Mesa County real estate activity brisk

Robert Bray

Robert Bray

Annette Miller

Annette Miller

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Robert Bray expected real estate activity to continue to increase in Mesa County this year, but not necessarily this much.

“I am pleased and still a little surprised,” said Bray, chief executive officer of Bray Real Estate in Grand Junction.

With double-digit year-over-year gains in September, the number of real estate transactions in the county through the first three quarters of 2016 outpaced the same span in 2015 by 15.4 percent. Dollar volume increased 9.5 percent.

The pace of real estate sales typically slows in the fall and winter. Uncertainty associated with the presidential election also could affect sales. But gains have already positioned the Mesa County market to likely outperform last year, said Annette Miller, senior vice president at Heritage Title Co. in Grand Junction.

Miller said 396 real estate transactions worth a total of $89 million were reported in Mesa County during September. Compared to the same month last year, transactions increased 18.6 percent and dollar volume rose 20.3 percent.

Two large transactions bolstered the numbers, Miller said: the sale of a commercial office in Fruita to Family Health West for $1.5 million and 160 acres of agricultural land near 23 and L roads north of Grand Junction for $1.1 million

The latest gains bring numbers through the first three quarters to 3,519 transactions worth a collective $807 million. During the same span last year, 3,050 transactions worth a combined $737 million were reported. For all of 2015, 4,060 transactions worth a total of $984 million were reported.

Miller expects year-end numbers for 2016 to exceed 2015 and climb to the highest level since 2008. The market hasn’t yet returned to the peak of 2006, when an energy boom fostered rapid growth. But the market has improved every year since bottoming out in 2011 in the aftermath of downturns in the energy sector and overall economy.

Bray said 280 residential transactions worth a total of $64 million were reported in September — 105 in the range between $100,000 and $199,000 and 97 in the range between $200,000 and $299,000.

Through the first three quarters of this year, 2,544 residential transactions worth a total of $584 million were reported, Bray said Compared to the same span last year, transactions rose 9.6 percent and dollar volume increased 17.3 percent. The median sales price of $200,000 was 5.3 percent higher than last year.

Bray said the numbers reflect increased activity in the market in which more residents are moving up into larger and more expensive homes than downsizing.

In addition, more people are moving to the area and buying what are for them comparatively lower-price homes than the markets many of them are leaving. Mesa County has become an attractive place to live for retirees from Denver and the Front Range of Colorado because of its climate, quality of life and availability of health care services, Bray said. “It’s good news for us.”

While Bray said he’d been concerned the inventory of available houses could limit growth in the real estate market, higher prices have attracted more sellers. As of the end of September, there were 1,075 active listings in Mesa County — up 8.8 percent from the same month last year.

Bray also expects new construction to bring more homes to the market.

Meanwhile, property foreclosure activity also continues to increase in Mesa County.

Miller said 50 foreclosure filings and 29 foreclosure sales were reported in September. Compared to the same month last year, filings increased 8.7 percent while sales held steady.

Through the first three quarters of 2016, 424 filings and 276 sales were reported. Compared to the same span last year, filings rose 16.5 percent and sales climbed 20 percent. “It is a trend to watch,” Miller said.

Still, the 196 resales of foreclosed properties during the first three quarters of  the year constitute only 6 percent of overall transactions. That’s well below the 10 percent threshold Miller considers indicative of a healthy market.

Phil Castle is editor of the Grand Valley Business Times, a twice-monthly business journal published in Grand Junction. Castle brings to his duties nearly 30 years of experience in editorial management positions with Western Colorado newspapers. In addition, his free-lance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University.
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