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Housing market in Utah looking up

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ST. GEORGE — Finally Shane Oaks and his wife found a house that fits. They're moving from Vernal to St. George and have been in at least a hundred homes over the last four years, but that's because there were a lot of homes on the market and they could be picky.

But those days seem to be going away. “It’s tightening up, and there definitely aren’t as many houses available on the market and that’s what got us scared,” Oaks said.

That’s because they're buyers, and the playing field with sellers is starting to even out a little bit.

(The housing market is) certainly not back to where it was, but we're seeing it move in the right direction.

–Lori Chapman, Utah Association of Realtors

"Just in the last little while, I know I've seen just in this area right here, (there's been) a significant increase in dollar amounts in houses and house prices going up,” Oaks said.

It's not just him. According to the Utah Association of Realtors, in April the median price for homes sold was $178,150 — up 2.7 percent from $173,500 in April 2011. That's the first time since 2008 there has been a year-to-year gain.

"It's certainly not back to where it was, but we're seeing it move in the right direction,” said Lori Chapman, president of the Utah Association of Realtors.”

She said there are three main reasons for the increase; less houses on the market, prices still on the low end and consumer confidence is coming back.

"Consumer confidence is something that has been very difficult to establish, because people obviously want to be cautious,” she said. “They want to make a wise decision."

Top 10 Counties for Percentage Increase if Closed Sales
  1. Rich County: +300.0%
  2. San Jan County: +200%
  3. Sevier County: +166.7%
  4. Millard County: +150.0%
  5. Carbon County: +133.3%
  6. Kane County: +100.0%
  7. Sanpete County: +61.5%
  8. Daggett County: +50.0%
  9. Beaver County: +33.3%
  10. Iron County: +25.8%
Source: Utah Association of Realtors

Among counties with at least 30 house sales in April, the highest percentages were in Iron County and Wasatch County, up 26 percent. Weber was up 19 percent, Davis 17 percent, and Salt Lake County 16.5 percent.

Chapman said homeowners who were upside down in their mortgages might finally be able to sell. The key factors to watch will be interest rates, delinquencies on mortgage and how fast home builders put new units on the market, she said.

"We're hoping pricing will increase enough so that it enables the people that would like to sell to be able to do that," she said.

Sellers are not seeing as much down pressure on their asking prices. In April, sellers received an average of 93.1 percent of their original list price. That's up nearly 4 percent from last year when they brought in 89.9 percent, said the Utah Association of Realtors.

It's why the Oaks settled on a house before the price continued to go up. "We had to finally just say, ‘You know what? Do we do it, or do we not do it?’ And this is going to be our last chance, so we jumped."

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Alex Cabrero


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