Thursday, May 30, 2013

Buying a House in Boulder

In Illinois where there is still high unemployment and many forclosures, houses are taking many months to sell or are not selling at all. I put my townhouse on the market in August and did not receive an offer for 9 months. I had to accept a price that was $50,000 less than what I had paid for it in 2000. I had bought it at pre construction prices, so the day I moved into the house it was worth more than I paid for it. At the peak of the housing bubble, it was worth $100,000 more than I paid for it. Though the housing market is starting to show slight improvement, across the nation, houses are still selling at low prices and taking a long time to sell. Not so in Boulder, CO.

I've been window shopping in Boulder for a few months now and even attempted a few offers with the contingency of selling my house in Illinois. I stood no chance of buying in Boulder with a contingency. In Boulder, a house goes on the market on Friday and by Sunday there are 3 or 4 offers on the house at or near asking price. Not many are selling houses so inventory is very low. With the ever increasing fear that interest rates will rise, there are many buyers looking to buy now. This is creating a highly competitive market which is great for sellers but terrible for buyers like me. If I'm able to make an offer on a house, I'm competing with 2 or 3 other offers without a contingency. Most of the time, I'm unable to make an offer before the house goes under contract. I've missed making an offer before the house is under contract by a day and sometimes only by a few hours. 

One seller was very smart. The seller put the house on the market on Sunday and told their agent that they'd accept offers until Wednesday at noon. This allowed the seller to receive many offers and choose the best one. It gave buyers like me a chance to think. Unfortunately for me, we decided to put an offer on another house only to have it go under contract before our offer was presented. In the meantime, we missed the deadline for the other house.

There are foolish people who think they can take serious advantage of the market. One seller is selling by owner to avoid paying an agent. The seller is not listed on MLS. His price was originally set at $4,000 more than the closest comp in his association of condominiums. He was also unwilling to pay my agent out of the sale of the house but wanted me to pay my agent cash on top of his selling price. My agent graciously sent him comps and explained that his house would not appraise at his price which would be a loss for him, the seller, and me, the buyer. After receiving my offer which $8,000 less than his asking price and $4,000 less than comp which was an end unit and in better condition, the seller rejected my offer and raised his price by $10,000. Even in the highly competitive Boulder seller's market, this seller will not sell his condo until he lowers his price closer the comps.

Why is the Boulder market so good for sellers whereas in most of the country, it's a buyer's market? There are three reasons as the real estate motto goes, "location, location, location." Boulder has been ranked the #1 city to live in the Men's Journal. Boulder is near the Foothill Mountains, known as the "Flatirons." Boulder with its many bike paths and bike lanes is rated the 3rd best city for bikers. There are many paths for walking and running in Boulder. Backpacker magazine rated Boulder the best place to raise a kid in 2009. Forbes rated it 27th in the best places for business in 2012.There are many startup companies in Boulder. Boulder has 40,000 acres of open space at the edge of town. Boulder is the home of the University of Colorado.

I enjoy Boulder. I bike to work in Boulder. I have a very nice tech job at a small company in Boulder. I love the run the trails in the foothills. Walking down the pedestrian mall on Pearl Street can be an entertaining experience. 

I'm confident that when I'm able to actually buy a house in Boulder (maybe after I don't have a contingency), I'll be able to sell it for a profit. However, it's not likely that I'd want to move from Boulder.

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