If you’re a Denver local, then you know that one thing is certain about your city: its popularity doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
In the last year alone, Denver has welcomed about 13,000 newcomers to the area, which is included in the more than 93,000 people who have boosted the population since 2010. It’s a hefty increase in fellow neighbors, and it’s come with a lot of subsequent changes.
People are coming to the Mile High City for its increased job opportunities, relative affordability, and ties to the outdoors, and their presence has inspired more mass transit and day-to-night entertainment. Those are positive shifts, of course, but they’ve also come with traffic, housing shortages, and rising costs of living. And if you’re a homeowner looking to sell, all of these things have to be on your mind.
You may be in a seller’s market, but finesse is still a part of the game. The last thing you want to do is mistake robust popularity for an easy profit.
But don’t get too overwhelmed, either. We’ve spoken to Bob Hryniewich, a top 1% Denver real estate agent and local who has lived in Denver his whole life, to figure out what homeowners should know when they’re ready to put their properties on the market.
“The demand is just so high,” he says.
For starters, be aware of who you’re dealing with: transplants are a large component of the market, but empty-nesters and first-time buyers are also on the lookout, too. Everyone who’s looking to buy has different needs in mind. Next, create a strategy that caters to a certain buyer, her particular budget, and the time of year. Finally, bring in backup. Since Denver’s real estate market is hot, buyers and their agents come prepared.
So, how can you make sure that your home stands out amongst the competition and avoid potential pitfalls? Follow this guide to find out.
Know Your Audience to Sell Your Denver House Fast
According to the Denver Metro Association of Realtors’ October market report, which focused on statistics in the previous month, year-to-date closings are up three percent from last year. But, the market is slightly shifting to accommodate affordability — the average list price of a single family home hovers at above $500,000, so buyers with a tighter budget are becoming harder to pin down. Partner that with a limited supply, and the relationship between buyers and sellers can be tricky.
So the first thing to do before you open your home to potential buyers is to know who is most likely to be interested in your home. Hryniewich breaks down your potential audience into three groups: the suburban families, the nature lovers, and the younger crowds.
The suburban family, he says, wants the typical “2,500-square-foot home with a basement” whereas the nature lovers want the privacy and views that come with being a little outside the city. The younger crowd, which Hryniewich refers to as being under 45, simply cares about proximity and cost.
While it’s true that not every home is going to fit into these demographics, it’s easier to sell your property when you can imagine a certain buyer moving into it. Is it the person who loves skiing in the winter and mountain biking in the summer, since most people in Denver love the outdoors? Is it the couple with two kids who just moved to the city because of a job relocation? Or is it the millennial who is in town because of its relative affordability? Take a look around your neighborhood and your home’s specific characteristics, and tailor your address to the person who will see the most potential in it.
Pinpoint What Your Audience Wants
Once you have an idea of who is in your prime audience, now focus in on what that buyer wants: location and amenities.
“I feel that 60 percent of the value of the home is based on location, 30 percent is based on square footage, and 10 percent is based on the amenities,” Hryniewich says.
Families with above-average incomes will probably flock to your home if it’s located in top-dollar neighborhoods like Washington Park, Hilltop, Cherry Creek, and LoDo. Washington Park would suit a family of transplants who are looking for classic brick homes on leafy streets (and a short commute to downtown).
And what about middle-income families with young children? They’re most interested in safety, of course, and the suburban Indian Creek or Wellshire neighborhoods would be ideal — 5280 ranked them the first and second safest places in the area, respectively, in 2015.
If you’re located in an area filled with new builds, like Jefferson Park, Lowry, and Stapleton, play up modern conveniences instead. Once those Denver buyers find the right surroundings for themselves, they’re also interested in homes that have certain classic details: garages, yards, and wood flooring fit the bill. Don’t have ‘em? Play up easy parking, proximity to a park, or clean carpeting (yes, you may need to do some upkeep). When the market is this competitive, every aspect counts.
Hryniewich has noticed that the further a home is from the center of Denver, the more likely it is that owners will have to spend on upgrades to modernize it for today’s buyer — like creating popular “open concept” floor plans or chef’s kitchens. Those with homes within city limits will have an easier time selling addresses that don’t have contemporary features, because buyers are more likely to get financing to do it themselves, he says.
“You’re still going to be able to get a good price for the house when you sell it, even if it’s not updated, if you’re closer to the city,” he said.
