Sales of single-family homes and condominiums in Salt Lake County declined 42.21 percent in the first quarter of 2008, compared with the same period last year.
A report released Wednesday by the Salt Lake Board of Realtors also showed that condominium sales fell just over 30 percent, compared with the first quarter last year.
Despite the drop in the number of homes and condo units sold, prices held relatively steady. The median single-family home price in Salt Lake County rose 0.41 percent in the first quarter, with the median condo price declining slightly by 0.58 percent.
The report was compiled with information gathered by the Wasatch Front Regional Multiple Listing Service.
Among the areas where median selling prices fell were some of the neighborhoods along the Wasatch Front where demand previously had been strong, including ZIP code 84105 just north of Sugar House in Salt Lake City, 84092 and 84093 in Sandy, 84010 in Bountiful and 84054 in North Salt Lake. Those areas saw price declines ranging from 7 percent to 11 percent.
The declines represent a distinct difference in the market, according to veteran Realtor David Seiler with ReMax Associates.
"It isn't a bad market, it's a changing market," he said. "We're having to adjust our reality again because the last two years haven't been real. They've been fueled by investors and easy money."
He attributes much of the problem to the lack of available financing because of tighter credit standards in today's housing market. He also said the Wasatch Front is just beginning to experience its "down cycle," which he said could last three to five years.
Greg Adkins is one of many sellers feeling the bite of the current housing crunch. Since late last summer, the custom homebuilder has been trying to sell an upscale house he built in Riverton.
"We built the house in speculation that someone would come by and buy it," he said. The home is currently on the market for $749,000, he said.
"Originally, I tried to sell it for $799,000 and then we dropped it to $749,000," Adkins said. "But we haven't had any activity on it whatsoever."
Like Seiler, Adkins said the limited availability of home financing is likely playing a major role in his situation and that of other prospective sellers. He said the glut of homes built by speculators is also a contributing factor, "and now it's hurting everybody," he said.
Adkins said he's concerned about the lack of interest he has had in his property and the strain it is putting on his financial situation.
"It is a big concern, because I don't know how long I can keep making the payments," he said. "I would say another two or three months before it becomes critical."
Paul Johansen of Murray just sold his recently remodeled house after about nine months on the market. He originally listed the home with an agent who he said wasn't able to get much interest from prospective buyers.
After nearly eight months, he hired the Nicholl Coldwell Banker Group who got it sold in 45 days, he said. Johansen said the marketing plan his new agents came up with worked in his favor.
The 3,800-square-foot house was originally listed at $349,000 and eventually sold for $319,000, he said.
The fact that many potential buyers had trouble selling their own homes was probably one of the major impediments for him selling his, in addition to his initial marketing mistakes, he said.
Across the Wasatch Front, home sales have continued to fall.
In Davis County, the number of single-family home sales declined 26.56 percent in the first quarter, compared with the same quarter last year. The median sales price was nearly flat, rising 0.65 percent.
Weber County home sales declined nearly 32 percent, but median prices rose 7.62 percent.
Summit County saw single-family homes sales drop 31.03 percent, while prices jumped nearly 17 percent. On the down side, condo sales fell a whopping 61.54 percent in first quarter 2008 from last year's first quarter, with the median sales price dropping just over 38 percent.Similar trends were seen in Utah and Tooele counties. Sales of single-family homes in Utah County declined 41.69 percent, and in Tooele County, sales dropped 45.45 percent.