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(Paul Fraughton | The Salt Lake Tribune) A bank-owned house in Daybreak.
After years of falling sales, prices, Utah housing market begins rebound
Real estate » Amid positive signs, many challenges remain for Wasatch Front’s battered market.
First Published Jul 20 2012 08:09 am • Last Updated Oct 30 2012 11:33 pm

At the height of the real estate market in 2007, a 4,300-square-foot two-story home in the Daybreak subdivision could have fetched as much as $575,000.

So it’s easy to see why, at a list price today of only $299,900, the seller has been inundated with offers — so many, in fact, that the listing agent decided to stop receiving bids after getting no fewer than 18 of them.

At a glance

Tips for buyers and sellers

Donna Pozzuoli, president of the Lake Board of Realtors, has some time-tested tips for those buying or selling a home:

For sellers:

Clean it up and de-clutter » A clean and tidy home makes all the difference. “Get rid of the junk — get a storage shed if you need to,” she said.

Make small improvements » “Small, inexpensive things can make a big difference,” Pozzuoli says. “Things like paint and caulk are fairly inexpensive but can have a big impact.”

Be willing to make concessions » The feds have cut down on what sellers can do for buyers in recent years. But sellers still can offer a home warranty or pay some or all of the buyer’s closing costs.

For buyers:

Make an offer quickly » “If you find a home at a good price and in good condition, you need to make an offer quickly,” she said.

Sell the home you are in » Offers contingent on the sale of your own home likely will be thrown out in this type of market.

Get preapproved » Don’t even think about making an offer without financing. Sellers aren’t interested.

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Welcome to the Wasatch Front’s housing recovery of 2012.

With 30-year mortgage rates below 4 percent and signs that prices have stabilized, buyers are back. And with them comes something the residential market here hasn’t seen in awhile — multiple offers, many above asking price.

"If a good home comes on the market at a good price, everyone is all over it, right away," said Adam Kirkham, associate broker and co-owner of Kirkham Real Estate in Salt Lake City.

Although many homeowners are relieved to see some positive signs after nearly five years of falling home sales and prices, Kirkham said today’s market isn’t an easy one — for real estate agents or for buyers.

"There’s definitely a learning curve," he said. "A lot of people still think it’s a buyer’s market."

Market shift » In some ways, it still is. Although home sales and prices have increased in recent months, buyers, worried about further price decreases, are still cautious and are trying to get a great deal. Bidding wars do happen, but they fizzle quickly. And homes that are priced above current values can go begging for buyers.

But in most other ways, it’s definitely a seller’s market. Inventory is low in most areas and price ranges, and buyers generally outnumber available properties. There also is an urgency among many buyers given the fact that mortgage rates have slipped into an almost laughable low and, like prices, are almost certain to increase. "If rates were at 5, 6 percent, I don’t think we’d be seeing such an urgency among buyers," Kirkham said.


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The bottom line is that homes that are priced right and in good condition don’t remain on the market long.

"A lot of people with money who have been waiting to buy a home have decided that it’s a great time to buy," said Donna Pozzuoli, president of the Salt Lake Board of Realtors.

That doesn’t mean buying a home right now is a slam dunk by any means. If the shaky economic recovery stumbles, home values could slip even more. And even among economists who don’t expect that to happen, no one is expecting anywhere near the heady double-digit increases of the early to mid-2000s. In fact, most housing forecasts predict an annual home-price increase in the coming years of 2-3 percent at best.

Still, lower prices and super-low mortgage rates can translate into a monthly payment that is similar or even lower than what some pay in rent. And that’s a powerful incentive for buyers such as Ryan Welch of Salt Lake City. After years of putting off buying a home, he and his wife decided several months ago to start looking for their first. He said he was surprised at how quickly homes were snapped up by other buyers.

"We’ve been wanting to buy for six years. We were just waiting for the right time."

Like many buyers, Welch wonders if he waited a bit too long to act. "Once you look at the inventory of homes that are available, you know it’s not going to be easy," he said.

When a home in the Canyon Rim area of Salt Lake City came on the market recently for $239,900, the couple rushed out to look at it and immediately made an offer of $229,000, even though it needs some work. Three offers ultimately were made on the home within the first week; the bank accepted theirs.

The home is being sold by a bank as a short sale, which means the seller owes more than the property is worth. This adds more complexity to a deal because the bank has to approve the final contract.

On the upside, the home is in a good neighborhood and has an updated kitchen. Even better, Welch and his wife nabbed a 3.75 percent mortgage rate.

Seen in the numbers » The dynamics of the rebound, which first became apparent early this year, can now be seen in home-sale statistics.

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