FARMINGTON — In a positive sign for the local economy, the number of home sales in San Juan County jumped to 64 in October, up from 49 a year earlier.
The median price declined slightly to $182,500, down 1.4 percent from $185,000 in October 2011.
Average time on market grew to 79 days, up from 74, and the number of active listings was almost unchanged at 560. The figures are based on the San Juan County Board of Realtors Multiple Listing Service.
“From my perspective, we are definitely in recovery,” said Ben Lyons, president of the San Juan County Board of Realtors.
Home values have dropped since the bottom fell out of the market in 2009. Now with home prices increasing across the nation, local brokers hold out hope San Juan County will soon follow.
“If anything, we should start to level out and have some moderate appreciation in the next few years depending on the oil and gas industry,” Lyons said.
The San Juan Basin’s oil and gas industry is a major driver of economic activity in the Farmington area. It has slowed as natural gas prices remain unprofitable for new drilling.
Lyons said homes were moving most quickly in the middle of the market, about $150,000 to $250,000. Commercial real estate remains stagnant, he said.
The market is showing signs of a modest rebound after local home sales and prices hit modern lows in 2011. Sales dropped to 604 residential units, down from a historical high of 1,046 in 2005 and 608 in 2010, while the average sale price slid to $194,729, down from a peak of $209,182 in 2008 and $199,102 in 2010.
Brokers were sold on the idea that the worst is behind San Juan County.
“I would say it’s improving in this area,” said Chuck Holmes of San Juan Realty.
Betty Musgrove of Red Rose Realty said the rental market appears to have slowed, with more vacancies than usual. “We don’t like vacancies,” she said.
Musgrove sounded an optimistic note.
“It’ll get better,” she said. “I know that.”
Nationally, the housing market continues to improve. Home prices rose 3.6 percent in the third quarter compared to a year earlier, according to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index. The index measures home prices in 20 cities around the nation.
Phoenix led the recovery with a 20.4 percent annual growth rate. The nation’s sixth-largest city was hit especially hard by the housing downturn.
Mortgage rates continue to set record lows. Federal lender Freddie Mac last week reported the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate slipped to 3.31 percent.
“Rates are phenomenal,” said Wayne Mangum, owner of Silver Oak Mortgage in Farmington.
Underwriting standards continue to be restrictive. Mangum is among lenders who think standards have become overly restrictive.
“I’m sitting down right now trying to make a perfectly rational, good loan work,” he said. “There’s money to be borrowed ... but it’s tough right now to get things done because the regulations are so tight.”