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Homes in the Salt Lake-Ogden metropolitan area are selling faster, prices are increasing and fewer properties are sitting on the market compared with last year.

Nationally, the picture is similar.

Lower inventories, combined with somewhat higher median list prices, suggest that the housing market at the end of the 2012 homebuying season is in better shape than it was a year ago, according to data from a report released Monday by the National Association of Realtors' website,

Overall, numbers for Utah's largest metro area, the only one in the state included in the report, are better than the national market.

Median prices for homes in Salt Lake City-Ogden hit $214,900 in September — a 7.5 percent jump from a year ago and a 1.37 percent bump from August. The national median price in September was $191,500, a 0.78 percent increase compared with the same period last year.

The rise in the median price locally also was reflected earlier in the summer when a second-quarter report from Realtors in a five-county area along the Wasatch Front showed that prices from Ogden to Provo collectively were up for the first time in five years.

"This means the Utah market has turned around," said Sandy Straley, of the National Association of Realtors and a broker for SunView Homes/Rindlesbach Homes in Salt Lake City. "It's a good market."

Housing inventory along the northern Wasatch Front leveled out at 6,436 units, a 29 percent decrease. National inventory totaled 1.8 million, for a 17.77 percent decline compared with a year ago.

In addition, the median age of inventory in the Salt Lake City-Ogden metro area in September was 67 days, down 22 percent from a year ago. Nationally, the median age of inventory was 95 days, down 11.2 percent.

Pent-up demand and historically low mortgage rates are among factors driving sales and prices.

Even though average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages ticked up last week from record lows the week before, the rate on the 30-year loan was up to only 3.39 percent from 3.36 percent, which was the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.

The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage edged up to 2.70 percent, from a record low of 2.69 percent the week before.

The 30-year rate has been below 4 percent all year, and rates have fallen even further since the Federal Reserve started buying mortgage bonds in September to encourage more borrowing and spending.

The impact has made for improved housing markets in many metros nationally, although sales figures and prices remain well off pre-recession levels.

Salt Lake-Ogden inched up to 101st — up two slots — for the most searched-for homes out of 146 metropolitan areas.

Chicago came in at No. 1, followed by Detroit, Philadelphia, Los Angeles-Long Beach, Atlanta, Dallas, Tampa, Boston, Phoenix-Mesa and Orlando.

The recovery process continued to gain traction elsewhere in September, with housing price gains in most California markets, as well as other hard-hit metros such as Phoenix, Boise and Seattle.

However, a growing number of older industrialized areas showed signs of weakness, and the gains seen earlier in the 2012 home-buying season in many markets appeared to be moderating.


The Associated Press contributed to this story —

The Salt Lake-Ogden home market

Median price • $214,900 in September, up 7.5 percent from a year ago

Housing inventory •6,436 units, a 29 percent drop from last year

Time on market • 67 days, a 22 percent drop from the same month last year