Utah housing market shows signs of life

Glimpses of improvement in Utah housing market

Published: Monday, Sept. 17 2012 4:00 p.m. MDT

Allison and Ryan Barclay take a break from the grind of moving on the front step of their new home in Highland.

Kristin Murphy, Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY— Allison Barclay loved her house and neighborhood in Millcreek, but her husband, Ryan's, commute to Orem was wearing on him.

Saturday, the couple and their "little guy," 17-month-old Max, moved in to their new house in Highland. Plans were delayed when the moving truck broke down, but new appliances were delivered in the morning and by late afternoon the house was beginning to look like a home.

"One of the benefits of moving from Salt Lake to Utah County is you can get more for your money," Allison Barclay said.

They successfully negotiated the staging and selling of their old home and moved to the next step up the economic ladder as the housing market continues to rebound and is moving from a buyer's market to a seller's market.

In the first seven months of 2012, home sales in Salt Lake County increased 19 percent compared with the same period in 2011. In fact, July marked the fourth consecutive month of rising home prices on a year-over-year basis, according to the Salt Lake Board of Realtors. That hasn't happened since 2007.

Home prices in the Salt Lake area have continued to show signs of increasing as inventory levels of existing homes tighten. The median price of all homes and condominiums sold in July rose 1 percent year over year to $192,000.

The number of homes and condos sold in July in Salt Lake County climbed 16 percent compared with the same month last year. Rising sales and prices have shifted Salt Lake's real estate landscape to more of a seller's market, with more buyers than sellers, the board reported.

Data from the Salt Lake Board of Realtors shows that you would have to go back to 1997 to find fewer listings on the Wasatch Front Multiple Listing Service.

Through the second quarter of the year, 5,300 properties were listed on the service, down significantly from the historic high of 9,851 in 2007. In some cases, there have been multiple offers on properties in highly desirable areas, resulting in higher offers.

"The most active price range within our market is $250,000 and below," said Dave Frederickson, first vice president of the Salt Lake Board of Realtors.

Homes priced at reasonable levels are receiving a lot of attention from prospective buyers, Frederickson said.

"In previous years, prices were overinflated," he said. "Now we're back to reality. On average, we are back to a normal market swinging toward a seller's market. Whereas a year or two ago, we were definitely a buyer's market."

According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the Beehive State ranked sixth in percentage change in housing prices for the period ending June 30, with a one-year hike of 7.1 percent in home price appreciation. The national average was roughly 3 percent.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency report also stated that all five of Utah's largest metro areas ranked among the top 120 metropolitan statistical areas nationwide, each showing positive growth in home prices.

The St. George area was the highest ranking Utah metro at No. 12, with a one-year appreciation of 3.75 percent. The Logan area ranked No. 120, with home price appreciation of 0.15 percent for the past year.

Nationally, U.S. house prices rose 1.8 percent from the first quarter to the second quarter of 2012, according to the agency's seasonally adjusted purchase-only house price index. The index is calculated using home sales price information from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency purchase-only and all-transactions house price index tracks average house price changes in repeat sales or refinances on the same single-family properties. The purchase-only index is based on more than 6 million repeat sales transactions, while the all-transactions index included more than 46 million repeat transactions.

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