Improving real estate market expected to continue

Robert Bray
Robert Bray
Annette Miller
Annette Miller

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Robert Bray has watched the real estate market slowly but steadily improve in Mesa County over the past three years — and 2014 has been no exception.

Both the number of real estate transactions and dollar  volume of those deals so far this year continue to outpace last year.

While the Mesa County market has yet to recover to the same extend as other areas of the United States and Colorado, there’s been improvement nonetheless, said Bray, chief executive officer of Bray Real Estate in Grand Junction.

Annette Miller, senior vice president of Heritage Title Co. in Grand Junction and a long-time observer of the local real estate market, agrees. “2014 appears to be wrapping up as most predicted of sustaining the 2013 numbers with some additional growth in commercial transactions.”

Moreover, the trend is expected to continue in 2015.

“I think we could have another good year in the real estate market,” Bray said.

Miller said 277 real estate transactions worth a combined $59.3 million were reported in Mesa County during November.

Compared to the same month last year, the number of transactions increased 4.5 percent, while the combined dollar volume slipped 1.3 percent, Miller said.

Bray said residential sales activity for his company was up for November, defying what’s typically seasonal slowing. “It felt really good.”

The November numbers bring the total number of real estate transactions for the year to 3,341 and the collective dollar volume of those sales to $742 million.

Compared to the same span last year, sales have edged up nearly a percentage point. But the dollar volume has increased almost 3.5 percent.

The year-to-date numbers are closing in on what in 2013 were a total of 3,519 sales worth a collective $769.6 million.

The latest numbers are the highest since 2008, although far below what was at the time a more robust real estate market.

Still, decreasing property foreclosure activity in Mesa County constitutes another sign of an improving real estate market.

For November, 33 foreclosure filings and 21 foreclosure sales were reported, Miller said. Compared to the same month last year, filings dropped more than 52 percent and sales retreated more than 54 percent.

Counting the last numbers, 493 filings and 381 sales have been reported in Mesa County so far in 2014. Compared to the same span in 2013, filings have decreased nearly 33 percent and sales have declined almost 32 percent.

Resales of foreclosed properties represented only 8 percent of all transactions in November and 11 percent of all sales so far in 2013. Foreclosure resales at or below 10 percent generally constitutes a healthy market, Miller said.

Bray said increased spending and consumer confidence bode well for the real estate market. “I think we’ve seen the results now of some activity come to fruition.”

The City of Grand Junction reported a 6.1 percent increase in year-over-year sales and use tax collections in October, while Mesa County reported a 7.3 percent increase. Sales tax collections constitute a key indicator of retail sales.

Increasing sales indicate consumers are willing to spend more on groceries, cars and, ultimately, housing, Bray said. “That’s good for all of us.”

There’s also been an acceptance, Bray said, of a “new normal” for a Mesa County economy that’s been slow to recover, but also has avoided what’s been in the recent past a “roller coaster” of booms followed by busts.

Bray said he expects the real estate market to follow suit with organic growth. There’ll be no steep inclines, but no steep drops, either. “Moderate will be good,”  he said.

Overall, Bray said he expects the slow improvement in the real estate market he’s watched over the past three years to continue next year.