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Jefferson County

Jefferson County: Gateway to the Rockies


Jefferson County: Gateway to the Rockies

Known as the “gateway to the Rockies,” Jefferson County is centrally located, with downtown Denver to the east and the magnificent Rocky Mountains to the west.

Jefferson County

The supermoon of may 2012 lights up the night sky above the city of Golden and metro Denver Colorado on a gorgeous evening in May.

If you’re looking to enjoy the quieter life of the suburbs, Jefferson County is a great place to live. Spanning 773-square-miles, Jeffco has something for everyone. From more urban feeling areas bordering the city to rural areas further north to quintessential suburbs to the south and mountains to the west, it really does have it all.

Officially formed as the Territory of Jefferson in 1859, Jeffco has its roots in mining and agriculture.

With a population of more than 565,000, Jeffco is the fourth largest county in the state. Based on the most recent census data, Jeffco had an annual growth rate of approximately 0.17 percent from 2000 to 2011, which is slower than anticipated. The unincorporated areas of the county saw a growth rate of around four percent, while many of the cities saw a decline in their populations.

Within Jefferson County are several cities and towns, including Arvada, Edgewater, Golden, Lakewood, parts of Westminster and Wheat Ridge.

Additionally, unincorporated areas of the county include Applewood, Conifer, Evergreen, Genesee, and parts of Littleton. The unincorporated population is roughly 188,000, or 35 percent, while the city of Lakewood is the largest municipality with around 143,200 people, or 27 percent of the population. According to the Jefferson Economic Council, the median home price in Jefferson County is $293,926. The Jefferson County Planning & Zoning division has more detailed demographic information if you are interested in additional specifics.

Jefferson County is served by a public school system that has several nationally recognized schools.

It is also home to several institutes of higher education, including Red Rocks Community College, Front Range Community College, Colorado Christian University, Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, and the renowned Colorado School of Mines. The county also boasts a highly educated workforce, with more than 40 percent of the population who have a Bachelor’s degree or higher.

For lifelong learners, Jefferson County has a first-class public library system

It includes 10 locations, a Bookmobile, and an online library. In addition to both a print and digital catalog of 1.1 million items, Jefferson County Public Library offers storytimes for families, programs for teens and adults, and technology courses for those looking to improve their computer literacy skills.

For those that enjoy the great outdoors, Jefferson County has a world-class Open Space system.

There are 29 parks that cover 54,000 acres that provide access to hiking, biking, camping, picnicking, and more.

Jefferson County

The Jefferson County Courthouse is nestled at the edge of the foothills just south of Golden, Colorado

If you’re looking for more contained places to explore, Jeffco has plenty to offer, including the Colorado Railroad Museum, Butterfly Pavilion, Bandimere Speedway, Lakeside Amusement Park, Coors Brewery, and more. For entertainment buffs, Jefferson County is home to one of the world’s most famous music venues: Red Rocks Amphitheater. The Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities also offers first class concerts and theatrical performances.

As you can see, Jefferson County has something for everyone. If you’re looking for a little more background on some of the cities and towns in Jeffco, check out our list. If you’re interested in learning what your commute might look like, check out my post on Denver Traffic.

Have unanswered questions about Jeffco? Contact us in the comments section below.

Huge Hail

The Weather in Colorado is Perfect – Except for Hail

Colorado has amazing weather, except for the hail.

It’s hard to beat 300+ days of sun a year! We also have very low humidity, which makes even our hottest days far more comfortable than the claustrophobic humidity of the Midwest.

Once a year we might get a full week above 90f or below 20f, but other than that, the temperature is mild both in summer and winter. If we have a day that is extreme hot or cold it generally only lasts a day and maybe not even the full day.

You will often hear the saying “Don’t like the weather in Colorado? – Wait 5 minutes, it will change.”

Colorado weather is perfect – except the hail.

Hail in Denver

We don’t often get hail this large in Colorado, but it can happen!
Image courtesy of

Since 2008, each summer the Denver Metro area gets hit with several hail storms that have caused millions of dollars of damage to homes and cars—all in about 5 to 10 minutes!

The most recent storm on May 8, 2017, caused an estimated $1.5 Billion of damage in less than 15 minutes.

