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California and the West

Utah leads in home price growth

The state's 18% gain is more than double the U.S. average. California shows a rise of 4.6% in the fourth quarter.

March 02, 2007|From Bloomberg News

The real estate boom has gone West. And Northwest.

The state with the fastest-growing home prices in the fourth quarter was Utah, at 18%, more than double the U.S. average, a government report showed Thursday. Wyoming was No. 2 at 14.3% and Idaho was third at 14%. Washington gained 13.7%, and Oregon was fifth at 13.5%.

California came in at No. 35, with a gain of 4.6%, compared with 21% a year earlier.

Nationally, the real estate market stagnated, with a gain of 5.87% from a year earlier, the slowest pace since 1999, the Washington-based Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight said. The report doesn't give an average price, only the percentage change. The West and Northwest benefited from strong job markets, more affordable housing, population growth and vacation home sales.

"As long as we have job growth here, nothing will slow us down," said Gary Cannon, the co-owner of Re/Max Associates in Salt Lake City and president of the Salt Lake Board of Realtors.

Utah's unemployment rate was 2.7% in January, below the national rate of 4.6%, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services. The average home sales price in Utah in 2006 rose 14% to $251,413 from $219,746 in 2005, according to the Utah Assn. of Realtors.

In December, Wyoming's unemployment rate was 3% and Idaho's was 3.2%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Washington and Oregon lagged at 5% and 5.4%, respectively.

Strength in the energy and mining industries has boosted Wyoming's housing market.

Prices in Oregon are also starting to rebound.

"We have been kind of behind the curve on the price increases around the nation," said Art Kegler, the president of the Oregon Assn. of Realtors and owner of American West Properties, based in Boardman, Ore.

Boise, Idaho, has seen its population increase as people from Nevada, Arizona and California move to the state, said Andy Green of Keller Williams Boise and Green Group.

Green said the pace of sales has slowed in Boise over the last year and "prices have not been appreciating at the rate they were."

The fastest-growing markets during the five-year real estate boom that ended in 2005 didn't make it to the top 10 in the recent quarter. Florida ranked No. 11, following New Mexico, Montana, and Arizona.

Florida prices grew 9.5%, slowing from a rate of 27% in 2005's fourth quarter. New Jersey prices gained 5.8% and New York grew 4.9%. Massachusetts was the slowest growing state, with a gain of 0.45%. Prices fell in one state, Michigan.

"The data shows that, on the whole, prices are still rising, albeit at a much slower pace," Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight Director James Lockhart said in the report.

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