By SHEILA WANG • Standard-Examiner staff
OGDEN – The booming housing market has pushed up home prices to a record high in Ogden, as the city continues to attract in- and out-of-state homebuyers with its housing affordability.
Known for its low cost of living, Ogden is no exception to the state’s growing real estate housing market. As of 2017, the city’s housing prices have returned to its pre-recession levels.
The median home price — including single-family residences, condominiums and co-op homes — increased by 15 percent year over year to $153,000 in November 2017, overtaking the record high a decade ago, according to Zillow.
“Shocking,” was homeowner Vikki Deakin’s overall impression of last year’s market in Ogden.
Deakin and her husband live in a condominium in northern Ogden, which she bought in 2008. Deakin has watched the market closely for years in search of a house.
“Prices across the board have gone up substantially, even including mobile homes, and mobile home prices never go up,” said Deone Ehlers-Rhorer, a broker at Lady Bug Realty.
The prices have forced potential homebuyers like Deakin to “stay put but keep looking,” while many others decided to make the jump.
More than 1,600 homes were sold in Ogden last year, according to UtahRealEstate.com.
“It’s simply a reflection of demand,” James Wood, the Ivory-Boyer Senior Fellow at The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah.
In mid-2013, both home prices and rents in Ogden started soaring up after a six-year consecutive decline, the graphics below show.
The charts also indicate Ogden’s housing costs still linger below the rest of state, despite the growth.
Low cost, coupled with the mountain views and outdoor activities, make Ogden a desirable place to buy a home for many people.
But local people said the relatively lower cost in Ogden did not necessarily translate into affordability.
“People’s incomes are not keeping up,” said Travis Lindsey, an Ogden native who bought a single-family home in 2002 in Ogden near South Ogden.
“It was a lot easier to buy a home back then,” he recalled.
As Utah pulls through the recession, household incomes have steadily increased over the years across the state. But Ogden is not on par with this trend, leaving an apparent wage gap between Ogden and the rest of the state.
The line chart below demonstrates a widening gap between Ogden and the state in terms of median household income from 2009 to 2016 (2017 data is unavailable).
Ogden’s median household income has only increased by a little more than $1,000 from 2009 to 2016. In contrast, the state’s overall median household income has grown by nearly $7,000 in the same period, further widening the income gap between the state and the city.
The column charts above also show some 58 percent of Ogden households made less than $50,000 a year, while nearly two-thirds of state households made more than that.
As of 2016, Ogden’s median household made $42,500, some $2,000 less than that of the state.
“With this income, they’d probably end up renting,” local realtor Lee Ann Semrow-Jones said.
While there are many other factors to consider, Semrow-Jones said the housing options for median-income households in Ogden are few.
Taking a quick look at the home sales database, Semrow-Jones found only 19 homes at or below $100,000 in Ogden in the second week of 2018.
Deakin, a professor at Weber State University, said even with her decent salary, her family still couldn’t afford to buy a house.
“A lot of them are working class or lower-middle class,” Deakin said. “How can they afford?”
Economist Wood found the low median household income in Ogden hard to believe.
He said it had a lot to do with the city’s demographics. Students, who mostly work part-time jobs with little income, take up a big share of the population. It could have brought down the median household income citywide.
The median family income, on the other hand, could better reflect reality, Wood said.
Data shows the median family income in Ogden was more than $50,000 and the median married-couple family made more than $60,000 in 2016, both significantly higher than the median household income.
“I don’t think there is a housing affordability crisis in Ogden,” Wood said, but “the low-income, very low-, and extreme low-income households are having a true crisis.”
These households are considered “severely cost-burdened” by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), as they pay more than 50 percent of incomes for housing and utilities.
Statewide, nearly 70,000 households — 7.6 percent — are considered severely cost-burdened in 2017, according to National Low Income Housing Coalition.
Nationally, for every $1,000 increase in the price of a home, about 150,000 households are priced out of the market for a median-priced new home, according to a 2016 research by the National Association of Home Builders.
As homes become less affordable to residents in Ogden, they appear to be more appealing to people out of Ogden.
A home that is considered high-priced here may come across as low-priced elsewhere.
Realtor Semrow-Jones said priced-out residents were forced to turn to renting, which in return pushed up the rents.
As a result, the growths in both home prices and rents have outpaced income growth in Ogden.
The line chart below offers a comparison of growth rates in homes prices, rents and median household income in Ogden from 2010 to 2016.
Those who can afford it they want “something nicer,” broker Ehlers-Rhorer said.
She noticed people were more likely to buy an expensive home in the suburbs than a lower-priced home in the downtown area.
The broker blamed it on “the bad reputation” of Ogden's downtown.
A map below illustrates the home prices by ZIP code in Northern Utah, which shows three main ZIP codes roughly falls into the city boundary of Ogden: 84401, 84403 and 84404. The shades of the three areas are much lighter than the rest, which indicates the home values are lower.
ZIP code 84401, which stretches through downtown Ogden from the Weber River in the west and the mountains in the east and between the Ogden River and 31st Street, has the lowest median home values.
Use this interactive tool to find out the median home price in any ZIP code in any year:
WHAT'S DRIVING UP HOUSING COST?
The short answer is demand.
“We’re not able to produce enough housing,” Wood said.
He pointed out Utah’s market has experienced a housing shortage for seven consecutive years, which was partly a result of high economic growth.
In 2017, the increase in households exceeded the increase in housing units for the first time in four decades, according to Wood’s study, which shows there were about 50,000 more new households than new housing units across the state last year.
The shortage will continue to be a huge issue in Utah in 2018, Wood said.
As of November 2017, home inventory in Ogden dropped by more than half from five years ago to 176, according to Zillow.
“Ogden is very old,” Wood said. “There is not much space to build new homes.”
In addition to natural increase, migration is an important factor in housing demand. Data shows more than 2,000 people were estimated to have moved in to the Ogden-Clearfield area in 2017, and the number was projected to surpass 3,000 in 2020.
The buying power of the Millennial generation has an impact on the market as well, according to Brenda Nelson, 2018 president of Northern Wasatch Association of Realtors.
“What I think is happening is our younger generation, our millennials, they’re realizing housing are becoming more affordable, and that interest rate is super good,” Nelson said.
However, Deone Ehlers-Rhorer, a long-term broker in the Weber-Davis-Morgan area noted something else could factor into the home price jump.
“The agents are not doing their jobs,” she said.
Unsubstantiated seller expectations and real estate bidding wars, the broker said, could have played a big part in driving up the home prices in the area.
A GOOD TIME TO BUY
“It is a good time to get in housing this year, especially for young people,” Wood said.
He said Utah’s housing market will continue to boom and the prices will continue to increase in 2018.
The economist addressed this year’s Economic Forecast Breakfast hosted by Northern Wasatch Association of Realtors. He presented a few key figures
• In Weber County, the median home value will go up by ten percent to $242,000, and sales will go up by five percent to 4,000
• In Davis County, the median home value will go up by eight percent to $308,000, and home sales will go up by three percent to 4,600
• The number of listings will improve.
Despite the home price increase, Nelson said she did see an improvement in affordable housing as multiple new developments in and around Ogden are under consideration.
“As Ogden has the mixed-use development, you’re gonna see the smaller outside cities starting to do that. I think that’s a good answer for housing affordability,” Nelson said.
From the north to the west, from the business district to the farmland, a big expansion is on the way in the Ogden area in order to accommodate the growing population and to boost the local economy.
As plans move forward, soon enough, the downtown area will see taller buildings to house more residents, overgrown weeds in North Ogden will turn into townhomes and apartments and vast farmlands in western Weber will be replaced by housing units.