Mesa County real estate market heating up

Annette Miller
Annette Miller
Robert Bray
Robert Bray

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Real estate activity continues to increase in Mesa County as a combination of mild weather, limited inventory and low interest rates drive sales.

Activity for both March and the first quarter were up compared to the same periods last year, according to Annette Miller, senior vice president of Heritage Title Co. in Grand Junction and a long-time observer of the local market. “The momentum just seems to be building.”

Robert Bray, chief executive officer of Bray Real Estate in Grand Junction, expects the faster pace to continue. “I think we’ll see it through the second quarter at least.”

Miller said 319 real estate transactions worth a combined $63 million were reported in Mesa County during March. Compared to the same month last year, transactions rose up 27.6 percent, while the dollar volume increased 31.2 percent.

Two large transactions bolstered the latest number for dollar volume, Miller said — the sale of the former Schlumberger property on 22 Road in Grand Junction for $3.15 million and the sale of a 31-acre agricultural property on 33 1/2 Road in Palisade for $1.15 million. Miller attributed most of the difference, though, to an increase in overall real estate activity.

Through the first quarter of 2015, 731 transactions worth a collective $157 million were reported, Miller said. Compared to the first quarter of 2014, transactions climbed 12.6 percent and dollar volume jumped 18 percent.

The differences are so large, though, because real estate activity was so slow at the beginning of last year, Miller said. A number of factors were to blame, she said, including  inclement winter weather and uncertainty over health insurance premiums associated with new federal laws.

In comparing the first quarters of 2015 and 2013, the differences were more modest with a 1.4 percent increase in transactions and an 8.4 percent increase in dollar volume.

Bray agreed weather contributed to the differences between this year and last year. But a shortage of inventory, particularly for houses priced at the lower end of the spectrum, also prompted home buyers to act more quickly. While interest rates on mortgages remain low, there’s been a growing sense rates soon could rise, he added.  “It’s spurring people on.”

Market dynamics, along with rising prices, could lure more sellers into the market, Bray said, especially as summer nears. Low inventories also could bolster new home construction.

For now, though, the Mesa County real estate market is growing again on its own without the stimulus of an energy boom, Bray said. “It’s good, organic growth which is driving activity.”

If the pipeline of business for his own firm is any indication, Bray said he expects that growth to continue for at least the next three months.

Meanwhile, property foreclosure activity in Mesa County slowed during the first quarter, although foreclosure filings increased in March on a year-over-year basis.

Miller said 58 foreclosure filings and 18 foreclosure sales were reported in the county in March. Compared to the same month last year, filings increased 9.4 percent even as sales tumbled 55 percent.

For the first quarter of 2015, 111 filings and 69 sales were reported, Miller said. Compared to the first quarter of 2014, filings fell 25 percent and sales dropped almost 50 percent.

Sales of foreclosed properties during the first quarter of 2015 represented 11 percent of all transactions, only slightly above the 10 percent ratio Miller considers indicative of a normal market.