Sales of single-family homes moved up in the last three months of 1997, the first quarterly increase since July, August and September of 1996.
The Utah Association of Realtors reported Monday that home sales rose 7.68 percent in the fourth quarter over the same period a year earlier.Average sales prices also increased, up 7.32 percent over the fourth quarter of 1996.
UAR president Nancy Davis termed the increase "substantial" and cited low interest rates and the state's strong economy as the major reasons for the sales hike.
"To see these numbers during the fourth quarter, traditionally our slowest quarter of the year, is very impressive," said Davis.
Equally impressive was the rise in prices. The average price of a single family home at year's end was $152,071, a $10,370 increase from 12 months earlier.
A more modest 1.33 percent increase was measured in the fourth quarter over the third quarter of 1997.
Nationally, the Commerce Department on Tuesday reported sales of new single-family homes tumbled 9.7 percent in December, the sharpest monthly drop in more than two years.
The retreat came after a November gain that was the highest in 11 years and still left sales for 1997 at a 19-year high. The 800,000 new homes sold last year marked a 5.7 percent rise from 1996 and the highest total since 817,000 in 1978.
Davis said the increases measured by the various boards of Realtors were fairly consistent throughout the state.
She said more than half of the 14 boards showed an increase in sales and 12 of the 14 reported increases in average sales prices.
"These figures indicate that real estate is a sound investment right now and should continue to be for the foreseeable future," she said.
Here is how the 14 boards of Realtors fared in the fourth quarter last year compared to the same period a year ago:
Salt Lake County: A total of 2,185 single family homes were sold, up 6.59 percent, with an average sales price of $164,270, up 8.06 percent; 323 condominiums (one unit fewer than a year ago) sold at an average price of $119,752, an increase of 6.33 percent.
Utah County - 598 homes were sold, down 7.72 percent, at an average sales price of $139,054, up 4.01 percent.
Park City - 141 homes were sold, down 15.06 percent, and there were 184 condo sales, up 64.29 percent. Average house selling price was $375,006, up 2.20 percent, and average condo price was $270,856, up 3.93 percent.
Wasatch County - 24 home sales, down 29.41 percent. Average price was $186,017, up 0.36 percent.
Ogden - Home sales totaled 931, up 26.84 percent. Average price was $125,787, up 15.01 percent.
Tooele County - Sales totaled 117, up 48.1 percent. Price averaged $114,857, up 6.6 percent.
Brigham/Tremonton - Eighty-two homes were sold, down 5.75 percent. Average price was $106,531, up 6.59 percent.
Washington County - House sales totaled 204, down 9.73 percent while 106 condos sold, down 17.83 percent. Average house price was $130,880, up 9.03 percent while average condo price was $118,726, up 7.07 percent.
Cache/Rich - A total of 141 homes sold, up 16.53 percent. Average price was $105,887, down 12.46 percent.
Uintah Basin - Sixty-five homes were sold, up 25 percent, for an average price of $85,042, up 30.68 percent.
Carbon/Emery - Forty-one homes sold, up 10.81 percent. Average price was $88,684, up 13.43 percent.
Central Utah - Forty-seven homes sold, up 67.86 percent. Average price was $76,232, up 2.94 percent.
Grand/San Juan - Eighteen homes sold, down 33.33 percent, for an average price of $106,667, down 1.34 percent.
Iron County - 110 homes sold, up 30.95 percent, for an average of $110,941, up 16.42 percent.