Building a mountain home is a dream for a lot of people around the country, but when it comes to making that dream a reality, there are a few factors to consider before taking the dive, especially in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
With our extreme climate changes and, likely, different design motifs, working with a designer, real estate agent, and general contractor that understands the local area is key to understanding the best area, snow maintenance, zoning, utilities, soils, taxes, and more. Below, we’ll discuss a few of these items, but we recommend asking more questions from your home building team.
Let’s discuss snow levels, as that’s usually one of the first things that come to mind when moving to Colorado. East of the Continental Divide usually has very low snow levels throughout the year; in fact, most people are surprised to know that Denver only gets 64 inches of snow per year on average – compare that to over 300 inches of snow per year on average for Winter Park. When deciding to build a home in Colorado, those snow levels matter for deciding if living with snow for the most part of the year is something you want to do, or, perhaps, having a second home is what you’re looking for and visiting the snow a few times a year is exactly what you’re looking for. Either way, the high country has a lot of snow and cold temperatures, but plenty of opportunity for outdoor adventure, fun, and epic views that are what bring so many people to the area year after year.
Homeowners will need to consider snow removal and maintenance. This includes driveways, sidewalks, roofs, and other areas that are frequented. For the most part, public roads are maintained by the town, but there are areas where you’ll either have to hire a snow removal company or do the heavy lifting yourself. If you decide to build in a more remote area, you’ll have to be responsible for plowing the roads/driveway, and in even more remote areas, you may be left with snowmobiling back and forth to your home – this is where picking your lot location becomes important. But, don’t let this scare you – chat with your real estate agent about snow removal and lot locations to make sure the options fit your home living lifestyle.
Building Homes in Snow
Things you may not consider your architect and builder will consider for you when it comes to the best placement of your home and driveways for snow impact. For example, since we’re in the Northern hemisphere, we get Southern sun exposure, which means when it comes to getting snow melted the fastest, we want Southern sun exposed driveways and roof pitches. This isn’t doable in all instances of building, but is something that must be considered, because lack of Southern sun exposure may mean you’ll want to consider a heated driveway to assist with snow and ice melt.
Roofs can also take the brunt of snow loads. Flat roofs work in many areas, but not in areas that get heavy snow loads – unless the flat roof is specifically designed to take the snow load and depends on it for insulation. Depending on the pitch of your roof, you may have to consider hiring a snow removal company to help remove heavy snow loads. Heat taping can also be installed to help with snow melt.
Location, location, location – we all know that location is important, but where that ideal location is, is different for each of us. Some homeowners want to move to the Winter Park area to be by Winter Park Ski Resort for easy access to skiing and snowboarding, while others prefer the more isolated area of Grand Lake for its quaint mountain town feel. While location is very important, you’ll want to consider closeness to other amenities; in other words, Winter Park is 2 hours from Denver and 2 ½ hours from Denver International Airport (DIA). While Winter Park is one of the closest ski resorts to Denver, it’s still a bit of a drive to go back to Denver for a Costco run or do any major shopping.
Grand County has basic amenities, including fully-operational hospitals, schools, and delicious restaurants, but for specialty clinics and doctors, visits to the city are typically a must.
Hopefully, you’re working with a real estate agent that is familiar with zoning and setback regulations for the area you’re looking to purchase a lot. There are areas that allow mobile homes, duplexes, and single-family homes, but usually not campers and tiny homes. Of course, rulings and laws change regularly, but working with a real estate agent will help you understand where the best lot would be for your living lifestyle. Some areas in Grand County also have HOA covenants that must be followed for the design and landscaping of your home. Your home design team can help ensure your home follows these bylaws.
Unfortunately, buying a lot doesn’t mean that 100% of it can be built on; in other words, town laws usually designate certain setbacks from roads and property lines that a structure can be built. There are also setbacks on the height of a structure, minimum lot area, minimum yard area, and water quality setback. There are a lot of zoning and setback regulations that have to be considered when building a home, but working with a general contractor can help ensure that all of these regulations are followed.
Water and Mineral Rights
Water is a very important resource for all of us and is a very big topic for the high country. Most of the water in Colorado is owned by 3rd parties, which means that even though you buy a property with a river running through it or a property that is on a reservoir, you don’t necessarily own the water rights, which could limit your use of the water.
Likewise, mineral rights can be owned by a 3rd party, which in most cases won’t affect a homeowner, but in extreme circumstances could mean drilling on your property.
Can you guess what type of topography we see the most next to ski areas and lots with beautiful mountain views? Slopes and boulders, and those types of topography make for extensive excavation and fill before we can even start building. To build on a steep slope, a home usually has to go more vertical and to get around boulders we have to either bring in a demolition team or heavy lifting team.
These are just a few things that new homeowners must consider before deciding on where to build their new home in Colorado. There’s also wind and sun exposure, permits and bylaws, and other logistics that go into building a new home. Working with a professional and qualified home building team can help in making a lot of these key decisions. For help or to learn more, give our team a call at (970) 726-9225 or contact us through email.