Real estate update: First quarter strong, but outlook uncertain

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Annette Miller
Robert Bray

While 2020 has started well for the Mesa County real estate market, it remains to be seen how the year will end given the potential effects of the coronavirous outbreak.

Robert Bray, chief executive officer of Bray Real Estate in Grand Junction, said he expects a strong recovery, but first a pause for buyers and sellers. “It’s slowing activity in that regard.”

Annette Miller, senior vice president of Heritage Title Co. in Grand Junction, wouldn’t speculate about the real estate market, but said every aspect of the economy likely will be affected by the outbreak, And the economy of the country won’t recover until the health of the economy recovers, she said.

For the first quarter, though, real estate activity in Mesa County outpaced the same period last year.

Miller said 1,093 transactions worth  total of $333 million were reported during the first three months of the year. Compared to the same span last year, transactions rose 6.1 percent and dollar volume increased 5.4 percent.

For March alone, 449 transactions were reported, matching the same month last year. Dollar volume fell 10.3 percent to $122 million, she said.

Three transactions worth a total of more than $5 million bolstered dollar volume, she said. They included the sale of commercial warehouses and storage units on five parcels for $3 million, a warehouse and parking for $1.09 million and two residences on five acres for $1 million.

The total was greater for March 2019, however, with the sale of a medical office building and Aspen Ridge Alzheimer’s Special Care Center for a total of nearly $12.1 million.

According to numbers tracked by Bray Real Estate, 778 residential real estate transactions worth a total of $228 million were reported in the first quarter of 2020. Compared to the same span in 2019, transactions increased 4.7 percent and dollar volume rose 10.7 percent.

The median price of homes sold during the first quarter of 2020 climbed to $270,000, an 8 percent gain over the first quarter of 2019.

Housing inventories remain low. At the end of March, there were 596 active residential listings. That’s down 4.8 percent from the same time last year and a fourth consecutive month in which active listings fell below 600.

Bray said the response to the coronavirus outbreak must focus first on the health of families, then employees and the needs of customers.

As for real estate, Bray said activity will continue, although likely slow as buyers and sellers deal with other issues.

But when the outbreak is over, Bray said he expects a rebound in the local market. “I think we’ll see it come back strong.”

Meanwhile, property foreclosure activity continues to decease in Mesa county. Miller said 60 foreclosure filings and 15 sales were reported during the first quarter. Compared to the same span last year, filings slipped 1.6 percent and sales dropped 65.9 percent.

The 12 resales of foreclosed properties during the first quarter of 2020 constituted just 1.1 percent of all transactions, a fraction of the 10 percent threshold Miller considers indicative of a healthy real estate market.