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Summit County’s real estate market is anything but easy for first-time homebuyers

Some are waiting more than 6 months to find a property that meets their needs

Leah Canfield, longtime local and Coldwell Banker Mountain Properties real estate agent, smiles in front of a home in the Wellington Neighborhood in Breckenridge, Saturday, Sept. 25. Canfield recommends that first-time homebuyers set aside at least six months to give themselves time to find a property within the county.
Ashley Low/For the Summit Daily News

Soaring prices, high turnover of inventory and cash offers are all evidence that Summit County’s real estate market has been hot for a while now, but what has that done for first-time homebuyers?

In the case of Dillon resident Alex Cole, it meant waiting as many as seven months to find a property that met his minimum requirements and was within budget. Cole was living in Denver and had spent a few winters up in the county before deciding he wanted to move. He was looking for a property that had to be within county limits, within his budget and was a two-bedroom located in a quiet area.

“Since February, it’s just been a game of patience,” Cole said. “I feel like you start to build your pieces of the puzzle. I knew it was Summit County. Now I needed to figure out, given my price point, what was the specific neighborhood?”



At first, Cole said he was looking in Breckenridge before shifting focus to Wildernest and then eventually to Dillon Valley, which is where he recently bought a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath condo.

Leah Canfield, real estate agent with Coldwell Mountain Banker Properties, said this isn’t uncommon. In fact, Canfield recommended buyers give themselves six months to find a property. To move the process along, Canfield said buyers should work closely with their agent in using the Multiple Listings Service database to set realistic expectations before moving forward.



“I would recommend that they look in the (Multiple Listings Service) and they pull up everything that has sold in the last six months that meets their criteria and that’s within their budget, and if there are two or three places that have sold, that means there’s not a lot out there,” Canfield said. “It means they’re looking for something that doesn’t exist.”

Cole closed on his home in late September. According to the Summit County Assessor’s office, the sale price of the condo was $530,000.

Price is another factor that makes it difficult for first-time buyers to wedge themselves in the market. Silverthorne resident Andrea Perry said she lived in her family’s vacation home in Leadville for the past five years, which helped her save up enough for a down payment. Even then, she said her parents gave her financial assistance when closing.

“The only reason I was able to do this was with help from my family,” Perry said. “Being able to rent a house from them and having help from my parents with the down payment really made this possible, and a lot of people don’t have those resources to help them purchase their first home. It is a really difficult process.”

Perry said she was one of multiple offers vying for her two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo in Wildernest. She believes it was a letter to the sellers, along with a short listing time period, that helped sway their decision in her favor.

“I had offered her asking price and I had written a letter about being a local and being a first-time homebuyer, and I think all of that and the short listing time were the only reasons I was able to actually get the place,” Perry said.

Though writing a letter worked in Perry’s favor, Canfield said that doing so falls in a gray area, and some agents will try to discourage letter writing and receiving because it could lead to lawsuits regarding discrimination.

Perry said it was difficult to find something that worked for her from the available inventory. She was looking for a two-bedroom condo that had a washer and dryer, and she ended up finding one in Wildernest. According to the Summit County Assessor’s office, the sale price of the condo was $549,000.

Of the first-time homebuyers looking to enter into the county’s real estate market, Canfield said a majority are already living in the county. Canfield said she’s heard of expanding families currently renting are sometimes interested in buying a home, but it’s difficult to save up enough for a down payment due to high rent payments. Some others who currently live in a home are hesitant to sell because it’s likely their home will be eaten up much sooner than they can find a new place.

As for the cheapest inventory in the county, the latest report produced by Land Title Guarantee Co. points to units in Dillon Valley. The average transaction price for a unit here is $382,292. However, the prices for units in areas that are traditionally cheaper continue to rise. Canfield said A-frame houses in Blue River used to be considered affordable, but some of these are toeing the $1 million mark. According to Land Title’s report, the average transaction price for units in Blue River is $747,900.

There are resources for first-time homebuyers to help them get into the market. In addition to various federal programs, the Summit Combined Housing Authority has three different down payment assistance loan programs available for Summit County residents. These loans are only available for the purchase of a primary home, and they require a 1-1 match of up to $25,000.

Rob Murphy, executive director of the Summit Combined Housing Authority, said the organization usually gives out three to seven loans per year, and that this year has been quiet with just one loan awarded. Murphy said he attributes that to low interest rates and the fact that not many know about these programs.

Even with programs like these available, both Canfield and Cole said that first-time homebuyers should be patient once they begin looking at the market.


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