A billion and counting: Mesa County real estate sales pass milestone

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Robert Bray
Annette Miller

Real estate sales have passed the billion dollar milestone in Mesa County en route to what’s could be a slightly slower, but still healthy, year.

“It’s still going to be a good year,” said Robert Bray, chief executive officer of Bray Real Estate in Grand Junction.

Annette Miller, senior vice president of Heritage Title Co. in Grand Junction, agreed. “It’s still a healthy real estate market.”

Low inventories and limited selection continue to slow residential sales, but low interest rates on mortgages have helped to sustain demand, Bray and Miller said.

Miller said 505 real estate transactions worth a total of $148 million were reported in Mesa County in August. Compared to the same month last year, transactions declined 11.4 percent and dollar volume held steady.

The year-over-year numbers for August followed a smaller decrease in transactions in July and increase in dollar volume. “It kind of ate up the headway in July,” Miller said.

Seven transactions worth a combined $13.8 million bolstered dollar volume in August, Miller said. They included the sale of the PetSmart location for $4.92 million, two Intellitec College locations for $2.8 million and a vacant commercial lot on Orchard Mesa for $1.64 million.

Through the first eight months of 2019, 3,623 transactions worth a total of nearly $1.1 billion were reported. Compared to the same span in 2018, transactions dropped 8.9 percent and dollar volume rose almost 1.5 percent.

Miller attributed part of the gain in dollar volume to large transactions — 55 worth a total of $150 million in 2019 compared to 46 worth $119 million in 2018.

Bray said 380 residential real estate transactions were reported in August, down 5.7 percent from the same month last year.

Through the first eight months of 2019, 2,600 residential transactions worth a total of $737 million were reported. Compared to the same span in 2018, transactions dropped 7.6 percent and dollar volume edged down seven-tenths of a percent.

Demand remains strong, Bray said, as interest rates on 30-year mortgages have dropped a point since the beginning of the year. Lower rates increase the capability of homebuyers to obtain financing as well as how much they can borrow.

Still, low inventories and limited selection have slowed sales, he said. At the end of August, there were 797 active residential listings, down 14.2 percent from the same time last year. At the current pace of sales, that’s only a two-month supply.

Over the first eight months of 2019, there were on average 100 less homes on the market each month than last year, Bray said.

New home construction has failed to keep pace. For August, 75 building permits for single family homes were issued in Mesa County, down 16.7 percent from the same month last year, Through  the first eight months of 2019, 496 permits were issued. That’s down 14.4 percent from the same span in 2018.

Bray attributed the difference in part to a lack of availability of lots upon which to build as well as winter weather that slowed construction at the beginning of the year.

Meanwhile, housing prices continue to rise. The median price of homes sold through the first eight months of 2019 rose 7.7 percent to $253,000 compared to the same span in 2018, Bray said.

Bray and Miller said they expect the year-end number for transactions to fall below 2018, while dollar volume will come close to matching last year. With 5,719 transactions worth  a total of $1.55 billion, 2018 was the best year for the Mesa County real estate market since 2007.

The pace of property foreclosure activity continues to slow.

Miller said 154 foreclosure filings and 79 foreclosure sales were reported in Mesa Country through the first eight months of 2019. Compared to the same span in 2018, filings fell 15.8 percent and sales dropped 33.1 percent. The 45 resales of foreclosed properties constituted just 1.2 percent of all transactions, a fraction of the 10 percent threshold Miller considers indicative of a healthy market.