Main Content

5 Practical Tips for First-Time Home Buyers in Steamboat Springs, CO

With its trademarked snow (Champagne Powder®) and unshakeable Western spirit, Steamboat Springs easily stands out among Colorado’s world-renowned ski towns. Located within the Yampa Valley, this charming locale offers an active, nature-centric lifestyle and a strong potential for property value appreciation, making it a great market for first-time home buyers to invest in.

However, a lot of uncertainty and risks can come with major purchases or investments such as buying a home, especially if you’re new to the process. To help you with your home buying journey, here are some of our best tips for first-time home buyers in Steamboat Springs, CO:

  1. Clarify your needs, wants, and must-haves

    Couple Dream Home

    Distinguishing between “needs,” “wants,” and “must-haves” is the first step in your home-buying journey. While some elements might seem interchangeable, each holds a unique role in shaping your search criteria and overall satisfaction with your new home:


    These are the essentials you simply cannot compromise on, and include basics like functional plumbing, heating, and electricity. Property size and accessibility also fall into this category, including the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, available storage, floor levels, and so on. It is important to make sure that your living environment can support your day-to-day routines as well as future growth of your household.

    What can home buyers expect in Steamboat Springs?

    As a well-known vacation destination, Steamboat Springs’ housing inventory caters to both second home owners and full time residents. Large apartment complexes (41.99%) and single-family properties (29.04%) are two of the most common property types on the market. Around 70% of these homes are owner-occupied, which means that despite its seasonal population, there is a solid community rooted in the area.


    These encompass factors that are crucial for your daily life, but with a bit more flexibility than must-haves. These typically include location, proximity to schools and commercial areas, and other pivotal considerations like nearby community amenities.

    While these factors hold a high priority, they are not completely non-negotiable. For example, you might consider proximity to your workplace a need, but you might be open to settling for a longer commute if it means buying a property closer to good school options.

    Getting to, from, and around Steamboat Springs

    The journey to Steamboat Springs is a straightforward route. From Denver, you can follow I-70 west through the Eisenhower Tunnel and take the exit to Silverthorne. From there you can head north on Colorado Highway 9 and west on the U.S. Highway 40.

    With U.S. Highway 40 running through the area, Steamboat Springs serves as the ideal gateway for outdoor enthusiasts from all over the region. It enjoys a great location at the upper valley of the Yampa River, situated against the western ridge of the Continental Divide, and providing access to more than 150 natural springs, lakes, rivers, and trail systems.

    The Yampa Valley Regional Airport (Steamboat/Hayden HDN) is a mere 22 miles away, offering year-round, all-jet service with connections nationwide. Alternatively, Denver International Airport (DIA) – approximately 160 miles east – connects the town to various domestic and international locations.


    This should include features you’d love to have but whose absence is not necessarily a setback in choosing a home. Examples include a preferred architectural style or luxury home amenities like a hot tub or pool.

    Essentially, these are elements in a home that can easily be added, updated, or customized to fit your preferences after purchase, such as landscaping, flooring, wall colors, fixtures, and sometimes even the layout.

    Common architectural styles in Steamboat Springs

    Steamboat Springs’ architectural landscape reflects its natural climate and environment, as well as its rapid development in the past two decades. Most of the homes in the area were built between the 1970s and the 1990s (65.9%), with a substantial number of properties built after the 2000s (26.4%).

    You can expect most single-family homes to have a rustic mountain home style, characterized by materials like log and stone. American Bungalow, Mid-Century Modern, and Craftsman-style homes are also common. Most apartment developments feature a contemporary architectural style.

  2. Know your purchasing power

    This is one of the most important tips for first-time home buyers, since owning a property is a major financial commitment. Here are three questions you need to ask yourself before you consider buying a home:

    What are your existing debts or financial obligations?

    It’s crucial to take a close look at your existing debt, especially if you’re planning to finance your home purchase using a mortgage. Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is a key factor in a lender’s assessment of your financial stability, and it can be one that can make or break your chances of qualifying for a loan. A general rule of thumb is to keep your total monthly debt, including the potential mortgage payment, below 36% of your gross monthly income.

