Home > Geography, Real Estate > Why Relocate to Pueblo Colorado – a Geographer’s Approach to Residential Location

Why Relocate to Pueblo Colorado – a Geographer’s Approach to Residential Location

I’m one of the growing numbers of fortunate people who are able to work from a home office and can live just about anywhere in the US.  My only key work requirements are a good phone line, a solid internet connection and a major airport within driving distance (well, a quiet room and a pot of coffee are pretty important as well).  After a lot of data gathering, analysis and pro-con list making, my wife and I have chosen to relocate from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Pueblo, Colorado.  Our decision was biased by a variety of factors but I’ve been singing Pueblo’s praises for a few years now as a great place to invest in real estate and I’ve decided that living in the community is a way to put my money where my mouth is.  Now that we’ve committed to the move, it seems to be a good time to make a written case for Pueblo.  So, here goes.

Within Colorado and perhaps elsewhere, Pueblo has a somewhat unfavorable reputation due primarily to a relatively weak economy that has struggled since the decline of the steel industry in the 1980s.  So while much of Colorado has boomed during the past 30 years Pueblo has lagged behind in terms of population/economic growth and in some ways has followed a path similar to cities in the Rust Belt.  Although Pueblo still has a long way to go to regain economic vibrancy, I see significant progress and Pueblo currently presents, in my opinion, an unbelievable bargain.

So, why is Pueblo such a great deal?  In short, Pueblo offers a nearly unbeatable blend of (1) low cost of living, (2) beautiful weather, (3) outdoor recreation, and (4) modern amenities.

Cost of Living

The cost of housing in Pueblo is unbelievably low.  A nice house in a nice neighborhood can be purchased for under $200,000 and you can buy a nice older home in a decent neighborhood for under $100,000. If you’re handy you can buy a house that needs some work, nothing major just cosmetic updates, for under $50,000. I’m not joking.  This past year I bought a 3 bedroom 1.5 bath 1300 sq ft house in a decent neighborhood near the Pueblo Community College for $22,900.  Granted, the place was pretty trashed and I had to spend about $10,000 to fix it up.  But, aside from a complete bathroom redo, it was mostly cosmetic updating.  It still needs exterior paint, some landscaping and a facelift for the detached garage but I already have it rented to a nice family.  If it remains occupied at the current rental rate I will recoup my investment within 4 years.  Try that in Denver, Boulder or Colorado Springs or in any other city with a symphony, a university, mountain views and 300 days of sunshine per year.


Pueblo’s climate is delightful.  At 38 degrees latitude, Pueblo is about halfway between sunny and dry Albuquerque, New Mexico and the cool and crisp Rocky Mountain environs of Cheyenne, Wyoming, both geographically and climatically.  Summer temperatures can be toasty but thanks to the relatively high elevation (~4600 ft), summer evenings are almost always cool and comfortable.  Winter can be cold and snowy on occasion but the snow typically melts the next day and you might be able to play golf in short sleeves 48 hours later.  Pueblo is one of the sunniest places in the US, receiving more sunshine than San Diego and Honolulu.  (Yes, you read that right!  Don’t believe me?  Check the National Climate Data Center).  And, Pueblo summers are far more pleasant with cooler temperatures than you would find in comparably sunny cities like Phoenix or Tucson.  Precipitation is light but you’ll see snow in the winter and thunderstorms in the summer.  I love the fresh clean smell in the air after a thunderstorm on a summer afternoon.  Pueblo also enjoys extraordinarily clean air and water.  Try comparing Pueblo to Denver at this EPA website for air quality; or, look at Pueblo versus the US for air and water quality.

Outdoor Recreation

Just like any other city in Colorado, Pueblo is a relatively short drive away from world class skiing, mountain biking, hiking, climbing and a variety of other outdoor activities.  The Lake Pueblo State Park offers water sports of all kinds and the Whitewater Park on the Arkansas River has become a great destination for kayaking enthusiasts.  Thanks to bountiful sunshine you can enjoy many of these activities more days each year in Pueblo than in most other parts of Colorado.  Same is true for golf, tennis, etc.  There’s probably a lot more that I’m overlooking here but suffice it to say that Pueblo offers plenty for outdoor enthusiasts.  A big step down from Boulder or Summit County to be sure but in those communities you’re paying probably 4+ times more for housing.

