Why Denver Holiday Home-Buying Season Is the Hardest Ever

This four-bedroom, two-bath, 0.13 acre home at 1529 South University Boulevard is currently listed at $614,900, just under the average price for November.
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This four-bedroom, two-bath, 0.13 acre home at 1529 South University Boulevard is currently listed at $614,900, just under the average price for November.
Once upon a time, the idea of surprising the family with a new home for Christmas seemed like an achievable goal — but doing so in the Mile High City has never been harder than in 2020. The Denver Metro Association of Realtors puts the matter bluntly: Its new market trends report shows that right now is the "toughest time to buy a home in holiday history."

That's a claim as big as it is dispiriting — but DMAR's data backs it up.

Last month, the group's analysis of October's numbers revealed that the average price for a detached home in the Denver metro area had hit a record high of $625,100. The December trends package, which relies on figures from November, slightly lowers that amount to $622,990 and reveals that next month's average will be down a bit more, to $615,766.

This change is hardly indicative of a major market shift, however. Denver home sales traditionally slow during the cold-weather months, and lower demand tends to result in price dips — and in the past, the fall-off has been considerably steeper than this latest decline. In fact, a close look at the numbers offers evidence of a very different level of demand in the late fall than Denver has experienced in many years...if ever.

The number of active listings at the end of November was down an astonishing 62.73 percent from the same time in 2019, even though new listings were off only slightly during that period. Moreover, the average closing price for a detached home has gone up a jaw-slackening $82,749 in a year. Even more telling: The average amount of time a home was on the market tumbled more than 73 percent in twelve months, going from nineteen days in November 2019 to five in November 2020 — which explains why multiple offers and bidding wars continue to be a thing.

Here are the key statistics for detached homes in these four areas.
Active Listings at Month's End

November 2020: 1,755
Prior Month: 2,643
Year Ago: 4,709
Prior Month: -33.60 percent
Year Ago: -62.73 percent

New Listings

November 2020: 2,471
Prior Month: 4,233
Year Ago: 2,509
Prior Month: -41.49 percent
Year Ago: -1.51 percent

Closed Price Average

November 2020: $615,766
Prior Month: $622,990
Year Ago: $533,107
Prior Month: -1.16 percent
Year Ago: +15.51 percent

Median Days in MLS (Multiple Listings Service)

November 2020: 5 days
Prior Month: 6 days
Year Ago: 19 days
Prior Month: -16.68 percent
Year Ago: -73.68 percent
An additional overview is provided by Denver-area mortgage expert Nicole Rueth in this video:

"For many, the holiday season will be a different experience when compared to previous years due to COVID-19, and the same can be said for the Greater Denver Metro market," states DMAR market trends committee chair Andrew Abrams. "For sellers, this market continues to push the prices at which they can list the house, leaving them with a choice to decide on multiple offers in the hopes that the buyer they choose will actually make it to the closing table without any inspection or appraisal issues. Meanwhile, buyers are competing on most properties that hit the market, and up terms to secure a place they can call home, all while trying to take advantage of the low interest rates."

How long this scenario will continue is anyone's guess, since the market has provided one surprise after another throughout 2020. In the meantime, house hunters in metro Denver will have a helluva time snapping up a new home by December 25.

There's always next year. Click to read the Denver Metra Association of Realtors' December market trends report.