Clients moving from the Chicago area often ask me, “Why is insurance so expensive here?”

The simple answer: hail.

A roof should last about 30 years but in the metro area they end up getting replaced every 10-15 years.

Auto body shops have more business than they can handle after a hail storm. Customers often have to wait 2-3 months to get their car repaired.

What does this mean for you? Be prepared to pay a little more for your insurance when you move to Colorado. Also make sure you know how your coverage works as some policies do not cover 100% of hail damage.

There are ways to keep you rates down.

One is to go with a cut-rate insurance company with the lowest possible rates. However, is it worth saving a hundred dollars on your annual premium if it leaves you exposed to thousands of dollars of losses if worst comes to worst?

At my agency, I offer policies that offer comprehensive coverage for my clients at affordable prices. When the hail hits (and it will), they’re covered. It’s worth a bit more out-of-pocket to know you’re secure.

Hail in Denver

Hail-damaged trucks at a local dealership.
Image courtesy of Automotive News

Don’t let the cost of insurance discourage you from your decision to Colorado.

The many pros outweigh the few cons.

If you want to know what you’ll pay for insurance on a home in Colorado, I’d love to help you evaluate your options before you arrive so you that you can factor those costs into your budget. Whether you’re planning to rent or purchase a home, I’ll partner with you to make sure you’re protected.

Questions about Colorado’s weather, hail, or insurance in general? You can reach me through my signature, or leave me a comment below.

Tiny House

Could a Tiny House be the Solution to Denver’s High Realestate Prices?

If you are thinking of moving from Chicago to Denver or have just moved, buying a home within your budget can be a challenge. A tiny house might just be the solution.

The home prices may be a shock for you Chicagoans – the median prices for the Denver metro area is $487,794 and for the Chicago area is $222,700.

One option many transplants have considered since Colorado has a lot more land available is a tiny house. 

Tiny House

Could a Tiny House be the solution to the high-priced Denver housing market?

A tiny house is a structure that is roughly 100-500 square feet. They’ve gained in popularity in recent years, both because they are more economical than larger homes, and because of exposure on television shows such as those on HGTV.

There are two common problems with tiny houses: 

  1. How do you pay for a tiny house?
  2. Where do you put the tiny house?

How do you pay for a tiny house?

There are 2 options, cash or loan.  If you have cash to purchase your tiny house – CONGRATULATIONS.  You are on your way to financial freedom.

If you need a loan, you’re going to have some obstacles to overcome. Houses under 500 square feet cannot be appraised.  There aren’t enough of them out there for lenders to obtain reliable appraisal based comparable sales.  As popularity grows for tiny house purchases and more sales data gets out there, lenders may loosen guidelines and start offering more loans on tiny houses.

You may have the option of getting a loan through a non-traditional mortgage provider, such as a portfolio lender or a credit union. Portfolio lenders lend their own money (or money from a pool of investors) and don’t play by the same rules as larger banks. Just expect to put down more money (20% or more) and get a higher interest rate than on a traditional mortgage.

Where do you put the tiny house?

If you’re looking to move your tiny house to the City and County of Denver – Good news – they are allowed.  However, some tiny houses do not align with city codes.  If a RV or mobile home park isn’t what you are looking for, you will have to purchase a house that is run down and needs to be demolished or find available land.  There are some cities, like the  City of Loveland, that are working with tiny home owners by creating spots to place them.  For one night if your tiny house is self-contained (it has a toilet, gray water holding tanks, and you need no hook-ups), try Harvest Hosts or Boondockers or Gamping.

There are several things to consider when purchasing a tiny house.  Make sure you have done your research so that you follow your preferred city and county codes and regulations.

You’ll also want to talk to an expert—someone who can guide you through the process from one end to the other. As a realtor working in the Denver market, I can help answer your questions and assist you in finding the perfect home to meet your needs. You can reach out to me through my signature, or through the comments section below.

Human hand working with laptop networking technology

Why the Colorado DMV is Worse than the Illinois DMV

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Denver and Colorado in general have a lot to offer a Chicago transplant.

Here’s a short, not-even-close to comprehensive list:

Needless to say, there’s a reason why many Chicagoans are moving to Denver Colorado!

However, there’s one surprising place Illinois has Colorado beat: The DMV

Yes, you read that right.

