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Trends reflect stabilizing real estate market

Annette Miller

Michael Burkhard

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Real estate activity continues to hold steady in Mesa County with slight year-over-year increases in transactions and dollar volumes.

At the same time, property foreclosure activity has declined more dramatically with substantial drops in filings and sales.

The trends point to a stabilizing market, said Annette Miller, senior vice president of Heritage Title Co. in Grand Junction. “The market’s not contracting, but it’s slowly growing.”

With the busiest season of the year for real estate sales now under way, expectations are upbeat, said Michael Burkhard, a real estate agent with RE/MAX 4000 and chairman of the Grand Junction Area Realtors Association. “I think it’s very encouraging,” he said.

Miller said 296 real estate transactions worth a collective $56.9 million were reported in Mesa County in April. Compared to the same month last year, there were three more transactions.

Total dollar volume slipped about 3 percent with fewer large sales. There was just one sale of $1.1 million in April compared with three sales worth a combined $7.9 million at this time last year.

The April numbers bring total real estate transactions in Mesa County through the first four months of the year to 1,017. The transactions were worth a total of nearly $202 million. Compared to the same span last year, the number of transactions increased 2.8 percent and dollar volume increased 5 percent.

Burkhard said those gains are encouraging going into the summer months, typically the busiest for real estate sales because buyers and sellers tend to move when school is out.

The drop in property foreclosure activity also has been encouraging, Miller said.

For April, 59 foreclosure filings and 56 sales were reported in Mesa County. Another 49 filings were withdrawn, Miller said. Compared to the same month last year, filings dropped more than 38 percent and sales declined more than 29 percent. Because of the time between filings and sales, the two don’t occur for an individual property in the same month.

For the first four months of the year, 241 foreclosure filings and 236 sales were reported in Mesa County. Another 186 filings were withdrawn, Miller said. Compared to the same span last year, filings have dropped more than 45 percent and sales nearly 24 percent. Withdrawals, whether through short sales or other means, increased more than 28 percent.

Sales of foreclosed properties represented 23.4 percent of all transactions during the first four months of 2013, down from 26.1 percent during the same period in 2012, Miller said.

While housing prices have yet to substantially increase, low inventory levels have pushed up prices in the lower ranges, Burkhard said.

The situation is nothing like other areas of the United States, though, were low inventories have sparked bidding wars for some properties, he added.

Miller said she expects the real estate market to remain stable with modest increases in sales and dollar volume. “I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t.”

Burkhard said he expects the same thing, although he’s worried about the potential effects of proposed legislation that would make it more difficult for some buyers to qualify for mortgages and require mortgage insurance for the life of  loan.

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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