It is no secret that the regulations surrounding short term rentals in Estes Park and the surrounding areas are growing more and more complicated. We are excited to help you decipher the complications to help you find the opportunity! Understanding where you can or cannot rent a property on a short term basis will have a large impact on the value of your home you are trying to sell or purchase.
To help you understand the layers of regulations, we recommend thinking of Estes Park like a target, with the inner ring (bullseye) as the town of Estes Park. The next ring moving outward is the area surrounding Estes Park town limits which we call the Estes Valley Development Code area which essentially consists of the entire Estes Valley between national park land on the north, west, and south of the town and then national forest land on the east. The outer ring of the target is land within the Larimer County unincorporated area. This area extends beyond the development area into the surrounding mountains towards the communities of Glen Haven to the north, and Drake and Pinewood Springs to the east. To the south, the Larimer county area extends almost to Allenspark before it crosses to Boulder County.
In all areas, if you would like to rent your home or condo on a short term basis, you would need to obtain a short-term rental permit. The closer to the middle of the target, the more complex the hoops are to jump through to obtain a legal short term rental permit.
Inside the bull’s eye (within city limits), there are heavy restrictions within residential zoning districts including a cap on the number of permits as governed by the Town of Estes Park. Unfortunately, that cap has already been met so they are not issuing any more permits. Even more unfortunate is that they have put a moratorium on the wait list to obtain a new permit so if the property does not already have a permit in place, the current regulations make it practically impossible at this time to get one. The issue of transferability is also something that we recommend researching on a case-by-case basis depending on when the permit was issued.
Moving outward on the target, the area just outside of town limits, but still within the Estes Valley, has very similar restrictions to properties within city limits, but this area is controlled by Larimer County. If you don’t have a permit, you would not be allowed to rent your property short term. The maximum number of vacation rental permits allowed has already been met in this area, but there is a wait list that you can still get on. The wait time to obtain a permit will most likely be an extremely long wait.
On the outer ring, outside of that Estes Valley Development Code area, you have unincorporated Larimer County. This is where the most opportunity exists to rent right away, but it is also where the fewest possible properties lie. There is still a process to obtain a permit, but it is a well-defined process that will take time to get through. There is no cap or wait list in those areas which make the possibility even greater. However, there are certain properties that will be excluded fairly quickly such as properties within flood planes or that are unsafe for the public for one reason or another. This is usually determined by a review process that should take place within a couple of months.
Boulder County also has a defined process for obtaining a permit. At this time, we are expecting an extended time period (potentially 12-18 months) for that permit to be granted assuming all goes well. Keep that in mind if you have a property you would like to purchase that does not already have a permit.
The good news is there are still opportunities that come available often in each of these locations. The majority of the regulations take place in residential zoning. Therefore, IF a property comes available that has a transferable permit OR if that property is in Accommodations zoning, the process of obtaining a Short Term Rental property we recommend acting quickly. These types of properties are in super high demand because of the income they can generate and therefore carry extra value.
Short term rentals with rental permits are difficult to create from scratch, but those properties that already have an established permit or a legal avenue to obtain one carry a premium value compared to similar properties without a permit. Whether you are looking to sell a property with a permit OR are seeking a property suitable for short term rental income, we are well versed in the process and can help you every step of the way.
How does Estes Park stack up against other short term rental locations? I think you'll find it does quite well! Here are a list of common questions people ask when researching potential short term rental investment properties:
Obviously, Estes Park is a popular tourist destination, primarily due to its proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park. The park attracts over 4.5 Million visitors annually, providing a consistent source of tourist demand.
Estes Park has abundant regulations governing short-term rentals and getting through the red tape is not easy, but it is possible. Investors should be aware of licensing requirements and zoning restrictions to ensure compliance and your real estate agent can help you sort it out.
Estes Park experiences high occupancy rates, especially during peak tourist seasons between the months of May and October. Properties with scenic views, waterfront locations, or downtown areas with close proximity to shopping and attractions tend to have the strongest occupancy. A typical well-run Short Term Rental property should expect over 60% occupancy for the year.
There is competition in Estes Park's short-term rental market, but the high demand for accommodation often mitigates potential challenges. The amount of competition among single family homes is limited because of the cap on the number of licensed properties at any given time which provides some exclusivity. Condominiums with on-site management can be abundant in some areas of town, but this does not impact saturation.
Estes Park exhibits clear seasonality, with summer being the peak tourist season due to pleasant weather and outdoor activities. Winter also attracts visitors for snow-related activities but on a much more limited basis because the closest ski resort is more than 45 minutes to the south. Fall festivals bring a significant bump in demand and the National Park is open year-round, however, the summer is clearly the most popular month to visit Estes Park.
The local economy in Estes Park is closely tied to tourism, and the town has a thriving business community supporting the needs of both residents and visitors. A well-balanced local population servicing the accommodations business creates the opportunity of owning and operating a property without living locally.
Estes Park is easily accessible by road, making it convenient for visitors. The town has well-maintained infrastructure to support tourism. Roads are very well maintained and there are abundant walking paths and amenities for locals and visitors alike.
The town hosts various events such as the Longs Peak Scottish-Irish Highland Festival, Elk Fest and Autumn Gold in the fall. There are also attractions like the Stanley Hotel, the Aerial Tram, the Mountain Roller Coaster, and numerous go carts and mini golf activities which adds to the appeal of short-term rentals.
Property management services are available in Estes Park, helping investors with the day-to-day management of their rental properties. Cleaners and handyman supporting the rental industry are also available.
Estes Park is generally considered a family friendly and safe destination with very low crime, which enhances the appeal of short-term rental properties. We typically tell people we hear of more bears breaking into homes and cars than we do people!
The town offers a range of amenities, including restaurants, shops, a recreational center, outdoor trails, walking paths and abundant recreational activities, making the entire area attractive to visitors.
Estes Park has relatively lower property taxes than most of the nation. Colorado consistently ranks as one of the best states in the nation for low property taxes making it easier for investors to factor them into their financial calculations.
Estes Park has experienced consistent property appreciation over the years, with the scenic mountainous landscape and close proximity to hundreds of thousands of people in Denver and the Northern Front Range of Colorado contributing to the desirability of real estate in our area.
Estes Park has a unique mountain town culture with a focus on outdoor activities, arts, and local events. There is a high population of retirees and 2nd home owners that come and go throughout the year.
The town is situated in a mountainous region at 7,522 feet of elevation, and has a history of unique challenges relating to that elevation including potentially heavy snow in the winter and spring while also enjoying over 300 days of sunshine a year. Our blue skies are practically indescribable until you experience them yourself. Wildfires, wind, and potential flash flooding are other natural considerations to take into account when considering investing in the mountains.
Estes Park's real estate market has a history of attractive appreciation providing potential opportunities for resale if an investor decides to exit the market. The low urgency in a 2nd home market tends to preserve property values when the rest of the nation goes through a downturn and yet will also accelerate faster when the market goes through recovery. The most consistent comment we get from home buyers is “I should have bought way back when I first started visiting Estes Park.”
Investors in Estes Park should conduct thorough due diligence on these factors to make informed decisions about short-term rental investments in this scenic and popular destination.
We pride ourselves in providing personalized solutions that bring our clients closer to their dream properties and enhance their long-term wealth.