Colorado has a worse DMV than Illinois. You might be asking how that’s possible. As a long-time Chicago resident, I spent unrecoverable days’ worth of my life in seemingly endless lines at the Lexington Street Secretary of State Facility. I’d rank going to the DMV right up there with filing my taxes and getting a root canal.

So how can the Colorado DMV be worse than Illinois?

If you’ve spent any time in Illinois, you know doubt have heard the name Jesse White, the Secretary of State. His name was plastered on express ways signs, outside and inside the DMV, as well as other government offices. There was even a lawsuit about it years ago, that resulted in the state court deciding politicians could no longer put their name on tax-funded signage.

One Surprising Way Illinois has Colorado Beat

Illinois Secretary of State, Jesse White

Love or hate the guy, (and opinions certainly vary), Jesse White did one thing well: reform the Illinois DMV. Long, long lines become far shorter. Time spent at the DMV went from hours to thirty minutes or less on a good day. The improvements were noticeable across all Secretary of State Offices in the Chicagoland area.

Someone needs to do the same thing here in Colorado.

When I first moved to Colorado, I felt so proud of my new state that I wanted a new mountain-green license in my wallet. So days after moving into my short-term apartment, I perused the Colorado Department of Revenue webpage, made a list of the required paperwork to get a new-resident license, and arrived at the Golden CO DMV location bright-and-early on a Monday morning. I smiled at the man who opened the doors for the thirty of us lined up outside. I had my paperwork in hand, and despite the throng of other people entering the facility, wasn’t planning on letting this bureaucratic necessity put a dent in my mood.

I could see the north face of Green Mountain from the parking lot. I’d biked those trails just the day before. I was in Colorado. The start of a new, exciting life that I’d put several years into making happen. I wanted to be here, and no amount of paperwork or dealing with steely-faced bureaucrats was going to change that!

And then the man who opened the door pre-screened my paperwork and sent me home without a license. Why? Because in Colorado, you must provide proof of your social security number when getting a new license. I pulled up the Department of Revenue webpage on my phone, and scanned the same information I’d read before drive out to the DMV. Sure enough, I found the requirement, after nearly ten minutes of searching.

It wasn’t very clear on the webpage, which they have since changed. It’s still not great. Here’s what it says, verbatim:

The Identification Requirements chart shows the documents you need to present to a driver license employee to prove the following elements: full legal name, date of birth, identity and lawful presence. In some cases, a single document may be all you need. However, you may need to bring multiple documents to prove all four elements. All documents presented must be certified originals, certified amended originals or true copies certified by the issuing agency. If you cannot prove each of the required elements with the documents set forth in the chart, then you may be referred to Exceptions Processing to prove the required elements with additional/alternative documents.

You will need to present your proof of your Social Security number.

Proof of address and appropriate payment is also required. Your local driver license office can provide more information.

Why is the proof of SSA requirement broken out in its own line? It’s easy to miss, if you read the larger paragraph that comes before it—especially if you click on the link that explains the Identification Requirements. And why not use BULLET POINTS to make processing the information easier?

Outside the DMV, I ran into another new resident to CO who’d made the exact same mistake that I had.

Frustrating, but solvable. I drove back to my apartment, pulled out my US Passport and my most recent paystub that showed my SSN, and drove back to the DMV.

The place was now entirely full. 100+ people at 9:45am on a Monday morning.

I took my number, sat down, and started to wait.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

10:30 came and went.

Then 11:00.

Then 11:30.

I went to the next-door Subway, bought a BMT with Chipotle sauce, and came back to find my number was still dozens of numbers away from being called.

They didn’t serve me until almost 1pm. I didn’t get my license until after 3pm.

 It took, all told, over 6 HOURS to get a license!

I’ve since learned that the DMV location off of 6th in Golden is among the slowest in the Denver area. I don’t know if that is true. It may be that other locations are far faster. But I’m now scarred in a way that I’ve needed hours of counseling to get over.

Not really. But you get what I mean.

So, if I had to pick something I miss from Chicago (aside from the Lakeshore path or the plethora of awesome hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurants), I’d pick the DMV.

Jesse White, they may have forbid you form plastering your name on expressway signage, but you’ll always be a hero to me.

