SALT LAKE CITY — The housing bubble may have burst for many in recent years, but not every segment of the market is suffering.
According to the Salt Lake Board of Realtors, 91 homes valued at more than $1 million sold along the Wasatch Front last year, up 12 percent from 2009. And so far this year, 15 seven-figure homes have already sold.
"There is a certain segment of the market that hasn't been affected by the economy, and they are just taking advantage of the pricing right now," said Deanna Dipo, president of the Salt Lake Board of Realtors. "Our pricing has stabilized here in Utah, so the high-end properties are definitely of value."
Dipo also said that of the million-dollar homes sold in the past year, 38 were cash purchases. Approximately 18 percent of the upscale homes sold were short sales or bank-owned properties, meaning that despite the seven-figure price tag, they were still priced much lower than originally listed, she explained.
The highest priced home sold along the Wasatch Front in 2010 went for more than $6 million. In 2009, $3.5 million was the highest price paid and homes in this price range are selling well in Utah — and have been for the last couple of years.
"The price per square foot has dropped," Dipo explained. She said even though the overall cost of the homes are relatively high, the value is good when compared to more modestly priced properties.
That's encouraging news for someone like Sandy resident Jesse Riddle. He and his wife Lisa have put their 11,600-square-foot Pepperwood home on the market for $2 million. The house sits on nearly two acres and includes a swimming pool, sport court, trampoline and a lighted mini-football field in the backyard.
"We built this home about 14 years ago as our dream home," he said. But his four children are grown now, and the Riddles are ready to downsize.
The sales activity in high-end homes is not just a Wasatch Front phenomenon. Sales in seven-figure priced homes are up 4 percent nationally as well, an indication that properties like Riddle's are somewhat insulated from the economic downtown.
"I just think there are a lot of people in a position financially that are really taking advantage of our market," Dipo said. "Buying properties that they couldn't have otherwise in the past."
Shelly Tripp, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, said prices have dropped 30-50 percent from just a few years ago at the height of the housing boom, making high-priced, custom homes a bargain even at the million dollar mark.
"You get a lot for your money," Tripp said.
Architect Jory Walker recently put his nearly 9,000-square-foot Draper home on the market for $1.3 million.
When his family initially purchased it 15 years ago, they had four young children. Now with only one son left in high school, he and his wife feel like they will be left with "too much house."
"The thought was to scale down and get a smaller house," he said. "We want something that is a little less square footage for the two of us."
He said he hopes to break even on the sale of the current property, and can afford to be patient since the sale is not a necessity.
"Luckily, we're in a place where we don't have to sell," Walker explained. "If we don't get the price we're asking for, then we're not going to sell because we don't have to."
Fortunately, for the Walkers and others in million-dollar houses, there are well-heeled buyers searching for million-dollar bargains.
"With the prices coming down, you are getting so much more for your money," she said. "It's a great buy-up market."