Sue Shrewsbury, associate broker of Century 21 Red Rock Real Estate, said there were 25 percent more sales closed in September than in the same month a year earlier. Year-to-date closed sales outpaced 2011 by 41 percent as of September, she said.
Meanwhile, the median sale price of homes in the county dropped from $306,000 in September 2011 to $271,000 this September – a drop of about 11 percent.
The average sales price fell even further from September 2011 to the same month this year – from $292,738 to $244,840, according to figures from the Utah Association of Realtors (UAR). That’s a decline of 16 percent.
The median price decline from January through September 2011 to the same period this year was significantly smaller – from $230,000 to $226,250.
“I think the year-to-date is a little more accurate” than September-to-September comparisons, Shrewsbury said.
She believes low interest rates and affordability of homes contributed to the higher number of sales in 2012.
“I think interest rates will stay low and  will be another good year,” Shrewsbury said. “This was a better year than 2011.”
She added that the inventory of homes is lower than a year ago, although 19 single-family homes on the market in Grand County and Spanish Valley are priced below $200,000. Some of those are in move-in condition, Shrewsbury said. There are 75 total single-family homes for sale in the area as of this week.
A residential construction boom apparently is not on the horizon anytime soon.
“I don’t think the market has recovered enough for builders to begin anything,” Shrewsbury said.
Meanwhile, Grand/San Juan County Board of Realtors president Joe Kingsley said the slightly lower sales prices reflect the economy and some potential buyers’ inability to get loans.
“Right now the banks are making loans to high-score individuals or long-term customers,” Kingsley said. “For people who have less than perfect credit it is extremely difficult to do. It’s next to impossible.”
He said the more restrictive lending policies force prices down because they limit the number of people who can buy.
However, Dave Bierscheiied, broker and agent for Moab Realty, said buyers who have the right financial background can get loans.
“On a conventional loan, banks and credit unions will lend money to qualified buyers in a timely manner,” he said.
It is more difficult to get a loan for a manufactured home than for a traditional house, Bierschied noted.
“It makes those products a little more difficult to sell,” he said.
Bierschied said the condominium and townhouse markets are relatively strong, with prices inching up. He believes the construction of new townhouses in Grand County “is not far off.”
The UAR’s monthly indicator publication for September identified sluggish job growth, persistently high gas prices, and drought-induced spikes in food prices as factors that could shake consumer confidence in the housing market.
Overall, Bierschied said the local market survived the economic recession better than many places.
“Moab never went where most of the country went,” he said. “We didn’t go in the tank.”