Mesa County real estate activity picks up

Annette Miller
Annette Miller
Robert Bray
Robert Bray

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Buoyed in part by commercial transactions, real estate activity continues to trend upward in Mesa County.

After year-over-year increases in transactions and dollar volume during the first quarter, the outlook remains mostly upbeat for what are typically busier second and third quarters, said Annette Miller, senior vice president of Heritage Title Co. in Grand Junction. “I think we’re in for more of the same.”

Robert Bray, chief executive officer for Bray Real Estate in Grand Junction, said residential transactions during the first quarter of 2016 lagged behind what were strong sales during the same span in 2015. But dollar volume increased on higher prices.

Bray also said he’s optimistic. “I still think it’ll be a good year.”

Miller said 360 real estate transactions worth a combined $85 million were reported in Mesa County during March. Compared to the same month last year, transactions increased 12.9 percent and dollar volume jumped 34.9 percent.

Dollar volume was bolstered in part by four large transactions totaling $8.2 million, Miller said. Those transactions included the sale of an Auto Zone property in Clifton for $2.14 million as well as the sale of a large tract of land along U.S. Highway 50 on Orchard Mesa that includes the Kia auto dealership for $3.88 million.

For the first quarter of 2016, 814 real estate transactions worth a collective $189.7 million were reported in Mesa County, Miller said. Compared to the first quarter of 2015, transactions were up 11.4 percent and dollar volume was up 20.8 percent.

Bray said 574 residential real estate transactions were reported for Mesa County during the first quarter of 2016, a 2 percent decline from the first quarter of 2015. The first quarter of last year was especially busy, though, with a 16 percent increase in transactions over the first quarter of 2014, Bray said.

Low inventories slowed the pace of sales during the first quarter of 2016, but also contributed to higher prices, Bray said.

The inventory of active residential listings is down 10 percent over the past year. The median sales price climbed to $188,000, up 6 percent from the same period a year ago, he said.

According to the latest results of a monthly analysis conducted by CoreLogic, home prices in Grand Junction rose 1.3 percent between January and February and were up 11.2 percent between February 2015 and February 2016. The California-based research firm includes such so-called distressed sales as foreclosure auctions and short sales in its calculations. The year-over-year gain in home prices in Grand Junction topped the 10.5 percent increase the firm reported for Colorado.

Miller said property foreclosure activity in Mesa County during the first quarter of 2016 increased over the same span in 2015. While 146 foreclosure filings were reported, 95 foreclosure sales occurred. Compared to the first quarter of 2015, filings increased 31.5 percent and sales jumped 37.7 percent.

“It’s definitely a trend to watch,” Miller said.

At the same time, though, the 62 resales of foreclosed properties during the first quarter constituted only 8 percent of all real estate transactions during the first quarter of 2016, Miller said. “We’re still in that healthy market.”

Miller said she expects real estate activity to continue to trend upward this year.

So does Bray, although at a slightly slower pace than 2015 with a 5 percent to 7 percent increase in residential transactions and a 6 percent to 7 percent increase in the median sales price.

In addition to pushing up prices, low inventory levels have encouraged what Bray expects will be an increase in new home construction. Building permit activity increased 5 percent in March over the same month last year, pulling the total for the first quarter up 1 percent over the same span in 2015, he said.