Mesa County real estate activity picking up

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Robert Bray
Annette Miller

Real estate activity has picked up in Mesa County as low interest rates, pent-up demand and a busy summer season drive increased sales.

“The market is showing its strength. It’s still a really good, healthy real estate market,” said Robert Bray, chief executive officer of Bray Real Estate in Grand Junction.

Annette Miller, senior vice president of Heritage Title Co., said the recent increase makes up for some of the decrease earlier this year, when the coronavirus pandemic nearly brought activity to a halt.

Still, one of the lowest inventories of residential properties in decades has limited what could be even more sales, Bray and Miller said.

For July, 604 real estate transactions worth a total of $194 million were reported in Mesa County, Miller said. Compared to the same month last year, transactions rose 8.6 percent and the dollar volume increased 3.7 percent.

Seven large transactions worth a combined $21.2 million bolstered dollar volume, she said. That included the sale of a Federal Express facility near the Grand Junction Regional Airport for $7.5 million, a Walgreens building in Fruita for more than $5.8 million and the building housing the Office Depot in Grand Junction for $2.92 million.

Through the first seven months of 2020, 2,967 transactions worth a total of $910 million were reported, Miller said. Compared to the same span in 2019, transactions remain 4.8 percent lower  and dollar volume 3.4 percent lower.

According to Bray Real Estate, 395 residential transactions were reported in July, up 4.8 percent from the same month last year.

Through the first seven months of 2020, 2,142 residential transactions worth a total of more than $644 million were reported. Compared to the same span in 2019, transactions decreased 4 percent. Dollar volume increased 2.3 percent as the medium sales price of homes rose 10 percent to $275,000.

Bray and Miller said if the local real estate market were depicted in a movie, low interest rates on mortgages would be the hero. But low residential inventories would be the villain.

Bray said interest rates have dipped to as low as 2.5 percent on some 15-year mortgages and remain under 3 percent on some 30-year mortgages.

Pent-up demand also has bolstered activity during what’s already one of the busiest seasons for the market, Bray and Miller said. In addition, more people are relocating to the Grand Valley.

But there are fewer homes on the market to buy. At of the end of July, there were 447 active residential listings in Mesa County, Bray said. That’s down nearly 44 percent from the same time last year and the lowest level in at least 13 years, if not much longer, he said. “It presents a challenge.”

Homeowners remain reluctant to list their properties without first contracting on different homes. Those relocating to the area buy homes without adding to the inventory. And the supply of newly constructed homes continues to lag behind demand, he said.

Looking ahead, Bray and Miller said they expect real estate activity to continue to increase. “I think we’re going to see a good summer,” Miller said.

The outlook for the remainder for the year depends on whether a resurgence of the pandemic forces businesses to close again, Miller said. That’s not to mention the potential effects of the presidential election in November.

In the meantime, property foreclosure activity continues to decrease. Through the first seven months of 2020, 73 foreclosure filings and 21 foreclosure sales were reported in Mesa County, Miller said. Compared to the same span in 2019, filings declined 44.7 percent and sales dropped 70 percent.

The 25 resales of foreclosed properties during the first seven months of 2020 constituted less than 1 percent of all transactions. That’s well below the 10 percent threshold Miller considers indicative of a healthy real estate market.