Real Estate Recovery Gains Momentum

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2 Real Estate Recovery Gains Momentum By Jim Wood Director of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research University of Utah Salt Lake County s real estate recovery gained momentum in Housing prices began a remarkable turnaround in the second quarter of the year joining a rebound in sales, which got underway a year earlier. Some of the most notable features of the 2012 market include: A 15 percent increase in homes sales pushing total sales to 10,900 homes. Nearly $2.7 billion in home sales value; $500 million more than $367 million in condominium, town home and twin home sales value; $66 million more than $184 million in real estate commissions; $34 million more than A 6 percent increase in the median sales price of a home; $199,000 in 2011 to $211,000 in A decline in bank REO sales but an increase in short sales. The lowest inventory of foreclosure filings in four years; a decline of 47 percent from the peak quarter. The lowest number of active listings in years falling to about half the level of Housing affordability at near record levels, 80 percent of homes sold in 2012 were affordable to the median income family. An average mortgage rate of 3.66 percent; the lowest rate in 60 years. Utah s Job Growth Now Exceeds Historic Average Utah has had 30 consecutive months of job growth, which has been crucial to the real estate recovery. Utah s job growth in 2012 was 3.3 percent, exceeding the historic ( ) annual average of 3.1 percent and the state ranks fifth among all states in relative job growth. Employment growth expands the demand for housing, giving potential homebuyers more confidence plus generating higher rates of net in-migration. Net in-migration brings new households into the market. These new households need a housing unit. In 2013, net in-migration is projected to double to 10,000 individuals. This level of net in-migration will create the demand for an additional 3,500 housing units statewide in In addition to job growth and higher levels of net inmigration, all of the other major economic indicators show solid growth in Most indicators are projected to improve by 5-6 percent in Table 1 shows the most recent forecast for the Utah economy, which was produced in October 2012 by the Utah Revenue Assumption Committee. Table 1 Forecast of Major Economic Indicators for Utah Salt Lake Home Sales Rise 27 Percent Realtor home sales are recovering nicely. Over the past two years sales have increased from 8,500 homes to 10,900, a 27 percent gain. In the past year all of Salt Lake County s 15 cities have seen an increase in existing home sales Table 2. Surprisingly, West Jordan had the smallest percentage gain, only 1.4 percent. Most cities had double digit increases. The sales data show that the recovery has been widespread with all cities participating. Salt Lake City, which accounts for about one-third of all home sales in the county, had an increase of nearly 500 home sales in Table 2 Change in Home Sales by City Figure 1 New Home Construction and Sales of Existing Homes in Salt Lake County Salt Lake City had more home sales than the next three highest volume cities; Sandy, West Jordan and West Valley. Condominium sales in the county have also rebounded. Sales in 2012 were up 25 percent to 2,234 units. Again Salt Lake City captured about one-third of the county s sales activity with 730 condominium sales. 2

3 Figure 2 Home sales by Realtors currently dominate residential sales in the county. This has not always been the case. Historically, about one-third of all residential real estate sales have gone to home builders. Presently, their share is one in six homes and it has been as low as one in 10 in But competition from home builders is bound to grow in Permits for new singlefamily home construction in the county were up 40 percent in 2012 and will likely have a substantial increase in The large relative gains are a bit deceptive, however, because homebuilding is coming off such a low base. From the peak to trough 2005 to 2009 new home construction fell 80 percent. By comparison home sales by Realtors dropped 44 percent from peak to trough Figure 1. Median Sales Price of Homes in Salt Lake County (inflation adjusted dollars) Rising home prices are bringing home builders back into the market. Over the past few years home builders simply could not compete with declining home prices due, in part, to price discounts on foreclosed and short sales properties. Now with prices on the rise Table 3 and the number of distressed sales leveling off homebuilders are in Median Sales Price of Existing Homes Sold in Salt Lake County a more competitive position. (inflation adjusted dollars) The Wild Ride in Housing Prices The last eight years have been a wild ride for housing prices. Never has the local real estate industry faced such volatility Figure 2 and Table 3. From 2004 to 2007 the median sales price of a home increased by a stunning 57 percent. In 2006 alone prices increased by a near farcical 27 percent. The run-up in prices, however, was short lived. By 2008 prices weakened and began a steady decline over the next three years of about 6 percent annually until 2011 when prices declined 9 percent; the second worst single-year decline in housing prices in 60 years. Only the 12 percent decline in 1958 was worse. Prices finally hit bottom in 2011 at $204,600 inflation adjusted dollars. Over the long run housing prices in Utah have been stronger than prices at the national level. After adjusting for inflation, housing prices in Utah have increased at about 1 percent a year since That amounts to a 38 percent real increase in the average sales price of a home over 32 years. In 1980 the average sales price, in 2012 dollars, of a home in the county was $178,194 and by 2012 the average price was $245,238. Utah s long-term price performance beats most states. Typically, over the long run housing prices at the national level track closely with inflation rates but in Utah price appreciation exceeds the inflation rate by about 1 percent annually. Every city in the county, with the exception of South Salt Lake, experienced increases in housing prices in 2012 Map 1. The most notable feature in 2012 is the acceleration of housing prices throughout the year. In the first quarter, prices were down 5 percent compared to 2011, then up 5.1 percent in the second quarter, 10.4 percent in the third quarter and finally 13 percent in the fourth quarter Table 4. The double digit strength of prices in the last six months was very surprising. With this recent uptick housing prices in Salt Lake County are now back to their 2005 level. Nationally prices have fallen to their 1998 level. Map 1 Median Sales Price and percent Change by City (Change from ) Housing prices have made impressive gains despite the drag from short sales and REO sales. In 2012, short sales totaled nearly 1,600 homes; a 15 percent share of all homes sold Table 5. While the number of short sales was increasing in 2012 REO sales were declining as financial institutions steered financially troubled home owners away from foreclosures to short sales. Consequently, the inventory of foreclosure filings in Utah is shrinking. Table 4 Changes in Median Sales price of Existing Homes in Salt Lake County Table 5 Short Sales and REO Sales of Existing Homes in Salt Lake County In 2012 prices finally turned as the median sales price of an existing home rose 6 percent to $211,000. In inflation adjusted dollars the increase was little less than four percent. 3 4

