Where’s The Yard

I have recently been showing some relocation buyers around town who were looking for a nice single family home with acreage. Unfortunately, the areas they wanted to live in and the price point of the homes didn’t come with big backyards. This then brings up the inevitable discussion about how much land and home you get when you live on the East Coast.

Yes, I know I am from the East Coast so I know and hear from relocation buyers all the time, “How come there are no backyards in Colorado?” My business partner Gary Lohrman once had a client in from the East Coast who quipped, “I expected to measure my land in acres, not inches.” Well put.

Let’s assume one thing first before we get into the reasons why we have little yards. First, we are not talking about city properties. Even cities on the East Coast that were built on a grid like Denver and have small lots. What we are talking about is the difference in lot size for suburbs.

Reason # 1 and I think you could have guessed this…MONEY! Yes, developers figured out that when they buy land, they should subdivide it into postage stamp size lots and build as many homes as possible on that land to increase their profit. This is not news to anyone which brings us to the question, “Weren’t developers on the East Coast interested in making money?”

Answer: Yes they were, but a lot of development on the East Coast occurred prior to 1970 when land was not a premium like it is today, particularly in the outlying areas. Remember, there was a time when it was not cool to live in the suburbs so builders used large lots to lure people out of the city.

Reason # 2. The California Influence. Right around 1970, builders around the country took notice of what was happening in California. Land was and has always been a premium in California and builders had to maximize their land with large homes on small lots in order to make a profit. Business was good and some of those builders brought their model to Colorado. Other builders in Colorado followed their lead and tada we have the large home with a blade of grass in the backyard.

Since then, the trend has continued and proves to be a good business model for builders so we keep getting more of the same. There will always be some builders and I know of a few that will build on bigger lots at a reasonable price, but it will be in an outlying suburb to entice people to move there.