Modern Amenities

Okay, this is probably Pueblo’s weakest link and if you live in Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs or outside of Colorado in a major city, this is where you’re most likely to find fault with Pueblo.  So, this is really a value proposition rather than an argument that Pueblo is better than other metros.  That said, Pueblo offers all the major cultural amenities that most people want nearby.

Pueblo has a growing 4-year university recently folded into the Colorado State University system along with Pueblo Community College for higher education and related cultural offerings.

The Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center and the Pueblo Symphony provide a taste of traditional big city culture, the annual Colorado State Fair recruits headline performers, and a local arts scene seems to be emerging – see www.pueblopulp.com for well-written reviews on local happenings.

Pueblo is a great sports town.  There are probably more die-hard Denver Broncos fans in Pueblo, on a per-capita basis, than in Denver.  If you don’t believe me drive around and count the number of homes that prominently display their loyalty to the orange and blue.  Have lunch at the Coors Tavern and check out the history of Pueblo sports plastered all over the walls and ceiling.  Pueblo is home to the oldest high school football rivalry west of the Mississippi, the annual Bell Game between Centennial and Central would make even the hard core football fans in Odessa, Texas (of Friday Night Lights fame) jealous.  CSU-Pueblo just completed an extremely successful D-2 season and I get the feeling that we’re seeing the beginning of a college football dynasty.  Football is probably the most popular sport in town but there is something for basketball, baseball and hockey fans.  If it’s not enough, drive 90 minutes to Denver for a full suite of professional sports tickets.  Will you really go to that many more games if you live in Parker?

If you’re a connoisseur of good food, you will find plenty to like about Pueblo.  Incredible New Mexico style green chili is the local favorite and can be found smothering burritos, enchiladas, eggs (huevos rancheros) and more.  Italian restaurant options are equally good and there are loads of other Pueblo favorites to be discovered.  Try a Pass Key Special, eat a “Slopper” at the Coors Tavern, have a Papa Louis at the Broadway Tavern, get a “Dutch Lunch” at Gus’ Place.  You’re going to love eating in Pueblo.

Okay, the Pueblo naysayers are waiting for me to turn to public schools and crime.  Isn’t Pueblo a dangerous place to live?  Aren’t the schools some of the worst in the state?  Not if you look closely.  Pueblo does have one or two really bad areas.  The toughest part of town is the Eastside, a great community with a lot of pride, but home to plenty of crime and low performing schools.  What’s happening on the Eastside gets included in all the statistics for Pueblo as a whole and really brings down Pueblo’s profile when it comes to crime statistics and test scores.  So, before you dismiss Pueblo, take a closer look at disaggregate school performance and crime statistics.  Life in Belmont, Aberdeen, Mesa Junction, the Northside, Pueblo West and in many other neighborhoods is safe and family friendly.  It’s true that Pueblo schools leave a lot to be desired but public schools are facing big problems just about everywhere I’ve lived as a parent (Eugene, Oregon and Ann Arbor, Michigan) and state budget cuts don’t appear to be ending anywhere or anytime soon.

We currently live in one of the top school districts in Michigan and the US with greatschools ratings of 10 for the high school, 10 for the middle school and 9 for our elementary school.  Should be perfect, right?  Not for us.  We found our daughter in a class of 60 6th grade students with 2 teachers where the social stratification scene was already completely overwhelming any effort to focus on academics.  Our son was being labeled as a problem child because he was too bored with hour after hour of sitting quietly and listening to teachers talk rather than allowing his natural curiosity to explore ideas and stretch boundaries.  Gym was offered a whopping 2 times per week for 45 minutes and recess was scheduled once per day at 2pm.  How is an active 2nd grade boy supposed to contain his energy when he has to wait until 2pm most days to run around?  We solved the problem this year by sending our kids to a private Montessori school but at significant expense.  Like most things, private schools are more affordable in Pueblo and we will likely take advantage of one of several good private school options because the wait lists for the high performing charter and magnet schools are probably too long.  For high school, we are intrigued by the early college programs offered through Pueblo Community College.  Educating our kids in today’s world will be a challenge wherever we live.  Pueblo is no exception but it does offer many innovative options at a more affordable price than in most communities.

