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RURAL LIFE: HOUSING PRICES GOING UP AS OUT-OF-TOWN BUYERS SNAP UP LAND OR HOMES.

The concept of maintaining country roots has caught on with young professionals, but it's often not the local progeny who come calling - they can't afford it.

Along the state's sunbelt, housing for first-time buyers is nearly out of reach for those working for rural-based wages. Young farmers looking for agricultural land find inflated prices based on the interest of prospective, out-of-state buyers."Even in the last six months, I'd say homes have increased in value," said Kanab real-estate agent Amy Sorensen. "In Kanab, where you figure you would find a nice, middle-income home in the high '70s, now you're looking anywhere from $80,000 to $90,000."

The people buying homes in the area are usually retired or looking to relocate from other Utah or out-of-state cities that have grown too big. "A lot of Californians, of course," Sorensen said. "We're starting to see people in places where California hit first (such as St. George and Cedar City). Things have changed so it wasn't like it used to be."

Sorensen and Realtors statewide joke that they could tell war stories about the log of calls received almost daily from out-of-towners looking for property or homes.

"They want things we just don't have," she said. "They want a larger parcel to live on year-round . . . Of course, they want a stream running through it."

Sometimes buyers luck out. One couple relocating from Cedar City recently purchased a parcel of land near Glendale, Kane County, that was previously pasture or grazing land.

"They're laying in all the utilities," Sorensen said. "They wanted a larger living space."

It's with those tracts of land that the change is most evident. Property previously used for pasture or grazing once provided a several-mile separation between communities, requiring residents to be more self-sufficient and causing the character differences evident among the towns.

More realistic now is a string of large-acre developments that stretch for miles outside each community.

"That's pretty much the case all along the (Bear) Lake," said Rich County deputy clerk Billy Cornia. "Every place over there at the lake has changed from agricultural to recreational."

Despite a 1990 census of less than 200 year-round residents in Garden City, located 40 miles from Logan, town clerk Carmen Madsen sends out 700 water bills. Most go to people who own summer homes in the area.

In Wayne County in southeastern Utah, the picture is much the same. The county lists 662 full-time homes and 228 secondary residences, mostly cabins or summer cottages.

"An awful lot of them are from out of county," said deputy treasurer/recorder Colleen Brinkerhoff. "It seems to me like they'll take anything they can get."

A newcomer to the area likely couldn't find an empty rental or home for sale in Loa, treasurer Loma Blackburn said.

"Ten or 12 years ago, we had vacant homes all over in Loa, now there's not one to be found," she said.

In Piute County, the county seat of Junction is a prime example of native Utah architecture, a detail not lost of the passersby and prospective buyers. Old homes there are routinely snatched up for renovation, with the owners spending the odd week in town cleaning up their property.

"You can't even pick up up a home, they've all been bought up by people out of the county who don't even live here," said Afton Jensen, Junction town clerk.

Junction city sends out 116 water bills, mostly out of town. Jensen said she wonders if the trend is a result of "something disastrous happening in the city or if they just want to live out in the country."

In either case, it's a reflection of change in the state's rural regions that is inevitable, many believe.

"All in all, it's not going to be the same as it used to be," Blackburn said.