Don’t Forget to the Consider the Light Rail
It’s no secret that location is a defining feature of any home’s success rate on the market. But when considering Denver’s diverse spread of 78 neighborhoods — from the central LoDo and Uptown neighborhoods to the more artsy RiNo and Capitol Hill hubs — and its high traffic, homeowners are looking for relief.
According to Trulia, about 88 percent of Denver residents commute by car, while the rest commute by public transportation. But in the last few years, the light rail has expanded its reach. A CityLab report published last month noted that the central hub of downtown’s Union Station now connects to Boulder (28 miles northwest), to Jefferson County (26 miles west), and to Aurora (11 miles east). In theory, the seven projects that have been completed — and the five that are still on the way — should usher in a turning point for Denverites. Commuters are still choosing cars for now, but as those lines start to focus on urban cores over suburbia, it’s likely that the trend will change.
“We’re starting to see a lot of buyers actually want to purchase properties that are close to mass transit,” Hryniewich says.
The Colorado Real Estate Journal found last year that prices for land around light-rail stations have doubled in the last five years, where downtown properties close to stations have seen rises between $300 per square foot to $600 per square foot. Furthermore, if your property is set in popular Stapleton, consider the light rail a miracle worker: over three years, prices per square foot went from $14 or $15 to $45. Millennials especially want to be close to the light rail, so consider this demographic if your home is in a prime spot.
The Best Time of Year to Sell a House in Denver Isn’t When You’d Think
If you’re like most armchair real estate agents, then it’s easy to assume that most sales probably take place in the warmer months. And while that’s generally true for Denver — after all, it’s not as difficult to sell a home when you don’t have to worry about snowy weather or early-evening showings in the dark — Hryniewich has noticed that the winter months are actually heating up.
“Traditionally, in the past, it used to be May, June, July, and August [for sales],” he says. “But over the past probably two or three years it’s starting to become earlier and earlier. So we’re seeing that right after the holidays, say late January, February, March, April, May, and June are the best times to sell a house.”
Our research shows that the best sales typically take place in the Spring and early Summer — while the worst times are around July and August and November and December.
Fewer buyers may be on the market, but those who are looking want to buy. Hryniewich muses that these buyers are people with children who want their kids to be settled in a new school as possible, he says. But it could be anyone looking to make a sale fast, either because of a new job or a lifestyle change. Regardless, the small competition and the closing potential of winter buyers will make the process more seamless for sellers.
But because of the city’s popularity and limited supply, don’t despair if you’re looking to sell your home outside of this window.
“We’re not so much a little city anymore, we’re actually a pretty large city due to the amount of people who are moving in,” Hryniewich says. “No matter what month you’re in, there are people who are moving.”
Don’t Try to Sell Your Denver Home Alone
The biggest advice Hryniewich can give to a seller is to take the process seriously and hire a professional. “It’s the largest transaction someone makes in their lifetime,” he says. “Not to mention, it can possibly lead to legal consequences if not done properly. There’s more to it than just putting a ‘for sale’ sign in the yard.”
Once you’ve hired an agent who knows how the process of selling a home relates to your needs, then work to get it sold quickly.
“The key to selling the house is actually to get it sold as soon as possible, especially in today’s market,” Hryniewich recommends. “Because if you’re on the market for longer than a month, people are going to start wondering what’s wrong with it, and it’s ultimately going to result in a lower sales price.”
When you’re looking for a real estate agent, Hryniewich’s first advice is to ask close family and friends for recommendations. Once you have a few agents in mind, ask them questions that will prove their expertise. Our study found that finding out an agent’s “days on market” average, noting how many homes she’s sold in a year, determining her sale to list price ratio, and having a conversation about her knowledge of the area are all vital information.
“The key in buying or selling a home is finding the best agent that’s going to suit your needs. It may not be the person who offers you the lowest commission or brokerage,” Hryniewich notes.
The number of agents listed online in Denver could rival its sprawl, so don’t get lost in the weeds. Use comprehensive data, rather than fishy five-star reviews, to analyze an agent’s chops, and be sure that the person knows exactly what you want. Hryniewich says that all potential agents must be knowledgeable, understanding, and communicative throughout the whole process.
“You really need to have an agent who comes in and explains the whole process to you and shows you the comps to determine what the appraiser is going to value that property at,” he says.