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Denver House Hunting: Where to Buy Now

If you’re moving to Denver, or just want to upgrade your current house in the area, there are plenty of neighborhoods from which to choose. But the supply of houses $350,000 and below is limited, so be prepared for some stiff competition, local real estate agents say.

“Buyers in price ranges under $350,000 should continue to expect competitive bidding situations for the near term,” says Bryan Messick, a broker associate with Keller Williams. “The real-estate market is super-heated for homes priced under $350,000, with homes selling within one to three days, typically with multiple offers, and with competitive bidding driving up the sales price.”

The trade-up market—between $350,000 and $500,000—is more balanced as developers take advantage of incentives to build new homes in this price range, especially in the suburbs, according to real estate agents. For homes above $500,000, they say, it tends to be more of a buyer’s market.

So where should you look? Here’s a roundup based on what you’re looking for.

Young Professionals

There are several neighborhoods perfect for single, young professionals looking to build equity; be close to shopping, restaurants and nightlife; and have easy access to the downtown area.

One of the more popular neighborhoods is Lower Highlands (LoHi), with its great rooftop bars, easy pedestrian-bridge access to downtown and cosmopolitan dining scene. Budget-minded buyers looking for single-family bungalows, Craftsman-style homes and smaller Victorians are heading to outlying neighborhoods like Sunnyside, Berkeley and Regis to save some bucks in West Denver.

Slightly more affordable, for now, Baker offers good value and lots of nearby bars and restaurants, while newer re-urbanization neighborhoods like Taxi and River North (RiNo)—both on the Northeast edge of downtown—go heavy on the industrial-area-turned-arts-district factor, have more condos than single-family homes.

Two-bedroom houses and condos for most of these neighborhoods are trending above $250,000, but can leap into the $600,000 to $1 million range for modern three- to four-bedroom builds and restored Victorians, real estate agents say.

Young Families

Many young families find neighborhoods like Highlands too pricey and are heading to the outskirts of the city or even the suburbs.

“Cash investors are targeting neighborhoods such as Hampden Hills, University Hills and Harvey Park, where lot sizes tend to be larger, allowing for remodeling projects and a better price-per-square-foot yield,” Messick says. “Home buyers willing to earn some sweat-equity may find the best value in areas where many homes built in the 1950s through 1970s need updating, but are located in desirable areas closer to commuter roads and light-rail stations.”

The Krisana Park neighborhood has lots of mid-century California contemporaries and is in close proximity to Cherry Creek shopping, says Stacie Staub of Live Urban Denver, who picks the neighborhood as one of her favorite buys in Denver.

“We’re also starting to see some in-migration into the urban areas along the light-rail corridors, especially for home buyers that wish to be near restaurants and entertainment,” Messick says. “Redevelopment and light-rail expansion into areas such as Arvada, Lakewood, and Southeast Denver and Aurora will have a positive effect on home prices. Quality of schools continues to draw families with school-aged children out of the inner city and into the suburbs, and easy access to light-rail is attractive to commuters.”

For its location, family-friendly downtown, and soon-to-be-inaugurated light-rail station, downtown Arvada is a top pick for families still hoping to be close to it all, while saving money with prices ranging from $200,000 to $300,000 for single-family homes.

The Upper End

Buyers who can spend a little more and want to find spot in Central Denver tend toward older, established neighborhoods like Cherry Creek, Congress Park and Washington Park. These neighborhoods largely retained their value despite the recession, and continue to see sound appreciation, local realtors say. Most of these neighborhoods begin at $400,000 for a fixer-upper. Expect to pay top dollar for already renovated houses and ZIP-code prestige.

Those choosing to super-size their living situation head to Douglas County, Littleton and other south Denver suburbs, where 5,000-square-foot houses give you plenty of space. Depending on the exact suburb, houses can go for around $400,000 for 4, 000 square feet, with average home prices descending to $268,000 in Littleton, according to the Zillow home price index.

Heading into Retirement

Many retiring baby boomers are selling their homes in the suburbs and moving into Central Denver neighborhoods or condos near downtown, Messick says.

Planned urban developments—like Belmar with its shops, restaurants and easy access to public transit—will likely increase in areas further from the Denver core, according to Messick. And, the single-level houses in neighborhoods like University Hills and Krisana Park are seeing strong interest from older buyers, according to Live Urban’s Staub.

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