Another great thing about Pueblo is the ease of driving around town.  Colorado Springs and Denver metro are pretty congested and it takes a long time to get from point A to point B.  Once you arrive parking is usually a hassle.  You can get just about anywhere in Pueblo in less than 10 minutes and convenient parking is nearly always available. It’s a beautiful thing.  Life is too short to spend in traffic.

For people who sling mud at Pueblo, let them sling until they realize they’re paying 2-3 times extra for more traffic, worse weather and, typically, a neighborhood that resembles just about every other subdivision in the Western US built in the last 2 decades, devoid of personality and completely car-dependent. If you’ve seen the opening for Weeds (tv series on Showtime) to the tune Little Boxes then you know what I mean. I love Denver but most of the newer suburbs look like everywhere else and remind me of “Aggrestic”.

I predict that Pueblo will be “discovered” in the next 10-20 years, especially as boomers retire with insufficient funding, parents refuse to pay $50k per year to send their kids to college and more and more people telecommute from home offices and realize they can live just about anywhere.  I could certainly be dead wrong on this, and I’ve been wrong about many things, but I’ve decided to make a bet on Pueblo’s future and, believe me, I feel much better about investing in Pueblo than I do about investing in the stock market.

So, if you’re in position to relocate and you’d like to find a place with low housing costs, good weather and a pleasant lifestyle, take a close look at Pueblo – the sunshine capital of Colorado.

Full disclosure: I grew up in Pueblo and graduated from Centennial High School.  I left for college and  career living in California, Europe, Oregon and Michigan along the way.  I have family and friends living in Pueblo and I began investing in real estate in Pueblo in 2010.  All of these factors certainly bias my decision and make Pueblo a more attractive home for my family.  But, I don’t think this biased viewpoint changes the livability equation.  Why move all the way to Panama?  Pueblo doesn’t cost much more and the Denver airport is less than 2 hours away.

  1. Jo
    February 2, 2012 at 7:21 am

    Excellent analysis, Justin! Congrats on your big decision— makes me want to move there too! Except we are so thrilled at the independent school our kids just switched to this year after having a less than satisfying experience at the #1 Public elementary school in Oakland! Hey! By the way, we are sending our daughter to Plantation for the first time this summer! She’ll be in sunnyhills! So exciting!!!

    • February 2, 2012 at 1:01 pm

      Thanks, Jo! Let me know when handsomeinpink.com is ready to setup shop in Pueblo and I’ll put you in touch with the right people. Hope your daughter has a great summer at farm camp! Cheers, J.

  2. Susan (Abram) Culig
    February 2, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Great article Justin!!!

    • February 2, 2012 at 2:30 pm

      Thanks, Susan! Hope to see you in Pueblo soon!

  3. February 2, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Maybe I should start a training gym there……..

  4. Jenny
    February 2, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    Thanks for the enlightened words. I agree with everything except the clean air. We’re the mercury capital of Colorado. Although we don’t have the dirty smog, we have many toxins in our air that we can’t see. I still like to live here though :)

    • February 2, 2012 at 5:52 pm

      Jenny – thank you for educating me about the mercury problem! Would you mind sending a link to more information about the air toxin issue?

  5. Angela Krinsky
    February 2, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    NICE!!!! But we know you are really just moving here to be closer to the Krinsky’s!!! lol

  6. February 2, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Great choice living in P Town. I grew up there and I love going back and getting my Pass Key Special. You should also check out Iannes Pizza on Northern and Pasta Cottage.

    • February 3, 2012 at 7:57 am

      Thanks, Adam! I’m familiar with Ianne’s but it’s been ages. Haven’t tried Pasta Cottage so I’ll definitely check it out. Thanks for the suggestions! Cheers, J.

  7. Larry adamson
    February 2, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    What no comments about green chile?

    • February 3, 2012 at 8:03 am

      Larry – I mentioned green chile in the post – did I miss something? What’s your favorite green chile place in Pueblo?

  8. Mary
    February 4, 2012 at 12:53 am

    The racial make-up statistics look strange. How can the city be 76% white and also 44% Latino? Plus all the other percentages-they don’t add up.

