Earlier this month my stepdaughter and her boyfriend bought their first home. They ended up in a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house near Columbine. It has a two-car garage and decent size yards in front and back.

Mario Nicolais

Feel free to gasp at their accomplishment in the current market.

They are both in their mid 20s, recently completed master’s programs, and began their respective careers last fall. She is a speech language pathologist and he is a school counselor. It isn’t like either is a major league baseball player with the incumbent mega-contract and millions to drop on a down payment.

Instead they had two things that seem requisite in the current market: a little help and a lot of luck.

They began by doing a lot of research and making a plan. They wanted to avoid renting — the Denver rental market has been nearly as supercharged as its real estate counterpart. The precious little they could save after paying ever-increasing rents likely wouldn’t keep up with skyrocketing home costs. For every $1 they saved, they would find themselves another $1.50 in the hole.

So my wife and I let them live with us for the past year. We have the space and genuinely enjoy their company. Even the large bunny pen they arrived with found its spot in our home.

Because both are good savers — their idea of a wild night is picking up Chipotle and rewatching “The Office” — they put away a sizable down payment quickly. When they finally began searching several months ago, they knew what they could afford.

It was daunting. 

They looked in multiple locations across the Denver metro area. They looked at remodels and they looked at new builds. They looked in the city and the suburbs. They looked and looked and looked.

And eventually they got lucky. 

As it turns out, my mother-in-law’s dog groomer had confided that she planned to move to Florida and needed to sell her home. It was in a perfect location: near good schools, blocks away from parks and a swimming pool, surrounded by plenty of stores and amenities, minutes from Chatfield Reservoir. 

It is something they can be happy in for decades. They will not have to upgrade from a starter home in a few years, a plan that seems increasingly outdated.

However, the house was also a little rundown. The previous owner has four big dogs and a Chihuahua. The backyard no longer has a blade of grass, the floors all need to be replaced and every wall in the entire house will need at least two coats of paint.

They may need to have someone perform radon and mold remediation and will need to decide whether to keep clearing roots out of the sewer line or replace it entirely to avoid a full collapse.

That is all before they make any upgrades to dated kitchen or bathrooms or remodel the basement.

That condition helped to drive down the cost into a more reasonable amount, assuming that a little over $500,000 for a mid-sized suburban home sounds reasonable. Given that the day before they closed the Denver Metro Association of Realtors announced that the median price of a detached home had eclipsed $684,000, it sounds like a steal.


They were able to lock in a sub-5% interest rate and saved tens of thousands of dollars on Realtors — they worked out a private sale directly with the seller, no real estate agent on either side. Those are all funds that can be re-invested in the home.

They locked in the lowest required monthly payment they could hope for and now will have years to learn the art of DIY. They are excited and ready for this chapter of their lives.

As for Lori and me? We are excited for them as well. And for their bunnies, too.

Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq

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