Mesa County real estate “roller coaster” climbs to new heights

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Annette Miller

A Mesa County real estate market described as a roller coaster ride with the ups of increased sales and downs of pandemic restrictions ultimately climbed in 2020 to new heights.

At more than $1.75 billion, the total dollar volume of real estate transactions in the county last year topped the previous record set in 2006.

The outlook for this year is no less upbeat as more people who work remotely and can live where they choose are expected to relocate to the Grand Valley and low interest rates on mortgages offset in part higher prices. Rock-bottom housing inventories remain an obstacle, although new construction has increased.

“I think it’s going to be another good 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. in Grand Junction, foresees some uncertainty, though, associated with the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic and how soon vaccinations will halt the spread of COVID-19. Foreclosures and evictions could increase as moratoriums are lifted.

“2021 is going to be just as interesting,” she said.

Miller said 5,658 transactions worth a combined $1.754 billion were reported in Mesa County during 2020. Compared to 2019, transactions increased 4.9 percent and dollar volume rose 5 percent.

Transactions remained well below the 7,198 reported in 2005. But dollar volume exceeded the $1.72 billion reported in 2006, Miller said.

A surge in real estate sales in December bolstered year-end numbers, she said. “It really ended with a bang, didn’t it?”

For the month, 536 transactions worth a total of $168 million were reported. Compared to December 2019, transactions increased 38.9 percent and dollar volume rose 32.3 percent.

Several large transactions in Grand Junction increased dollar for December 2020, Miller said. That included the sale of a 36-unit apartment building on 25th Street for $4.2 million, the building on 24 1/2 Road that formerly housed Spin City for $3.5 million and the JC Penny building and parking area at Mesa Mall for $2.9 million.

For all of 2020, 68 large transactions accounted for a total of $156 million. But that was less than the 88 sales that totaled $251 million in 2019.

Miller said it was difficult to anticipate the year-end numbers given the increased activity at the beginning and end of 2020, but the effects of the pandemic and related restrictions in between. At one point, showings and open houses were prohibited. Some closings were conducted in the parking lot, she said.

“It was like a roller coaster,” she said.

According to numbers tracked by Bray Real Estate, 4,022 residential transactions worth a total of more than $1.275 billion were reported in Mesa County in 2020.

Compared to 2019, transactions increased 2.5 percent and dollar volume rose 13.9 percent.

Bray said year-end residential numbers were among the biggest he’s seen in his 46-year career in real estate in the Grand Valley. His expectations were different, though, in April and May.

Looking back, 2020 was a year of ups and downs, he said. “It was a roller coaster ride with tremendous anxiety.”

The year ended with what Bray dubbed “a December to remember.”

For the month, there 331 transactions worth a total of nearly $103.6 million were reported. Compared to December 2019, transactions increased 20.8 percent and dollar volume rose 31.5 percent.

Even as real estate sales have climbed to their highest levels, residential inventories in Mesa County have dropped to the lowest levels, Bray said.

There were just 281 active listings at the end of December. That’s down 52 percent from a year ago.

A combination of increased demand and decreased supply contributed to higher prices, Bray said. The median price of homes sold in 2020 rose 12.1 percent to $287,000.

New construction has helped to take up some of the slack, he said. A total of 779 building permits for single-family homes were issued in Mesa County in 2020, up 8.6 percent from 2019.

As for 2021, Bray said he expects interest rates and housing inventory to remain low and more people to move to the Grand Valley as part of an exodus from big cities to rural areas offering a high quality of life. That bodes well for the real estate market, he said.

In the meantime, property foreclosure activity continues to slow.

Miller said 93 foreclosure filings and 30 foreclosure sales were reported in Mesa County during 2020. Compared to 2019, filings fell 55.9 percent and sales dropped 73.7 percent.

The 30 resales of foreclosed property constituted less than 1 percent of all real estate transactions, a fraction of the 10 percent threshold Miller considers indicative of a healthy market.