    By the way, since I’m a big city girl, I am really excited about the new Indian restaurant, Mr. Tandoori, on Victoria, near the Historic Union Depot. They also have an American food menu for the faint of heart. ;-)

    • February 4, 2012 at 7:47 am

      Good question. From wikipedia: Race and ethnicity are considered separate and distinct identities, with Hispanic or Latino origin asked as a separate question. Thus, in addition to their race or races, all respondents are categorized by membership in one of two ethnicities, which are “Hispanic or Latino” and “Not Hispanic or Latino”.

      So the first set of percentages are racial (76% white, etc) and then the ethnicity breakdown is 44% Hispanic and presumably 56% non-Hispanic.

      Mary – I can’t wait to try Mr. Tandoori! Thanks for the tip!

  9. Elizabeth
    February 10, 2012 at 10:58 am

    I like knowing more about your move, Otto, but it seems you don’t have quite enough research or knowledge to make a fair analysis of Pueblo :) I look forward to visits in sunny Colorado.

    • February 10, 2012 at 11:05 am

      Look forward to seeing you in the state’s sunshine capitol, Biz!

  10. February 14, 2012 at 9:21 am

    Pueblo is one of the best kept secrets around yet, Pueblo makes various national lists once in awhile. Several senior magazines have recommended Pueblo and the Southern Colorado area for the same reasons you listed above. I moved to Southern Colorado in 1999 without doing much of the research you did. I figures out that this is a great place to live all on my own. Now we need to let others know Southern Colorado is still a well kept secret!

    • February 14, 2012 at 10:22 am

      Hi Dena – thank you for the comment! Let me buy a few more investment properties before we get the word out too far and wide. :)

  11. M.Huhn
    February 16, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    Glad to hear things are going well. Congrats on the move back home. It sounds like it was a pretty smooth transition.

    • February 16, 2012 at 9:49 pm

      Thanks, Matt! We’ll see how it goes – transition yet to come this summer.

  12. March 11, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    Very impressive Mr. Proffeser. However you need a bit of jazz to spruce up your writing. Add a humorous comment every now and then and your readers will relax while learning.

    • March 11, 2012 at 12:12 pm

      Thank you for the comment, Miss Zoe (my dear daughter). I will try my best to improve. :)

  13. March 11, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Sorry. English teacher intruding. Please for give my ciritzisim and enjoy writing. That’s what matters. *wink* *wink* Dad!

  14. March 26, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    I received one comment regarding Pueblo’s air quality. I’m not at all knowledgeable in this area but there are toxins in the air in Pueblo, particularly near the steel mill in the southeast part of the city. I found a report on the topic that didn’t set off any alarm bells when I read it but, like I said, I have zero expertise in environmental chemistry: http://www.colorado.gov/airquality/documents/PuebloAirToxics.pdf

  15. March 26, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Also, a friend asked about diversity in Pueblo. This is an important question. In my opinion, Pueblo is quite diverse but certainly less so than major cities like SF, LA, NYC, Chi, etc. Pueblo has a large Latino population and the steell mill attracted immigrants from eastern and southern Europe so there is a nice fabric of cultural diversity. But, it would be interesting to hear other people’s perspective on diversity in Pueblo. Here are some simple statistics from the census bureau via wikipedia:

    The racial makeup of the city was 76.21% White, 2.41% African American, 1.73% Native American, 0.67% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 15.20% from other races, and 3.71% from two or more races. Latinos made up 44.13% of the population. 10.1% were of German, 8.1% Italian, 6.0% American, 5.5% English and 5.4% Irish ancestry according to Census 2000.

  16. Jo Ann
    March 7, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    I’m in a position to relocate from the frozen tundra to a state that is somewhat warm, little snow and affordable housing and low cost of living. My question to you is; being a single, retired female, what community would be a good fit for me, taking into consideration the crime rate?

    • March 8, 2014 at 11:49 am

      Hi Jo Ann, first off please visit my new blog location: http://www.justinholman.com/ as I no longer post new content to this site. Second, your decision probably has more to do with budget for housing expenses than any other factor. What can you afford to pay for rent or a mortgage? Once you know that figure it will be easier to decide on a neighborhood. Best, Justin

  1. February 4, 2012 at 2:09 pm
  2. February 5, 2012 at 1:02 pm
  3. February 6, 2012 at 11:24 am
  4. March 14, 2012 at 11:23 am
  5. March 23, 2012 at 1:47 pm

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