Newly released numbers show homebuying is as competitive as ever along the Wasatch Front, with historically low supplies, intense demand and already-high prices escalating further out of reach for many Utahns.
An unprecedented shortage of existing single-family homes made worse by the coronavirus pandemic has continued to depress sales and boost prices across the region centered on Salt Lake City, Ogden, Provo and Tooele through late summer and early fall.
Quarterly reports released Wednesday by the Salt Lake Board of Realtors indicate September marked the fourth consecutive month of sales declines in Salt Lake County, rounding out the third quarter of 2021 with sales down in all five Wasatch Front counties and in all but 16 of the area’s 86 ZIP codes, compared to the year before.
Sales plunged by 17.2% for the Wasatch Front as a whole in the third quarter, which typically brings a seasonal uptick in home markets. A total with 8,201 single-family homes changed hands in the five-county area in July, August and September, compared to 9,904 sold those same months last year.
At the same time, median prices in several Wasatch Front counties climbed to new benchmarks, including Weber County, where they topped $400,000 and Utah County, now at $500,000. Salt Lake County’s median home price held at around $550,000, a record high reached earlier this year.
What’s more, economists say, these combined trends don’t appear to be part of a housing market bubble, and they probably won’t end anytime soon.
Matt Ulrich, president of the Salt Lake Board of Realtors, called current competition among buyers “fierce” and said multiple offers per home were commonplace.
Ulrich also pointed to a recent University of Utah study that found more than half the state’s households are now unable to afford the current median single-family home price, confirming, he added, “that Utah is in the midst of a housing shortage that will take years to put in balance.”
Estimates are that 15% to 20% of home sales on the Wasatch Front now draw cash offers. Anecdotes abound of offers of $100,000 and $150,000 over initial asking prices. Overall, homebuyers in July, August and September paid, on average, $120,000 more than they did the same quarter last year.
Salt Lake County’s priciest ZIP codes are now 84108, spanning the mouth of Emigration Canyon; 84103, spread across Capitol Hill, the Avenues and Federal Heights; and in suburban Draper’s 84020, where third-quarter medians ranged between $825,000 and $830,000.
Homes sold in the Utah County city of Alpine — 84004 — reached a median sales price of $1.05 million in the third quarter, the region’s highest.
In Weber County, the highest-priced neighborhoods were in Huntsville’s 84317, with a median sales price of $685,000. In Davis County, the highs were in and Farmington’s 84025, at $662,500.
Tooele County’s top median prices were found in Stockton, 84071, at $532,500.
Davis County saw single-family home sales fall the most in the third quarter, down by 20.9%. Salt Lake County’s sales fell by 20.3%, while Weber, Utah and Tooele counties’ sales declined by 15.9%, 12.1% and 4.9%, respectively.
In Salt Lake County, these trends appear to be pushing buyers westward into Salt Lake City’s Glendale and Poplar Grove neighborhoods — among the few places where sales rose in the third quarter. The city’s downtown area and its Ballpark neighborhood also saw home sales go up compared to last year, though not by much.
Spanish Fork, Orem and Lindon in Utah County also grew in sales, though again, by slim margins.
The average number of days a single-family home remained on market before being snatched up — a tacit measure of competition among buyers — has seen stark declines from 2020, when the pandemic first began.
For Salt Lake County, it dropped from an average of 31 days to 17 days in late summer and early fall. Similarly in Davis, Utah, Weber and Tooele counties, that duration also shrank to about half of what it was this time last year, to between 15 and 18 days.
New listings were down, too, in three of the five counties. Listings in Salt Lake County alone dropped to 5,667 housing units in the third quarter, down 7% compared to the same months in 2020.
That’s an additional sign, real estate agents say, that some would-be sellers are holding back, whether out of persisting fears over COViD-19′s delta variant or sticker shock at the prospect of finding an affordable replacement home.