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Real estate investors group offers education, networking

Doug Van Etten

Phil Castle, The Business Times

The Mesa County real estate market continues to offer opportunities to investors who are prepared to act quickly.

And a year-old group continues to offer help to those investors in hosting educational presentations and fostering networking connections.

“I think it’s been really good,” said Doug Van Etten, a broker associate with Keller Williams Colorado West Realty in Grand Junction who organized the Real Estate Investors Network.

The group kicks off its second year with a Jan. 16 meeting.

Van Etten said 20 to 30 people typically attend monthly meetings, a mix of experienced and new real estate investors as well as real estate agents, mortgage lenders and other professionals involved in the real estate industry.

Educational presentations at the meetings have covered a range of topics, including credit scores,  property foreclosures and the legal and tax issues associated with real estate purchases. The Jan. 16 meeting will include a presentation by Dan O’Connor, a local real estate investor, on using Roth IRAs as investment growth vehicles.

In addition to the presentations, though, the meetings have served as a networking venue in connecting new investors with more experienced investors and distributing information about potential purchases and rental vacancies, Van Etten said. “That’s worked out real well.”

Real estate continues to offer good investment opportunities, he said, especially given historically low interest rates and the potential to leverage investments with little or even no money down, he said.

Although not as liquid as other types of investments, real estate can offer higher returns, Van Etten said.

In Mesa County, real estate activity has rebounded to its highest level since 2008 with increased transactions and dollar volume. Home prices also have begun to appreciate to what Van Etten said he considers a more normal range.

Prices haven’t yet appreciated at the rate real estate investors can purchase homes, repair them and sell them on a short-term basis — a process dubbed fix and flip. Rather, most investors are purchasing homes to generate rental income and waiting for long-term appreciation, he said.

But even as demand for residential real estate has increased, supply has lagged, he said. “We are way, way under inventory.”

The situation has affected homebuyers as well as investors, he added.

Very few multi-family housing properties have been available for sale, Van Etten said. And when foreclosed properties sold by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs (HUD) come on the market, they’re usually purchased quickly either by homeowners or investors.

Consequently, investors must be prepared to act quickly when opportunities arise, he said. That includes having money available for purchase or qualifying for financing in advance.

Van Etten said he knows of members of the Real Estate Investors Network who’ve made investments over the past year, including some first-time purchases.

Van Etten said he’s personally benefited from the group not so much in terms of sales, but in the connections he’s made. “Has it benefited me in the big picture? Sure.”

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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