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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News
A resident enters the Northgate Apartments at The Gateway. Downtown condominiums are becoming increasingly attractive to many of the state's residents who want shorter commutes.

The Utah housing market is one of the strongest in the nation, and that trend is especially evident in Salt Lake City's thriving condominium market.

In the past year, the average sales-price increase in the 11 zip-code areas for Salt Lake City ranged from a modest 4 percent in the east-side Emigration Canyon area to a whopping 103 percent in the Foothill/Parleys area.

More than half of the zip codes in Salt Lake City saw an increase in condo sales prices in the range of 10 percent to 20 percent, said Babs De Lay, a real estate agent for Urban Utah Homes and Estates.

"This kind of real estate was undervalued here for many years and a worthy alternative purchase for first-time buyers who can't afford homes," she said. But prices have increased so much now, she said, that "you take an area like Glendale or Rose Park, and you take a look at how much property values went up, affordable housing is really hard to find."

The 2007 sales statistics were compiled from the Wasatch Front Regional Multiple Listing Service.

Lower-priced condos in the Poplar Grove/Glendale area rose 32 percent during 2007, and the Rose Park/West Point/Jordan Meadows area saw sales prices rise 30 percent.

A buyer who found a condo for $85,000 a year ago at 6 percent interest and 100 percent financing had a principal and interest payment of $509 per month, said De Lay. Now, a buyer would have to pay about $105,000 for the same condo at $629 per month with the same financing.

The largest jump in sales prices was in the Foothill/Parleys area, with a one-year rise of 103 percent. The second-highest sales increase was in the Capitol Hill/Avenues area, with a 39 percent increase.

Two condominiums in Salt Lake City last year sold for $1 million. One was located at 54 B Street in the Avenues, and the other was a Broadway Loft penthouse on 300 South downtown.

De Lay said prices may increase even further as condo projects now under construction are completed this year and next year, including The Metro near Library Square and The Marmalade, which will compete with other high-end projects like the condos at The Gateway.

Among the reasons for the hike in the Salt Lake City condo market is the area's booming downtown business development, which is helping change the city's overall demographic, according to Carla Weise, economic development director of the Downtown Alliance.

She said the demographic of Salt Lake City is changing due to heavy in-migration as new residents move for work-related reasons. She added those people are often more used to living in an urban environment.

Wells Fargo economist Kelly Matthews said that an increasing number of Utahns are looking for an alternative to a family home in suburbia.

"There is certainly a larger group of people not as worried about having a large family right away who recognize a long commute is just an impossibility," he said.

Weise said that condo ownership also allows people to have more flexibility in their lives.

"As people become more mobile and are traveling more, it's nice to be able to have a place that you don't have to worry about," she said.

She also said the Salt Lake area is now attracting a hip, younger crowd who prefer the spoils of city life.

"They like urban living, art, culture, entertainment, the night life," she said, "and being able to walk to a Jazz game, being able to walk to a restaurant or hop on TRAX and go up to a Utes game."

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