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Priced Out: How the Denver Metro housing market got to where it is today

"There’s always a few more folks demanding a home than there are sellers of a home. And that’s where we had been until 2020."

DENVER — Look back to 16 years ago, and homes in Denver were selling for an average of $288,000, according to data from The Rueth Team of Fairway Mortgage

The year ended with more than 24,000 listings on the market, and the recession was looming. Prices dropped by an average of 2.6% in 2007, 11.2% in 2008 and another 3% in 2009, The Rueth Team's data show.

Overall, Denver didn't do too badly during the recession, said Nicole Rueth, senior vice president for Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp

“So we just really kept our value," she said. "Like we held on, and then we’ve been rising ever since."

It wasn't until 2020 that the market became incredibly unhealthy, Rueth said.

Rueth, who has been in mortgage lending for 21 years, said that before 2020, the metro area generally operated on a median price growth of 6%.

“Denver runs in a healthy seller’s market," she said. "There’s always a few more folks demanding a home than there are sellers of a home. And that’s where we had been until 2020."

2021 saw an average price increase in Denver metro homes of $16.7%, and there were just 1,477 homes still listed at the end of the year.

"It's countrywide, right? It’s not just Denver, but it’s a product of too little new builds happening in a time when they couldn’t get financing," Rueth said. 

That's just one reason, she said.

Experts list many other reasons: Millennials are all at or nearing homebuying age, people in more expensive cities want a bigger home here, and remote working options opened up.

More recently, reports found that investors were buying up homes to rent before first-time homebuyers had a chance.

“Denver’s like the place where you want to go to school, where you want to retire, where you want to raise kids in some vicinity close to the mountains," Rueth said.

That desire to live here comes with a hefty price tag that's still going up.

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