Home sales up as housing market shows life

Published: Sunday, June 17 2012 10:43 p.m. MDT

Salt Lake County reported a 16.6 percent jump in home sales in April over that month in 2011, with 1,107 homes sold. Davis County was up 17.2 percent, from 267 homes to 313, and Utah County showed a 2.6 percent increase.

Amy Sancetta, AP

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ST. GEORGE — Finally Shane Oaks and his wife have found a house that fits.

They're moving from Vernal to St. George and have been inside at least 100 homes during the past four years looking for just the right place. They had the luxury of being picky as they sorted through a high volume of available homes.

But those days seem to be going away.

"It's tightening up, and there definitely aren't as many houses available on the market and that's what got us scared," he said.

The price of homes is inching up across the state and some counties have seen significant increases in month over month sales.

Salt Lake County reported a 16.6 percent jump in home sales in April over that month in 2011, with 1,107 homes sold. Davis County was up 17.2 percent, from 267 homes to 313, and Utah County showed a 2.6 percent increase.

Washington County, where Shane Oaks and his wife purchased, actually dropped by 14.8 percent, but the median sale price jumped from $156,100 to $171,000 and the inventory is shrinking.

"Just in the last little while, I know I've seen just in this area right here, a significant increase in dollar amounts in houses and house prices going up," Oaks said.

According to the Utah Association of Realtors, in April the median price for homes sold was $178,150, up 2.7 percent from $173,500 in April 2011. That's the first time since 2008 there has been a year-to-year gain.

"It's certainly not back to where it was, but we're seeing it move in the right direction," said Lori Chapman, president of the Utah Association of Realtors.

She said there are three main reasons for the increase: fewer houses on the market, prices still on the low end and consumer confidence is coming back.

"Consumer confidence is something that has been very difficult to establish because people obviously want to be cautious," she said. "They want to make a wise decision."

Among counties with at least 30 house sales in April, the highest percentages were in Iron County and Wasatch County, up 26 percent. Weber was up 19 percent, Davis 17 percent, and Salt Lake County 16.5 percent.

Chapman said homeowners who were upside down in their mortgages might finally be able to sell. The key factors to watch will be interest rates, delinquencies on mortgages and how fast home builders put new units on the market, she said.

"We're hoping pricing will increase enough so that it enables the people that would like to sell to be able to do that," she said.

Sellers are not seeing as much down pressure on their asking prices. In April, sellers received an average of 93.1 percent of their original list price. That's up nearly 4 percent from last year when they brought in 89.9 percent, according to the Utah Association of Realtors.

It's why the Oakses settled on a house before the price continued to go up. "We had to finally just say, 'You know what? Do we do it, or do we not do it?' And this is going to be our last chance, so we jumped."

Email: acabrero@ksl.com

Twitter: ksl_alexcabrero

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