Valley home sales crawl back

The Grand Valley housing market hit bottom last year and made slight gains through the first half of 2010, according to a Grand Junction title company.

The first quarter of 2010 showed the first increase in a while, so the continued trend into the second quarter was “quite refreshing” and reassuring that the end of 2009 didn’t represent “a false bottom,” said Annette Miller, senior vice president at Heritage Title Co.

The slight 0.5 percent increase in sales was accompanied by decreases of about 10 percent in the median and average prices in the Grand Junction housing market, according to Heritage Title’s Real Estate Trends compilation of data.

The average selling price of a three-bedroom residential property in Mesa County fell 10.9 percent from $223,845 in the first six months of 2009 to $199,141 in the first six months of 2010, according to the compilation. During the same period, the median prices of comparable properties fell 10 percent, from $206,678 to $185,300.

Lower prices, combined with lower mortgage interest rates, are luring some buyers into the market, said Erika Doyle, chairwoman of the Grand Junction Realtors Association.

“I wouldn’t say there’s one thing driving our market,” Doyle said. Interest rates “mixed with pricing is certainly encouraging for our buyers.”

Tax credits — $8,000 for new buyers, $6,000 for others — buoyed the market to some degree for the first half of 2010, and the true test might come without them, Miller said. The tax credits “did help maintain” the market through the first half of the year, she said.

Major Mortgage President and Chief Executive Officer Tor Hayward said some signs of resurgence are taking place in the form of an upward trend in transactions and an increase in refinancing.

Most purchase business is among “first- and second-time buyers looking to move up” and encouraged by low mortgage interest rates below 4.5 percent on 30-year loans and below 4 percent on 15-year loans, he said.

Most buyers are looking at houses priced $350,000 or below, Hayward said.

The dollar volume of real estate sales is up slightly over the previous year, to $304 million from $296 million for the first half of 2010 over the first half of 2009, the report said.

The 2010 amount, however, includes a $12 million transaction for land east of Collbran and excluding it, the dollar volume of 2010 sales probably would be lower than the 2009 sum, Miller said.

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