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Utah home sales bounce back in 2013, despite slowing at year's end

Published January 28, 2014 9:57 am

Annual report • S.L. County sales topped 2007 levels.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Although Wasatch Front homes sales slowed toward the end of 2013, the region's housing markets bounced back markedly for the year as a whole.

Numbers released Monday show sales of single-family homes in Utah's most populous county topped levels reached in 2007, just before the real estate crash sent the U.S. economy into recession. Salt Lake County saw 11,700 homes sold last year, 6 percent higher than 2012.

The county's median home price pushed to $244,625 in the last three months of 2013, a full 11 percent higher than the same quarter last year. Some of the largest price gains came in portions of Holladay, Sandy and the Taylorsville/Kearns area, according to a year-end report from the Salt Lake Board of Realtors.

Centerville and Kaysville led price gains for Davis County. Spanish Fork, Salem and Mona saw the most robust price increases in Utah County, while South Ogden, Riverdale and Huntsville were among Weber County's ZIP codes with the biggest fourth-quarter rises. Stockton in Tooele County led that area's prices gains.

Longterm observers pointed to Utah's nation-leading figures on job growth along with continued in-migration and native population increases as they predicted further strengthening of housing demand in 2014.

"The phones are ringing, which is a good thing," said Angie Domichel Nelden, board president and a Realtor with Coldwell Banker. While markets feel energetic, she said, they've also settled back from a spring and summer frenzy of multiple offers per home and hastened buying decisions.

"The pendulum is settling back in the middle, right where it's healthy," said Nelden. "It feels like it's coming back to normalcy."

Several factors significantly slowed the numbers of homes sold as last year closed.

A sizeable uptick in interest rates, higher overall prices and tightening supplies of both existing and new homes drove fourth-quarter sales volumes lower along the Wasatch Front year over year for the first time in three years.

Salt Lake County saw a 5 percent decline in sales of single-family homes in the last three months of 2013, at 2,599 homes sold compared to 2,750 in the same months of 2012. Overall sales in Davis, Utah and Weber counties also fell. Tooele County's sales numbers rose, on modest underlying volume.

ZIP codes with rising homes prices well exceeded those with falling prices in Salt Lake County as 2013 wound down, with price drops limited to Copperton, the 84117 area of Holladay, downtown-centric 84101 in Salt Lake City and Cottonwood Heights, the report from Realtors said.

Woods Cross in Davis County saw home-price declines and prices in Elberta, Cedar Valley and American Fork in Utah County also went down. Prices in the Weber County communities of Eden, Marriott/Slatersville and Roy dropped as well, as did those on homes in Tooele County's Dugway, Rush Valley and Grantsville.

Market-swaying fixed interest rates on 30-year U.S. mortgages climbed from 4.13 percent to 4.56 percent in less than two months in late 2013, before easing back to the current 4.33 percent. The trend has added as much as a third to average mortgage payments and edged up median payment-to-income ratios, considered a key metric in housing affordability.

Shrinking supplies of single-family residential homes along the Wasatch Front also nudged some Utah buyers into purchases of multi-family homes.

As a result, sales of townhomes and condominiums in Salt Lake County — an urban-centered market wracked with foreclosures and short sales just a few years ago — came back solidly in 2013.

The county saw 645 condos sold in the last three months of last year, Realtors said, and both sales volumes and prices were 15 percent above the same period a year prior. The county's median condo price was up to $168,000 by year's end, nearly $23,000 above the median price at the same time a year before.

"We've now leaped over that ugly abyss of the crash," said Babs De Lay, broker with Utah Homes and Estates, specializing in downtown dwellings.

Most condo owners who didn't lose their homes now are seeing equity come back, De Lay said, "enough to sell if they wanted."

Complete ZIP code-by-ZIP code home sales and price data for the fourth quarter is available at bit.ly/1e32ree

tsemerad@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Tony_Semerad