Real estate activity slows, but outlook upbeat

Annette Miller
Annette Miller
Ben Hill
Ben Hill
Omar Richardson
Omar Richardson

Phil Castle, The Business Times

While the new year is off to a slightly slower start for real estate activity in Mesa County, the outlook for continued improvement in the local market remains upbeat.

“It was a slow start, but I don’t think that’s going to detour our progress,” said Annette Miller, senior vice president of Heritage Title Co. in Grand Junction and a long-time observer of the real estate market.

Ben Hill, a broker who operates Hill & Homes in Grand Junction, said January was actually a good month for his firm. “We’re starting really good, and things seem to be continuing to steadily improve.”

Omar Richardson, owner of United Country RealQuest Realty in Grand Junction, said 2014 was the best year for his firm since 2008 and prospects for 2015 are encouraging.

While those who work in the real estate industry trend to bring to their perspectives a “cheerleader mentality,” low interest rates, a declining inventory of distressed properties and improving confidence all signal improvement, Richardson said. “It’s not all smoke and mirrors, it’s dollars and cents.”

Miller said 175 real estate transactions worth a collective $47.6 million were reported in Mesa County in January.

Compared to the same month last year, sales slipped nearly 8.6 percent, Miller said.January is typically a slow month for real estate activity, but January this year was even a bit slower. “It looks like there was a little lull going on for January.”

At the same time though, year-over-year dollar volume surged almost 24 percent on the strength of several large commercial transactions.

Miller said just four transactions accounted for a total of $16.6 million, including the sale of the Canyon View Marketplace in Grand Junction for $10 million and LaQuinta Inn in Fruita for $3.6 million.

Miller said real estate activity has picked up and she expects that activity to continue to slowly increase this year.

For 2014, year-end totals for real estate activity came to 3,653 sales worth a combined $809 million, Miller said. Compared to 2013, sales edged up 2 percent and dollar volume increased 5 percent. The year-end totals were the highesrt since 2008, although far lower than what was at that time a robust market that preceded downturns in the regional energy sector and overall economy.

Hill said January sales for Hill & Homes were typical for his firm, and he expects continued improvement.

The Mesa County market continues to lag behind other areas of Colorado, the Front Range in particular. But conditions are improving, HIll said. “We’re doing OK, and I think we’re going to continue to do well here.”

Richardson said January was a good month for United Country RealQuest Realty in part because of a large commercial transaction the firm handled in Alabama. But residential sales in Western Colorado were strong as well.

United Country RealQuest Realty has expanded its efforts in the region by joining multiple listing services that now cover 26 counties in Colorado, Richardson said. “We’re throwing a fairly large loop.”

Rising home prices offer another indication of improving conditions, Miller said.

Housing prices increased 5.3 percent in Grand Junction between December 2013 and December 2014, according to the latest results of a monthly analysis by  CoreLogic, a California-based firm. That increase takes into account such so-called distressed sales as foreclosure auctions and short sales. Excluding distressed sales, year-over-year home prices increased 3.1 percent.

Meanwhile, property foreclosure activity continues to decrease.

Miller said 17 foreclosure filings and 34 foreclosure sales were reported in Mesa County during January. Compared to the same month last year, filings dropped 200 percent and sales fell more than 32 percent.

Sales of foreclosured properties represented 15 percent of all transactions during the month, Miller said.