Real deals add up to growing dollar volume

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Annette Miller

While low housing inventories slowed sales, the dollar volume of real estate transactions climbed in Mesa County in 2019 to its highest level in more than a decade.

“We still ended up with a very healthy year,” said Annette Miller, a senior vice president at Heritage Title Co. in Grand Junction who’s long tracked the local market.

Miller expects more of the same in 2020 with low inventories, but also low-interest rates on mortgages. “We’re going to see the same sort of conditions.”

Miller said 5,393 real estate transactions worth a combined $1.67 billion were reported in Mesa County in 2019. Compared to 2018, transactions fell 5.7 percent. But dollar volume rose 7.7 percent to its highest level since hitting $1.71 billion in 2007. Real estate sales peaked in Mesa County in 2006 at $1.72 billion.

A year-over-year increase in real estate activity in December bolstered the year-end numbers, Miller said.

For December, 386 transactions worth a total of $127 million were reported. Compared to the same month last year, transactions increased 9.3 percent and dollar volume jumped 28.3 percent.

Eight large transactions worth a combined $24 million boosted dollar volume, include the sale of the Clifton Townhomes for $6.7 million, vacant land along 12th Street in Grand Junction for $5.9 million and the location of the Welbrock rehabilitation facility for $2.25 million.

Large transactions similarly increased the dollar volume for 2019, Miller said. For the year, 88 transactions worth more than $1 million accounted for a combined $251 million. In 2018, 69 transactions worth more than $1 million accounted for a cumulative $172 million.

Miller also attributed the increase in dollar volume to rising real estate prices.

According to numbers reported by Bray Real Estate in Grand Junction, the median sales price of residential transactions increased 9.4 percent in 2019 to $257,000 even as demand outpaced supply.

Miller said the number of real estate transactions in 2019 likely would have exceeded 2018 were it not for low housing inventories. According to Bray Real Estate, the 585 active residential listings in Mesa County at the end of 2019 were 9 percent lower than the end of 2018 and the lowest level going back to at least 2008.

At the current pace of sales, that’s only a two-month supply. There’s only a month’s supply of homes priced between $100,000 and $299,000.

New construction continues to lag in bringing more homes to the market, especially at lower prices, Miller said.

Bray Real Estate reported 717 building permits for single homes were issued in Mesa County in 2019. While that’s the second-highest number in more than a decade, it’s still 10.6 percent lower than 2018. The availability and affordability of lots upon which builders can construct houses continues to slow new construction, Miller said.

Low housing inventories have in turn limited selection — to the point some homeowners have decided to renovate rather than shop for newer or larger houses, she said.

Still, the situation has kept the Mesa County market from growing too fast, Miller said. “You don’t want to shoot off the race track if it’s all gas and no brake.”

Looking ahead, Miller said she expects low housing inventories to persist in 2020, but that low interest rates on mortgages to also give homebuyers more purchasing power. “I think we’re still going to have a good year.”

Meanwhile, property foreclosure activity continues to slow in Mesa County. Miller said 211 foreclosure filings and 114 sales were reported in 2019. Compared to 2018, filings fell 20 percent and sales dropped 26.9 percent.

The 60 resales of foreclosed properties during 2019 constituted just 1.1 percent of all transactions, a fraction of the 10 percent threshold Miller considers indicative of a healthy market.