A First-Time Buyer's Guide to Denver's Cherry Creek Neighborhood

First-time homebuyers can nab property in this popular neighborhood if they follow this advice.

U.S. News & World Report

A Buyer's Guide to Denver's Cherry Creek Neighborhood

Cherry Creek, Denver Colorado(Getty Images)

Cherry Creek is one of Denver's most popular residential neighborhoods, coveted for its picturesque landscaping, walkability and proximity to downtown. With two distinct shopping areas, the Cherry Creek shopping center (a high-end mall) and Cherry Creek North (an outdoor collection of boutiques) the neighborhood is a mecca for fashionistas. In the summer, it is also home to one of the city's best farmer's markets and boasts direct access to the Cherry Creek bike path. Not surprisingly, due to low housing inventory and high prices, this high-end neighborhood is also known to have one of the toughest real estate markets in the city.

It's easy to understand why Cherry Creek isn't exactly a paradise for those looking to buy their very first home. However, that's not to say that the Cherry Creek dream is impossible for first-time homebuyers. There are a variety of ways to get your foot in the door of a Cherry Creek home, even if you aren't able to bring piles of cash to the table. Nate Postlethwait with LIV Sotheby's International Realty says, "There are many pockets of Cherry Creek that still prove to be great investments at or under the $500,000 mark. You have to watch these closely, as they tend to have multiple and immediate offers."

We identified some of the highest performing real estate agents in the neighborhood and asked them to share their tips on buying a house in Cherry Creek. Here's what they recommend.

Choose a savvy real estate agent. Creating a strong, serious initial offer is a critical step for buyer's hoping to get under contract in a competitive, high-end neighborhood like Cherry Creek. One way for an unexperienced buyer to achieve this is to work with a local real estate agent who can help navigate the complicated contract process.

Besides cash offers, there are a number of ways to assure a seller you're motivated and serious. Despite the fact that Denver is currently a seller's market, more than 20 percent of offers fall out of contract. Susie Best, with the Porch Light Real Estate Group, specializes in helping first-time buyers find their first home, she says it's about "understanding what the seller's fears are and trying to alleviate those."

Best continues, "Another mistake sellers make is they believe a cash offer is a much safer bet and that's a misnomer. Many times, if people can afford cash, then they can afford to leave earnest money on the table and they can afford to be more impulsive and withdraw an offer."

Have the courage to make a compelling offer. In order for an offer to be considered seriously, it needs to be thorough and compelling. "It's a competitive market and it's common [for sellers] to get 20-plus offers on the first day. We advise clients not to work with sloppy offers," says Aaron Lebovic, with Keller Williams Real Estate. He encourages clients to pique a seller's interest by offering to cover the appraisal gap, and buyers should be prepared to offer "$5,000 to $10,000 more than the listing price," and also promise "$5,000 to $10,000 over the appraised value to make the offer more attractive."

Postlethwait agrees. "If you write an offer, go all in on your first offer. Do not risk a lower offer and anticipate a counter. There will be others waiting behind you," he emphasizes.

In order to feel comfortable with such creative pricing tactics, Best reminds first-time buyers to "make sure they get pre-approved for the highest amount possible and not just what they want the final payment to be, so if they have to go a little bit higher they can." She also advises first-timers to begin their home search in a price range that's slightly lower than they are really willing to pay to ensure a comfortable amount of wiggle room for the offer.

Make the seller's life easier. Another way to succeed at buying your first home in Cherry Creek is to be flexible and forgiving with things like appraisals and inspections. Best advises buyers to, "stick to deadlines and schedule inspections quickly. That's what makes a difference in getting offers accepted or not."

Lebovic agrees that "Buying 'as is' helps buyers get ahead," and notes that, "A big challenge for inexperienced buyers is to accept that every home has faults." He also warns against asking the seller for too many repairs.

Shelley Bridge, a real estate agent with Re/Max of Cherry Creek, encourages clients preparing offers to "write them over asking [price] and with as few contingencies as possible. We often try and remove as many contingencies as we can so they (the seller) feel confidant."

Consider a condominium. "If it's a condo, we especially might remove inspection contingency," Bridge explains. "If [a homeowner's association] is taking care of it, you don't have to worry about things like the roof or the furnace."

In fact, Bridge suggests that first-time buyers look at condominiums in Cherry Creek as opposed to single family houses for more affordable and attainable options. "Condos are primarily what's affordable there as even half-duplexes in the area start in the 900s," she says.

Not only are condos typically less expensive than single-family homes, but they provide appealing amenities to first-time homeowners, including low-level maintenance and community features like swimming pools and fitness centers. They also tend to be more updated, as many of the single-family homes in Cherry Creek are now 20 to 25 years old and may require updates, which many first-time homebuyer's won't be able to afford right away.

Looking for a real estate agent in Denver? U.S. News' Find an Agent tool can match you with the person who's most qualified for the job.

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