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Denver real estate a relative bargain

Pilot John Tennyson was paying $5,000 a month for an 850-square-foot in the Mission Bay neighborhood in San Francisco. He now pays about $3,500 mortgage for a home in Sloans that is more than twice as big.

Denver real estate is a bargain…at least if you are coming from San Francisco.

Pilot John R. Tennyson late last year moved from San Francisco to Denver.

Tennyson, a pilot with Southwest Airlines, brings a mile-high perspective to the Mile High city’s real estate, which has never been more expensive.

In Denver, Tennyson was able to buy a brand-new townhome in a mixed-use development called Sloans, just south of Sloan’s Lake, for far less than what he was paying in rent for a small apartment in the trendy Mission Bay neighborhood in San Francisco.


Pilot John Tennyson bought a unit at Perry Row at 1569 Perry St. in Sloans.

In other words, Tennyson is enjoying whatever the opposite of “sticker shock” is, as far as real estate.

“It’s all relative,” said the 38-year-old Tennyson, who moved back to Denver last fall and moved into a townhome at the Perry Row Sloans community just before Christmas. He previously had lived in the Denver area when he was a pilot for United Express, before joining Southwest.

“My wife and I really missed living in Denver, and you get so much of a bigger bang for your buck in Denver than in the Bay Area,” Tennyson said. Tennyson is not alone in escaping the Bay Area in search of more affordable housing, both rental and for-sale. Almost 24,000 people in 2016 and 2017 fled the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward metropolitan area, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In San Francisco, he and his wife, signed a lease in 2015 for an 850-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in the Venue apartment complex.

Guess what they paid per month?

Here’s a hint.

“It’s the definition of unbelievable. It was even unbelievable to me,” Tennyson said.

If you guessed $4,000, you nailed it.


John Tennyson is shown at Perry Row.

Their rent crept up every year, and last year they tried to time their lease payment to coincide when they could move into their home at Perry Row.

“We couldn’t make it work, so we went on a month-to-month lease and were paying $5,000 each month,” he said.

Finally, they had enough of that, so they moved to Denver a few months early and leased an apartment at the Verve in the LoDo area of downtown for about $1,500 a month.

When their townhome was ready, they paid $624,000 for a four-story, three-bedroom, three-bathroom unit with about 1,900 sf and a rooftop deck at Perry Row.

“Our monthly mortgage payment is about $3,400, so we are paying substantially less for a home that is about 2.5 times the size of what we were renting in San Francisco,” Tennyson said.

A similar-sized townhome in San Francisco would “cost at least $2.5 million,” he estimated.

Other than real estate prices, San Francisco, especially the Mission Bay neighborhood, has a lot going for it, he said.

“In Mission Bay, we were literally blocks from the AT&T Stadium, where the San Francisco Giants play, and a new University of San Francisco hospital. And they are building the new stadium for the Warriors basketball team in Mission Bay.”

Living in Sloans, “I get the same kind of vibe” that he got from Mission.

“Our mother-in-law was visiting recently and we took her to a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse,” where you can order a meal, craft beer and a cocktail while watching a film.


To pilot John Tennyson, Sloans has a “vibe” similar to Mission Bay in San Francisco. But the real estate in Sloans, and Denver, is a lot less expensive than in the Bay Area.

“And they’re building that Lakehouse condo tower by us, which will be a really nice addition, and it is my understanding the ground-floor space is zoned commercial, so we will be seeing even more restaurants and coffee shops here,” he said.

It seemed appropriate to ask a pilot a question from a 30,000-foot perspective, so I asked Tennyson if he thought Amazon should pick Denver for its second headquarters.

“Absolutely,” Tennyson said. “Denver, with its great weather, is in the central part of the country and is in the center of this up-and-coming tech market.

“Not to sound cliché, but Denver is a little like a young San Francisco, if you will. I grew up in Silicon Valley (in Palo Alto), and I can tell you if Amazon chooses Denver, it will be great for property values for people who already own homes here.”

His wife works at St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood, “which is kind of ironic, considering that Sloans is built on the old St. Anthony Hospital site in Denver,” he said.

That also brings home a personal reason why he asked Southwest Airlines to transfer him to Denver.

“In San Francisco, renting an apartment was so expensive, we couldn’t afford to start a family.”

That can change, he said, now that most of their money isn’t going to rent.

If you scratch the surface of just about any deal, there is a story behind it. The Rebchook Real Estate Corner looks at the what and who that make the Colorado commercial real estate industry spin every Tuesday and Thursday online at CREJ.com. The people behind the deals are passionate about what they do, whether they focus on offices, apartments, industrial, retail, land or lending. They also are passionate about their clients. Given the cyclical nature of commercial real estate, those who prosper in it have plenty of stories to tell. I hope to share them with you. 

This column includes news stories, in-depth looks at deals, profiles, Q&As and pieces on the latest trends. Contact John with story tips at JRCHOOK@gmail.com or 303-945-6865.

Kris Oppermann Stern is publisher and editor of Building Dialogue, a Colorado Real Estate Journal publication, and editor of CREJ's construction, design, and engineering section, including news and bylined articles. Building Dialogue is a quarterly, four-color magazine that caters specifically to the AEC industry, including features on projects and people, as well as covering trends…