Every Wednesday, the Salt Lake Board of Realtors takes its agents for ride - literally.

Ten years ago, real estate agents would caravan to view the properties listed on the Multiple Listing Service.But when gasoline prices escalated, the Realtors decided to rent a bus to get around to the houses. The practice still goes on today, although on a larger scale.

To get a better idea how Realtors know about so many houses I decided to accompany them on a tour of Salt Lake City. I recently met Nancy Peterson, a real estate associate for Preferred Properties, at the Salt Lake board office, 2970 E. 3300 South, on a rather chilly day for a tour of homes.

Because it was during the holidays, there was only one bus - more than ample for the handful of agents who wanted to show other agents the properties they were pushing.

Peterson said a normal Wednesday consists of three buses leaving from the board office and five buses leaving from 7200 S. 200 West. Once a month, a bus comes from Davis County.

Generally, buses go to certain areas of the valley to view homes in the same general price range, but on the day I accompanied the Realtors we saw houses ranging in price from $44,900 to $250,000.

Companies who list homes with the Multiple Listing Service can pay $10 for a bus ride so their agent can explain to other agents the features of the home they are selling and take them inside for a look. If an agent sells a home listed by another company the two agents split the commission, Peterson explained.

Doug Winder, a broker with Ulrich Realtors, has often taken his fellow employees on the bus tours so they all can try to sell a house. "We try to maximize the exposure that will result in a sale," he said.

While traveling to our first house, Winder said the items people are interested in these days are a family room on the main floor, a bathroom off the master bedroom, garages and, in higher-priced homes, hot tubs and bathtubs equipped with whirlpools.

Peterson said the real estate market in the Salt Lake area has turned around in recent months, evidenced by the latest Multiple Listing Service book shrinking from 1,200 pages to 715 pages with 12 homes per page. There is a picture of each house listed and explanation of the features, the price and who to contact.

What prompts people to sell their homes? Peterson said there are many reasons, but the most common are young couples wanting to move up to a larger house, older people wanting condominium living because their children are raised and people being transferred out-of-state with their jobs.

We arrived at the first house and the listing agent passed out some literature about the house as we left the bus. It was English Tudor-style with a total of 1,644 square feet and an asking price of $81,500. Agent Ron Jensen of Wood Realtor lead the group on a quick inspection of the house, the main floor and the basement.

And so it goes. The group sees all types of houses, quite old and fairly new, some with hardwood floors and some with carpet, some where the owners are still there and others that are empty.

Back in the bus, Peterson said it's an agent's responsibility to advise the owners on how best to present a house for the best chance of a sale. Obviously, cleanliness and order make the best impressions.

The group wound up its tour with visits to two higher-priced homes, a $189,500 number at 2871 E. County Road and a $250,000 house at 2025 E. Lincoln Lane. After these, it was back to the Salt Lake Board of Realtors building and then to work for the Realtors who had to try to sell the houses they'd just seen.