Numbers show steady recovery of real estate

If 2011 represented the bottom for the real estate market in Mesa County, 2012 was a year of recovery, and observers believe 2013 will show continued signs of improvement.

The 2,800 single-family residential sales in the county last year represented a 15 percent increase over 2011, and they were the most since there were 3,445 sales in 2008. There were 654 residential sales in the fourth quarter of 2012, a 19 percent jump over the same time in 2011. Residential sales have increased year over year in 24 of the past 25 months.

There were 806 sales of all types of real estate in October, November and December, a 16 percent hike over the fourth quarter of 2011. The dollar value of those sales topped $149 million, a 29 percent increase over the same time in 2011.

“Real estate as a whole looked quite a bit stronger,” said Adam Hochevar, vice president of Real Data LLC, a Grand Junction company that tracks all real estate transactions in the county. “2011 was hopefully the bottom, and then 2012, we saw encouraging signs almost across the board — sales, prices starting to creep up, foreclosures starting to creep down, inventory falling. Most everything as far as real estate goes improved.”

A buyer’s market driven by historically low interest rates and declining prices has translated into a steady increase in home sales the past few years. But in the last few quarters, prices have flattened out and risen, a sign that the market is improving.

After increasing in back-to-back quarters, the median home sales price fell from $168,625 in the third quarter of 2012 to $155,500 in the fourth quarter. But the fourth-quarter figure was an improvement of nearly 4 percent over the median sales price in the fourth quarter of 2011.

“It’s one thing when sales are up and the prices are continuing to fall and people are taking advantage of prices, but whenever we see the prices of homes flatten or go up in some cases, that’s a significant indicator,” Hochevar said.

2013 appears to be off to a solid start. There were 143 home sales in January, a 17 percent drop from 2012 but a 12 percent increase over 2011, according to a report from Bray Real Estate. The median sales price of $160,000 was 7 percent higher than January 2012.

There are black marks, however, that continue to hold the market back from the lofty heights it reached prior to the recession. The county’s unemployment rate remains above 8 percent, and foreclosures, while not at the levels they were a couple of years ago, continue to clog the local housing inventory and drag down prices.

Foreclosure sales rose 9 percent in 2012, from 1,175 to 1,284. Filings, though, fell to their lowest levels in three years. And the 189 foreclosure resales that occurred in the fourth quarter represented 28 percent of all residential sales, down from the 35 to 40 percent of sales that occurred earlier in 2012, according to Real Data.

Eventually, Hochevar said, filings will drop significantly because homeowners who are underwater now bought in 2008 and 2009, when prices were still high. More than likely, he said, people who bought in 2010 and 2011 have mortgages on homes that are worth roughly as much now as they were at the time of purchase, leaving them in a better financial position.

“I think the market should be getting back to a healthy level,” Hochevar said.


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