Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

July 19, 2012
Pace of home sales starts speeding up

It’s getting a lot easier to sell a home in Tooele County.

Listing times countywide dropped from an average of 87 days on the market in the second quarter of 2011 to only 47 days in the second quarter this year, according to data from the Wasatch Front Multiple Listings Service. That’s the shortest wait since the second quarter of 2007, when the average days on the market was 17.

The dramatically shorter wait to sell a home hasn’t been mirrored by higher sales volume or higher sales prices, however. The number of homes sold in the second quarter rose only 3.6 percent in the second quarter compared to the same period last year. The median sales price rose 6 percent to $145,000 between the two quarters.

Vicki Griffith, broker and owner of Prudential Real Estate, said the modest gains in volume sold and price, verses the dramatic dip in days on market, can be chalked up to an increased efficiency by both banks and real estate agents in closing short sales.

“One of the facts is that the short sales that were taking so long to get done are taking less time,” she said. “That skewed our days on the market, because you’d have a house under contract, basically, but it took the bank six months to get it closed, and now the short sales are not taking so long. Without the short sales, the sales price would have been up a little bit.”

Besides ironing out the kinks in the short-sale process, sales have been helped by lower inventory on the market.

“We’re used to having an oversupply, and now we have houses with two or three offers on them, which we didn’t have for a long time,” said Griffith. “We want it to be a little bit better, and we need some newer homes and affordable homes, but we have some new construction coming in. We’re very optimistic. This is good.”

Nicole Cloward, a broker with RE/MAX Complete in Grantsville, said she has seen the market heating up the most in Grantsville. Although there are about 70 houses on the market in town, she said, about half of those are to-be-built, so people who do not want to build have a smaller pool of houses to choose from. Less inventory typically means faster sales, and newly listed houses tend to be looked at — and get offers — early. So far this year two houses have sold their first day on the market, Cloward said.

The trend is good, Cloward said, just as long as it doesn’t skyrocket into a second housing bubble.

“We were having a flashback. It’s good, but at the same time I don’t want values to go crazy again, because then they sink, and then in a few years we end up short selling them again,” she said.

Chris Sloan, owner and broker of Group 1 Real Estate in Tooele, said he feels very encouraged by the numbers, and that the numbers at his own business reflect similar trends.

“Just personally, in our own brokerage we’re 50 percent higher than we were all of last year right now, so from a business standpoint it’s tremendous,” he said.

Although the overall increase in home sales is modest, the increase among some Realtors is higher than the overall rise because fewer agents tend to do most of the business than in years past, Sloan said. Those Realtors who are doing the best, he said, are usually those who have a greater Internet process.

Sloan said a decrease in short sales and foreclosures has driven down the wait time to sell a home, since those transactions take much longer than a traditional sale.

“Short sales absolutely destroyed days on market. We just had one short sale the other day that was 560 days,” Sloan said. “So what’s happening here is getting a lot of that worked out. The process is now quicker and more streamlined, but we’re also not having as many of them. Once the industry figured out the rules of the game, we started pricing things correctly, and that also helped the days on market.”

An increase of new construction in the area is also a favorable sign of the real estate market, Sloan said.

“We went for several years there where we didn’t build anything new,” he said. “Building permits are down probably less than a third of what they were a few years ago, but we’re seeing new construction happening again, and to me that’s a very healthy indicator.”

Low interest rates and a relatively healthy economy have helped Tooele, as well as most of the state, bounce back quicker than other areas in the country, Griffith said.

“We’re one of the first states that’s making a comeback,” she said.

And Griffith sees the trend continuing.

“I already think that July, especially for my company, is going to be one of our biggest months,” she said. “And I think third quarter’s going to be great.”

Lisa Christensen

Staff Writer at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Lisa covers primarily crime and courts, military affairs, Stansbury Park government and transportation issues. She is a graduate of Utah State University, where she double-majored in journalism and music, and Grantsville High School.

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