Planning your own trip to a Colorado DMV? Here’s a few helpful tips:

  • Bring more documentation than you think you’ll need

Bring your IL (or other state license), your passport, and something that documents your SSN. Also bring proof of residency in CO. Generic mailers won’t work. Bring a utility bill, signed lease, or other proof of residence.

  • Arrive at your local facility early

I tried to do this, but not having my proof of SSN ruined that plan. Get there at least 15 minutes early so that you spend as little tile having your will to live destroyed as possible.

  • Use Google to find out which locations have faster service times

Google search has a nifty feature that will let you check the busiest times at a business (or government office) and even tell you if the business is more or less busy than usual in real time:

Real-time information can help you avoid the busiest times.

You can use this information to either plan to visit at a less-busy time, or to strike when the iron is hot and visit when the business is less busy (like when I took this screen shot).

  • Hope for the Best / Plan for the Worst

Even if you do everything right, you may end up at the DMV for far longer than you anticipated! Don’t make an annoying task more stressful by not giving yourself enough time to complete your business. Plan on it taking half a day. If it takes less than that, awesome.

Bad DMV experience aside, I’m still THRILLED to live in the Denver area. My only regret is not moving here sooner. If you’d like to learn more about why my wife and I moved to Denver, read this post. If you’re considering moving from Chicago to Denver, you’re in the right place! You can find information on neighborhoods, schools, activities, crime rates, and a whole host of other topics here at the Chicago to Denver Blog.

Have a specific question? Drop it in the comments box below and I’ll get back to you. I promise I will be faster than the Colorado DMV!


Why We Started the Chicago to Denver Blog

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I moved my family from Chicago to Denver in the summer of 2016.

You can read why we made the move from Chicago to Denver here. It was a major transition for all four of us! My wife and I are both from the Midwest, and lived in Chicago for fourteen years before uprooting and moving west. Needless to say, it was a HUGE decision for our family, one we put a lot of thought into before making it a reality.

Chicago to Denver

Subaru, U-Haul Trailer, Bikes, and my Family before leaving my mom’s place for the 1600-mile trip west.


We spent the better part of eighteen months planning our move from Chicago to Denver.

We read everything we could get our hands on, studied up on neighborhoods, schools, crime statistics, economic data, etc… Talked to realtors. Called school districts and asked questions. We wanted to get everything right the first time around, and not have to move again after we arrived in Denver!

And we mostly did get things right. We had a short-term rental in Golden, and then purchased a home in Lakewood a few months later. The reason things went smoothly for us was because we sunk a lot of time into research. We knew the key facts about all the neighborhoods within striking distance of our jobs before we ever crossed the Colorado state line.

One of the main reasons I created the Chicago to Denver blog was that I could share everything we learned about moving from one great city to another.

While I could have started a blog based solely on my family’s experiences, I wanted to get insight from others who made the move from Chicago to Denver, and from those who’ve lived in Colorado for most decades. That’s why I’ve partnered with Lisa Reich and Aimee Skul. Lisa works a realtor in the Denver market. She lived in Chicago for years before moving to Denver, and while I have more recent experience in moving from Chicago to Denver, she’s been “on the ground” here a lot longer. She has a tremendous amount of experience living and working in Denver.

Aimee and her husband Tommy have worked as Farmers Insurance agents in the Denver market for almost a decade. As insurance agents, they’re very familiar with Denver-area neighborhoods and communities, and some of the unique rewards and challenges of living at the foot of the Rockies.

Between the three of us, we offer our readers a unique blend of experience, knowledge, and insight into the Denver area.

As professionals working in the Denver market, we offer our readers a single stop where they can find information on neighborhoods, traffic, school districts, public transportation, outdoor activities, economic data and comparisons, etc.… Everything I wanted to know before I moved my family to Denver, but often had a hard time finding.

Consider Chicago to Denver a clearinghouse of information and useful advice on how you can move your family from Chicago to Denver with as little difficulty and as few headaches as possible.

We’re here to serve you. All of the information we’ve gathered here is free, and it always will be. We’re also here to answer specific questions about moving from Chicago to Denver. If there’s something you’d like to know that you can’t find in our index of blog posts, just drop a comment below, or e-mail us. We’d love to help.