Deed releases up in third quarter, but still reflect slowdown

Phil Castle, The Business Times: 

A measure of refinancing activity and home sales in Mesa County surged during the third quarter compared to the same span last year.

But even with the increase, the number of deeds of trust released in the county remain far below levels of two and three years ago.

“It’s an unfortunate indicator of the whole economy and the times,” said Paul Brown, who as public trustee in Mesa County signs and releases deeds of trusts.

A deed of trust is released when a real estate loan is paid off, whether through refinancing, sale of the property or the homeowner has made a final payment on a mortgage.

According to the latest information from the Colorado Division of Housing, 1,345 deeds of trust were released in Mesa County during the third quarter. That number constitutes a 67 percent increase over the 804 deeds released during the same span last year.

The latest numbers bring the total number of deeds of trust released in the county through the third quarter to 4,902. That number remains more than 11 percent below the same span in 2010 and nearly 52 percent below the same span in 2009.

Release activity was even higher in 2008, when 3,855 releases were reported in the third quarter and the total for the year hit 14,523.

On an annual basis, activity has dropped from 19,134 deed releases in 2003 to 7,838 in 2010.

Brown said that as recently as a few years ago, he signed and released more than 100 deeds a day. He said he now typically signs and releases that many deeds in a week. “It’s dropped down that much.”

Brown said the decline reflects a slowdown in housing sales compared to several years ago as well as more stringent lending requirements that have slowed refinancing activity.

The drop in deed releases has had another effect in reducing revenue for Brown’s office. By state law, public trustees charge $15 to sign and release a deed.

Statewide, public trustees released 177,409 deeds of trust through the first nine months of the year, up 3.4 percent over the same span last year.