Where to Buy (Even) Now

Sure, things are tough around Denver, but good options exist—if you know where to look. We've found 14 neighborhoods offering safe bets in a shaky market. Plus, real estate insiders dish on up-and-coming areas where deals abound.

May 2008

It's a rocky time for our real estate market. In 2007, Colorado saw more than 39,000 foreclosures, and real estate prices dropped 4.5 percent in Denver. For many, buying a house in this unstable market feels more than a bit uncertain. To help eliminate the house-hunting butterflies, 5280 hosted a panel of eight local real estate agents, who filtered through Denver's neighborhoods and came up with 14 still-reliable buys. Bonus: Meet the Neighbors: Why do people love living in Park Hill? What's the drawback to Wash Park? The neighbors dish on real life in Denver's best 'hoods at the bottom of each neighborhood profile.


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Of course, not all of Colorado's real estate statistics have been rosy. There were more than 39,000 foreclosure filings statewide in '07, and prices are down on average about 4.5 percent across Denver. Certain areas, such as Green Valley Ranch, Montbello, and East Colfax, have been pounded by the subprime mortgage crisis. And typically hot 'hoods like Platt Park, Cherry Creek, and the Golden Triangle aren't doing as well as one might think. But there are upsides to the local market. Plenty of them.

To find out more, we assembled an expert panel of metro-area Realtors to suss out what's really happening in the market. We debated and analyzed what makes certain areas thrive while others don't, hoping to name the top neighborhoods that represent a genuine safe bet in a less-than-solid market. And although these eight experts had different geographic areas of specialty and diverse opinions, they all said the same thing: Denver's market is holding its own.

"You have to think locally, not nationally," says Patrick Finney, a broker associate with the Finney Group at Re/Max Alliance Central. Brigitte Furst, a Boulder-specific Realtor with Re/Max, agrees, quoting the National Association of Realtors' chief economist, Dr. Lawrence Yun, who says that all real estate is local and "national data are not meaningful." According to Paul Tamburello, a longtime Denver Realtor with Distinctive Properties, the Denver market as a whole has been relatively flat over the past year or so, and that's a good thing�especially when many other markets are way down. To further the point, Finney says that overall sales in 2007 were only down 1.8 percent from 2006�a good sign after the plummeting sales from 2005 to 2006.

But even better than merely stabilizing, prices in many areas of metro Denver are actually up: In the Highland neighborhood prices increased by 4 percent from 2006 to 2007, as did prices in Cherry Hills (7 percent), South Park Hill (5 percent), Washington Park (9 percent), Louisville (7.3 percent), and Bonnie Brae (13 percent). And even when prices did fall in the metro area, they didn't completely crash and burn�Congress Park took only a small 2 percent hit over the past year.

The good news? There's no need to sit it out if you need to buy or sell. Many neighborhoods in Denver continue to offer a stable option in a less-than-perfect market. We identified the factors that make for solid bets�things like location, great schools, light-rail access, low inventory, scarcity of land, an established identity, an alluring neighborhood anchor, a strong neighborhood organization�and narrowed down our list to the top performers. Some of them are the usual suspects�many popular Denver 'hoods have also been longtime good investments. But others may surprise you. All of them, however, are places where you can buy and sell without losing your mind�or your shirt.