Vail Daily column: What does it take to buy a home? |

Vail Daily column: What does it take to buy a home?

Joan Harned

Dear Joan,

What does it take to buy a property? How much money​ do you need to put​ down and do you have to have a year-round job? A friend and I have lived in the valley for over five years now and we have always rented. We have steady winter jobs and​ steady​ summer jobs, but they are ​each with different employers. I have been told you have to have 20 percent down and have a year-round job to qualify. We are sick of renting and make good money but have not saved very much yet. Is there anyway we can buy before we are too old to care?

Dear Non-Saver,

Yes, there is hope you still will be able to buy while you are young (young is a very general term not denoting any specific age in my opinion). My suggestion is similar to what I put at ​t​he end of most of my columns, but I will start with it this time. Find a very good Realtor that is willing to invest time in you, the first-time home buyer, and has knowledge about where you can go and get the help you need. That Realtor can direct you to one or more lenders that will work with you explaining the process and will let you know if you can qualify now, or what steps you need to take to get your finances in order​,​ in the next six months to a year​,​ to be able to buy a starter home for you, or you and your roommate. There are loans that you can get with 10 percent, 5 percent, 3.5 percent and even 0 percent down in this valley. Your lender can explain the differences and help you determine what works best for you and what you qualify for. There are even down payment assistance programs for first-time home buyers. As far as the different summer and winter jobs, a good lender can help with a letter that explains that many seasonal jobs exist in the resort community and with your five-year work history, they should be able to overcome the hurdle of the two jobs.

My last piece of advice is to suggest you have your Realtor find you a home that you can comfortably afford.

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If you are close to qualifying but just need a little help, sometimes parents will help you financially with your first home. If you decide to go together with your friend to qualify and buy the property, make sure you have an attorney help you draw up paperwork about what happens if one wants to sell and the other doesn’t, and/or there are different opinions in the future as to how the home will be maintained and or marketed and sold. How you put your names on the loan documents is also extremely important and once again I highly suggest legal advice.

My last piece of advice is to suggest you have your Realtor find you a home that you can comfortably afford, not just “barely” afford. Remember, you may want to go to the show and have pizza now and then, so you don’t want to just “barely” be able to make your mortgage payments each month. Therefore, consider your first home a “stepping stone.” Some place you would like to live, but probably not your ultimate dream home — that comes later after you have saved on rents, gained equity and learned about the home ownership tricks of the trade. Best of luck to you!

Joan Harned is an owner-broker for Keller Williams Mountain Properties and heads up Team Black Bear, her own real estate team. Harned has been selling real estate in Eagle County for 27 years, is a past chairman of the Vail Board of Realtors, past Realtor of the Year, past director on the Great Outdoors Colorado Board and a member of the Luxury and Land Institutes. Contact Harned with your real estate questions at, 970-337-7777 or

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