If you think real estate in the Salt Lake area is expensive, Coldwell Banker may have a surprise for you. According to CB Residential Group, local housing costs, while not the cheapest in the nation, are downright bargains compared to many areas of the country.

CB has just completed its annual Home Price Comparison Index and Salt Lake falls well below the median in the cost of a house that would typically be bought by the "average corporate middle-management executive" transferred to Utah.CB's subject property is a single-family home of about 2,200 square feet with four bedrooms, 21/2 baths, a family room (or equivalent) and a two-car garage.

That house, says CB, costs $122,800 in the Salt Lake area, well below the median price for the United States and Canada of $199,036.

True, you can buy the subject house for less money in Corpus Christi ($82,338, the lowest in the nation); Memphis, Tenn. ($97,293); Boise ($105,375) or even Denver ($120,025.

Conversely, you can pay a lot more for that four-bedroom bungalow in Beverly Hills ($1.49 million, the priciest in the United States); San Francisco ($615,000); Honolulu ($506,250); Hartford, Conn. ($249,667); Albuquerque ($140,986); Las Vegas ($133,572) or Cheyenne, Wyo. ($136,000).

And, yes, everywhere in California, even Temecula ($194,667) and Fresno ($143,850), is more expensive to buy that house than is Salt Lake City.

Generally speaking, the survey indicates you will get more for your money in the central states where the subject house can be bought for under $100,000 in such cities as Fort Smith, Ark.; Kansas City, Kan.; Omaha; Tulsa and Jackson, Mich.

On the other hand, prepare to shell out more than $500,000 for those same modest digs (2,200 square feet is no mansion) if you find yourself house hunting in Newport Beach, San Marino, Palos Verdes or La Jolla, Calif. Greenwich, Conn. is the only eastern market to top the half-million-dollar mark.The CB index also tracks how long it takes their middle-level executive house to sell in various parts of the country. Salt Lake falls about in the middle.

One half of the 219 markets surveyed require fewer than 90 days to sell the subject property. Those hot-selling areas include Las Vegas, Reno, Santa Fe, Denver, Colorado Springs and Tucson in the West. Another 40 percent required 91-180 days to sell the subject property. They include Salt Lake City, Boise, Riverside and Palos Verdes, Calif., Fort Collins, Colo.; Cheyenne, Wyo. and Little Rock, Ark.

Only 10 percent of the markets required more than 181 days, including Beverly Hills (apparently $1.5 million for 2,200 square feet is a hard sell); Scottsdale, Ariz.; Tallahassee, Fla; Monmouth, N.J. and Topeka, Kan., among others.

Some areas of the country are experiencing a soft market right now, with lower housing prices reflected in several regions.

"After a decade of unprecedented price appreciation, we feel home prices are now becoming more affordable," said CB Residential Chairman Chandler Barton. "And with today's more attractive interest rates, we believe right now is one of the best times to buy a home."