Regional Guide: The West/Rockies Cost of Living Breakdown
The Western United States has an intrigue that has drawn visitors and settlers to the region's landscapes for hundreds of years. Even in the 21st century, the idea of a better life in the West is very much alive: More than 850,000 people relocated to this region in 2015 alone. The region encompasses the majestic Rocky Mountains, the Pacific Ocean and the most diverse array of terrain in the country from sandy deserts to sub-tropical beaches and deciduous forests.
Temperatures and climate patterns are widely varied in the western region of the United States. While being known as a vacation paradise, the Western U.S. can also be the ideal location to enjoy winter sports. If you love snow and chillier weather, you may find the perfect home base in Utah or Colorado where the winter high temperatures hover in the 40s, although average high in July is 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Hawaii is a tropical paradise with a climate that remains steady most of the year. The average annual temperature at Hawaii National Park is 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Major industries of the region are as diverse as the topography. The technology industry has major hubs in several western states, including the Denver metropolitan area and Silicon Valley in California. The logistics, health care and sales industries are also major employment forces in the Western United States.
Whether you're moving to the West for work or because you're seeking the ideal climate for your lifestyle, you have an amazing array of choices from the mountains of Colorado and Utah to the desert expanses of Nevada. Sunny Hawaii and California are also top choices for your relocation to the Western U.S. The right choice of home base for yourself or your family will largely depend on your income. You'll discover that the cost of living is higher in cities such as Honolulu, HI, and Los Angeles, CA, than some of their regional neighbors, including Grand Junction, CO, and Las Vegas, NV.
The most populous state in the U.S., California, encompasses 155,780 square miles and is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean. It is also bordered by the states of Oregon, Arizona and Nevada. As of the 2015 U.S. Census, the population of California was more than 39 million people. Due to its vast size, the state's climate varies considerably, so there is something for everyone. Seven major mountain ranges make up the geography of California, and Northern California has a generally milder climate than Southern California. The mid-eastern section of the Sunshine State is home to dry deserts and the hottest location on earth, Death Valley. The Census Bureau estimated that, in 2015, there were nearly 14 million housing units in California. The state's median rent value was estimated at $1,240, and median monthly mortgage costs, including the mortgage itself, were $2,215.
One of the largest and most iconic cities in the United States, metropolitan Los Angeles encompasses an area of 4,000 square miles with an estimated 10 million people residing in Los Angeles County, which is divided into more than 3 million households. Not only is this city highly populated, but it is also frequented by tourists from all over the world. Major neighborhoods in Los Angeles, commonly known as LA, include Venice Beach, Marina Del Rey and South Los Angeles. The major industries are manufacturing, including apparel and computer and electronics products.
• City population in 2015: 3,971,880
• Median home price: $685,000
• City median monthly rent: $1,195
• Median household income: $49,680
Nestled on the edge of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Butte County, Chico is home to California State University, Chico.
• Population in 2015: 90,315
• Median home price: $289,500
• Median monthly rent: $1,475
• Median household income: $42,335
Known as the starting point of the Rocky Mountains to visitors from the eastern half of the U.S., Colorado's estimated population in 2015 was 5,456,575. Despite the existence of major population centers such as Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs, the average population per square mile is only about 48.5. The land area of Colorado is 103,640 square miles, and many of this state's residents live in rural areas and small towns. The U.S. Census Bureau reported a median rent of $970 between 2010 and 2014. The median home value in Colorado is $301,200, a number that reportedly increased by 12 percent between 2014 and 2015.
Home to the University of Colorado, Boulder, the city of Boulder is the western-most city in the Denver metropolitan area.
• Population in 2015: 107,350
• Median home price: $700,000
• Median monthly rent: $1,200
• Median household income: $58,060
• Population per square mile 3,950
Grand Junction residents enjoy city life with abundant access to the great outdoors. The city is located on the edge of Interstate 70 about 30 miles from the Utah border.
• Population in 2015: 60,360
• Median home price: $189,900
• Median monthly rent: $845
• Median household income: $44,890
The last state to be admitted to the United States, Hawaii is an archipelago made up of more than 100 islands, eight of which are populated: Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe and the Big Island of Hawaii. The state's 2015 population estimate was 1,431,600 according to the U.S. Census. The population per square mile is approximately 211 people due to the state's small geographic size of 6,420 square miles. Hawaii is an isolated place located 2,390 miles off the coast of California. Median rental cost between 2010 and 2014 was $1,415, and monthly owner costs with a mortgage during the same time frame averaged $2,290.
Located on the island of Oahu, Honolulu is the Hawaii state capital and largest city.
• Population in 2015: 374,660
• Median home price: $625,300
• Median monthly rent: $1,530
• Median household income: $73,580
The largest city on the Big Island, Hilo is located on the eastern shore of Hawaii about 10 miles from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
• Population in 2010: 43,265
• Median home price: $303,200
• Median monthly rent: $850
• Median household income: $52,565
Known for its lax gambling laws and hot desert climate, Nevada is home to several major population centers, including Las Vegas and its capital of Carson City. Reno is another populous city in the northern part of the state. The majority of Nevada residents live in the western part of the state, and about 2.8 million people total call Nevada home. The state's median house value is $217,000, a number that increased by 8.9 percent between 2015 and 2016.
One of the most popular vacation destinations in the United States, Las Vegas is nestled on the southern tip of Nevada. It is bordered by the city of Henderson to the southeast, and hospitality is the region's biggest industry.
• Population in 2015: 623,750
• Median home price: $208,000
• Median monthly rent: $985
• Median household income: $50,900
Known as the Gateway to California, the Reno-Sparks metropolitan area is just over the Nevada state line on Interstate 80.
• Population in 2015: 241,445
• Median home price: $283,000
• Median monthly rent: $860
• Median household income: $46,490
Home to the biggest saltwater lake in the country as well as several renowned National Parks, Utah has an estimated population of nearly 3 million. With a land area of just over 82,000 square miles, the state boasts one of the country's lowest population densities at 33.6 people per square mile, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. The state's median rental rate of $875 is also one of the lowest in the U.S.
Salt Lake City
The state capital of Salt Lake City is known as the home base of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the city's architecture is majestic, surrounded by the Wasatch Mountain Range and the country's biggest saltwater lake.
• Population in 2015: 192,670
• Median home price: $466,000
• Median monthly rent: $805
• Median household income: $45,830
Renowned for its sweeping vistas and close proximity to famous recreation areas, including Canyonlands National Park, Moab is an outdoor lover's paradise. Located near the Colorado border just south of Arches National Park as well as Interstate 70, the cost of living in Moab is lower than the state average.
• Population in 2015: 5,235
• Median home price: $486,295
• Median monthly rent: $770
• Median household income: $41,530
Whether your ideal home base is a big, cosmopolitan city or a smaller town on the edge of National Forests, a relocation to the western region of the United States may be the perfect option.
(Real Estate Information Source: Trulia.com and Census.gov)