COLORADO SPRINGS – For the people without owning a home, it’s been like being on the outside of a cash grab party, watching homes appreciate at near-record pace in the past 18 months.

“The housing market is hot,” said Randy Bell, the owner of START Real Estate.

Bell says its one of the hottest markets in the 15 years START has operated Colorado First Time Home Buyer, a program within the company that helps match first time home buyers with the programs that can help them buy their first home.

“Sitting down with first time home buyers, if it was 15 years ago and they were buying a home for $100,000, they were stressed, they were scared.” Bell recalls, “If they’re buying a home now at $450,000 for their first time, they’re still stressed and they’re still scared.”

With a median home price in Colorado Springs at the $450,000 point it’s daunting, particularly as first time home buyers can’t tap into the equity from an existing home to make a significant down payment, or have cash on hand for when a home is receiving offers over its appraised value.

“People are going to think that they need 20 percent down and a ton of money. That’s not true.” Bell said.

First, there are grants and loan assistance programs offered specifically for first time home buyers.

One is from the Colorado Housing and Financing Authority, CHFA, which has two programs. One is a no-repayment grant of up to three percent to go towards a down payment. The other is a mortgage assistance loan, or “silent second” mortgage loan. It’s dubbed a “silent second” because buyers can get up to 4 percent of a down payment in a loan, but the repayment of that loan can be deferred, for example, until the home is sold or refinanced.

On a more local level, the El Paso County Turnkey Program offers up to five percent in down payment assistance grants, but that program has a more limited pot of money to pull from.

Bell says, its also important to remember, that first time buyers are likely not going to be looking in the $450,000 price point.

“We also talk about the upswing. We know that they’re first home is not going to be their finally home, or forever home. It’s a first home, something to build equity.”

Bell gives an example of the last 12 months in the Colorado Springs market that has seen 18 percent appreciation on average. In a $350,000 home, that comes out to $63,000 in a years time.

As some buyers weigh building a down payment over 20 percent to avoid mortgage insurance, Bell says keeping equity in mind is important.

“That’s a lot of money to make and most people in one year cannot save $60,000.” Bell said.

Down payment size or how much a buyer can offer over asking are two hang ups that Bell says he sees frequently. However, they aren’t something to be discouraged over in his mind.

“When a seller says guve ys your highest and best, those are two different things,” Bell explains, “Highest is one thing, best might be something else. Sellers may need estra time in that house, sixty days to move you, you can do a lease back where you may not charge rent [to the seller].”

At any rate, Bell doesn’t believe the market will slow down any time soon.

“You got to starts somewhere, you got to get into it.” Bell said.