Mesa County real estate sales closing in on 2013 pace

Annette Miller
Annette Miller
Ben Hill
Ben Hill

Phil Castle, The Business Times

After a slow start, real estate activity has picked up in Mesa County and by the end of the year should match or even exceed last year, industry observers predict.

“The numbers are going to match 2013,” said Annette Miller, senior vice president of Heritage Title Co. in Grand Junction.

Ben Hill, a real estate broker who operates Hill & Homes in Grand Junction, is slightly more optimistic. “I think we’re going to be a little bit ahead.”

While Hill said he’s closing fewer deals, rising prices have bolstered the combined dollar volume. “It’s not leaps and bounds by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s doing a little better.”

Miller said 362 real estate transactions worth a collective $92.5 million were reported in Mesa County during August. Five transactions worth a total of $12 million bolstered the dollar volume.

Compared to the same month last year, transactions increased 4.5 percent and the dollar volume rose 5.8 percent. “I was pretty tickled,” Miller said of the latest numbers.

On a year-over-year basis, both transactions and dollar volume in Mesa County lagged during the first quarter, slowing attributed to inclement winter weather and uncertainty over health insurance premiums associated with a new federal law.

Since then, however, the pace of real estate transactions has nearly caught up with last year and dollar volume has exceeded last year, Miller said.

Through August 2014, 2,411 transactions worth a collective $540 million were reported, she said. Compared to the same span last year, transactions still lag 1.8 percent behind, but dollar volume has increased 4.8 percent.

For all of last year, 3,589 sales worth a total of $769.6 million were reported. Those totals were the highest since 2008, but far below what was at that time a more robust real estate market.

The market usually experiences seasonal slowing during the third and especially fourth quarters, Miller said. But there appears to be more momentum this year that could bolster numbers.

Hill said the Mesa County real estate market has yet to recover to the same extent as other markets in Colorado, Denver in particular. But since Mesa County also lagged behind going into the recession, he hopes the local market soon will catch up.

Rising home prices are one indication of an improving market, Hill said.

CoreLogic, a California-based firm that collects real estate data, reported that home prices increased 5.1 percent in Grand Junction between July 2013 and July 2014. Counting such so-called distressed sales as foreclosure sales and short sales, prices rose 6 percent.

Miler said she’s also encouraged by the continued decline in property foreclosure activity. While there was a slight year-over-year increase with 39 foreclosure sales during August, there were only 24 foreclosure filings. That’s a more than 70 percent drop from the same month last year.

Through August 2014, 360 foreclosure filings and 304 foreclosure sales were reported in Mesa County, Miller said. Compared to the same span in 2013, filings and sales both declined about 30 percent.

The sale of foreclosed properties through the first eight months of 2014 constituted only 12 percent of all transactions, moving closer to the 10 percent threshold Miller considers indicative of a normal market.

“It’s a healthier market,” she said.