My Trials and Tribulations in Finding a Home


Spring Creek - JOHN OLSON
  • John Olson
  • Spring Creek
Location, location, location; in the real estate world, this repeating word is the answer to everything — however its subjectivity to where that location is differs from person to person greatly.

In the Springs, the market seems to tell us that it’s all about what school district that you live in. New construction seems to focus to the north, east and south, sometimes in areas that aren’t considered to be in Colorado Springs, or at least don’t feel like they are. The allure of new homes with new schools in new subdivisions “From the low 300’s,” is like peanut butter on a mousetrap. They are the clean, quiet places where happiness is eminent and crime is obsolete, right?

I was once naïve and believed this to be true. But I have different priorities now than I did 10 years ago, and my priorities will probably change again within the next 20 years.

I lived in four different detached, single-family homes growing up through high school in Grand Island, Nebraska. I intimately recall three of them, each with their own positive and negative attributes. While attending school at Kansas State, I lived in a dormitory one year, then two different apartments for the next four years. Upon graduation, my wife and I chased the “American Dream” to the outer reaches of Omaha — technically, it was called “Chalco” where we ended up. My thought out of college was,
“All we need to do is buy a home in the suburbs where everyone has either a kid or a dog and life will be great,” but after two years, we hated it. The time wasted in the car going from point A to point B was terrible, and the starter home subdivision was full of people who bought in and wanted out, fast.

We looked for a new home in the center of the city. We loved that neighborhood — we drove through there again while in Omaha this summer and still love it — but we couldn’t sell our suburban house, so we stuck it out a little longer until ultimately moving to Colorado Springs. It was a great choice, though Colorado Springs has its share of quirks, we love it!

When moving to a new city, we found it a good idea to find a temporary place to live; we wanted an opportunity to get to know and understand the city without repeating the mistakes we made in Omaha.
Our ideal home at the time would have been a new townhome, or another detached, single-family home, with plenty of transportation options to get to basic services and work. Our goal was to find a place near downtown, and close to where I worked. Because transit in Colorado Springs is inefficient— by transportation options I really mean places designed for bikes or foot-traffic — I was interested in anything designed for mixed-use, and walkable neighborhoods.

A lack of handy-man skills and disposable income for an older, “fixer-upper” narrowed our choices quickly, so our options ended up being Spring Creek and Lowell, both conveniently located near downtown. (Note: Gold Hill Mesa had not yet started construction, although shortly thereafter, it would have been another option for us). In Spring Creek, a charming neighborhood in southern Colorado Springs, the prices were lower so this is where we lived through 2013. It was a perfect fit in a charming neighborhood with incredible vistas, traditional architecture and a focus on people rather than their cars.

But after a while, we decided, or really, the size of our family decided, that it was time to move on — ideally for that detached, single-family home, where we can outlive the mortgage. We think we've have found it, but want to reserve the location, hoping to not jinx it.

Our priorities for the new home include a neighborhood that is family-friendly where my kids can play and grow up outside, and a neighborhood with people in different stages of their lives, not a place where everyone is the same age. We want to be close to the heart of the city, near downtown, Old Colorado City and the mountains. And lastly, as an urbanist and planner, I want a home where the front of the home is NOT a garage door. (Garage doors are the ugliest part of a home, yet they tend to be the first thing that anyone sees.)

One more thing, you’ll notice that I didn’t speak to price in my priorities. I believe that if the cost/square foot of the home is the top priority, failure is eminent. Price certainly is a factor, however I really believe that finding the setting, or neighborhood, should be the top priority.

Hmmm, I suppose, “location, location, location” is the answer after all.

John Olson is a licensed landscape architect, residing in Colorado Springs. He serves as the Director of Plannning and Landscape Architecture for EVstudio Planning & Civil Engineering. He is also a co-founder of Colorado Springs Urban Intervention, which implemented Better Block Pikes Peak in 2012, the recent Walkability Signage found in Downtown Colorado Springs, and perhaps most notably, Curbside Cuisine.

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