Pace of Mesa County real estate sales at six-year high

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Robert Bray
Robert Bray

The pace of real estate activity in Mesa County accelerated in May to its highest level in more than six years with gains in sales, dollar volume and median pricing.

“It’s wonderfully surprising,” 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 and a
long-time observer of the local real estate market, was equally upbeat. “We just continue to keep moving up. These are generous increases.”

Annette Miller
Annette Miller

Miller said 564 real estate transactions were reported in Mesa County in May, the largest amount for a single month since January 2011. Those transactions were worth a combined $131 million.

Compared to the same month last year, transactions increased 19.5 percent and dollar volume rose 26 percent.

The sale of the Fox Building on Main Street in downtown Grand Junction for nearly $1.24 million bolstered dollar volume. But so did 29 transactions valued at between $500,000 and $1 million that were worth a collective $19 million, Miller said.

For the first five months of 2017, 1,954 transactions worth a total of $460 million were reported. Compared to the same span in 2016, transactions increased 16.9 percent and dollar volume rose 20.4 percent, Miller said.

Bray said 387 residential real estate transactions worth a combined $98 million were reported in Mesa County in May.

Those numbers bring year-to-date totals for the residential market to 1,396 transactions worth a total of $336 million. Compared to the same span last year, transactions increased 12.6 percent and dollar volume rose 19.6 percent. Those proportional gains are the largest Bray said he’s seen since the latest real estate market peak in 2008.

While Mesa County residents still account for the majority of real estate sales, the proportion of people moving to the county from outside the area increases each month, he said. Those include retirees, but also people moving here for jobs.

As brisk as the pace of real estate sales has become, the pace might be even quicker were it not for a dwindling inventory of houses for sale, Bray said.

At the end of May, there were 891 active residential listings. At the pace of sales that month, that’s only about a two-month supply. That’s the lowest level Bray said he can recall in 10 to 15 years.

Only homes priced above $500,000 offer an inventory of more than three months.

A 45 percent year-over-year increase in new home construction has helped to fill some of the gap, Bray said, as increasing demand and prices coupled with easier access to financing has bolstered housing starts.

The median price for residential properties sold in Mesa County during May was $220,000. For the first five months of 2017, the median price was $215,000, a 10.3 percent increase over the median price for the same span in 2016.

According to the latest information from CoreLogic, a California-based research firm, Grand Junction home prices rose
1.6 percent from March to April and 4.1 percent from April 2016 to April 2017.

Meanwhile, property foreclosure activity continues to decline. Miller said 35 foreclosure filings and 22 foreclosure sales were reported in Mesa County for May. Compared to the same month last year, filings were down 14.6 percent and sales down 42.1 percent.

For the first five months of 2017, 178 filings and 129 sales were reported, Miller said. Compared to the same span in 2016, filings fell 24.3 percent and sales declined 15.1 percent.

So far for 2017, the 20 resales of foreclosed properties constituted just 4 percent of all transactions, well below the 10 percent threshold Miller considers indicative of a healthy market.

Bray doesn’t expect real estate activity in Mesa County to necessarily continue at the same pace for the remainder of the year. But he does believe 2017 will go down as the best since the local market began to recover four years ago.