Across the country, experts say the ebb and flow of the real estate market is pointing toward recovery, the market having reached its bottom. The same is true in Park City. In nearly every category in total number of home sales to median prices Realtors saw increases and steady growth in the market.
With so much improvement in many cases double-digit growth in sales amidst an ever-shrinking inventory for buyers to choose from local experts agree that the bottom of the market is behind Park City.
According to the end-of-year report released by the Park City Board of Realtors (PCBR), signs of improvement are everywhere, meaning Realtors are finally able to compare peak prices to rock bottom prices. Even with the price increases and the balancing of the local real estate market, prices are still a far cry from what they once were at the peak of the market in 2009.
"We don't want to go from 0 to 100," said Mark Seltenrich, a Prudential Realtor and PCBR statistician. " Big swings, improving too fast, is not good for the market. Right now, I'd say we're averaging five percent growth a year, and that is a nice healthy amount. It is similar to the growth of the market in the 90s."
"There is not one side, a buyer or seller, that has more power in the game than the other," he added, "and where we're at now is still a really good value."
During the real estate boom, home buying was a very different story.
In Park City, the peak market prices were in 2008 with the median home price at $1.8 million. 2011, that number dropped to $1 million, a total of a 44 percent drop. Condos in Park City saw a similar decline, from $994,500 in 2007 to $522,500 in 2011, a 47 percent drop. In the Snyderville Basin and Jordanelle, home prices went down 27 percent from 2007, $894,550, to 2012, 649,000.
Since the bottom of the market in 2011, and in some neighborhoods this past year, improvement has been slow but steady.
"We have been slowly improving in the past couple of years," Seltenrich said. "What we've seen this year, it feels like we have really turned the corner, in the number of sales, the prices, the inventory amounts, all positive signs."
"If you were looking for a home or condo in a certain price range, a year ago options may have been plentiful, but those deals don't exist this year."
For example, Redstone condos in the Kimball Junction area were selling in the low $200,000 range a year ago, Seltenrich said. This year, prices are starting in the upper $200,000 range.
"If somebody was like, 'I'd buy one for $225,000, and I'll wait for one to come online, that's not going to happen'," he added. "There is no reason for someone to list their property at $225,000, even a bank. At that price today, there would be 50 buyers ready to make an offer, where a year ago, it would sit on the market for a month or two, maybe even longer."
Compared with last year, the entire market stretching from parts of Heber to the Snyderville Basin improved by 13 percent in median price, from $348,250 in 2011 to $395,000 in 2012. Prices dipped slightly in certain markets or housing types, but total prices reflected an increase. Number of sales improved as well, increasing by nine percent. In each category of sales, that fact is still reflected. The number of home sales was up by eight percent, vacant land by 12 percent and condo sales jumping the most since last year by 15 percent.
Perhaps one of the most staggering figures in the report is the starting point of the year, the number of pending sales leading into 2013. The beginning of the year had a 125 percent increase in pending sales from the year before, meaning January had one of the strongest leads in recent years.
"Prices are still well below the peak, they are just not at the bottom anymore," said PCBR Executive Director Curt Singleton. "So there are still deals to be had."
Deals are harder to find in some areas more than others, though.
"There are certain segments, take for example lower Deer Valley, that are not as strong," said PCBR President Jeff Spencer. "Lower Deer Valley is behind the market in seeing prices rebound, so there are still good deals in that area, both in pricing and available inventory."
"In other areas, inventory levels are decreasing quickly and the products out there are starting to get picked over," Spencer added. "No one is getting a foreclosure with a great view anymore, even if there are a few foreclosures still out there. Buyers are realizing the boat has left the dock, and maybe they have missed it. But they can still catch that wave though, because prices are going to keep going up."