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Comparing the Mile High City to Emerald City

The ongoing hunt for Amazon's HQ2


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Last September, more than 200 American cities (and one Canadian) competed in a tight bidding war for the chance to become the home of Amazon’s second North American headquarters, aka HQ2. Amazon’s future $5 billion investment and 50,000 jobs made the offer pretty appealing. And while Amazon currently calls Seattle home, Denver made the HQ2 short list – in no small part thanks to the New York Times offering to crunch Amazon’s numbers themselves.

On paper, the two cities might feel similar: miles of vast, beautiful outdoor space populated by craft brew-loving, pour-over coffee drinking techies. Not to mention, both continue to dominate headlines and bank accounts when it comes to real estate. But how do the two actually compare? My tech-driven brokerage, TRELORA, has something in common with the Amazon of today, and maybe of tomorrow, too: we call Denver home and recently expanded to Seattle. With this, I’ve got some first-hand experience in what the cities have in common, and where they differ.

BOTH CITIES CONTINUE TO LEAD THE NATIONAL MARKET

Both Denver and Seattle continue to dominate the national market when it comes to home sale prices. Denver’s home sales by volume increased 3.5 percent with 58,129 homes sold in 2017 versus 56,144 sold in 2016, according to REcolorado. Beyond sheer volume, the average sale price for single family homes also increased by 9 percent, averaging $434,074 in 2017 compared to 2016’s $399,035.

For Seattle, the median price for closed sales of single-family homes system-wide was $370,000, with King County coming out on top at $562,000, according to the Northwest MLS. Similar to Denver, Seattle’s median sale price increased 9.6 percent from 2016 to 2017. Further, states the Northwest MLS, Seattle reported 99,345 total closed sales in 2017, outpacing Denver by over 40,000 homes.

BUT THERE ARE STILL (SOMEWHAT) AFFORDABLE PLACES TO LIVE

Whether your city is shortlisted for HQ2 or established as Amazon’s current HQ (Seattle), the speculation around its current and future impact on an already pricey real estate market is very real. For now, however, there remain a few small pockets of under-the-radar neighborhoods that don’t cost an arm and a leg. While they won’t stay low-key forever, these market unicorns offer more affordable prices for potential residents.

Denver’s Barnum and Villa Park offer home prices under $300,000, with Barnum’s price per square foot at $259, while Villa Park’s is slightly higher at $273. Popular neighborhoods like Sunnyside and the Highlands rank overwhelmingly higher, at $375 per square foot.

In Seattle, Skagit offers a median sale price of $313,000, while Chelan and Douglas come in at $317,500 and $279,000, respectively. Douglas offers the lowest price per square foot rate at $182, with Skagit’s $223 and Chelan’s $259 not far behind.

With sales volume and home prices continue to increase in both Denver and Seattle, the promise of a sustained HQ, or new HQ2, can feel daunting to potential buyers.

While both cities still boast under-the-radar neighborhoods, competition remains high, with days on the market staying low. But it isn’t all doom and gloom for potential buyers or sellers - they’ve just got to be a little more savvy to edge out the competition.

TRELORA is eager to see how the HQ2 search pans out.

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Joshua Hunt

Joshua Hunt is the founder and CEO of TRELORA, a technology-enabled flat fee real estate brokerage, and a 20-year residential real estate veteran. Contact him at joshua.hunt@trelora.com or 303-886-3000.

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