Mar 23, 2024 - News

How to brace your budget for the Denver real estate market

Illustration of a welcome mat that is a one-hundred dollar bill.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

More first-time homebuyers in Denver have a dual-income household, family help or end up getting roommates, Guide Real Estate broker Andre Whitt says.

Why it matters: While lack of affordability has pushed many buyers to the sidelines, they can regain purchasing power with the right financial plan.

What they're saying: Wannabe buyers fall into two camps, Domain Chief Financial Planner Katy Song tells Axios. There are people who are over-prepared or people who think they can afford more than they realistically can,, she says.

Here are her tactical tips for making sure you're ready to buy, and determining what you can really afford.

💳 Look at your credit. If you don't have credit or it's not in good shape, it's not time to buy, she says. Your credit score determines how willing lenders are to give you money.

  • If you're starting from scratch, Song recommends getting a secured credit card. To start building your score, put a recurring payment like Netflix on the card, and automatically pay it off every month. Never carry a balance, she says.
  • There's no shame if you're in credit card debt —get aggressive and tackle it.
  • You don't need to pay off your student loan debt or even car loans before applying for a mortgage.

💸 Calculate your maximum monthly payment. Generally, 28% to 32% of your net monthly cash flow is safe.

  • Reality check: Your lender will likely approve you for a higher mortgage than what you could comfortably afford, Song says. They're not factoring in recurring expenses like therapy, gym memberships or that oh-so-necessary pet subscription box.
  • Make that monthly payment calculation based on today's mortgage rate. "If the rate drops enough for you to refinance into a lower rate in the future, fantastic! But don't count on it," Whitt says.

💪 Build your savings and downpayment. Put away at least three months of expenses for emergency savings.

  • For a downpayment, Song recommends at least 10-20% to keep your monthly payment comfortable, and start building equity as quickly as possible.
  • Plus, more money down could get you that extra bedroom, for instance, even if it means having to save for longer.
Data: Redfin; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Redfin; Chart: Axios Visuals

Zoom in: Inventory remains tight for buyers shopping this spring.

"Smart and savvy sellers are taking advantage of the limited inventory in the market and moving forward with listing their homes," Jen Routon, President of the DMAR Board, says.

  • Well-priced homes for today's market — not two years ago — are moving quickly, and in some cases receive multiple, over-list price offers, she says.
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