Evergreen | 3,000 square feet (pictured, above)
Evergreen’s older yet well-loved properties present an entrée to the mountain-home marketplace. Just a 45-minute drive from Denver, half a mil here nets you a remodeled Nixon-era ranch. Who cares if the surrounding (spendier) castles dwarf your standard four-bedroom, three-bathroom digs? You all share the same stunning view.

Down South

Castle Rock | 4,000-plus square feet
Just 20 miles past the Denver Tech Center, Castle Rock boasts homes with five bedrooms, finished basements, three-car garages, and out-your-back-door access to open space. The 45- minute-plus commute to downtown is the trade-off for getting everything else you want—and staying under $500,000.

The People’s Republic

Boulder | 1,300 square feet
To afford anything near Pearl Street, you’ll need at least a million bucks. But three miles away, in neighborhoods such as Martin Acres, your money can go twice as far. Communities south of Baseline Road are full of four-bedroom ranch-style homes with backyards begging for summer barbecues—and prices that will leave you able to stock it with the requisite organic and gluten-free eats.

The Burbs

Arvada | 3,100 square feet
Eleven miles northwest of the Mile High City, Arvada offers family-friendly communities and commutes for $500,000. Your late-’90s house may look similar to the others on the street, but with four bedrooms, upgraded kitchens and bathrooms, two-car garages, and easy walking distance to quality schools, you’ll get over it quickly.

City Proper

Denver | 1,800 square feet
To stay at or below the half-million mark, you’ll want to look in neighborhoods such as Sunnyside, where modern three-bedroom, three-bathroom duplexes and rowhomes replace scraped midcentury Craftsman houses. Closer to the Mile High City’s skyline, your options grow smaller and the price tags get bigger.

(Read our 2015 list of Denver’s best neighborhoods)