Mesa County home sales bounce back

More homes sold in Mesa County last year than in 2009 or 2010. But the head of a local title company predicts it will take more jobs and fewer foreclosed homes on the market for home sales to make a significant rebound.

Advanced Title Co. President Bob Reece released a quarterly report Saturday detailing the last three months of 2011 in Mesa County’s real estate market. He reported 3,083 homes sold in the county in 2011, with 760 homes sold in the fourth quarter. Home sales were up 22 percent both year over year and in the fourth quarter of 2011 compared with the fourth quarter of 2010.

Reece said he believes more homes sold last year because of a combination of an improving unemployment rate and home sale prices that continue to drop. Local home sale prices fell 12 percent year-over-year in the fourth quarter to $150,000, and the unemployment rate in Mesa County remained at 8.5 percent in September through November, a full percentage point below the lowest monthly unemployment rate recorded in the county in 2010.

Reece said he believes the price drop is correlated with an increase in the percentage of homes on the market that are foreclosed properties. Foreclosed homes that were returned to government lenders accounted for 2.3 percent of the county’s home sales in 2009. In 2011, they accounted for 27 percent of sales.

“When those entities own property, they want to dispense of that property. They’re much more interested in moving those properties quicker than the regular market,” Reece said.

Individual homeowners hold out for a time when they don’t have to compete with foreclosed homes to make a sale and/or a move, Reece said. But more sales may have been made last year because the unemployment rate dropped and allowed more people to become first-time home-buyers.

First-time home-builders, though, remained rare. In the first three quarters of 2011, 103 new homes were built in Mesa County, a dozen fewer than in the first three quarters of 2009, according to the county. Mesa County Senior Planner Kaye Simonson said some developers are more optimistic than others, but many are waiting for a bigger rebound from the recession before building new homes.

“A lot of them are cautiously waiting to see where the market’s going,” she said.

City of Grand Junction Planning Supervisor Greg Moberg said he has a gut feeling 2012 will be much like 2011. While foreclosures are down from the highs of 2009 and 2010, the last four months of 2011 recorded more than 100 foreclosures apiece in Mesa County.

“It’s just hard for anyone to build a house when foreclosures can sell for less,” he said.

The overall unemployment rate may improve in 2012 because job orders through the Mesa County Workforce Center are bouncing back to 2008 in most job sectors, Mesa County Workforce Center Business Services Manager Suzie Miller said. But while remodel permits in the county nearly tripled in 2011 compared with 2010, construction jobs are still hard to find as new home construction remains stagnant, Miller said.

In 2007 the workforce center listed 123 construction laborer jobs. Last year there were 48 jobs matching that description posted on the center’s site. Meanwhile, construction is the second-most requested line of work among people seeking employment through the workforce center.

“We definitely haven’t seen that sector of our economy rebound,” Miller said.


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