PROVO — December was a terrible month in the Utah County housing market.

More than 4,100 homes were on the market, but only 269 were sold.

The question now is, did the market hit rock bottom in December? Can it possibly fall any further?

"I'm going out on a limb and saying December 2007 was the bottom," said Taylor Oldroyd, CEO of the Utah County Association of Realtors.

Since December, home sales have increased every month. And even though more and more homes are being listed, the number of sales is growing at a faster percentage.

In April, 395 homes were sold, a 47 percent increase over December.

"Things are starting to get better," ZipRealty district director Rachelle Willhite said. "This month has been the change in Utah County."

ZipRealty generates Internet leads for its real estate agents, and leads in Utah County have begun to multiply, Willhite said.

"I see a positive story with the leads alone coming into our Web site. I've had to double my agent force in Utah County to keep up with the interest in the area and the leads we're getting."

Home sales generally increase in the spring and summer when the weather improves, but the interest and the increase in home sales this year don't seem tied solely to weather.

"There's more there than just the change in the weather," Oldroyd said. "A year ago during the same months, when the market was still good, the increase from December to April was from 501 home sales to 585, a 17 percent increase."

Not that everything is rosy. Compared with April 2007, home sales in April 2008 were off 32.5 percent.

The high end of the market is suffering most, Oldroyd said. Homes listed at more than $500,000 were off 71 percent from April to April. And for just the second month in recent history, no homes priced at more than $1 million were sold.

"Price is certainly an issue," Oldroyd said.

While the upper end of the market continues to struggle, there is a robust market for lower-priced homes in Utah County.

"Overall, homes are selling for significantly less than they were last year," Willhite said, "but lower-priced homes are selling faster for roughly what they did a year ago. They're going for about 98 percent of the list price, so sellers are getting close to asking price."

Still, even those homes are staying on the market about a third longer than they were a year ago, Willhite said. A $200,000 home is staying on the market an average of 82 days.

Oldroyd hangs his prediction of a rebounding market on the increase in sales over the past five months and on the area's continuing strong economy.

"Price it right and your home will sell," he said. "If you're in the higher end, those strong economic indicators tell me that if you hang on a bit longer, those homes will see a slow rebound, too."


Home sales in Utah County

Dec. 2006 — 501

Jan. 2007 — 440

Feb. 2007 — 441

March 2007 — 613

April 2007 — 585

Dec. 2007 — 269

Jan. 2008 — 276

Feb. 2008 — 291

March 2008 — 327

April 2008 — 395

Source: Utah County

Association of Realtors


E-mail: twalch@desnews.com