The American Dream of home ownership is alive and well in Utah. According to the 1990 census, Utah boasts a 75.1 percent rate of home ownership - the highest in the nation.

The Salt Lake Board of Realtors is celebrating this tradition with American Home Week, April 14-20."The week gives us a chance to recognize the privilege and right to own property," said Doug Richards, president of the Realtors' board. "In the Salt Lake area, home sales have reached their highest point in 10 years, mortgage rates are low and the real estate market has been energized."

In honor of American Home Week, the Salt Lake Board of Realtors is sponsoring free home-buying and selling seminars and a valleywide open house weekend.

- Seminars will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, April 16 and 17, at the Salt Lake Board of Realtors auditorium, 1970 E. 3300 South, 7 p.m. Local experts will provide advice and answer questions about preparing for a house hunt, selling a home, financing and title insurance.

Brief presentations will be given by Alta Earl, vice president, First Federal Savings Bank; Joyce Williams, assistant vice president, First Federal Savings Bank; Walt VandenBurg, executive vice president, Associated Title Company; Sue Christensen, founding partner of The Ramsey Group.

- Hundreds of homes for sale throughout the Salt Lake Valley will be open to the public Saturday and Sunday, April 20 and 21, from 1 to 5 p.m. To find specific details about homes for sale, check the classified ad section of this newspaper.


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Gauge whether the time is right to stop renting

"Be it ever so humble," as the song says, "there is no place like home."

But what is the best way to obtain the type of housing you want for your family?

Today, the majority of families in the United States are homeowners. Many who rent wait impatiently for the right time to buy or build. Both renting and owning offer advantages and disadvantages, says Randy Eagar, first vice president of the Salt Lake Board of Realtors.

"From a financial standpoint, it makes sense to become a homeowner instead of a renter when what you pay out in rent exceeds what you would pay out in a mortgage payment less the tax savings. On the other hand, it makes sense to rent when you can live in better surroundings for less money."

According to the Household Finance Corporation, you may want to rent when:

- You cannot estimate future housing needs.

- You want to become familiar with a new community before investing in a house.

- You expect to move soon and/or frequently.

- You do not have enough money for the down payment, closing costs and other expenses involved in buying a home.

- You do not want the responsibilities of home ownership.

- You can find better housing for the amount you can afford to pay by renting.

You may want to buy or build when:

- You can realistically estimate future housing needs.

- You know where you want to live.

- You expect to be in the same location for a number of years.

- You can make an adequate down payment, arrange a suitable mortgage and pay closing costs and other expenses involved in buying or building a home.

- You want to own a house and welcome responsibilities that go with it.

In considering whether it is time to purchase a house, be sure to consider all the costs involved, says Eagar. "Some people get into a home and realize they're in way over their heads. Typically, this is because they forget the responsibilities of home ownership such as repairs and maintenance."

You will also want to take a good look at the market.

In the Salt Lake area the real estate market is currently on the upswing, he says. "Sales were up 13 percent for the first quarter of this year over last year. And sales were up 28 percent over two years ago. Condo sales were also up 14 percent for the first quarter of 1991."

The average price of homes sold during the first quarter of the year in the Salt Lake area was $83,868 - an increase of two percent over last year. The average price for condos was $64,004.

Home buyers come from all different socioeconomic groups. "From what I hear agents saying," says Eagar, "more single people are buying homes these days, partially because of the need to shelter income. More young professionals are purchasing larger homes. But more retired people are buying smaller homes for cash and investing the balance of their larger equities."

Eagar expects the investment potential in owning of home will continue to increase. But, he says, remember that the financial commitments are often offset by the emotional benefits of homeownership.


Groups aid buyers

Here are some of the agencies and organizations that can provide help and information for first-time and low-income homebuyers:

- Salt Lake Board of Realtors, 2970 E. 3300 South, Salt Lake City, 486-4465. A professional trade organization representing 2,220 realtors in the greater Salt Lake area. Members automatically have access to hundreds of homes for sale through the organization's multiple listing service and can use this computer network to pinpoint homes according to style, location and price range.

The board offers brochures on buying and selling homes. For free copies, write to the address above.

- Utah Housing Finance Agency, 177 E. 100 South, Salt Lake City, 521-6950. This agency administers the Mortgage Revenue Bond Program, to help moderate- to low-income families purchase homes at significantly lower interest rates than conventional means. Prospective homebuyers must fill out an application. Purchase price of the home and applicant's income are prime considerations. Qualified applicants generally earn around 85 percent of the median income and have exhausted other means of home buying.

The Utah Housing Finance Agency works with all lending institutions, realtors and developers.

- Housing and Urban Development (HUD), 324 South State, Salt Lake City, 524-5241. HUD is responsible for the administration of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insured loan program. Lower down payments and lower interest rates characterize FHA insured loans. To acquire an FHA loan, you work directly with the lender.

HUD is also responsible for the sale of HUD homes, which are foreclosed FHA insured homes.

- Salt Lake County Housing Authority Rehabilitation Division, 1962 S. 200 East, Salt Lake City, 487-0191.

This agency administers the Home Ownership Program or Homesteading Program. The homes in this program are generally HUD foreclosures. Homebuyers' financial responsibility in the purchase of these homes is the repayment of a low-interest, low-payment loan obtained through the Housing Authority for renovations to the home to bring it up to standard. The loan carries a 20-year note, similar to a mortgage. Upon completion of the repairs, the buyer must live in the home a minimum of five years then is free to re-sell, if desired.

- Habitat For Humanity, 3761 S. 700 East, Salt Lake City, 266-6748. Habitat for Humanity is an ecumenical, non-profit organization that builds, renovates and upgrades homes that people can buy with 500 hours of sweat equity and $250 a month for 20 years with no interest. Participants must not be able to qualify for home purchase through any other means and must currently live in substandard conditions. Applicants must also take a course from the Consumer Credit Counseling Service.

- Salt Lake Neighborhood Housing Services, 1268 W. 500 North, Salt Lake City, 539-1590. This agency provides low-interest loans to help low- and moderate-income families in targeted neighborhoods rehabilitate their homes. Area currently targeted for their services is 500 West to the Jordan River (1600 West) and North Temple to 600 North.


Hammer flaws into flourishes: Remodel home

Should you remodel your home instead of buying a new one?

Should you buy a house that isn't as nice as you'd like and plan to remodel later?

Should you remodel in hopes of increasing its salability?

These are questions to consider carefully, says Mark Stevens, president of the Utah Association of CPAs. "With expenditures expected to top $114.4 billion next year, remodeling is the wave of the future. Americans will probably spend more in the 1990s to remodel their present homes than to build or purchase new ones."

But, he advises, before you decide to transform your home into a palace, make a careful assessment of its current condition.

It's wise to fix a leaky roof or drooping gutters before you embark on expensive remodeling jobs. While these repairs do not increase the cost basis of your home or decrease the taxable profits when you sell it, they may protect your investment and enhance the possibility of resale.

Before you make personal-choice home improvements, says Stevens, it is also a good idea to consider the architectural character of your neighborhood. You may think that a hot tub would be a marvelous addition to your home. But would such an addition be out of place with the other homes in the neighborhood?

"Regardless of the improvements made to your property, the resale price will rarely be more than 15 percent above the prevailing value of homes in your neighborhood," says Stevens.

If you are concerned about recovery costs on your investment, consider these figures: The return on investment for a sunroom or greenhouse is around 5 to 20 percent; for skylights 0 to 30 percent. However, the return on investment for an additional room is around 70 to 90 percent; an additional bathroom 75 to 100 percent; and a deck 65 to 75 percent.