As I reviewed the housing news this week, I saw a number of articles and statistics discussing whether the U.S. real estate market would rebound in 2011. While the articles provided a good deal of insightful information, I still find the best way to analyze a market is to look at data close to home.

Each month the Utah Association of REALTORS® releases data about home sales in Utah and in the state’s 29 counties. Even though statewide home sales were slow for November, according to the recently released report, there were many positive statistics that bode well for the market, including the fact that Utah home prices remained stable.

In November, the median price of a home sold in Utah was $188,625, a less than 1 percent decrease from the median of $190,000 in November 2009. The average price, which is prone to greater fluctuations based on the types of homes that were sold, registered a nearly 9 percent gain in November compared to the same month in 2009.

For the 11 months ended in November, the median sales price was $189,900, down 5 percent compared to the January-to-November period in 2009, and the average price was $244,369, nearly identical to the figure from the same months in 2009. Carbon and Summit counties, in particular, had notably resilient home prices, with the year-to-date median price increasing 6.4 and 5.3 percent, respectively.

Other good news was the fact that pending sales, a measure of future sales activity, increased 2.7 percent compared to last November. Hopefully this rise in signed contracts means the next data release will show greater sales activity for the month of December. Should enough sales make it to closing, it is likely 2010 year-end home sales will be just slightly lower than they were in 2009.  

Affordability conditions continued to improve in November, up about 6 percent from November 2009. From January to November, the UAR’s affordability index increased 8.5 percent compared to the first 11 months of 2009. These favorable affordability conditions are the result of the current relationship between mortgage interest rates, home prices and family income.

Another positive was the fact that the inventory of Utah homes on the market fell in November, with the number of active listings available for sale declining nearly 7 percent compared to November 2009. The number of homes on the market decreased from 27,784 to 25,958. This is the fewest number of homes for sale in Utah since July 2007. At the current sales pace, it would take 10.2 months to absorb the inventory. Last year at this time, it would have taken 10.6 months to sell the supply of homes.

Despite the good news and positive indicators, it is still uncertain exactly what will happen with home sales and prices in 2011. Economists have said the government intervention in the market (including purchases of mortgage debt and the implementation of the home buyer tax credit) has made it difficult to determine when housing will recover.

Some say the housing market is set to improve because rising interest rates will spur buyers to act quickly to avoid paying higher rates. Others expect foreclosures to increase over the coming year, putting pressure on home prices. Nearly everyone agrees, however, that the economy must have meaningful job growth and the recovery will vary depending on local conditions.

Although the Utah numbers give us a better view than the national statistics of what’s happening locally, even better information about real estate conditions in specific areas comes from your local Realtor. Give your REALTOR® a call to learn more about what’s happening in your neighborhood.

By Kenny Parcell
Appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News January 8, 2011