Jamie Kruft and her husband, Ed, knew they were going to live in Colorado eventually. The COVID-19 pandemic and the rapid shift in workplaces to accommodate telecommuting simply accelerated their plans.
Keeping their home in Austin, Texas, where they’ll split time, the couple looked at properties in Pagosa Springs and Durango, for their accessibility to Texas, before settling on Durango.
Malia Bowkett and her husband, James, discovered Durango before the onset of the pandemic, finding the outdoor opportunities and small-town lifestyle enough of a draw to leave behind London.
After living for six years in Kurdistan in northern Iraq and realizing their situation was not ideal to raise their young son, Oliver, who is now 3, they moved to Durango in early 2019.
Durango won the Bowketts’ hearts after researching and visiting a long list of possibilities – with London their top alternative to Durango.
Hot home salesThe Krufts and the Bowketts are not alone.
Perhaps one of the most unanticipated consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic was its illumination of the outdoor attraction of small Western Slope towns to urban transplants.
Rick Lorenz, who compiles La Plata County real estate data for his newsletter, said the active market in homes above $800,000 is likely attributed to people fleeing cities.
Through the end of September, 124 homes priced at $800,000 or higher sold this year in La Plata County, almost doubling the 64 that sold in that category through September 2019.
To a lesser extent, Lorenz said, the pandemic is partially contributing to the increase in sales in homes priced from $400,000 to $600,000, with 302 units sold through Sept. 30 this year compared with 236, last year.
“My thought is the COVID thing is driving the market at $800,000 and above. We almost doubled sales; that’s an incredible amount,” he said. “When you look at $400,000 to $600,000, it’s 66 more units sold to date, that’s a 28% increase, which itself is pretty amazing, and COVID might be partially behind that, too.”
Outdoor attractionsFor both the Krufts and the Bowketts, an abundance of outdoor opportunities was important.
“My sister lives out here,” Malia Bowkett said. “And we absolutely loved it. We loved the outdoors – how much you can do and enjoy the outside and have a short commute. We felt we’d be able to have a really good work-life balance here.”
Besides considering London, the Bowketts looked at Boston, Florida, Colorado and California, all places where they have family nearby. They also looked at New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C., where jobs in their professions, strategic communications for Malia and geoscience for James, were plentiful.
“We wanted to move. And the natural place for us would have been going back to London, because we’d retained a base there,” Malia said. “We had a property, we had large friendship groups, and we had professional experience in London. My husband’s British, and so his family is there as well.”
But Malia said neither James nor she was convinced they wanted the urban hassles of London.
With a young son, neither of the Bowketts wanted to spend the three hours a day commuting that would be required in London. Similar commuting concerns were a strike against the other metropolises on their list.
“I had always had a commute of at least an hour, and when we moved to have a bit more space, we were easily having an hour-and-a-half to two-hour commute each way,” Malia said. “I didn’t want to spend four hours a day going to work. That was time I was not able to spend being productive at work or being with my son.”
COVID-19 speeds moveThe Krufts were regular visitors to Colorado, vacationing for summer outdoor recreation and winter ski trips.
Their desire to escape Austin’s heat, their enjoyment of summer hiking opportunities and their four adult children’s love for skiing and snowboarding (from Colorado family vacations), convinced the Krufts they would eventually settle in the state.
On Oct. 1, about two to five years ahead of schedule, the Krufts moved into a home in Edgemont Ranch.
“I’m shocked with how beautiful it has been,” Jamie Kruft said. “We haven’t really ever been here in the fall. Because that is not a normal vacation season, right? My friends are like, ‘Oh, is it snowing?’ I’m like, ‘No, it’s so beautiful.’ Yesterday, the heat index in Austin was 97 degrees.”
Telecommuting helped smooth the move from Austin.
Ed Kruft runs a company that monitors oil pipelines and Jamie has a small business helping students prepare their college-entry essays. Their youngest child, Sadie, 18, is a first-year student at the University of California at Los Angeles, where learning this semester is all remote.
“With COVID, life came to a screeching halt. We both can telecommute,” Jamie said. “We were supposed to be empty-nesters. We thought Sadie would be at UCLA. Interest rates are at historic lows. We thought: Why wait? We really didn’t have a reason to wait anymore.”
London vs. DurangoThe Bowketts were able to swap a 550-square-foot flat in London for a house more than triple the size in Durango West.
It’s space Malia Bowkett appreciates.
“With a 6-foot-5 husband and a very energetic toddler, it would just feel incredibly claustrophobic in London,” Malia said. “If we would have stayed, I felt like we would have ended up scrambling a lot, working all the time and only really seeing each other as a family for part of the weekend.”
The Bowketts have run into a problem many Durangoans are familiar with: Making professional sacrifices to live in a remote mountain town.
Malia has begun selling real estate, and James is remodeling and repairing houses as well as serving as a lecturer in geosciences at Fort Lewis College.
But the professional sacrifices have been worth it.
“We spend a lot more time together, we’re able to spend a lot of time outside,” Malia said. “This year in particular with COVID, changing what we can do with leisure time, I’ve gotten into mountain biking, and I’ve been loving that. You know, instead of spending the two hours on the train going to work, in Durango in 15 minutes your on a trail. So yeah, all the reasons that we moved here have delivered.”
email@example.com This article has been updated to correct Malia Bowkett’s first name and to correct the Bowkett’s time in Kurdistan to six years, not six months.