Numbers add up to real estate recovery

Annette Miller

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Sales numbers continue to add up to recovery in the real estate market in Mesa County.

With one month left to go in 2013, the number of real estate transactions in the county has nearly matched the total for 2012. The combined dollar volume of those deals already has exceeded last year.

“That’s a good place to be,” said Annette Miller, senior vice president of Heritage Title Co. in Grand Junction and a long-time observer of the local market.

While Miller anticipates some slowing in activity during the fourth quarter that could carry on into the new year, she expects the market to continue to improve — “maybe not rambunctious, but healthy.”

Miller also bases her outlook on a continued decline in property foreclosure activity in Mesa County and a return to more normal conditions. “It just continues to tick down.”

Miller said 264 real estate sales worth a collective $60 million were reported in Mesa County during November. Compared to the same month last year, sales dipped

6 percent and the dollar volume retreated 2.8 percent.

Real estate activity during the fourth quarter of 2012 was strong, Miller said, raising the bar for year-over-year increases during the fourth quarter of 2013.

However, year-to-date numbers for 2012 outpace 2013. Miller said 3,339 sales worth a combined $716.9 million were reported in Mesa County through November. Compared to the same span in 2012, transactions increased 6.4 percent and dollar volume surged 16.1 percent.

For all of 2012, 3,444 sales worth a total of $681.2 million were reported — the highest numbers for Mesa County since 2008.

Miller said large transactions have helped bolster dollar volume. Through November, there were 29 deals worth more than $1 million, combining for a total dollar volume of $77.2 million. During the span span in 2012, there were 25 deals worth more than $1 million, combining for a dollar volume of $50.6 million.

At the same time, though, the numbers also reflect a generally improving real estate market — and one facing less drag from property foreclosures.

For November, 69 foreclosure filings and 46 foreclosure sales were reported in Mesa County, Miller said. Compared to the same month last year, filings dropped 19.8 percent and sales remained unchanged.

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

Through November, 735 foreclosure filings and 558 foreclosure sales were reported during 2013, Miller said. Compared to the same span last year, filings tumbled 38 percent and sales have dropped 28.5 percent.

The sales of foreclosed properties represented just 13 percent of all transactions during November 2013. Year-to-date, that proportion was 18 percent, Miller said.

As foreclosure activity declines, the numbers approach what Miller considers a healthy market with the proportion of foreclosure sales to overall transactions below 10 percent.

Toni Heiden, owner and broker of Heiden Homes Realty and Associates in Grand Junction, said 2013 has been a better year for real estate activity in large part because of the additional inventory that came on the market. Moreover, sale prices trended higher.

As for 2014, Heiden said she’s optimistic improving conditions will continue. Increased activity in commercial real estate, usually a leading indicator of subsequent activity in residential real estate, bolsters her outlook.

The extent of continued recovery in the real estate market will depend, though, on the extent of recovery in the labor market, Heiden added. “Employment is going to be the big thing.

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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