The real estate market in Colorado Springs has been white hot in recent years—I can attest. In late 2018, my husband and I saw a listing go up for a downtown split-level. We texted our agent, viewed the home and signed an offer all within 24 hours. A day later, after negotiations due to multiple offers from potential buyers, we had a contract.
Of course, this type of super-quick turnaround depends a lot on the area of town, says Tiffany Lachnidt, lead realtor with The Distinctive Group (and my agent for more than a decade). “Where you bought is, and has always been, a tight, tight market—Patty Jewett, Hastings, that whole central part of Colorado Springs—because we don’t build a lot of neighborhoods that have that kind of character.” We’re not the only ones wanting to live in the desirable historical area.
A big part of the challenge, all across the city, is simply low inventory. “Our under-$200,000 market is basically nonexistent,” says Donna Major, past board chair of the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors (PPAR) and broker associate with Re/Max Advantage Realty. “I can tell you in most of the price points that are what the average buyer would buy in Colorado Springs … below $500,000 … it’s really, really difficult.”
Which means flexibility is going to be key for any buyer right now. “You have to go in prepared, be really well qualified. You have to be able to move quickly. You need to be persistent and patient in the process and have realistic expectations,” says Lachnidt. “If you go into it like that, you’re in good shape. If you go into it saying, ‘I’m waiting for the perfect house.’ Probably not.”
In my case, it helped to be a local, know exactly where we wanted to move and have a realtor we’d worked with before on our side. But what about those just moving to the Springs?
Ben Day, broker associate with LIV Sotheby’s International Reality, says it helps for buyers to start by assessing their transition. For example, a career change, divorce, new baby or empty nest all play a big role in the type of space and proximity to nearby services you need. “Every buyer is buying because of some change they’re going through,” he says. “The more honestly they face what that change is and how that change impacts their life, the more clearly and enjoyably they can make their purchase.”
Lachnidt recommends working with a realtor who knows the Pikes Peak region—even before you get here. Her team does a lot of video-conferencing to find out where a family has lived and what they loved previously. They ask questions like what neighborhood amenities potential buyers want and how far they’re willing to drive to work.
“People that grew up in Los Angeles could [not] care less if they have to drive an hour and a half,” she says. “People who grew up in southern Florida think 10 minutes is a long way. We just do a lot of pre-prep work with them so that we can start to understand their needs.”
Day likes to take clients on an in-depth tour of the city to visit entire neighborhoods, including schools, restaurants, trails, shopping centers, soccer fields, gymnastics studios, art installations or vegan eateries. “Places where the flavor is,” he says. “Things you would never figure out while you’re fixated on Zillow.”
The personal touch makes a big difference when it comes to financing a home purchase as well. Even though online applications are widespread, meeting your mortgage lender before you have to sign anything has its benefits.
“I just think it’s better to shake hands and look people in the eye and then know that they are going to be at your closing—that the money’s not going to get wired from Tucson and everybody has to wait on the money to come in,” says Wayne Bland, vice president with Kirkpatrick Bank.
He also advises people to gather recommendations and shop multiple lenders. “Don’t just look at the interest rate. Look at the closing costs and the points and fees as well and compare those apples to apples,” Bland says. “Sometimes the wording isn’t exactly the same from one fee estimate sheet to another.”
As for loans themselves, Bland says the process is pretty universal, no matter what state you’re in, thanks to national guidelines.
You may have heard that if you qualify, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are the best deal here. Bland says even though they are typically lower interest rates, there are many details to consider—from how much of a vet’s entitlement has been used to whether there’s a disability involved. He says don’t just assume a VA is going to be the best option.
One benefit for everyone in Colorado is that the real estate contract is very specific, says Lachnidt, because the Colorado Real Estate Commission developed it intentionally to help the consumer. Every date and deadline is outlined or negotiated prior to signing. Colorado has hard and fast inspection-objection deadlines and closing deadlines, and if either of the two parties miss their closing deadline, the contract terminates.
“We don’t have to involve attorneys if we don’t want to or if the clients don’t want to,” Lachnidt says. “We can have the agents’ rights contract title company do the full title search, disperse the funds, collect the money, and everybody goes about their business. It’s a lot less expensive and a lot less complicated than it is in states like New York.”
When it comes to local market trends, Major notes that while sellers still are not as willing to pay closing costs for buyers like they have been in the past, buyers are realizing they don’t have to both pay top dollar for a place that needs a ton of work and also have to pay to do all the work. “Sellers can’t quite get away with ‘I don’t have to do anything with my house and it will sell for the maximum amount of money,’” she says.
Lachnidt sees other positives on the horizon for buyers as well. “Really low interest rates [are] helping people that we have in the market who have been being stretched financially,” she says. “When you start having interest rates as low as they are right now, buyers start to get into a much more affordable price point. Your interest rate matters so much more than your house purchase price does.”
If a buyer couldn’t get into the market last year at an interest rate of 3.5% or 3.75%, she explains, and now can save three quarters of a point, “they can buy $40,000 more house for the same money.”
Lachnidt adds one more positive: the Springs’ overall affordability. “People that have been here a long time don’t understand that we are still really affordable compared to a lot of other places. Our property taxes are really reasonable. Our insurance, while it went up because of the [wild] fires [in 2012 and 2013], is still really reasonable. Your cost of ownership here is not as high as it is in a lot of states and a lot of cities like Texas and the East Coast and some places with really high property taxes. We have people that come in from other markets who see what our annual taxes are and assume they’re monthly.”