SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah has one of the highest home ownership rates in the country, but more Utah residents carry mortgages on their homes than the national average, according to a study by the National Association of Realtors.
The study, which was based on 2008 Census and IRS data, found 26.2 percent owned a house in Utah without a mortgage compared with the national average of 31.6 percent.
The study showed that during the same year, home ownership in Utah was 76.2 percent, the second highest in the country.
Home ownership in Utah fell slightly to 72.5 percent in 2010 compared with the national average of 66.9 percent, the Deseret News reported.
Experts attribute Utah's higher rate of home mortgages to its young population. Utah has the youngest median age, the most people per household and the youngest age at first marriage in the country, said Pamela Perlich, a senior research economist at the University of Utah's Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR).
Lori Chapman, president of the Utah Association of Realtors, said Utah families often move into bigger homes as their families grow, and that prolongs the time required to pay down a mortgage.
And because younger families buy newer, starter homes, it often takes a longer time to pay down a mortgage.
James Wood, director of the University of Utah's BEBR, said he expects home prices in Utah to continue to drift down or at best stay level. He said one third or more of home sales along the Wasatch Front involve "short sales" or "real estate owned" sales.
But he's not convinced that Utah residents will sour on home ownership, citing historically low interest rates for borrowing and tax deductions for home ownership that the government provides.
Utah's foreclosure rate of 2.4 percent compared with the 4.4 percent national average, according to the most recent Mortgage Bankers Association report.