Fewer homes seized in Mesa County

Foreclosures fall 33 percent in a year's time

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Foreclosure activity in Mesa County dropped in 2013 to its lowest level in several years, but a weakening of the labor force and a slow-to-recover housing market means the county continues to lag behind most other areas of Colorado.

New foreclosure auction sales — homes that have proceeded through the full foreclosure process to final sale at public auction — fell 33 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to a report released Thursday by the Colorado Division of Housing. The 564 sales last year were the fewest since 2009. New foreclosure filings — the beginning of the foreclosure process, in which the borrower has roughly four months to work with the lender to avoid a sale at auction — tumbled 37 percent in 2013, the fewest since 2008.

Statewide, foreclosure sales and filings decreased to their lowest levels in 10 years.

Division of Housing spokesman Ryan McMaken said the big declines are due to employment rates picking up across the state and lenders pulling back on interest-only, adjustable-rate and other risky mortgages.

“There are fewer loans out there to foreclose upon,” he said.

The report’s data indicate Mesa County is bouncing back from the housing market’s collapse, but conditions here are improving more slowly than the other metropolitan areas of the state.

Mesa County still posted the highest foreclosure sales rate in the fourth quarter of last year among the 12 most populated counties of Colorado and the seventh-highest among all 64 counties. The percentage decline in foreclosure sales and filings from 2012 to 2013 was the second-lowest among metro areas, with only Pueblo County experiencing a smaller percentage drop.

McMaken said Mesa County continues to be hampered by other economic factors, including workers leaving the region and housing prices stagnating somewhat. He noted that the Federal Housing and Finance Agency reported that through the third quarter of 2013, Mesa County was the only metro area in the state that experienced a year-over-year decline in its housing price index.

“To see that be the case does provide me with some reason to believe that the Grand Junction area still has some hurdles to overcome,” McMaken said.

Both he and Mesa County Public Trustee Mike Moran predict foreclosures will continue to decline this year, albeit perhaps at a slower rate than in 2013.

Moran said he believes it’s possible that foreclosure rates, in fact, could hold steady because the rate at which his office is releasing deeds of trust has slowed recently. That means fewer homeowners are paying off their mortgages or refinancing. Typically, more deeds of trust are released as foreclosures drop, Moran said.

Nevertheless, 2014 is off to a better start than 2013 in terms of foreclosures, Moran said, with 51 filings in January compared to 60 in January 2013.

“It’s just going to be a gradual recovery,” he said.

McMaken said housing industry officials will have a warning, such as interest and unemployment rates rising, should foreclosure activity surge again.

Like Mesa County, other counties in the region saw foreclosures drop in 2013. Sales and filings fell 44 and 49 percent, respectively, in Garfield County; 16 percent and 44 percent, respectively, in Delta County; and 37 percent and 31 percent, respectively, in Montrose County.



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