What Bay Area residents should know about buying a home in Denver

Denver’s a hot prospect for Bay Area residents ready for (slightly) more affordable housing, a booming job market and a sense of adventure.

We have one of the nation’s fastest growing metro regions. Given its fellow frontier spirit and an increasing number of high-tech jobs, it has also become a Bay Area magnet.

This year alone, three of my clients have relocated from the Bay to Denver.

Many recent clients have come from that charmed location, so I decided to deliver a real estate primer for the Bay Area faithful with eyes wandering to the Rockies.

First things first. You may be hoping for a great affordability break from Bay Area home prices’ searing heat. You will find some reprieve in Denver, but not as much as you might think.

What to expect

Our top-notch lifestyle has stoked demand to 14er heights, so be prepared for a feisty home search. Buyers in Denver must act quicker than their California counterparts — acting in a few days, not weeks. More on that below.

Bay area buyers will see an increase in buying power, although not a tremendous one. What they will see is more options at a lower price point– Denver’s desirable neighborhoods have more listings under $1 million than comparable areas in the Bay.

Buyers on the lower end (i.e. $500k to $600k) — yes, that’s considered lower end for a decent single-family home in metro Denver — can find these in Denver peripheral markets. Virginia Village to the southeast and Lakewood on the west offer good options in this price range. Arvada also provides a landing spot in an up-and-coming community.

Let’s look at two comparable neighborhoods:

Rockridge, Oakland 

Rockridge, Oakland

A walkable, luxury neighborhood, with parks and amenities, similar to Denver’s Cherry Creek.

  • Average resident age — 45 years old
  • Average price per square foot — $1,079
  • Median sales price — $1.85 million
  • Median sales price, three-bedroom home — $1.79 million

Washington Park, Denver 

Denver’s hottest neighborhood, surrounding a large park and offering a quick commute to downtown.

  • Median age — 39 years old
  • Average price per square foot — $874
  • Median sales price — $900,000
  • Median sales price, three-bedroom home – $1.19 million

Washington Park, Denver

Price-per-square-foot is high in both communities, but as you can see in the median sales price, lower price point homes are more abundant in Wash Park.

School district has historically been a huge driver for Denver buyers, but as traffic increases, commute times to downtown have increased as a key buying point. For example, Denver buyers used to seek out the Cherry Creek School District, which offers a 30-to-45-minute commute to downtown, but more are joining the Denver Public School District.

Tale of Two Markets

To try and visualize the differences in the homebuying process, from opening to close, I have created a typical timeline for each market.

Bay Area

Homes are typically listed for approximately two weeks:

  • Buyers will host multiple open houses, including a broker open house
  • Offers are submitted after a week and sellers take time to review

Sellers do a pre-inspection, pest inspection and possible structural inspection and presents the results to all buyers. Winning bidders often remove all contingencies (i.e., inspections, appraisal and loan contingencies).

Most listings sell over list price and large down payments and cash buyers prevail. Houses are priced artificially low, knowing buyers will bid up.


Homes are listed for approximately one week:

  • A broker open and open house are hosted in under five days
  • Offers are submitted immediately

Read that last bullet again. It’s significant. Successful buyers need to act fast, ready to make offers the same day they see a home if they want it.

In Denver, buyers pay for inspections after the property goes under contract. Winning bidders remove some contingencies (i.e., just the appraisal).

There’s a somewhat open bid process. Listing agents disclose number of offers (sometimes price and terms). Most listings sell near list price. Buyers typically compete with financing terms.

Buyers must make decisions on a hot property often within 24 to 48 hours, without having a pre-inspection done. The relatively open bid process creates an environment in which buyers are bidding directly against each other, often changing terms until the seller makes a decision.

What to look for in broker services

A good broker service in the Denver real estate market will provide a solid overview of the entire Front Range — from the mountains to downtown — and what lifestyle each market provides.

As I have learned from my Bay area clients, school district performance should be made crystal clear, supported by statistics and rankings.

A high-performing relocation department should provide experience and expertise for all types of clients.

If you are looking for a home in the mountains, LIV Sotheby’s International Realty Broker Associates can help in the affiliate markets of Evergreen, Vail, Frisco/Breckenridge and Winter Park.

Why we live here — the Rockies state of mind

Peace in the mountains outside of Denver

Bay Area residents love Denver, for good reason. We love it, too.

The San Francisco Bay Area offers a similar stunning environment. Denver provides equally stunning vistas, year-round sun and a slower pace.

Excursions in Denver are (for now) less hassle — a client of mine who relocated from the Bay, told me she now enjoys simple trips to the zoo, something she never did in California because of the crowds.

Most Denver residents enjoy the freedom of a car with far less traffic.

The outdoors are a quick drive away. Hiking, biking and fishing can become part of the weekly routine. The ever-present mountains are just a short drive away.

One of the huge benefits of living here is the mountain mindset. We have a cosmopolitan city but not the culture of working around the clock, that often pervades Bay Area and New York routines. Many corporations maintain expectations that support livable evenings. Enjoy taking your foot off the gas here.

But the leisure of Denver living is still coupled with a great entrepreneurial mindset, giving Bay Area hotshots  rewarding, creative career options.

More relocation resources:

Thank you to Bay-area realtor, Shahin Tabib, for sharing insights on his market!