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Location, Location, Location!

An Interview with the Colorado Grand Valley’s Top Real Estate Group

Christi Reece began her career in real estate in 1992 and now has over 30 years of experience selling homes in Western Colorado. She grew up in Lake City, CO, and began to explore the benefits of Grand Junction-living in 2001. Christi and her partners began the Christi Reece Group in 2019, after many years of working at other real estate firms in the Grand Valley. They give back to the community by donating two-percent of their revenue to local nonprofits selected by their clients.
Buyer specialist Mike Tofel is originally from Chicago but moved to Gunnison, CO after college. He spent 17 years in Gunnison before he and his family moved to Grand Junction, and Mike began his real estate career.
We interviewed Christi and Mike to get their insight on the recent growth of Western Colorado’s real estate market. Since 2020, local residents have noticed an influx of people moving from Denver and out of state and boosting our local economies. People are slowly discovering the hidden gem of Grand Junction, and no one knows why better than Christi and Mike.

1. Which areas of Grand Junction are most desirable and why?

Christi: The Redlands is really popular because you have the Monument as your view and your backyard. So that’s a big draw for a lot of people, but it’s also one of the highest values in the market, so it can be restrictive for people.
Mike: I would agree. I would say the edges [of town], so when you get to Palisade, the Redlands, Fruita. People want to feel like they’re in the middle of nowhere, but they want to have the convenience of town. So wherever you have that feeling of trees and space but are close to town, I think that’s where you’re going to find the highest values and the most desirable spots.
Christi: People also love the core downtown areas of Palisade, Grand Junction, and Fruita. But you have to like old homes and all the things that come with them.

2. What part of the valley do you think provides the best access for outdoor lifestyles?

Mike: That’s a question I get every day. I ask clients, “What are you looking for? What’s most important in your lifestyle? What does your life revolve around?,” and the majority of the people I’m talking to want access to trails and recreation. They want to be able to hike, bike, and walk their dog. There’s a specific area and everybody wants to be there, so when those properties come up, they go fast whether the market is up or down.

3. Why do you think that people from Denver will continue to flock to the countryside?

Christi: Denver’s been a feeder market for us for a long time, and I don’t see that stopping. If you’ve been to Denver lately, you know how bad the traffic is. To live the Colorado dream and to be outdoors is hard in Denver. It takes a while to get to a trail or up to the mountains, and if you’re going the same way at the same time as everybody else, you’re in the car for hours before you get there….people think, “Wow, Grand Junction! Not as many people, not as much traffic, and really easy access to recreation and the outdoors.” We are also getting a lot of people from the mountain towns who are tired of shoveling snow and ready for a warmer climate.

4. What encourages people to move here or start a business here?

Mike: I think it would be false to say that they are not sacrificing something when they relocate here…to start a business here, you’re dealing with less population and less infrastructure. You don’t have Denver International Airport, but I think the positives outweigh any negatives…The more we grow, the more attractive we look…A lot of people are moving because they can work from anywhere, and it’s a no-brainer. I don’t see it slowing down any time soon…I read an article the other day, and it was about Rattlesnake Canyon. I was like “Oh no. The jig is up. The secret place!” I feel like we’re still on the edge of getting discovered.

5. As a realtor whose finger is on the pulse, what does Grand Junction need more of in order for it to feel accommodating to a larger population?

Christi: I think that the city of Grand Junction and the county are always looking long-range. During the recession it was hard to imagine the growth that we were going to experience, but I think there are people in the government and politics who said, “30 years from now we’re not going to recognize this place.” So they started thinking ahead. And they have been working on it. I’m really excited about Los Colonias, Dos Rios, and the recent library overhaul. We still need a recreation center. That’s going to be a big one, but we’re taking steps in the right direction.

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6. Do you think there are any future plans for improved public transportation?

Christi: Colorado Mesa University has had a big hand in getting the transportation from campus to downtown. You see that bus around a lot. I think the more you see the buses, you realize, “Hey, I don’t have to drive and if I can’t ride a bike I can hop on a bus.” I think it will continue to improve.
Mike: Our culture is very autonomous, and I think instead of maybe seeing more buses we’re going to see a lot more of those mechanized forms of transportation whether it’s E-bikes or scooters.

7. Are you seeing a younger crowd moving in or an older crowd moving in? Is this a recent demographic change?

Mike: I think since I started in 2015, I feel like I’m selling houses to a similar age bracket. It’s the “not yet retired” or “just retired” or “I sold my house in Denver and I have some money for a house and I want to live here” crowd. People are researching before they come here…they research Bend and Prescott and Fort Collins, and we’re winning on a lot of fronts. Once you come to visit and you see the weather’s really nice in winter, you get to go skiing, and you get to go on the river, it’s a huge draw.
Christi: The great medical facilities and offerings that we have here have been attractive to retirees for a long time, but we’re starting to see that shift to a younger population coming in who see the other benefits of living here.
Mike: We’re getting more professional people that are moving here for jobs in that 30 – 40 age range, and they’re all for it – “We get to move to Grand Junction? Awesome!” There are companies here that are hiring on a regular basis who call us up and say, “Can you show houses to potential job candidates?” I actually have two coming from the East Coast this week. These are professionals looking to hire a CEO, and they’re coming out here to look at the area.

8. Do you have tips for first-time home buyers?

Christi: Hire a realtor. You need to have a guide your first time around. The process will go smoothly if you have a realtor who has the experience and can connect you to a good lender. You just have to be ready to jump on something when you see it.
Mike: I would agree with Christi, but I would add location. Find the best location and get in as soon as you can.

9. What are some common things that people have to say about the valley when they are moving in from out of state?

Christi: For years, people just drove through Grand Junction and didn’t stop to see what was here. Now that people are, they’re like “Wow, it’s really surprising.” And I love hearing that.
Mike: The first impression isn’t that impressive. Once they’ve spent a couple of days here, they say, “We had no idea!” All it takes is a little bit of digging to improve that initial impression, but once you get in and see all of this, nobody is going to be able to compete with it.

10. What is the most surprising element of the housing market as it stands today?

Christi: I think that the rate of appreciation that we’ve had the last couple of years is a little bit mind-blowing…I mean, we kind of saw it coming but not to the extent that we’ve experienced.
Mike: The people. Where they come from and how they found us is a little surprising. I get calls from Anchorage and all over the country. I ask, “What’s bringing you here?” And a lot of times people have a connection here. They either have a grandma or a father or they grew up here and they want to come back. One guy just wanted to smoke pot and you can’t smoke pot in Utah, but you can here. We hear a little bit of everything.

11. Do you have any advice for people who are considering moving out west?

Mike: If you have no idea and you’re just starting out, you need someone who is experienced and knows the area…Come here and spend some time.
Christi: If…you’re looking at Colorado but you’re not sure where, the small towns are not for everybody. It can be a hard place to winter and a hard place to make a living if you need to. But they’re super romantic in the summer… I love Grand Junction. You can be in the mountains so quickly, but we have a year-round economy here, and a lot of those small towns don’t.
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