Ten Tips to Help You Navigate Denver's Soul-Sucking Housing Market

Ten Tips to Help You Navigate Denver's Soul-Sucking Housing Market
Stats about Denver's scorching hot (read: nearly impossible to enter) housing market abound, but I didn't truly understand how crazy things were until my husband and I started looking ourselves. The first time we toured a craphole and learned later that the house had 22 offers — most over asking price — we thought it was an anomaly. I need two hands and some toes to count up the times that situation has repeated itself since.

Unless you have a briefcase full of cash lying around your house or are in a tax bracket that affords you one of those gold credit cards, buying a house in Denver right now can be a soul-sucking, gut-wrenching, repeated kick in the teeth. But it doesn't have to be! Here are ten tips to navigate the market.

1. Find an optimistic realtor.
We recently walked into a cute house with an ugly bathroom. I balked, but our realtor didn't flinch. Nancy Levine pointed to every ugly thing and gave us an estimate for how much it would cost to replace the aging toilet, the outdated cabinet handles, the bad lighting. After her explanation, I realized the ugly bathroom wasn't a deal-breaker. In this market, you need someone who can help you look past the ugly sink.

2. Find a realtor who knows their shit.
Not too long ago, we toured a home with what looked like a problem with the foundation. Rainwater would pour off the roof and, because of the angle of the dirt around the foundation, appeared to go back into the house. Water and foundations are sworn enemies. Other realtors who were giving potential buyers tours at the time saw the issue and told their clients to run. Our realtor admitted it looked like a problem but acknowledged her limitations. "I'm not a structural appraiser," Nancy said (before strongly encouraging us to bring in a structural appraiser).

3. Meet with a lender way before — like, six months before — you start looking for a house.
Issues with credit can take a while to fix, so it's better to find out sooner rather than later if yours is messed up. Do some research about the lender you're comfortable working with (big bank, private lender), and after your meeting with them, make sure you have a full idea of where every cent of your money would go in a sale and just how much you'll need, closing costs included. Consider the drawbacks and perks of the different kinds of loans (FHA vs. conventional loan, for example). It helps to get a lender who speaks plain English and not just legalese.

4. Write your seller a love letter.
Silly? Maybe. Effective at breaking your offer out of the pack? Absolutely. Tell the seller about yourself (it's harder to say no to someone you know, right?). Compliment their home and the work they've put into it. Tell them what you'd do with the big back yard or guest room. Keep it brief and meaningful.

5. Don't wait — buy now (if you can).
Fact: The market will inevitably cool down, which will impact home values. A look at the last fifty years of home prices in Denver shows dips in the market, but prices have risen overall. Think of it like the stock market: You don't cut and run when things get bad. You hunker down and ride out the storm. You might be buying at the top of the market now, but things will only get worse over the next few years. And contrary to popular belief, you don't need a big down payment. You can even make 3 percent work.

Keep reading for more tips for home buyers in Denver.

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Ana Campbell has been Westword's managing editor since 2016. She has worked at magazines and newspapers around the country, picking up a few awards along the way for her writing and editing. She grew up in south Texas.
Contact: Ana Campbell