The real estate market in Colorado Springs has been white hot in recent years—I can attest. This past fall, 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. But price point plays a big role as well.
“If you’re under $250,000, it’s tough. It is extremely, extremely tough,” says Donna Major, board chair of the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors (PPAR) and broker associate with Re/Max Advantage Realty. “And unless we see some people deciding to sell some properties that are smaller, I don’t see that changing much because of the appreciation in our prices that’s caused us to not have much inventory.”
But Major says she’s seeing a lot of activity in the $300,000s. “If you’re [looking at] houses under $350,000, it’s usually moving relatively quickly. I’m even seeing some under $450,000 that are still moving pretty well.” Above the $550,000 mark, Majors says sales move a little slower.
In my case, it helped to be a longtime local and know exactly where we wanted to move. 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.”
And if you’re used to states where you need to write an impassioned “love letter” to try and sway the seller, that’s a process that’s going away here. At the end of 2018, the state of Colorado released a position statement against the practice, reaffirming the standard of legal separation between buyers and sellers.
“Equal housing is something we have to follow,” Lachnidt says.
In other market trends, Major notes that sellers are not as willing to pay closing costs for buyers like they have been in the past, so buyers need to have that amount saved.
“You may be looking at two offers, and if one is willing to pay their own closing costs and one is asking you for closing costs, the one that’s not asking is probably the one who’s going to get it,” Major says. “Buyers might need a little bit more money in the bank.”
That might feel like not-so-great news, but Lachnidt sees other positives on the horizon for buyers.
“We’re starting to see things calm down a little bit,” she says. Last year closed with the number of active listings up over 2017, but still represented a lower inventory than the area could sustain. Lachnidt says the shortage has created some slowing in the market due to potential buyers delaying purchases if they don’t find what they want.
“I think we’re still healthy,” Lachnidt says. “We’re just not going to see these 10 percent appreciation overnight deals. Or I think they’re at least gone for now—and I think that’s probably a good thing.”