Eight Most Important Things Denver First-Time Home Buyers Need to Know

Lori Abbey listed this five-bedroom, four-bath, 3,673 square foot home at 350 South Race Street at $1,129,000. Its sale is listed as pending.
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Lori Abbey listed this five-bedroom, four-bath, 3,673 square foot home at 350 South Race Street at $1,129,000. Its sale is listed as pending.
For first-time home buyers, the process of finding the perfect place, securing the financing needed to make a purchase feasible, and competing against others trying to accomplish the same goal may seem daunting, particularly in a market like Denver's, which has been marked by sky-high prices and bidding wars in recent years.

Fortunately, the real estate game in Denver has moderated in recent months, giving first-timers their best chance in years to find the abode of their dreams. But how do novices get started? And what are the key things they need to know?

To answer those questions, we reached out to Lori Abbey of Compass, one of the experts we consulted for our recent post exploring why houses in Denver sell quickly or take forever. Below, she shares eight key tips for folks who want to buy but are worried about the process and the expense.

The first one below may be the most surprising of all.

1. You may qualify for buyer programs that could make a down payment cheap or even free.

A lot of home buyers have heard they need a 20 percent down payment in order to get into a house. And with the average cost of a single-family home in metro Denver remaining above $500,000, that would require a minimum of $100K — an amount very few folks in the middle class can swing.

Luckily, Abbey stresses, this supposed requirement is a myth in many, if not most, instances. And in certain circumstances, totally unexpected bargains can be found even in the Mile High City.

"Depending on your income levels and whether it's a one- or two-person household, there are grants available where sometimes you can come to closing with nothing," she reveals. For example, "one recent client actually got $1,000 back at closing."

How? The client was a teacher who qualified for two grants — one through the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority and a second via a separate, national program that specifically targets home buyers from her profession. "She had to bring less to the table because she was a teacher and ended up being able to close and get $1,000 back," Abbey reports. "All of a sudden, she owned a home for the first time in her life — and it's probably worth $40,000 more now than it was when she bought it."

Teachers aren't the only folks with options like this. Police officers, firefighters, doctors, attorneys or folks who've just graduated are among others named by Abbey, who points out that "there's an additional benefit if a home with a government-backed loan has been foreclosed on. Teachers and officers can buy some of those properties at 50 percent off, and that includes the down payment. There are a multitude of qualifications, but if you meet all of them, it's a pretty fabulous deal."

We've included links and descriptions for four programs recommended by Brent Schneider, an Abbey colleague with expertise in this area, at the bottom of the post.