The real estate bust that has been making headlines all across the country has turned around in Utah County.

Gary Tate, president of the Utah County Board of Realtors, said, "The Utah County market is as strong as it has been in 12 years, and in the past two years the market has really turned around."Housing prices have strengthened by 10 to 15 percent, Tate said, and the prices for lots are up considerably. "We're quite pleased with the market.

"It is neither a buyer's or seller's market," said Tate. "Both the buyer and seller are on equal footing."

For first-time buyers, Tate said the market is good. Interest rates are stabilizing. The market for starting homes, or homes in the lower end of the price range, is very strong. There are not as many homes in the inventory as there were in slower days.

The market for homes in the $75,000 to $150,000 range is the strongest, said Tate. The middle-market range has profited from people with professional-level incomes moving into the area to take jobs with firms like WordPerfect and Novell.

The top of the market is always the slowest, but there has also been more movement in the high end lately. "There is more money in Utah County than there has ever been," Tate said.

The boom is keeping lenders busy. First Colony Mortgage Vice President Scott Shelley said, "I would say we've been busier than anytime since '86." In 1986, most of the activity was in refinancing as the interest rates were lower than they had been in years, he said.

"I've been doing mortgages for 10 years," Shelley said, adding the last year has seen the most new mortgages. He said Provo is the strongest market in the area and foreclosures are down all over the county. FHA repossessions sell as quickly as they hit the market, said Shelley. The inventory of such homes is very low.

Darcia Day, an escrow agent for Provo Land Title, said "I think we're probably in a seller's market. In the last year, house prices have gone up slightly, and housing inventories are down."