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2010-04-01 20:55:55
Utah's housing & construction outlook improving

The Wasatch Front housing market has been on a historic roller coaster ride for the better part of the past decade, reaching its pinnacle just over two years ago. A new report indicates that wild market ride may finally be 'pulling into the station' this year, offering some hope to wearied consumers, Realtors and other industry insiders.

'In Salt Lake County, we've probably touched bottom in 2009 and we're going to see a slight improvement in 2010,' Jim Wood, director of the University of Utah's Bureau of Economic and Business Research and author of the '2010 Salt Lake Housing Forecast,' told the Deseret News.

Wood said while the new year might eventually see some growth in new single-family home sales and construction, the previous year was among the most challenging on record.

'In 2009, only 900 new single-family homes were built in Salt Lake County — the lowest level since the war years of the 1940s — while about 9,100 existing single-family homes were sold,' he said in the report, released Monday.

He added that existing homes for sale make up the disproportionate amount of inventory currently on the market, which should continue to work in favor of buyers during 2010. Consequently, Salt Lake County home sales this year will show some slight improvement over last year, he said in the report.

  • The report showed that median housing prices in the Salt Lake metropolitan area peaked during the third quarter of 2007 at $246,600, dropping just over 11 percent over a two-year period to $218,900.
  • For Salt Lake County, the median value peaked at $254,900 during the 2007 third quarter before falling nearly 10 percent to $230,000 in the third quarter of 2009.

Wood predicted that home values along the Wasatch Front would continue to decline this year, falling another 3 percent to 5 percent. 'This will bring the decline in median sales price of homes in Salt Lake County to 15 percent through 2010,' he said in the report. 'By then, the price declines should be over, replaced by stable to slightly improving prices in 2011.'

As for the current number of unsold inventory left available in the wake of the statewide housing crisis, another local analyst is optimistic the tide is beginning to change.

Speaking at the 2010 Salt Lake Housing Forecast breakfast Monday at the Little America Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City, Arthur 'Chris' Nelson, presidential professor of city and metropolitan planning at the University of Utah and director of the Metropolitan Research Center, told the audience of about 800 real estate professionals that demand in the Utah housing market is on the upswing, as is the state's overall population.

'Between 2010 and 2011, we're going to have to build 100,000 new housing units in Utah to meet the needs of pent-up demand and growth by the end of 2011,' Nelson said. He said while that kind of construction is unlikely to occur in the near term, it demonstrates the long-term viability of the state's housing market.

'This is going to be the year of a slow uptick,' he said. 'The bottom has passed and we are going to be inching up, and 2011 and 2012 are going to be extraordinary years for homebuilding.'

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