Grand Valley real estate activity continues to lag behind last year

Annette Miller takes some consolation in the latest numbers for real estate activity in Mesa County.

Sales and the dollar volume of those sales declined in October compared to the same month last year. But compared to just a month ago, sales were down on slightly and the dollar volume was up.

“We’re not seeing huge declines month to month,” said Miller, who as senior vice president of Heritage Title Co. in Grand Junction closely monitors the real estate market.

A large inventory and historically low interest rates have created a buyers market. But the growing number of property foreclosures has pushed down prices and, in some cases, made it more complicated to close a transaction, Miller said.

According to numbers compiled by Miller, 209 real estate transactions were reported in  Mesa County for October, down 19 percent from the 259 sales reported in the same month last year.

The combined dollar volume of real estate sales totaled $48.1 million in October 2010. That’s down 22 percent from the $61.7 million in sales at this time last year.

Through the first 10 months of 2010, a total of 2,106 real estate transactions have been reported in Mesa County. That’s down nearly 7 percent from the 2,257 sales reported in the same span in 2009.

If the current pace of real estate sales continues through the end of 2010, 2,527 transactions will be completed. That’s the lowest level in more than 20 years. In contrast, the annual number of real estate transactions peaked at 7,198 in 2005 and was only slightly lower at 7,179 in 2006.

The combined dollar volume of real estate transactions through the first 10 months of 2010 totaled $495.6 million. That’s down more than 8 percent from the $540.3 million in sales reported for the same period in 2009.

While real estate activity continues to lag behind last year, Miller said she was encouraged by the smaller change between September and October. There were only seven fewer sales and the combined dollar volume increased $2.3 million.

Miller said a number of factors continue to affect the Mesa County real estate market. Potential buyers enjoy a growing inventory of houses from which to choose and historically low interest rates on mortgages. That situation has attracted interest from investors as well, she said.

But at the same time, the growing number of property foreclosures exerts downward pressure on prices. And in some cases, it’s more complicated to close a transactions involving bank-owned property or short sales, she said.

Miller said 1,126 foreclosure filings were reported in Mesa County through the first nine months of the year, a 34 percent increase over the same span last year. Through the third quarter, 760 foreclosures had been completed.

Despite the effects of a weak real estate market and increased foreclosure activity, there are some encouraging signs market conditions could be improving.

According to numbers reported by Bob Reece, president of Advanced Title Co. in Grand Junction, the median price for housing increased during the third quarter.

Reece said the median price of all housing in the county climbed to $192,500 in the third quarter, up 4 percent from a median price of $185,000 in the second quarter. The increase was the first in nine quarter, Reece said.

While it could be premature to declare a bottom in the market, Reece said the gain could offer a hint that prices are firming.

The average number of days on the market for housing also has decreased, Reece said, from 139 days in the first quarter to 130 days in the second quarter and 126 days in the third quarter.

Phil Castle is editor of the Grand Valley Business Times, a twice-monthly business journal published in Grand Junction. Castle brings to his duties nearly 30 years of experience in editorial management positions with Western Colorado newspapers. In addition, his free-lance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University.
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