Report: 40.7% of Mesa County homes underwater

By: Rob Hughes Email
By: Rob Hughes Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo (KKCO) They are responding to a national report on underwater properties in Mesa County, saying things aren't as bad as they seem. Underwater means the homeowner owes more on the home than it's worth. According to the report by Zillow.com, which tracks mortgages, home values, and the real estate market nationwide, nearly 41% of Mesa County homes are underwater. However, local experts say you can take the report with a grain of salt.

"Are they accurate? They're semi-accurate," says Kevin Borman, Chairman of the board of the Grand Junction Realtors Association, and Managing Broker at Keller Williams Realty in Grand Junction.
Borman has worked in the local real estate market for over 30 years. "The only way to really know for sure is to talk with a realtor that has that information available that is very specific to this specific area, because Zillow doesn't take that into account," says Borman.

Zillow uses what's called automated valuation modules, "which will take account of information, particularly when it comes to sold properties and determine a valuation of the property," explains Borman. The percentage isn't out of left-field though. "That's a fair number I think to utilize for people that have gotten loans four or five years ago."

And while things don't look great, there is light at the end of the tunnel. "There's a lot of 1st time home buyer programs giving them 20% back on their mortgage interest," says Laurinda Conrad, Vice-President with Unifirst Mortgage in Grand Junction. Conrad says while homes are underwater, more building is helping them resurface. "Noting that building permits are up, noting that more builders are building homes; that's a good sign, because for a while there, there were no homes being built, so inventory starts slowing down a little, and building goes up; so I think it's a good sign for our community," says Conrad.

And since the Federal Reserve announced Wednesday that interest rates will remain at all time lows; if you're shopping, the deals have never been better. "The interest rates are at all-time lows right now, under 4-percent for 30-year fixed mortgages; that's a perfect time for the buyers to buy right now, the buying power is at it's strongest point," says Borman.

The report has nearly half of homes in Garfield County underwater, 30% in Eagle County, and 29% is Rio Blanco County.

According to the report, 7.7% of Mesa County homeowners are delinquent on their mortgage.

The following is a statement from Camille Salama, spokeswoman with Zillow.com on the company's methodology.

"Zillow Negative Equity Reports incorporates mortgage data from TransUnion, a global leader in credit and information management, to calculate various statistics. The report looks at current outstanding loan amounts for individual owner-occupied homes and compares them to those homes’ current estimated values. This is the only report that uses current outstanding loan balances on all mortgages when calculating negative equity. Other reports estimate current outstanding loan balance based on the most recent loan on a property . The report includes, but is not limited to, negative equity, loan-to-value ratios, and delinquency rates. To calculate negative equity, the estimated value of a home is matched to all outstanding mortgage debt and lines of credit associated with the home, including home equity lines of credit and home equity loans. All personally identifying information (“PII”) is removed from the data by TransUnion before delivery to Zillow. Overall, this report covers over 800 metros, 2,100 counties, and 22,200 ZIP codes across the nation."


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