The sizable increases in prices over the last five years raises the question of whether a housing price bubble is building. A 48 percent increase in five years is extraordinary. But this increase must be set in the context of the four years of declining housing prices. For 16 consecutive quarters housing prices declined in Salt Lake County. That was a unique period in Salt Lake County’s real estate history. There had never been more than four quarters of declining prices. The return of prices to pre-recession levels should not be confused with a housing bubble.
Related Article: Census: Utah is nation's fastest-growing state - Deseret News
The price recovery has been aided and abetted by the historically long stretch of low mortgage rates, a necessary condition for the recovery Figure 4. Other factors, however, were at play as well, demographics and jobs. From 2010 to 2016, Utah was the third fastest growing state in terms of population change, surpassed by only North Dakota and Texas. And Utah has consistently been in the top five states in employment growth over the same period.
A housing bubble also carries some special characteristics that currently are not present in the Salt Lake County and Utah housing markets. Housing bubbles are preceded by rapid increases in debt. Prior to the Great Recession household debt in Utah increased by 35 percent in three years. Much of this increase was driven by mortgage refinancing, second mortgages, and home equity lines of credit. There is no sign of a build-up in debt in Utah. Household debt levels have returned to sustainable pre-recession levels.
A housing bubble is also characterized by lack of affordability. For example, in the Salt Lake Metropolitan Area in 2007 the median income household was able to afford only 30 percent of the homes sold in the county. Hence the Wells Fargo housing opportunity index stood at 30 for Salt Lake. Certainly it was a sign that housing prices had become untethered from normal economic relationships, housing prices and household income. Currently the housing opportunity index for the Salt Lake Metropolitan Area is 70; that is the median income household could afford 70 percent of the homes sold in the county in 2016, a sign of an affordable housing market. A housing opportunity index number of 50 or above denotes an affordable market.
Source: 2017 Salt Lake Housing Forecast (SLC Board of Realtors)
Click HERE to download the full report (PDF)
More market reports you might be interested in:
- 2016 Provo-Orem Housing Market Analysis
- Utah County Apartment Report