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Mesa County real estate numbers add up to recovery

Robert Bray

Robert Bray

Annette Miller

Phil Castle, The Business Times

The latest numbers continue to add up to recovery in the Mesa County real estate market. Even as transactions and dollar volume increase, property foreclosure filings and sales decrease.

“I think we’ll have another good year in the real estate market,” said Robert Bray, president of Bray Real Estate in Grand Junction.

Annette Miller, senior vice president of Heritage Title Company in Grand Junction, said activity could slow a bit in the fourth quarter, but likely will continue to increase nonetheless. “It’s been a slow, steady growth all year.”

Miller said 318 real estate transactions worth a collective $63.9 million were reported in Mesa County during September. Compared to the same month last year, transactions rose 13.6 percent and dollar volume increased 19 percent.

The latest numbers bring total transactions through the first three quarters of 2013 to 2,770 and dollar volume to $580 million. Compared to the same span in 2012, transactions are up 7.6 percent and dollar volume 15.3 percent.

If the pace of real estate activity through the first three quarters continues through the fourth quarter, 2013 will end with 3,693 transactions worth a combined $773.3 million. If realized, those numbers will be the highest since 2008, although far lower than that year.

In 2012, 3,444 real estate transactions worth a total of $681.2 million were reported in Mesa County.

Bray said he initially was worried rising interest rates on mortgages would slow real estate activity, but instead motivated buyers to complete transactions out of concern the rates would rise even higher.

Interest rates climbed about a point over the past six months before retreating a quarter point to a half point. Bray said the trends followed plans by the Federal Reserve to scale back purchases of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities intended to stimulate the economy and then an announcement the program would continue.

 From a historical perspective, interest rates remain attractively low, Bray said.

Miller said higher mortgage interest rates could slow real estate activity in the fourth quarter, but also have had an effect on mortgage refinancing.

Continued uncertainty over the effects of the federal health care law and federal budget disputes also could play a role in the market, she said.

Meanwhile, though, another trend portends improving conditions in the Mesa County real estate market: decreasing property foreclosure activity.

Miller said 70 foreclosure filings and 40 foreclosure sales were reported in Mesa County in September, down 34 percent and 33.3 percent, respectively, from the same month last year.

Because of the time between filings and sales, the two don’t occur for an individual property in the same month.

Through the first three quarters of 2013, 591 foreclosure filings and 470 foreclosure sales were reported in Mesa County, Miller said.

Compared to the same span in 2012, filings dropped 40.9 percent and sales declined 23.7 percent.

The proportion of sales of foreclosed properties to total real estate transactions dropped to 19 percent through the first three quarters of 2013, down five points from the same span in 2012, she said.

Bray called the trend significant. Because foreclosed properties tend to sell for less than similar properties on the market, foreclosure activity can pull down real estate prices. Bray said decreased foreclosure activity exerts less influence on the market.

While the Mesa County real estate market continues to lag behind a more robust recovery elsewhere in Colorado, particularly the Front Range, Bray expects that situation to change. “I think we’ll find our way out of all this. Things are pointing the right way.”

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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