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Real estate slowdown continues into new year

Linda Romer Todd

Linda Romer Todd

Phil Castle, The Business Times

A slowdown in real estate activity in Mesa County has continued into the new year with double-digit declines in transactions and dollar volume in January.

The pace of sales is expected to pick up. But by the end of 2014, levels are likely to remain close to those reported for 2013, which were the highest in five years.

“I don’t think we’re going to see any jump and push. I think we’re going to hold steady,” said Linda Romer Todd, owner of Associated Brokers & Consultants and chairwoman of the Grand Junction Area Realtors Association.

Sandy Borman, operating principal at Keller Williams Colorado West Realty in Grand Junction and regional spokesperson for the Colorado Association of Realtors, agreed. “I don’t see a huge increase in home sales or in prices this year.”

Sandy Borman

Sandy Borman

Annette Miller, senior vice president of Heritage Title Co. in Grand Junction, said 190 real estate transactions worth a combined $36.4 million were reported in Mesa County during January.

Compared to the same month last year, transactions dropped 20.2 percent and dollar volume fell 21.7 percent.

Miller said the January decreases weren’t surprising given year-over-year declines in transactions and dollar volume in each of the previous three months.

The Colorado Association of Realtors reported that sales of single-family homes, condominiums and townhouses decreased 6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 compared to the fourth quarter of 2012 in a seven-county region of Northwest Colorado that includes Mesa County.

Cold weather likely has played a part in slower activity, Miller said.

Annette Miller

Annette Miller

Uncertainty over the effects of the new federal health care law probably prompted some people to put off decisions on home purchases until they knew how much they’ll pay for health insurance, she added.

Romer Todd and Borman said job security remains an issue as well and continued improvement in the real estate market will depend on improvement in the local labor market.

The downward trend in real estate activity in Mesa County is expected to be short-lived, however, and return to levels experienced last year.

For all of 2013, 3,589 transactions worth a total of $770 million were reported in Mesa County, Miller said. Those totals are the highest since 2008, although far below what was at that time still a robust real estate market.

For one thing, property foreclosure activity in Mesa County continues to slow, exerting less influence on real estate.

Miller said 51 foreclosure filings and 45 foreclosure sales were reported in the county in January. Compared to the same month last year, filings dropped 15 percent and sales fell 18.2 percent. For January 2014, sales of foreclosed properties constituted 14 percent of all transactions, down from 23 percent at this time last year, she said.

Borman said interest rates on home mortgages remain low and attractive.

Sales of some homes priced at the higher end of the market have moved more quickly even as interest has increased in higher-priced lots, she said.

The inventory of homes priced below $250,000 remains comparatively lower. And when homes that are appropriately priced below that level come on the market, they tend to sell quickly, she added.

Romer Todd said that from a long-term perspective, Grand Junction remains a resilient community that’s repeatedly rebounded from economic downturns and likely will do so again. The growth of Colorado Mesa University and improvements to the downtown shopping district are among the developments that bode well for recovery, she said.

As for the real estate market, slow improvement beats no improvement, Romer Todd said. “As long as we’re moving and moving forward, that’s a good sign.”

 

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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