Real estate trends mixed: sales up, dollar volume down

Phil Castle, The Business Times: 

Individual real estate trends for Mesa County constitute something of a mixed bag. Sales remain ahead of last year, but the dollar volume of those sales lags behind. Meanwhile, property foreclosure activity slows.

Annette Miller

Considered together, Annette Miller sees a market that’s holding its own compared to several down years, but still has a long way to go to pre-recession levels.

Sales of bank- and government-owned properties continue to pull down prices, but affordability attracts first-time homebuyers and investors, said Miller, senior vice president of Heritage Title Co. in Grand Junction.

Ultimately, the recovery of the housing market depends on labor conditions, she said: As more people return to work, more people will qualify for home mortgages and make house payments.

According to figures from Miller, 233 real estate transactions worth a combined $47.5 million were reported in Mesa County in September. The number of real estate sales was up 12 percent over the 208 sales reported in September 2010. The dollar volume was down 0.2 percent from the $47.6 million reported a year ago.

The latest figures bring real estate transactions in Mesa County through the first nine months of 2011 to 1,992, up 5.4 percent from the

1,889 sales reported during the same span in 2010.

The dollar volume of real estate sales through the first nine months of

2011 totalled $410.2 million, down 8.7 percent from the $449.3 million reported for the same span in 2010.

Several large real estate deals actually bolstered the dollar volume for September 2011, Miller said. Fifteen property deeds worth a total of more than $2 million were recorded following the auction of the Powderhorn Ski Resort and associated properties. Two other transactions worth a combined $4.5 million also were recorded.

What the latest real estate statistics don’t include is the sale of government-owned properties, Miller said.

A total of 44 such sales were reported in Mesa County in September, up from 17 in the same month a year ago. The sales prices of government-owned properties aren’t reported.

A total of 90 sales involving government- or banked-owned properties were reported in September, nearly 39 percent of all real estate transactions, she added.

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, Miller said.

Nonetheless, it’s important to work through the inventory of foreclosed properties, she added. “We need for them to move for our market to recover and our sales prices to solidify.”

Foreclosure activity in Mesa County picked up in September compared to the same month last year. Foreclosure filings jumped 32.4 percent to 147. Foreclosure sales edged up 0.2 percent to 98.

Miller attributed the jump in part to a suspension in foreclosure proceedings last fall related to so called “robo” signings of documents without the required reviews.

For the period between January and September 2011, however, filings were down more than 25 percent to 855 and sales were down 9.6 percent to 717 compared to the same span last year.

Looking ahead to the remainder of 2011, Miller said she’s concerned a slowing economic recovery or even a return to recession could affect the Mesa County real estate market. “I’m cautious,” she said. “I think everybody is cautious because we’re worried about the double-dip recession.”

The silver lining, Miller said, is that lower prices have attracted more first-time homebuyers and investors to the market. “That affordability is good.”