Kevin Shorter via Flickr
The Utah Association of Realtors issued a report showing almost 33,000 home sales in 2011.

SANDY — Home sales in Utah last year rose to their highest levels in three years, according to a new report from the Utah Association of Realtors. The report indicated that nearly 33,000 homes sold in 2011, up almost 9 percent from 2010 and at least 5 percent from each of the past three years.

Since last July, statewide sales have climbed for seven straight months, with sales increasing dramatically in several counties, including Uintah — up 33 percent, Wasatch — up 21.4 percent, Washington — up almost 12 percent and Utah — which had a nearly 11 percent hike in sales.

"We're seeing higher sales because of increased homebuyer confidence, affordable home prices, stronger employment and record-low interest rates," said Lori Chapman, president of the Utah Association of Realtors.

The report indicated that single-family homes had the highest sales increases for the year, climbing more than 10 percent compared to 1 percent for condominiums and townhomes. Additionally, pending sales — which measure contracts that have been signed to buy properties — were up more than 11 percent in 2011 compared to 2010.

"Based on these figures and recent forecasts, we expect the trend of rising sales to continue into this year," Chapman said. "In Salt Lake, homes sales are expected to rise 15 percent in 2012."

Meanwhile, as home sales rose during 2011, housing supply was absorbed, the report stated. Inventory levels were down nearly 24 percent at the end of December, with the 20,243 homes listed for sale representing a 7.2-month supply of inventory — down more than 31 percent from the 10.5-month level in 2010.

"The effect of the steep inventory drop was to bring supply and demand more in line," Chapman explained. "Traditionally, a market is balanced between buyers and sellers when the inventory represents a supply of about six months."

Supply was particularly tight in the low price ranges, the report said.

For homes priced at or below $150,000, the supply of inventory was at 5.9 months, while the supply for properties in the $150,001 to $200,000 category, supply was at 6.1 months.

Prices were down about 8 percent in 2011 compared to 2010 with the statewide median sales price of homes sold at $174,900.

The average sales price also declined about 8 percent for the year to $224,526.

"While prices remained weak in 2011, the reduced supply and increased demand suggest that trend will not continue," Chapman said. "A new (national) report predicts Utah home prices will have increased by the end of summer, with the state having the seventh-highest appreciation in the country."