SALT LAKE CITY — The housing markets in Utah's most populous counties have endured four challenging years, according to a new report detailing trends that coincide with the presidential election cycle.
Based on five key metrics related to the nation's housing market — average home price, unemployment rate, foreclosure inventory, foreclosure starts and share of distressed sales — the U.S. housing market comes out worse off than it was four years ago, with a several Utah counties hit especially hard.
The 2012 Election Housing Report showed that the average price of a residential property nationwide has decreased 20 percent during the past four years — leaving more than 12 million homeowners owing more than their property is worth, according to RealtyTrac, a market research firm based in Irvine, Calif.
What that numbers don't reflect is the upward trend during the past year in the housing market and the peak periods of foreclosure which kept numbers low during the past few years.
While the report is based on the four years since the last presidential election, Daren Blomquist, vice president of marketing for RealtyTrac, said the findings were not intended to place blame on anyone or become a political hammer.
"We are certainly not trying to indict anybody in elected office for causing this," he said. "Our main goal is to allow people to take a more long-term look at where we've been over the past four years in their local housing market."
In Utah, Salt Lake County experienced a 36 percent decrease in the average sales price of a home sold in 2008 compared to this year,from $288,766 to $185,648, while the Utah County average sales price fell 51 percent during the same four-year period, from $284,443 to $140,075.
In Weber County, prices dropped 28 percent, from $163,683 to $117,821; Washington County saw a 12 percent drop, rom $255,484 to $225,053; and Wasatch County experienced a 64 percent decrease, from $319,028 to $115,000.
All six Beehive State counties in the report saw unemployment rates nearly double or exceed that amount, from at least 3 percent in ’08 to 6 percent or greater in 2012, while four counties saw the volume of foreclosure starts jump more than double during the period.
But the Utah unemployment rate continues to be better than the national average and the growth in exports also points to an economy on the rebound.
Five Utah counties had their share of homes sold in some phase of foreclosure jump at least 100 percent since 2008. Also, four of the six Utah counties in the report — Salt Lake, Utah, Wasatch and Weber — recorded "total housing health scores" of minus-5, the lowest score possible, meaning all five metrics were worse off from four years ago. Washington County registered a score of minus-3, while Davis recorded a neutral score of zero.
Despite the report's poor numbers, the state's housing market has steadily improved during the past year, and Utah has one of the lowest overall unemployment rates in the country — more than 25 percent below the national rate of 7.8 percent.
"There are signs that the housing market is getting better," Blomquist said. "(But) if you take 2008 as a benchmark, we have a way to go to a full recovery."
Blomquist said that the foreclosure market is improving nationwide, which bodes well for Utah and most other states.
"At least we're getting past most of the foreclosure problems, which is good news for many markets," he said. "What's continuing to be a drag and why a majority of markets are worse off is the decreases in average sale prices and increases in unemployment rates."
However, the positives of lower foreclosure inventory and fewer foreclosure starts are outweighed by the negatives of lower home prices, higher unemployment and a higher share of distressed sales, the report stated.
Nationwide, in the 919 counties with data available for all five metrics, 580 (65 percent) showed at least three out of the five key metrics worse off than four years ago, while in 315 counties (35 percent) at least three of the five key metrics were better off than four years ago.
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