Mesa County deed releases reflect downturns in refinancing, home sales

A measure of refinancing activity and home sales in Mesa County dropped during the fourth quarter of 2011 compared to the same quarter last year.

With the decrease, the total number of deeds of trusts released in the county in 2011 dropped to a fraction of levels recorded only two or three years ago.

According to the latest information compiled by the Colorado Division of Housing, 1,522 deeds of trust were released by the Mesa County public trustee during the fourth quarter of 2011. That number is down 34.2 percent from the 2,314 deeds released during the fourth quarter of 2010.

For all of 2011, 6,424 deeds were released, down 18 percent from 2010 and nearly 50 percent from 2009.

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.

Paul Brown, Mesa County public trustee, said declining deed activity generally reflects a slowdown in housing sales as well more stringent lending requirements that curb refinancing.

On an annual basis, deed activity has trended downward from a peak of 19,134 in 2003 even though 2006 and 2007 were peak years in Mesa County in terms of the number and dollar volume of real estate sales.

Expressed as a ratio of the number of deed releases during the fourth quarter of 2011 divided by the number of occupied houses in 2010, Mesa County ranked near the bottom of 21 counties surveyed in Colorado for deed activity.

In the 21 counties, which collectively account for about 90 percent of occupied households in Colorado, the number of deeds of trust released fell in the fourth quarter and for all of 2011.

A total of 58,340 deeds were released in the fourth quarter of 2011 in the 21 counties, a drop of more than 27 percent from the same quarter last year.

For all of 2011, a total of 235,749 deeds were released sin the 21 counties, down 6.4 percent from 2010 and the lowest level in more than a decade.

“Real estate activity perked up a bit during the fourth quarter, which would reflect some very recent growth in employment and some mild increases in home prices. But overall, the fourth quarter’s activity wasn’t enough to keep 2011 from being another flat year,” said Ryan McMaken, a spokesman for the Colorado Division of Housing.

While recent mortgage interest rates have dropped to record lows, tighter lending standards have curtailed refinancing activity and, in turn, deed releases, McMaken said.