The amazing boom in metro Denver real estate has made it difficult for first-time buyers on a budget, among many, many other house hunters. But it's been a bonanza for sellers like one couple from Parker, who agreed to share in detail their own whirlwind experience.
The pair, Mark and Tara, bought their home just three years ago for $355,000. After the house went on the market in recent months, the price went up so quickly, and astonishingly, that Mark lost not one, but two friendly wagers with Tara about where it would top out — which turned out to be well in excess of half a million dollars.
"It was unbelievable — just unreal the way this process went for us," Mark says.
Back in 2018, Mark and Tara (they asked that we omit their last name, as well as any photos of the actual home and its address) saw the $355,000 price tag on a place in Parker as a good deal. "It needed a little work," Mark admits. "It had been a rental home; the previous owner had rented it for about five years. So there was wear and tear. Nothing structural; it wasn't much of a fixer-upper. But even though it was weathered and the carpets were shot, the price was reasonable for the neighborhood we purchased it in."
He describes the decision to sell the house three years later as "a spur-of-the-moment thing based on market conditions. In late January, we contacted the realtor who'd helped us purchase it, and he suggested we do a few things to spruce it up before we put it on the market."
In all, Mark and Tara invested about $10,000 to repaint the interior and put down new carpets. Once the work was finished, they huddled with the realtor to determine how much to ask.
"We evaluated the market," Mark recalls. "We did comparisons in the area based on square footage, dollar amounts, overall condition. Basically, we did a market analysis, and we priced it right at the top end of what houses like ours were going for. We weren't trying to set a record, but we also didn't want to undercut ourselves. Basically, we put ourselves at the 85th percentile."
Still, when their realtor suggested that the sweet spot was $415,000, Mark admits that "I was a little apprehensive. I said, 'Are we sure about this?' He said, 'Relax. We're going to do just fine. We're going to get more than the list price.' And I said, 'Okay.'"
Tara was more confident. She bet Mark some new shoes that the final bid would be more than $430,000.
Together, Mark, Tara and the realtor set the on-sale date for Wednesday, March 31 — a period when concerns over COVID-19 were still very much in the foreground. To assuage any fears, they established a set of safety protocols. The weekend open house would last for just 48 hours and everything would be scheduled: no drop-ins. Visitors would have to use masks and gloves, and surfaces would be disinfected between each tour and after all of them were completed. Moreover, Mark and Tara wouldn't be present; they made arrangements to take their RV to New Mexico during the open house.
Demand was crazy from the jump. Within thirty minutes of the house appearing on the Multiple Listing Service, or MLS, for the metro area, "We had an offer from an institutional buyer out of California," Mark recalls. "They offered us $460,000 in cash if we didn't put it on the market or go through with the open house."
They were tempted, but the realtor encouraged them to be patient, and they agreed to go ahead with the open house. In the meantime, Tara already knew she had a new pair of shoes.
In the beginning, the realtor had planned to schedule tours of the home at thirty-minute intervals, but that time period eventually shrank to as little as ten minutes. Ultimately, there were 83 appointments over two days, with some potential buyers on their own, some with a spouse or significant other.
From New Mexico, Mark and Tara were able to monitor what was going on. "In the first hour, we were getting offers in the $450,000 range. By midday Saturday, we had an offer of $472,000, and Tara was like, 'We're going to get over $480,000.' And I said, 'If we get over $480,000, I'll buy you a new car.'"
Shortly thereafter, he remembers, "The realtor phoned and asked, 'What type of car are you guys buying? Because I just got an offer that will satisfy that $480,000 number.' And then he started laughing hysterically."
The amusement ratcheted up by the evening, when a $520,000 offer arrived — and it was accompanied by some of the concessions that Mark and Tara wanted.
"I think one of the biggest factors for us is that we didn't want to get nitpicked by the inspection process," Mark explains. "We didn't want someone to come in with a big number but then start nitpicking us for every single penny to try and capture some of the money back. So we wanted them to waive some of their inspection rights. If it was a health and safety issue, like a new furnace, that was one thing. But if a doorknob was a little sticky, we wanted them to get a new doorknob. And we were also interested in buyers who would come to us with a limited inspection requirement, since most people were bidding over the appraised value of the house. No way was it going to appraise for over $500,000, so that was taken into consideration. And for a couple of them, we requested conversations with their lenders to confirm the validity of the funds — that they had funds available to bridge gaps if the inspection came in short."
Eighteen offers in total were made on the house, all of them above list, but the $520,000 offer proved to be "a slam dunk," Mark says. The deal closed on April 15, just over two weeks after the house was listed, resulting in a windfall (after that extra $10,000 investment) of $155,000.
Shortly thereafter, Mark and Tara started shopping for a new car.
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