    Your credit score also plays a significant role in determining the interest rate on your mortgage. Ideally, your credit score has to be 720 or higher in order to qualify for the best interest rates or terms in a mortgage in Colorado.

    Try to check your credit score well in advance of your home search, since this will provide you ample time to pay down your credit card debts and improve your score. You can also request for a credit report and dispute any discrepancies that may be pulling your credit score down.

    What kind of mortgage can you qualify for?

    Obtaining pre-approval for a mortgage is one of the most accurate ways to determine how much mortgage you may qualify for. Not only does it provide an insight into your borrowing capacity, guiding your home search within your means, but it also positions you as a committed buyer in the eyes of sellers and real estate professionals, enhancing your credibility when making offers.

    Your down payment amount can also influence the type of mortgage you may qualify for. Higher down payments are viewed favorably by lenders, as they indicate lower risk. This can lead to lower interest rates and remove the need for private mortgage insurance (PMI). Make sure to consult with your lender or mortgage officer to better understand your down payment options and potential interest rates.

    How much can you spend on the entire home buying process?

    The cost of purchasing and owning a home involves more than just the mortgage payment. Property taxes, homeowners insurance, maintenance, and utility bills are additional expenses to consider. Some lenders even require two months of reserves for mortgage, taxes, and insurance, so having a robust emergency savings account is essential before purchasing a home.

    A snapshot of Steamboat Springs’ property values

    Between 2020 and 2023, the median listing home price in Steamboat Springs rose from $752,500 to $1,385,000, resulting in a positive appreciation rate of 10.8% year-over-year (as of August 2023).

    Steamboat Springs’ real estate prices stand among Colorado’s highest, even rivaling some of America’s most expensive markets. While it may seem daunting for first-time home buyers and investors, it is actually a great indicator of the market’s immense potential for investment returns and equity gains.

  3. Choose the right real estate professionals to work with

    Shaking Hands

    In a rapidly developing real estate market like Steamboat Springs, working with the right real estate team is a pivotal step in the process. Here’s why:

    They are your one-stop resource

    Having a team of experts on your side can help you navigate the intricacies of the Steamboat Springs real estate market with ease.

    They have a comprehensive understanding of the required forms, reports, disclosures, and legal documents specific to your property type, whether it’s residential, ranch, or commercial, ensuring you avoid delays and costly errors. They are also an invaluable resource for inquiries about local amenities, utilities, zoning regulations, contractors, and more.

    Another valuable aspect of working with a real estate team is their ability to offer objective information and opinions. They will assist you in your home search with an unbiased perspective, helping you achieve your buying goals while adhering to your budget. Moreover, they can demystify the jargon associated with real estate transactions, providing you with clarity and confidence.

    They have access to the latest listings and market information

    Real estate agents can expand your search coverage through the multiple listing service (MLS). This cooperative system grants access to all active listings that match your criteria and other critical information such as the most recent sales data. Properties that may still appear on public sites but are no longer available are filtered out, giving you a clearer picture of the real estate market.

    More importantly, with experience coming from thousands of transactions throughout their careers, Realtors are well-versed in the ever-evolving laws and regulations that shape Steamboat Springs real estate – something that’s very important in successfully navigating the market.

    They can help you cover all your bases

    The right real estate team will not only provide you crucial insights on the local market, but they will also connect you to their wide network of real estate professionals, including CPAs, lenders, and estate planners. This network will prove essential in helping you navigate the financial aspects of your purchase, determine suitable loan products, and make informed decisions regarding property ownership.

    Moreover, your real estate team will represent your interests during negotiations, covering aspects from price to repairs to possession dates, and ensuring that the purchase agreement aligns with your needs. Their expertise allows you to conduct due diligence before committing to the purchase.

