Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, spoke Friday in Utah.

Despite the housing-market difficulties around the country and in some areas of Utah, a national real-estate analyst is optimistic about the present and future performance of the Beehive State's market.

Speaking Friday to an audience at the Rocky Mountain Resort Alliance conference in Park City, National Association of Realtors chief economist Lawrence Yun said that Utah's housing situation is much better than the circumstances in many other states.

"The state of Utah is fundamentally healthier than other markets," Yun said. "In the state as a whole, prices are not falling, though in certain neighborhoods, prices may be declining."

Subprime loans have been a key component of the national housing downturn, even though they are a small percentage of Utah's and the nation's overall loan portfolio, he said.

Yun said that subprime borrowers make up about 10 percent of all homeowners nationwide, but represent approximately half of all foreclosures. In Utah, 23 percent of mortgage holders are subprime borrowers, but they account for 4.84 percent of foreclosures.

Wells Fargo economist Kelly Matthews, in an interview, agreed with Yun's assessment of the nation's housing market for the most part, but Matthews believes subprime mortgages account for 25 percent to 33 percent of foreclosures nationwide.

Regarding the possibility of a sharp increase in foreclosures similar to those in other national markets, Yun said that as long as Utah's economy continues to generate jobs, it should minimize any fallout from the subprime lending debacle.

"The second factor to look for is home prices, which are holding on very well in Utah," Yun said. If home prices stabilize and do not decline, that will lessen any foreclosure pressures.

"Prices are holding on much better in Utah, hence lessening the foreclosure pressure," he said. "Furthermore, there is strong job growth in Utah compared to the rest of the country."

Yun, along with Matthews, said the strong employment market is what enables the state's housing market and economy to remain stable.

"We have and continue to have a better economy than Arizona or Nevada or Southern California," Matthews said. "We didn't create as big a bubble, so we didn't have as much increase going up and don't have to have as much pain or adjustment coming down as those other areas."

Yun said the future looks bright for Utah because of the number of people who are migrating into the state, including baby boomers wanting to spend their golden years in some of Utah's resort towns.

"We see some trends of wealthier retirees wanting to move to Utah, and that's another positive for the state," he said. "Fundamentally, the long term, with people migrating into Utah and job creation being very solid, is very good."


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