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Last week, site-selection executives from the nation's largest corporations placed Salt Lake City among the top five metropolitan areas in the nation as likely locations for corporate expansion and relocation through the rest of this decade. That ranking would seem to indicate that Salt Lakers can expect more people, more jobs and increased values for their homes.

But this week, Money magazine says in its July issue that metro Salt Lake City will be the worst in the nation - number 50 in a list of 50 - in the amount of depreciation Salt Lake area residential real estate will suffer in coming years."Salt Lake City is likely to be the biggest loser," says Money in an article titled "What's Ahead for Home Prices?" "Slow population and job growth should combine to keep (Salt Lake) home prices 2.58 points behind inflation over the next three years."

Salt Lake City is the worst among 19 cities where Money says homes are expected to lose value. The other 31 cities are projected to show after-inflation gains in home values ranging from 0.12 percent to 7.32 percent.

"It's ludicrous. It goes against everything we are experiencing here," said Al Mansell, broker for real estate agency Mansell and Associates, when asked about the Money survey, conducted by the WEFA Group, an economic forecasting firm based in Bala Cynwyd, Pa.

"Depending on location, we are seeing a 6 percent to 12 percent inflation rate on housing and there don't seem to be any forces at work that would cause our economy to collapse and change that," said Mansell, who is regional vice president of the National Association of Realtors.

Nick Scott, executive vice president of the Salt Lake Board of Realtors, agrees. "We can't say what is going to happen to the economy in others parts of the country, but it looks good here. If we had more homes (for sale) we could sell them. The total listings right now are just 6,000, probably 3,000 below our average."

Scott said he does not anticipate "stratospheric growth" in home values in coming years, "but we're not looking at a decline, either. Salt Lake City is in much better shape than other parts of the company."

Russ Behrmann, spokesman for the Utah Department of Community and Economic Development, concurs with that view.

"Based on the figures and projections we have, (Money's ranking) has no justification or basis. Their numbers are very strange," said Behrmann.

He said out-migration in Utah stopped abruptly in 1991. There was a net in-migration for the year and further increases are projected for 1992. One reason is that Utah's job growth has been above the national rate.

Behrmann said recent growth in local per-capita and household income also would seem to indicate that more people will be "moving up" in housing with resulting price increases. In any case, Behrmann said the survey's contention that Salt Lake will lose population makes no sense.

"The one thing you can bank on in Utah is the birth rate, and ours is high enough to represent significant growth even if in-migration stopped."

The biggest winner in Money's survey is Chicago, where median-priced homes - said to be $131,000 vs. $73,200 in Salt Lake City - are expected to rise in value an inflation-adjusted 7.32 percent by 1995. Baltimore and Cleveland share second place with projections of 3.72 percent increases.

The U.S. median, says the study, is for a projected 2.52 percent increase.

Other than Salt Lake City, only two other metro areas - San Diego and Phoenix - are expected to see their home values decline more than 2 percent over the next three years. Both are projected to lose 2.28 percent after inflation.