Our annual guide to the hottest 'hoods in town (look closely, there are some surprises in there). PLUS: The changing definition of "location, location, location," four things to do when looking for a Realtor, and why now is (perhaps) the best time to buy in a generation.
As new urbanism catches on, a dearly held Real estate axiom gets a 21st-century update.
We've heard it a million times: The three most important factors when buying a property are location, location, location. This remains as true as ever, but in 2010, the things that make a location desirable are changing, possibly for good.
This is especially true in Denver. Over the past decade, groups such as the Downtown Denver Partnership and the efforts of Blueprint Denver, buoyed by the advocacy of Mayor John Hickenlooper's administration, have spurred numerous efforts to make the city more inviting to a broader demographic. The folks who once might have chosen their homes based on proximity to freeways, shopping malls, and quiet suburban cul-de-sacs now would rather live in denser—though still safe—urban neighborhoods with easy access via foot or RTD light rail to downtown attractions such as restaurants, coffeeshops, museums, and parks. (And, particularly in Denver, bike trails.) "People's understanding of 'location' and why it matters is changing dramatically," says Paul Tamburello, a broker at Distinctive Properties. "Now it's sustainability, walkability, access to public transportation, and the quality or 'soul' of a neighborhood."
This trend includes families that may have fled to the suburbs once the kids arrived. Liz Richards, an agent with Kentwood City Properties, recently sold two Lower Highland townhomes to young families, to her astonishment. "I was sure they would go to DINKs"—Realtor-speak for "dual-income, no kids"—"but both went to parents with small children," she says. "It's really blown my mind how many couples like this are looking in northwest Denver. In the past, families like that would've just stuck with Wash Park, Platt Park, or Bonnie Brae, but they've either done the research on the schools and have decided to get more involved with them, or the schools have improved and they're pleasantly surprised." She credits the revitalization of retail corridors such as Tennyson Street and LoHi's Navajo Arts District for beginning to create a central community that draws people to the surrounding neighborhoods.
The melting reticence about raising kids in cities also has influenced how urban developers and architects design their projects. Michael Tavel of Michael Tavel Architects says that the past 10 years have seen a return to urban mixed-use neighborhoods, but in the past year there's been a spike in environmentally conscious design that takes family lifestyles into account. "A lot of the [green] literature is about gauging environmental impact on an individual basis, and they've concluded that dense cities are by far the greenest situation," he says. Tavel adds that the newest trend in neighborhood redesign is "how to make them work for five-year-olds," such as multiunit complexes with safe common areas where parents can live in cities but still let their kids go outside and play. Taken together, all these sea changes underline how the "location" mantra has taken on a decidedly more urban feel.