Real estate stats: Mesa County activity increasing

Michael Burkhard
Annette Miller

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Although the latest sales numbers edged down, year-to-date totals continue to reflect increasing real estate activity in Mesa County.

Still, such external factors as rising interest rates on mortgages and escalating international tensions over the Middle East could affect the market in the months ahead.

“I think we’ll be cautiously steady through the winter,” said Michael Burkhard, a real estate agent with RE/MAX 4000 and chairman of the Grand Junction Area Realtors Association.

According to figures reported by Annette Miller, senior vice president of Heritage Title Co. in Grand Junction, 345 real estate transactions worth a combined $87.4 million were reported in Mesa County during August.

Compared to the same month last year, transactions edged down 1.4 percent even as dollar volume climbed 27 percent.

The number of August transactions also declined 9.6 percent from July, when 382 sales were reported.

Miller said activity over the past two months could reflect in part rising interest rates on home mortgages. The prospect of rising interest rates prompted some buyers to purchase houses earlier this year. Actual rising rates affect affordablility for some potential buyers and slow sales, she said. From a long-term perspective, though, interest rates remain so low they would have been considered at one time “dream rates,” she said.

The year-over-year increase in sales volume in August included four transactions valued at more than $1 million each, one deal for two shopping complexes near 25 Road and U.S. Highway 6 & 50 in Grand Junction worth $11 million. Even taking large deals out of the calculation, prices are either rising or more properties with higher prices are selling, she said.

According to the Grand Junction Area Realtors Association, the sales prices for properties on the Multiple Listing Service averaged $200,285 in August. That’s up 7 percent from the same month last year.

According to CoreLogic, a California-based research firm, Grand Junction home prices climbed 7.6 percent between July 2012 and July 2013, excluding foreclosure auctions and short sales. Including so-called distressed sales, home prices rose 1.7 percent over the year.

Through the first eight months of this year, 2,452 real estate transactions worth a collective $516 million were reported in Mesa County, Miller said. Compared to the same span last year, transactions were up 6.9 percent and dollar volume was up 14.9 percent.

If the current pace continues through 2013, the year will end with  3,678 sales worth a total of $774 million, the largest numbers for Mesa County since 2008.

Meanwhile, decreasing property foreclosure activity portends a return to what Miller said she considers more normal conditions.

Miller said 81 foreclosure filings and 34 foreclosure sales were reported in Mesa County during August. Compared to the same month last year, filings tumbled 39.1 percent and sales dropped 46.9 percent. Because of the time between the two, filings and sales for an individual property don’t occur in the same month.

Through the first eight months of this year, 521 filings and 430 sales were reported in the county. Compared to the same span last year, filings tumbled 41.7 percent and sales retreated 22.7 percent.

For August alone, sales of foreclosed properties constituted 13 percent of all transactions, down from 20 percent for the same month last year and the lowest proportion Miller said she’s seen since 2008.

Miller said she expects real estate activity to remain steady in Mesa County through 2013, although rising interest rates could limit more of the large year-over-year gains that have occurred.

Burkhard said housing inventories in Mesa County remain low. And increasing new home construction has yet to catch up with growing demand.

Such external factors as rising interest rates and international tension over U.S. military action in the Middle East also could affect the local market, he said.