by David Ellis
on Friday, August 9th, 2013 at 8:31pm.
Washington County Real Estate Market
Washington County's real estate market, which fell apart in 2006 after an extraordinary run that attracted national attention, is struggling back to health.
An increase in sales of existing single-family homes has been fueled by a revived Utah economy and record low interest rates. Foreclosed and short-sale properties are almost non-existent. New construction of homes is on the rise as well.
"In Washington County, we have probably only 20 bank-owned properties left. A lot of people are no longer upside down [in their mortgages]. The biggest problem we have in our market today is getting enough properties to sell," said Ryan Andersen, an agent at ERA Brokers Consolidated in St. George.
Homes priced under $300,000 are showing the greatest demand. A house priced under $200,000 will sell in a week, Andersen said. There is a 30-day supply of homes for sale priced between $200,000 and $300,000, he said. In all price categories, the supply is less than six months” which is where it was at the market's high point. By contrast, there was a 17-month supply of homes for sale in the fall of 2008, according to the Board of Realtors.
Prices for new and existing homes have jumped significantly. In the first half of 2013, the median sale price averaged $195,000” a 20 percent gain over the same period of last year. Many of Debi Bauer's clients, an agent with RE/MAX Associates, are setting their sights on higher-priced homes. Last year, most didn't want to go above $200,000. Today, they are shopping for homes priced at $300,000 and above, she said.
"They feel comfortable with the economy. They are also seeing a quicker return on their investment because of the continued price increases of our properties here," she said.
There was a small dip in sales in 2012, but agents think the 2.7 percent decline in the number of houses sold was an anomaly. Last year was the only year since 2009 that didn't see a rise. And so far this year, sales have rebounded smartly. If the pace holds up, 2013 sales could rival 2006, when more than 3,200 units changed hands.