4 Since the foreclosure peak of 14,900 mortgages in early 2010, foreclosure filings have dropped nearly in half to 7,900 mortgages in the third quarter of 2012 Figure 3. Fewer foreclosures portends improving prices. The increase in housing prices is driven by rising demand and lagging supply due primarily to the following factors: 1. Extreme Affordability In the first quarter of 2012 the median income family in the Salt Lake metropolitan area could afford 82 percent of the homes sold. This is the highest level of affordability locally in the 21-year history of the NAHB affordability index. Affordability is attracting buyers to the Figure 3 market and fueling increased Quarterly Inventory of Mortgage Foreclosure Filings in Utah demand. 2. Demographic Growth Increased job opportunities due to employment growth produces higher levels of net in-migration, which expands the demand for housing. 3. Rising Consumer Confidence Utah s economic indicators show broad improvement. Positive economic news, particularly regarding job growth, boosts consumer confidence and induces higher demand for housing. 4. Higher Rents Apartment rents in Salt Lake County increased 8 percent last year and vacancy rates dropped below 5 percent. A new, Class A, three-bedroom two-bath apartment in the county rents for $1,250, more than enough to make the mortgage payment on the median priced $211,000 home. 5. Low Inventories Inventories of unsold new homes and listings of for sale homes are at the lowest level in many years. Home builders, after the recession, have been reluctant and in some cases unable to carry unsold inventory. A few models in subdivisions have been the extent of the homebuilder s unsold inventory. On the existing home side, supply has been limited due to the decline in listings of for sale homes. In 2012 active listings were at the lowest level in the past twelve years Figure 4. Fewer homes for sale whether new homes or listed properties tends to push prices higher. 6. Low Mortgage Rates As mortgage rates drop buying power increases. A household with $1,500 for a monthly mortgage payment can get about $50,000 more home at a 3.5 percent mortgage versus a 5.0 percent mortgage. 5 Outlook for 2013 Home Sales and Prices In 2013 Salt Lake County s Figure 4 real estate recovery will gain Active Listings in Salt Lake County - Second Quarter momentum. Strong job growth combined with low interest rates will give a boost to both buyer confidence and housing affordability. Home sales and prices will also benefit from the release of pent-up demand. During the recession, job loss or foreclosure forced many families to move-in with friends or family and double-up, which in turn reduced housing demand. Some of this demand will be restored to the market in In addition, rising rental rates will prod some renters into home ownership further expanding the demand for housing. Consequently, home sales will increase by 15 to 20 percent pushing sales to around 13,000 units. The rebound in condominium, twin home and town home sales will also continue as sales increase from 2,225 units in 2012 to 2,600 units in The affordability of multifamily units will be particularly attractive to many renters and doubled-up families. Home sales in 2013 will increase by 15 to 20 percent, pushing sales to around 13,000 units. Demand will continue to outpace supply in 2013 putting upward pressure on prices. Some of this pressure could be offset by an increase in listings but presently there is no indication of any listings surge. And if the market avoids the oft-predicted next wave of foreclosures and dodges federal actions that could dampen demand the resolution of the fiscal cliff was a win for housing on several counts price increases will exceed the 6 percent gain of 2012 and likely increase at a double-digit rate of percent. 6

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