JACKSON - The number of property sales throughout Teton County in northwest Wyoming tumbled more than 50 percent last year.
According to information from the Teton County Multiple Listing Service, Teton County saw 305 sales during 2008 compared with 616 in 2007. The listing service is a coordinated list of property transactions shared among most in the real estate business in town.
"While the drop in transactions from 2007 to 2008 is even greater than in years past, it's certainly in line with what's happening economically on a national and global scale," Brett McPeak, president of the Teton Board of Realtors, said in an e-mail.
The latest data show Jackson Hole's housing market continues to shift with the global credit crisis and slumping economy.
McPeak said there have been downturns in the local real estate market before.
In 1999, for example, the county had a banner year, with 732 sales recorded through the MLS.
"In 2000, transactions fell some 19 percent followed by another 22 percent drop in 2001 as the dot-com bubble burst and 9/11 put everyone on their heals," McPeak wrote. "Obviously, things came back and pushed the regional real estate market to even greater heights."
Tim Mayo, managing broker and owner with Art Hazen Real Estate, said he wasn't surprised to see a reduction in sales.
"The unraveling of our national and international economies created the worst form of destabilizing economic factor: fear," he said.
But Mayo pointed out that the number of sales is a "moving target" and can change due to amount of inventory, world events and economic conditions.
"The best measure of a market's health is not the number of sales from year to year but the number of sales compared to available inventories," he said.
In 2007 there was a decline in the number of sales from 2006 and 2005, but the decline was due to short inventory supply, he said.
It's also important to remember that 70 percent of the residential sales in Teton County fall in the category of less than $1.5 million, so the market is subject "to the whims of the mortgage industry," Mayo said.
The bigger news is the evolving reset in real estate values, he said.
"Not even the 1980s produced a significant overall decline in values," he said. "Make no mistake, real estate values are now measurably below the high bar established in 2007."
Greg Prugh, owner of Prugh Real Estate, said now is a good time to find a deal. "The days of flipping (a house or condo) in a year or less are over for the foreseeable future," he said.
Instead, there's an abundance of homes for sale in the valley. In Jackson, there's 65,000 square feet of commercial space available for lease, he said.
With prices for gas, steel, aluminum and timber down by as much as 50 percent, it's less expensive to build, which translates to lower property values on existing homes, he said.
"We're seeing an opportunity where we haven't been able to build this inexpensively in seven years," he said.
Judy Raymond, an agent with Teton Village Realty, said she's confident that Jackson Hole will be one of the first markets to bounce back.
"There's pent-up demand for Jackson Hole," she said.