Mesa County real estate update: Sales up, dollar volume lags

Over the five years she’s operated her Grand Junction real estate firm, Tina Harbin has never been busier.

The owner and managing broker of Real Estate West attributes part of the trend to the increasing number of government-owned properties her firm lists and sells. But Harbin also credits what she describes as an “opportunity market” in which more and more buyers are taking advantage of lower prices and interest rates.

Tina Harbin

“There’s much, much more activity,” she says.

The latest statistics for Mesa County confirm her observations. Real estate activity increased sharply in August and the number of transactions so far in 2011 outpaces 2010. Still, dollar volume lags behind as prices remain lower.

According to figures from Annette Miller, senior vice president of Heritage Title Co. in Grand Junction, 241 real estate sales worth a combined $44.08 million were reported in Mesa County in August.

The number of transactions was up 46 percent over the 165 sales reported in August 2010. Dollar volume was up 5 percent over the $41.98 million reported a year ago.

The latest figures bring total real estate sales in Mesa County through the first eight months of 2011 to 1,759. That’s 4.6 percent ahead of the 1,681 sales reported for the same span in 2010.

The dollar volume of real estate sales through the first eight months of 2011 totalled $362.7 million, down 9.7 percent from the $401.68 million reported for the same span in 2010.

Those figures don’t include the sale of government-owned properties, Miller said. A total of 38 such sales were reported in August, up from 17 sales in the same month a year ago. The sales prices of government properties aren’t disclosed.

Annette Miller

For the first half of 2011, 188 transactions involving government-owned properties were reported in Mesa County, up from 50 such deals in the first half of 2010, Miller said.

Harbin said her firm has sold a lot of government-owned properties over the past three months with increased interest in those properties as well as homes priced under $200,000. Some buyers are first-time homeowners, while others are investors looking to purchase houses for rentals, she said.

However, others with sufficient equity in their existing homes are looking to move up and obtain more value for less money, she added.

The sales of government- and bank-owned properties tend to pull down overall real estate prices because they usually sell for less than comparable properties on the market, Harbin said.

According to the Grand Junction Area Realtor Association, the median sales price of residential property dropped to $162,500 for the first half of 2011, down more than 14 percent from the first half of 2010.

According to CoreLogic, a California-based real estate data firm, Grand Junction home prices declined 3.2 percent between July 2010 and July 2011. Adding so-called distressed sales to the calculation pulled down prices 12.2 percent during that span.

Foreclosure activity continues to slow in Mesa County, though. For August, 92 foreclosure filings and 61 foreclosure sales were reported, Miller said. Compared to the same month last year, filings were down 17 percent and sales were down nearly 38 percent.

Through the first eight months of 2011, 753 filings and 623 sales were reported. Compared to the same span in 2010, filings are down 27 percent and sales are down 6 percent.

Harbin said the remainder of 2011 probably won’t be as busy as the summer months of June, July and August. June was the busiest month ever for Real Estate West, she said.

Nonetheless, lower prices and interest rates will continue to motivate buyers, she said. “People are going to take advantage of the opportunities.”