.

One poignant example of this shift is the transformation of First Christian Church into The Providence, now owned by Blackstone. First Christian Church, which once sold its building to fund new projects and social initiatives, eventually saw this property transformed into a high-value investment. This change symbolizes the broader trend of community-centered spaces becoming investment assets, which can impact the local social fabric.

Local policymakers have several tools at their disposal to help maintain this balance. For example, rent control measures can ensure housing remains affordable, while incentives for local investors can encourage a more diverse ownership landscape. 

The Rise in Second Homeownership

The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to an increase in second home purchases in Boulder. With many people seeking a change of scenery and the benefits of our beautiful surroundings, it's no surprise that demand for second homes has grown. This trend has driven up housing prices, making it harder for local workers to afford homes.

From 2021 to 2023, the median price of a single-family home in Boulder rose by 49%. While this is great news for homeowners seeing their property values increase, it does create challenges for those looking to buy their first home or move within the community.

Boulder is currently exploring a Residential Vacancy Tax to address the issue of vacant homes, many of which are second homes. This tax could encourage owners to rent out or sell unused properties, increasing the available housing supply. It's a step towards ensuring that our housing market serves everyone, from long-time residents to newcomers.

Downstream Impacts on the Community

The changing ownership patterns in Boulder have several downstream impacts on our community. For example, the rise of vacant homes can constrain housing supply, making it even more challenging for local residents to find affordable housing. This can lead to higher rents and home prices, pushing out essential workers who are vital to the local economy.

Additionally, the presence of vacant homes affects local services and infrastructure. Schools, in particular, struggle with declining enrollments as families find it harder to live in Boulder. From 2020 to 2023, the Boulder Valley School District saw a significant drop in student numbers, impacting funding and leading to potential cuts in programs and staff.

The local economy also feels the strain, as reduced sales and use tax revenue from fewer full-time residents affects municipal budgets. This can hinder the city’s ability to provide essential services and respond to urgent community needs.

Supporting Our Workforce

To keep Boulder a vibrant and inclusive community, it's crucial to prioritize housing for our workforce. This includes building smaller, more affordable homes and making better use of our existing residential zones. Recent policy changes, such as allowing accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and increasing occupancy limits, are positive steps in this direction.

There are additional opportunities to explore, like allowing more flexibility in housing types and densities in certain areas. These changes can help create more affordable housing options without drastically altering the character of our neighborhoods.

Looking Ahead

The changing patterns of property ownership in Boulder present both opportunities and challenges. By working together—homeowners, investors, policymakers, and community members—we can navigate these changes in a way that benefits everyone.

As a real estate professional, I'm committed to staying informed about these trends and advocating for policies that support a balanced and thriving housing market. Let's continue to make Boulder a great place to live, work, and invest, ensuring a bright future for all.

Thank you for being part of this journey and for your commitment to our wonderful community. If you have any questions or thoughts on this topic, please don't hesitate to reach out. Together, we can make a difference.

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