  4. Take advantage of open house events

    Real Estate Agent Welcoming

    An open house is a great opportunity for you to explore a Steamboat Spring property that’s on the market. Typically hosted by the listing agent, open houses are usually scheduled during weekends within specified hours.

    If you’re interested in attending a couple of open houses during your home search, here are some tips for first-time home buyers:

    • Go to open houses that are relevant to you. Focus on listings that align with your budget and desired location. Utilize online platforms like Zillow to identify homes with upcoming open houses that match your criteria.
    • Take field notes. Understand how each property you plan to visit compares to similar ones in the area. Assess factors like pricing, defects, time on the market, and competitiveness. You should also take the opportunity to check out the home’s condition beyond online photos. Look for potential defects, water damage, cracks, and any parts of the home that might require urgent repair or renovation.
    • Stay open-minded. Acknowledge that homes within your budget in high-demand areas might need renovations. Use the open house as an opportunity to assess a home’s condition and potential.
    • Talk to the listing agent. Take advantage of the chance to ask questions that go beyond the listing description. Inquire about HOA restrictions, property tax appeals, recent renovations, and any upcoming developments within the neighborhood.
    A brief guide to the best neighborhoods in Steamboat Springs

    Not sure where to look for open houses? Start with the best neighborhoods in the area:

    • Fish Creek Falls. Named after the beautiful waterfalls in its vicinity, this neighborhood offers breathtaking vistas of Emerald Mountain, Howelsen Hill, and the Yampa River Valley. Aside from its natural beauty, Fish Creek Falls is close to schools, downtown, and Rita Valentine Park.
    • The Sanctuary. Located in the foothills east of Mount Werner, The Sanctuary presents a collection of grand homes in diverse architectural styles. The neighborhood also boasts easy access to hiking trails and the Rollingstone Ranch Golf Club.
    • Stagecoach. Just a short 30-minute drive south of Downtown Steamboat Springs, Stagecoach offers a serene lifestyle for those seeking tranquility within reach of city conveniences. The Stagecoach State Park, an 820-acre reservoir within the area, also offers residents a wide range of outdoor activities, from boating to snowshoeing.
  5. Make sure to hire a home inspector

    Real Estate Agent Tour

    Skipping the home inspection is a risk you shouldn’t take. This is your opportunity to uncover potential defects and ensure the property aligns with your needs. An inspection also provides crucial insights for negotiation and repair assessments. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

    Choose a suitable home inspector

    Recommendations from your real estate team are valuable, but consider researching independent inspectors as well. Look for affiliations with reputable organizations such as the American Society of Home Inspectors. Remember that even for new construction homes, an independent inspector is essential. They assess the property differently from building code inspectors, ensuring that no detail is overlooked.

    Try to be there during the inspection

    Being present during the inspection helps you understand the process and ask relevant questions, ultimately enhancing your knowledge about your potential new home’s condition. However, make sure not to disrupt the inspector’s workflow. For example, avoid using water fixtures or appliances while they’re being inspected, as this could affect the accuracy of their assessment.

    Refer to the inspection report when negotiating

    If the inspection report cites a variety of defects and necessary repairs, instead of calling off the purchase, you can strategically use it for negotiation purposes. But make sure to prioritize major repairs rather than focusing on minor repairs and cosmetic concerns, since major issues are more likely to impact the property’s value and your future living conditions.

    During negotiations, you can request that the seller address these major issues before the closing. If agreed upon, ensure you receive proof of repairs or applicable credits for work that you’ll manage post-purchase. This approach allows for a fair resolution while avoiding unnecessary complications.

Call one of the best real estate teams in Steamboat Springs today!

Paoli Group

Ready to take that first step towards owning your dream home? Enjoy a smooth, stress-free journey with The Paoli Group. We are a dedicated team of licensed real estate brokers who specialize in all areas of real estate, including residential, ranch, and commercial properties.

Dedicated and committed, our team can provide you with unparalleled insights into the local real estate market and help you find the perfect property that suits your needs. Get in touch with us today by calling 970.457.6880 or by sending us a message here!

Skip to content