Feeding frenzy. Dogfight. Gold rush. Pick your favorite metaphor for the Colorado housing market these days: They all capture the intensity of an era that’s seeing more and more people swarming to buy fewer and fewer available homes, sparking bidding wars and pushing prices to record highs. From the pandemic’s beginning in late winter 2020 up through press time in early April, desperate buyers have been considering raiding their retirement accounts in an attempt to compete with cash offers. Modest homes that would’ve sat on the market for weeks or months in other years have been going under contract within hours of listing. Out-of-staters have been signing contracts before even seeing their new houses in person. And with buyers battling each other, those with property to list have won big.
Colorado has long been a desirable address, and the Denver metro area’s real estate market has been growing for years. But at the outset of 2020, nobody expected the year to be so exceptional. History tells us that elections, particularly contentious ones, typically slow things down as buyers and sellers wait out political and economic uncertainty.
More from our May 2021 Issue
Then the pandemic hit. As the state imposed stay-at-home orders in the spring, new real estate transactions that were not yet under contract abruptly halted while the economy nose-dived. When agents and buyers got the OK to venture into prospective homes again—masks on and clutching hand sanitizer—experts feared business would fizzle. “We really thought that this market would be horrible,” says Kelly Moye, media spokesperson for the Colorado Association of Realtors and a Boulder-area Realtor with Re/Max.
Instead, Colorado’s real estate market took off. Statewide, sold listings rose nine percent, days-on-market dropped by roughly eight percent, and the median home price rose by more than nine percent, to $415,000. Things were even more extreme in the Denver metro region, where the market tallied a record high for annual closings paired with a record low of active listings. That mismatch helped push the average price for a single-family home in the Mile High City to an all-time high of $625,100 in October 2020 (the year-end average ended up at $616,895). And at least so far, there’s no relief in sight: This past February, the median price of a single-family home in Denver County jumped almost 23 percent year over year, and the inventory of available homes plunged by more than 70 percent.
By most accounts, this housing mania happened not in spite of the pandemic, but because of it. The fear and uncertainty of living through a modern-day plague inspired us to re-evaluate what we really wanted, not just in our homes, but also in our lifestyles. For some, that was having a…