When the economy hit a historic rough patch in the fall of 2008, it was housing that was hardest hit. But three housing industry leaders told the Salt Lake Chamber Board of Governors that things have turned around and they are optimistic about the future.
“The refrain was that housing got us into this mess and housing will be a key indicator that we’ve put it behind us,” says Natalie Gochnour, chief economist of the Salt Lake Chamber who moderated the discussion.
The Utah economy lost nearly 100,000 jobs during the Great Recession–some 60,000 were related to housing. While the state economy has regained all 100,000 jobs lost, housing has been slower to recover.
“Housing is definitely coming back,” says Grant Whitaker, president and CEO of Utah Housing Corporation. “From 2007-2011 Utah’s population grew by 237,000 people and they have to live somewhere. That’s made a big difference for us.”
While one in five Utah homeowners are underwater (they owe more on their homes than the home is currently worth) and many are hesitant to sell, the number of existing homes available has dropped by 33 percent in the past 12 months. Our experts say housing is a cyclical business and Utah is ready for an up-cycle.
“The biggest problem we have is finding subcontractors–dry wallers, roofers and plumbers,” says Clark Ivory, CEO of Ivory Homes. “That’s going to make growth more of a challenge.”
Ivory also says there has been a significant shift in the types of homes now in demand. In Salt Lake County, single-family homes are up, but there is a significant increase in homes for single occupants.
“The thing that is most positive is household creation,” says Ivory. “Utah is always strong in this area, but our in-migration has been stronger than in surrounding states.”
Bryson Garbett, president of Garbett Homes, also thinks the outlook for the next 24 months is positive.
“There have been a lot of changes in the way we build homes when it come to energy efficiency,” he says noting those improvements can save homeowners money and serve as an enticement to buy. “Things look very positive.”