Real estate activity slows in Mesa County during February

Real estate activity slowed in Mesa County during February with a decline not only in the number of sales, but also the dollar volume of those transactions.

Nonetheless, some real estate agents report increases in listings, showings and even closings — what they consider hopeful signs conditions could be improving.

Still, a substantial recovery depends on more people going back to work, said Annette Miller, senior vice president of Heritage Title Co. in Grand Junction. “Jobs and homes, you can’t have one without the other.”

According to figures reported by Miller, 137 real estate transactions occurred in Mesa County in February. That total constitutes a decrease of nearly 30 percent from the 195 sales in January and a 13 percent drop from the 158 sales reported in February 2010.

The combined dollar volume of real estate sales in February 2011 totalled $24.8 million. That figure represents a roughly 42 percent drop from both the $42.5 million in sales in January and the $42.3 million in sales in February 2010.

Miller attributed the drop in the dollar volume to the growing proportion of real estate transactions involving bank-owned properties and so-called short sales in which owners accept lower prices to sell the properties.

The February decline in real estate activity followed an increase in January compared to the same month last year.

For all of 2010, 2,518 transactions worth a combined $581 million were reported, according to year-end statistics compiled by Bob Reece, president of Advanced Title Co. in Grand Junction. Those totals fell below 2009 and were comparable to 1986, the first year of recovery following the oil shale bust in Western Colorado.

Toni Heiden, owner and broker of Heiden Homes Realty & Associates in Grand Junction, said separate statistics from the multiple listing service for the Grand Valley indicate 123 listings were sold in February 2011. Of that total, 33 listings were bank-owned properties and seven listings involved short sales.

Out of 2,651 active listings, 1,350 are for residential properties, Heiden said. Out of 308 residential listings under contract, 72 involve bank-owned properties and 51 involve short sales, she said.

Heiden said her real estate firm experienced an increase in telephone calls, listings and showings in February. Her firm also had more closings in February compared to the same month last year, she added.

Heiden attributed the gains to growing confidence among homebuyers. While interest rates recently have increased, they remain at historically low levels, she added. Prices have moved lower as well. Sellers aren’t desperate, she said, but are increasingly willing to work with buyers to close a deal.

Heiden, who has worked in the Mesa County real estate market for more than 30 years, said she remains optimistic conditions will improve this year. “I think there are signs of improvement.”

Miller said she expects monthly ups and downs in the market until labor conditions improve and those who are unemployed — as well as those who are underemployed — gain full-time jobs.