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Far fewer homes on the market made the first three months of 2017 a good time to sell a house and a tough time to buy one.
"This is the strongest seller's market ever," Salt Lake Board of Realtors President Troy Peterson said Thursday in releasing his group's quarterly report on home sales in five Wasatch Front counties.
"To be a buyer right now is brutal," he added. "Competition is fierce for homes priced under $500,000. Many sellers are making the sale of their home contingent on them finding another property. … [I've] never seen anything like the current market in [my] 22 years of selling real estate."
His figures show sales of single family homes in Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Tooele and Utah counties were down 5 percent from the first quarter of 2016. That's due largely to a 6 percent dip in listings, which translates to 500 fewer homes displaying "For Sale" signs than a year earlier.
One upshot is that sellers in most, but not all, areas were getting their asking prices.
The median price of a single family home along the Wasatch Front rose to $280,000 in the first quarter, up from $255,000 a year earlier. By county, the increases from 2016 to '17 were:
• Salt Lake $272,642 to $300,000, up 10 percent
• Utah $266,000 to $287,000, up 7.9 percent
• Davis $243,500 to $268,700, up 10.4 percent
• Tooele $200,000 to $220,000, up 10 percent
• Weber $184,950 to $205,000, up 10.8 percent
Another outcome was that homes sold faster than usual. On average, Peterson said, homes were on the market 48 days this first quarter compared with 59 days in 2016's first three months.
Home prices rose in 72 of the 85 ZIP codes in the Board of Realtors report, the biggest individual leap occurring in the southern Utah County community of Mona.
The three homes that sold in the fast-growing 84645 ZIP went for a median price of $298,000, a 58 percent jump over the prices of three homes a year earlier ($188,250).
Double-digit percentage increases also were enjoyed by sellers in a half dozen Utah County ZIPs, led by Alpine's 84004, where prices rose 38.5 percent to $486,000.
That was the third highest-priced ZIP code, trailing two in Salt Lake County 84108 and 84092.
On Salt Lake City's east side, 84108 stretches from Fort Douglas south to 2100 South, east of 1300 East to the county line, including Emigration and Pinecrest canyons. The median price of 42 homes that sold there during the quarter was $502,000, nearly 15 percent higher than the previous year.
In Sandy, ZIP code 84092 had the biggest quarterly price jump in Salt Lake County. Sellers there got 23.8 percent more this year than sellers last year, with the median price rising to $495,000.
Rounding out the top five for most expensive home sales were ZIP codes 84020 in Draper and 84103 in Salt Lake County stretching from Federal Heights through the Avenues to west Capitol Hill.
The most dramatic examples of falling prices took place in two sparsely populated areas Goshen and Cedar Valley in Utah County that had just one and two sales, respectively.
There were a few smaller declines scattered about ZIP codes with plenty of sales. The 84101 ZIP on Salt Lake City's west side had a 3.4 percent decline in median value, while other drops were registered in Provo (84606), Pleasant Grove (84062), Farmington (84025) and Centerville (84014).
With high prices being especially difficult for first-time buyers, many eager to be homeowners turned to purchasing condominiums during the quarter.
Peterson said Salt Lake County condo sales rose 6 percent over the first three months of 2016, climbing from 744 to 787. Like single family homes, however, the median price tag showed a sizable increase 14.2 percent to $215,000.
Condo price increases of 13 percent to 17 percent were registered in Utah, Davis and Weber counties, while the 10 condos that sold in Tooele County had a median price decrease of nearly 6 percent.
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