Real estate tale a mostly happy one so far

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Robert Bray
Annette Miller

Robert Bray tells a story about the Mesa County real estate market with a villain and hero. But for now, the tale remains a mostly happy one with increasing activity.

“It’s a good start for the first two months of the year,” said Bray, chief executive officer of Bray Real Estate in Grand Junction.

Annette Miller, senior vice president of Heritage Title Co. in Grand Junction, agreed. “This is a good, strong 2020.”

Miller said 325 real estate transactions worth a combined $109 million were reported in Mesa County in February. Compared to the same month last year, transactions increased 12.8 percent and dollar volume increased
32.9 percent.

Eight large transactions worth a total of nearly $23 million bolstered dollar volume, Miller said. They included the sale of the Federal Express commercial center for $6.6 million,  the Applewood West mobile home park for $5.5 million and a 100-acre parcel with a log residence in Collbran for $3.5 million.

For the first two months of 2020, 644 transactions worth a collective $212 million were reported, Miller said. Compared to the same span in 2019, transactions rose 10.8 percent and dollar volume rose 17.8 percent.

Miller attributed part of the year-over-year gains to inclement winter weather that slowed real estate sales at the beginning of 2019. But persistent demand buoyed by a strong economy also has accelerated activity, she said. Transactions worth more than $1 million each accounted for $41 million in dollar volume during the first two months of 2020 compared to $33 million in 2019. “A decent economy makes that possible.”

According to numbers tracked by Bray Real Estate, 471 residential transactions worth a total of nearly $135 million were reported in Mesa County during the first two months of 2020. Compared to the same two months in 2019, transactions increased 15.7 percent and dollar volume increased 19.1 percent.

Low housing inventories and selection continue to hamper sales even as low interest rates on mortgages boost sales, Bray said. “Inventory is kind of the villain, but interest rates are the hero.”

At the end of February, there were 521 active residential listings in Mesa County, a 19 percent drop from the same time last year and a third consecutive month in which the total fell below 600, Bray said.

The median price of homes sold during the first two months of 2020 climbed to $265,000, a 6 percent gain over the same period in 2019.

While it takes more than two months of numbers to forecast a trend, Bray said he expects continued growth in the Mesa County real estate market. “The good news is buyers are still there.”

With low supplies of existing and new homes, the pace could moderate in what Bray said could be a move to normalcy in the market.

Property foreclosure activity constituted something of a mixed bag for the first two months of 2020. Miller said 44 foreclosure filings were reported, an increase of 25.7 percent compared to the same span in 2019. But 11 sales were reported, a drop of 66.7 percent.

The eight resales of foreclosed properties during the first two months of 2020 represented 1.2 percent of all transactions, a fraction of the 10 percent threshold Miller considers indicative of a healthy real estate market.