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Uber wealthy snatch up Utah's luxury homes

Published November 11, 2013 3:33 pm

Lifestyle • Buyers of high-end homes often pay cash and look for the most bang for their considerable buck.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

JoAnne Anderson waits patiently in the dark-wooded library of a home on Salt Lake City's Haxton Place, a historic cul-de-sac just off venerable South Temple. The exclusive property is up for sale, just as Utah's high-end residential markets are enjoying a dramatic comeback.

With elements of a cozy red-bricked English manor, 22 Haxton Place offers the well-heeled buyer three floors of tree-enveloped Neocolonial charm on a quiet street modeled on its namesake in London.

The storied 90-year-old home hit the market well more than a month ago, at 3,958 square feet, four bedrooms, four bathrooms, with immaculate detailing, a classic staircase, stunning master suite and garden room with French doors.

"It has the spaces and the gracious feel," said Anderson, a real estate agent with The Group.

She periodically welcomes potential buyers who walk in for what is the second consecutive open house at the stately property. Listed as "a once-in-a-generation opportunity," Haxton Place hasn't drawn any firm offers yet. The seller recently knocked $40,000 off the asking price, now at $799,000.

But neither the wait nor the price adjustment are out of the ordinary for sales of Utah's luxury homes, which have surged in recent months.

"The uber-rich really came back into the market when they thought it had bottomed out," said Jake Breen, managing broker for Prudential Utah Real Estate. "These are people who are educated enough that they are trying to time the market and get a steal of a deal."

Among them are foreign buyers from Asia, Europe and Latin America, relocating CEOs and other professionals and wealthy families drawn to Utah's mountain resorts and accessible, year-round recreation. They are tending to pay cash and sometimes browse for months before closing.

The wealthy often shop at a more leisurely pace than entry-level home buyers, less driven by historically low interest rates than by getting value for their money. Top properties sit on the market longer than less-expensive homes and more commonly ease down from their initial asking price before they sell, statistics show.

"We're selling lifestyle, a story and a home almost as a piece of art," said Thomas Wright, president and principal broker with Sotheby's International Real Estate. "They don't view it as bricks and sticks and tile. They want a deal, and they know what they want."

High-end real estate sales have cooled statewide with autumn, but affluent buyers continue to snap up deals, say many real estate agents who cater to these high-end customers.

Sales of Salt Lake County homes worth $1 million or more leapt 49 percent in the first nine months of 2013, over the same period last year, according to numbers from the Salt Lake Board of Realtors. Residential properties priced between $750,000 and $1 million were not far behind, with a 36 percent spike.

Salt Lake County saw 12 sales of homes $3 million or above between 2008 and 2012, years that followed the housing crash and spanned an ensuing economic downturn dubbed the Great Recession.

Utah's most populated county has already had five sales in the $3 million-plus price range so far in 2013, including two in Holladay, one a $3.9 million home and another valued at around $10 million that sold in early fall.

The trend continued to push up median home prices in the county's four most expensive ZIP codes: 84103, which covers The Avenues and Federal Heights; Draper-centered 84020; 84108 on Salt Lake's upper east bench; and Holladay-focused 84117.

Effects were more dramatic in Park City, where the median home price within city limits hit $1,295,000 at the end of September.

Home sales in the upscale mountain ski resort between July, August and September reached their highest level for a single quarter since markets fell apart in 2007. Total sales volume for the quarter topped $1.19 billion for the greater Park City area, where mansions and gated communities abound.

Sotheby's, the prestigious auction house, now operates seven realty offices in Park City and Deer Valley, as well as one each in Salt Lake and St. George. Like the wealth-management and financial services firm Prudential, it has leveraged access to an international clientele of buyers of fine art, wine, jewelry and other collectibles to expand markets in Utah's prime real estate.

"These buyers are connoisseurs of life," said Wright, "and our amazing Alpine lifestyle is a key reason they're coming to the state."

tsemerad@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Tony_Semerad