The COVID-19 pandemic has been a remarkable time for realtors and home sales. Local real estate agents sold more properties in the Wasatch Back year-to-date than they did all of last year.
Local chatter about traffic jams, busy shopping centers, out of state license plates and over-crowded trails contribute to the speculation that the area is feeling the impacts of “refugees” who are coming here to wait out the pandemic. Park City Board of Realtors President William Winstead shared market data with KPCW and said that initially, the March shutdown orders caused concern for area realtors.
According to a Board of Realtors July 29 report, the market dipped quickly in April, then in mid-May a slight recovery, with June sales showing a full comeback, exceeding last year’s numbers.
“People were fearful that people weren’t going to buy property, they weren't going to be able to have nightly rentals, all that type of stuff,” Winstead said. “And we've actually seen the flip-flop of that. And there are a lot of people looking that aren't able to buy but there are a lot of people who are pulling the trigger and buying. We usually average around 2,000 to 2,100 homes on the market at any given time and we're down right now to about 1,500. But we've sold more properties on the Wasatch Back than all of 2019.”
Winstead believes the outdoor lifestyle offers everything people want.
“If you have a place in the South, let’s say Florida, and you have a home in Park City, you're gonna come to Park City for the summer,” he said. “You may go back to Florida in the winter. New York, people are leaving their communities there because of a number of things. They want a different lifestyle. I heard about a student transferring to Wasatch High from Colorado because this is his last year he can play football and so his family came here so that he could play football and possibly get a scholarship to the University, where if he were in Colorado, we won't be able to do that. So, these are all factors. Our schools are open. Our trails are open. It's comfortable living here. These are all the reasons why people are moving here from different areas.”
The report shows the biggest single-family price gains were in the Tuhaye/Hideout area on the east side of the Jordanelle Reservoir. Median sale prices increased by 51% to nearly $1.7 million.
President Elect Mark Jacobsen says they’re closing 100 to 125 sales a week, which is a 74% increase over 2019. Property prices are slightly up, but things are changing quickly, and they’ve seen an increase in the volume of sales since June. About a half dozen homes have sold for more than $12 million which compares to about one or two selling in the same price range in a normal year.
The four school districts along the Wasatch Back won’t have official headcounts until October but, anecdotally, Jacobsen says there may be some crowding going on, but he does not think new residents are overburdening the school systems.
“We are starting to crowd the schools a little bit,” he said. “I think back when Weilenmann [School of Discovery] came in, that kind of helped us stay that for a while … I don't remember the numbers exactly, but I don’t think we added that many students even though we brought lot more people in. I thought it was a minimal amount for what we have.”
Winstead says many families coming to the Wasatch Back are keeping their kids online in their own school districts. However, he believes it’s a community-wide challenge to address the growth.
“I’ve heard, and this could be a false number, but about 300 new kids to the Park City school district,” he said. “Overall, that's a pretty substantial amount of new kids that we weren't planning on. But, again, we have to monitor and be a community that is open-minded and make the changes. You talk about infrastructure. We need housing, rental housing, we need primary residents, we need affordable housing. These are all things that as a community we need to stand up and we need to, again, manage this growth instead of trying to stop it.”
Winstead says September and October are usually vacation times for people in the real estate business. But he says the 1,500 area realtors will likely be on duty during this shoulder season.