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Real Estate Q&A: Shortage of homes on the market

Doug Van Etten
YOUR JOURNEY HOME
Free Press Real Estate Columnist

Q: My husband and I were in Grand Junction recently looking at homes to possibly buy for a retirement move from Texas. Our Realtor showed us everything we had found online and everything he found that we did not. He even called people whose homes had been for sale in the past and did not sell to see if they might want to let us look at their homes with an eye toward buying. So, I guess my question is, why are there so few homes to choose from in an area with 150,000 people?

A: This is a question that Realtors and buyers deal with daily in Grand Junction’s housing market, especially over the last two years or more.

For starters, it is winter and many property owners are not yet ready to put their homes on the market. Some owners are still winding down from the holiday season and have not shifted gears into selling mode. Others may be hibernators whose selling metabolism will start to rev up as temperatures warm up.



Over the years I have heard many people say “my property looks best when my trees are leafed out and my flowers are all in bloom. That is when I want to have my home on the market.” Others do not want to face the possibility of moving while there is snow on the ground. And still others base the time to have the house for sale on the school year; not wanting to move during the children’s school year or because they work for Mesa County’s largest employer, the school district with its 2,373 employees.

Now those are all reasons that may apply in any given year in markets like Grand Junction, Montrose, Colorado Springs or Albuquerque. There are other reasons we have seen lower numbers of homes for sale locally in recent years, however.



Many people who might want to sell a house now bought during the high and quickly rising price years of 2006 to 2009. Those people today may be “under water” in some cases (where they owe more than the house will sell for in 2015). That explains to some degree why many of those people will not put their homes on the market; or when they do, it is priced higher than would be expected compared to other sales of similar houses.

Coupled with all of the above is the fact Mesa County has actually lost workforce numbers in recent years, and wages in many industries and sectors of government have remained largely flat. County workers for example are receiving a modest pay raise this year after six years of frozen wages. No increase in pay makes it tough to qualify to buy more house. So many folks who would like to buy a larger house have not had the income gains to support paying a higher mortgage.

Additionally, many local home owners who would like to scale back by selling a larger home cannot find a smaller home that is to their liking; thus, if they put their house on the market at all, they’ll take it off the market when they do not find a suitable replacement house.

My take: More homes will be available to choose from as the clock ticks toward spring and summer. Watch real estate websites and have your Realtor keep an eye on possible homes for you. Be ready to act immediately when the home that meets your wants and needs comes on the market.

Already this year there have been numerous bidding wars between buyers when a “right” home has come on the market. To be ready, be sure you have pre-qualified for a mortgage loan and have your lender ready to write a pre-qualification letter to be submitted with a purchase offer. Study the market and your own motivations to know if you are willing to pay full price for a home that newly comes on the market and if you are willing to offer over full price if others want it, too.

Free Press columnist Doug Van Etten is a local Realtor with Cherry Creek Properties, a Colorado-wide realty firm that recently opened a Grand Junction office. Van Etten has been helping home buyers, sellers and investors accomplish their real estate goals since 1992. To contact him, email DouglasVanEtten@gmail.com.


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