Jun 3, 2023 - Real Estate

How to navigate Denver's competitive rental market

Illustration of a magnifying glass with a key for the handle.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The summer apartment market is buzzing with fresh graduates and other newcomers hunting for their perfect, or perfect-enough, place, experts tell Axios.

What's happening: Rents are inflated because of demand, but the current market is friendlier for renters than summers past, says Tory Cheney, Denver market leader for apartment locator Smart City.

Reality check: It's still cheaper to rent than buy in the vast majority of the country. In Denver, 99.9% of properties cost less to rent than to own, according to a new Redfin report.

The big picture: Location is a bigger draw for Gen Z than apartment size, says Doug Ressler of real estate research firm Yardi Matrix. Those renters' preferences are starting to shape development in big cities, like smaller floor plans and next-level amenities.

  • "A lot of new builds are gearing toward an all-inclusive community feel; you can't just be a property anymore, you have to give an experience," Cheney says.

Zoom in: Denver renters who want walkable, convenient, amenity-rich neighborhoods flock to places like LoHi, RiNo and Washington Park.

  • Of note: These popular neighborhoods also tend to be the most expensive, Cheney says.

Be smart: Cheney has a few tips for people navigating Denver's pricey, packed rental market.

  • Scan reviews for repeat comments. Take reviews with a grain of salt, but many comments echoing similar issues in recent months could point to a problem.
  • Understand utility costs. The rent you see online is typically just a starting point. Ask what utilities are included and how much they cost.
  • Pay attention to the way you're treated on tour. That's the nicest and most attentive they'll ever be.
  • Be critical. If units have cabinets askew or smelly hallways, it might be a sign of poor maintenance.
  • If you're looking for a deal, sign a lease in the winter.

Bottom line: Denver renters have more options, finally, but you'll pay more in the summer.


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