Real estate outlook: Recovery slow, but steady

Annette Miller
Annette Miller
Ben Hill
Ben Hill

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Real estate activity in Mesa County continues apace — reflecting a slow, but also steady, recovery in the local market.

“The numbers are showing some stability. It doesn’t feel as fragile as it was before,” said Annette Miller, senior vice president of Heritage Title Co. in Grand Junction.

At the same time, property foreclosure activity has slowed to the point Miller considers indicative of a healthy market.

Ben Hill, a broker who operates Hill & Homes in Grand Junction, said he’s sold fewer properties this year, but for more money. That makes his overall view of market conditions upbeat. “I think it’s good.”

Miller said 339 real estate transactions worth a combined $71.4 million were reported in Mesa County during October.

Compared to the same month last year, sales increased a little more than 11 percent. Dollar volume dropped 7 percent, but only because of six unusually large transactions in October 2013 that were worth a total of nearly $21 million. “That was a big number to try to keep up with,” Miller said. There was only one transaction worth more than $1 million in October 2014, a deal valued at $1.7 million.

“This was a really nice October,” Miller said of a month with good weather and good sales.

This fall has been a better season for real estate activity than last fall, Miller said, momentum that should result in continued improvement into the new year.

The latest numbers bring the total number of real estate transactions for the year to 3,064 and the collective dollar volume of those sales to $683 million. Compared to the same span last year, sales have edged down three-tenths of a percent, but dollar volume has increased 3.9 percent.

Miller said she expects real estate activity in 2014 to match or perhaps slightly exceed 2013. For all of 2013, 3,589 sales worth a total of $769.6 million were reported.

Hill said commercial real estate sales have picked up, including for him the sale of a 50,000 square-foot building on First Street in Grand Junction that previously housed Ashley Furniture.

Hill said an investor purchased the building and secured one tenant for about 34,000 square feet of space in the back of the building in the Keenan-Dahl commercial plumbing supply business. The investor is looking for a second tenant for the remaining 16,000 square feet of space in the front of the building, Hill added.

Like Miller, Hill characterized the real estate recovery in Mesa County as slow, but steady — although the loss of 150 jobs at a coal mine near Paonia won’t help the regional economy.

What’s needed, he said, is a significant boost to the economy, such as the opening or relocation of a large business. “We need something new to happen.”

Meanwhile, though, both Miller and Hill said slowing in property foreclosure activity constitutes another good sign.

For October, 55 foreclosure filings and 26 foreclosure sales were reported in Mesa County, Miller said. Compared to the same month last year, filings declined nearly 27 percent and sales retreated more than 38 percent.

Resales of foreclosed properties constituted only 8 percent of all transactions for October 2014, the first time that proportion has dropped below 10 percent since before the recession, Miller said. Foreclosure resales at or below 10 percent of overall sales constitutes a healthy market, she said.

Counting the latest numbers, 460 foreclosure filings and 360 foreclosure sales have been reported in Mesa County so far in 2014. Compared to the same span in 2012, filings have decreased 31 percent and sales nearly 30 percent, Miller said.

Resales of foreclosed properties so far in 2014 represent 11 percent of all transactions.