Residential real estate off to a slower start this year

SENTINEL FILE PHOTO A home is under construction in the fall of 2017 along Ridges Boulevard on Redlands Mesa. Inventory continues to fall in the local real estate market. Even the planned construction projects that could bring upward of 1,500 new homes to the market are not enough to keep up with demand, said Kevin Bray, research and development cordinator for Bray Real Estate in Grand Junction.

After stark increases to kick off 2018, the residential real estate market has dialed it back to start 2019 with fewer transactions and building permits issued during the first quarter of the year.

Low inventory remains a key sticking point, according to Bray Real Estate Research and Development Coordinator Kevin Bray.

In fact, according to a monthly report issued by Bray Real Estate, March 2019 had the fewest number of active residential listings — 626 — for any month prior to 2013.

Listings were down 16 percent in March compared to a year ago and the total number of transactions for the first three months of the year were 10 percent lower than the first quarter of 2018.

The 152 building permits pulled in the first quarter were down 25 percent from the same period in 2018.

Bray said it will be more evident this summer if things are actually trending down, but it could be that the first quarter of 2018 was actually an anomaly.

"Nobody has a crystal ball, otherwise we wouldn't have cycles," Bray said.

An unseasonably warm winter in 2018 allowed for more building during the winter months, he said. The wet start to 2019, however, has delayed some projects.

Typically, the first part of the year is often slow.

"People don't move around as much in the winter," he said.

Inventory has been a consistent issue in the Grand Valley market for a few years now, yet it continues to fall.

Even the planned construction projects that could bring upward of 1,500 new homes to the market are not enough to keep up, Bray said.

That lack of inventory has also driven up the median housing price, which sits at $250,000 for March. That number was at $229,000 a year ago.

"The median price is a sign there is still a lot of demand," Bray said.

Bray said he feels that people are still migrating to the area, drawn by the good prices here compared to the Front Range.

He added that we could be nearing a price ceiling as wages have not risen at the same rate as the median price.

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