Picture yourself grabbing your reusable bags and heading off to the grocery store to buy a few necessities. First, you walk into the produce section and discover there are only three apples on display—one that's overpriced, one that's bruised and one green apple (you hate sour apples). You ask the manager where all the apples are and he says "That's all we've got!" Hmmmm. Next, you head to the dairy aisle and discover displays that are darkened, not because they are saving power but because there's nothing to display: no eggs, and only one kind of weird stinky fromage that's $18 for a half-ounce. This is what shopping for homes is like around the Wasatch Front—an eye-opening, frustrating discovery of low inventory and high prices.
Stats released by utahrealestate.com show home sales have reached their lowest level in three years. Utah County sales dropped 11 percent and Tooele County, 14 percent. Salt Lake County was down 10 percent, Weber County declined 4 percent and Davis County saw a 5 percent loss. Despite the drop in sales numbers, prices just kept rising in 2018. The average sales price in Salt Lake County rose to $350,000, up $25,000 from 2017's figure. In the five Utah counties with the densest populations, condo prices also rose anywhere from 8.1 percent to 36.8 percent (Salt Lake City saw the biggest jump in values). All those high-rise residential buildings soaring skyward around your area are apartments for rent—not condominiums for sale. Boomers wanting to downsize from a home to a condo are especially feeling the pinch of low housing inventory. To quote Scary Spice on America's Got Talent, "What is happening here?!"
In a nutshell, the number of homes and condos for sale are not keeping up with demand. More people are moving to Utah than leaving, and there just aren't enough places to buy or even rent in many areas. As prices go up, first-time buyers drop out of the game, and folks wanting to move up stop looking. Low inventory combined with rising interest rates is not a good recipe for real estate buyers.
What does all this mean if you're a buyer? Stop looking at house porn and get in the game. Find a full-time broker to start making offers for you. If you're a seller, go ahead and sell and negotiate a rent-back agreement with your buyers so you have time to find a new place to live. And do all of this before interest rates and property values rise again. Don't wait for a drop, because unless we go into a long, long government shutdown, Utah is only going to see growth.