Unless you’re a black market art dealer or have a penchant for luxury vintage automobiles, buying a house will be the largest purchase of your entire life. What’s more, home buying doesn’t conform to any of the marketing conventions of consumer transactions we’re used to: there’s no money back guarantee, no Blue Light Special and you sure as hell won’t find a coupon for a single family ranch.
On top of the exorbitant price, the transaction itself is so onerous that a professional needs to walk you through it. To this individual you entrust your most guarded financial information, pour out your life’s aspirations (“I can just picture little kiddos in that nook—honey, I want three!”) and give countless hours of your precious time. Given the sensitivity of the entire process, having the right real estate agent is unequivocally important.
But before diving into the Dos and Don’ts of hiring an agent, let’s run through Boulder County’s current housing market.
“We did better than the metro areas by a fair amount. We had a few foreclosures but overall we fared better than east of us,” Boulder County Assessor Jerry Roberts told me, referring to the 2008 housing crisis.
Michelle Boudin, the President of the Boulder Area Realtor Association saw a slight hit in pricing, but not like other areas in the Four Corners states.
“When the media talked about it, they covered Denver metro, and naturally we’re included in that,” Boudin said, noting that as a separate entity Boulder did miles better than what was reported on the news.
The county’s borrowing rates have been kept relatively low, economic growth continues in the area and there was never a true housing bubble along the Front Range (which always helps when trying to avoid the “pop”).
Right now, sellers are in an undeniably good place. Housing stock has grown at a snail’s pace since the 1976 Danish Plan, which purposefully stagnated population numbers by limiting residential building permits. In creating an exclusive enclave the Danish Plan has succeeded; but it has also succeeded in squeezing out middle-income housing from a large portion of the city, pushing it into East County (or out of the area completely).
As a result, once homeowners penetrate the city of Boulder, they often stay—figures from last fall showed that there were 16% fewer homes on the city’s market than just a year prior.
“Now is the time to move up,” Leslie Herz of Coldwell-Banker told me. For existing owners, low housing stock and high prices means a chance to climb the ladder. “The fantastic news for them is that it’s a seller’s market.”
But what about buyers? Unfortunately, home prices in Boulder County are rising faster than wages. By some numbers, between 2012 and 2013 average home prices rose by 9-10%. Interest rates are rising slightly, which will likely help avoid another scenario like 2008, but doesn’t bode well for first time buyers. Even if you’ve found your dream home, it’s the dream of six other pairs of eyes—auction-like conditions with multiple offers are not unusual in Boulder proper.
“It’s really important for a buyer that they don’t have contingencies,” Boudin told me. Sellers in a saturated market don’t want buyers whose offers are contingent on their house selling.
Thankfully, the eastern three-quarters of the county fill in the gaps. Whereas the average single family home in the city of Boulder is $642,000, the rest of the county comes in at $411,000.
“The building in the east is something we haven’t seen for last few years,” Roberts told me. “For those who work in Boulder we will have more affordable homes nearby.”
A buyer needs every advantage, regardless of whether you’re looking in East County or Boulder proper. Where do you start?