Mesa County real estate activity heats up

Robert Bray
Robert Bray
Annette Miller
Annette Miller

Phil Castle, The Business Times

While wintry weather typically cools real estate activity, the Mesa County market continued to heat up during January with a year-over-year increase in transactions.

“You’d think the grass was green and the birds were singing,” said Robert Bray, chief executive officer of Bray Real Estate in Grand Junction.

It’s a comparatively fast start that bodes well for another good year in 2016, said Annette Miller, senior vice president of Heritage Title Co. in Grand Junction. “There’s no reason why it can’t be.”

Miller said 221 real estate transactions worth a total of $45 million were reported in Mesa County during January. Compared to the same month last year, transactions increased 26.3 percent.

The cumulative dollar volume actually dropped 5.5 percent, but only because of the several large commercial transactions reported during January 2015 —  including the sale of the Canyon View Marketplace in Grand Junction for $10 million and LaQuinta Inn in Fruita for $3.6 million.

“It was something of a nontypical January,” Bray said. While cold and snowy weather usually hampers real estate activity, that wasn’t the case during the first month of this year. At Bray Real Estate, he said telephones were ringing and agents remained busy.

A dip in long-term interest rates on mortgages and the prospect of higher rates later this year could have prompted some people who were previously just looking to go ahead and buy, he said.

Miller said there’s typically a bit of a lull in real estate activity during January, but was less pronounced this year. “It didn’t slow as much as what we saw last year.”

Bray and Miller said the January sales figures constitute a good start for what promises to be continued improvement in the Mesa County real estate market in 2016.

“I think this year portends to be another good year,” Bray said.

For all of 2015, a total of 4,060 transactions worth a collective $984 million were reported in Mesa County, Miller said. Compared to 2014, transactions increased 11.1 percent and dollar volume jumped 21.6 percent on the strength of large commercial transactions.

The year-end numbers for 2015 were the highest for Mesa County since 2008. The market last peaked in 2006, bottomed out in 2011 and has improved every year since then, she said.

Miller said the Grand Junction Area Realtors Association reported that the average sales price of residential property in 2015 increased more than 6.7 percent to $216,865. The average time on market fell 14 days to 111 days.

Bray said the year-end numbers for 2016 could depend in part on whether comparatively low levels of residential inventory increase. For December, the inventory was at its second lowest level of the last six years. Rising prices could bring more sellers to the market, however, he said.

Miller said low residential inventory levels also should promote more new home construction. For 2015, the number of single family building permits issued in Mesa County slipped 1 percent to 447.

While property foreclosure activity has trended down in Mesa County, a year-over-year increase in foreclosure filings was reported in January, Miller said. The 53 filings were more than triple the 17 filings reported a year ago at this time.

Miller said she’s uncertain why there was such an increase, but added, “That’s a piece to watch.”

The number of foreclosure sales was unchanged on a year-over-year basis at 34.

Still, the proportion of foreclosure sales to overall real estate transactions was just 9 percent in January, remaining below the 10 percent threshold Miller said she considers indicative of a healthy market.