Babs De Lay
Besides the NBA finals and your brackets, the two hottest topics these days are affordable housing and tiny homes. First, affordable housing is really two things…what you think you can pay for a roof over your head, and what the government thinks you can/should be able to afford.
The Housing Authority of the County of Salt Lake warns that: “Section 8 housing scams prey on home-seekers and use websites that look like registration sites for Section 8 waiting list lotteries. They take “registration fee” money, personal information and offer a chance to register for the real lottery-since these hopefuls usually don’t know they’ve been scammed until the real waiting list is closed.” Guess what? Salt Lake City AND Salt Lake County have both closed their waiting lists for Section 8 housing. There aren’t any units available for rent.
One new developer here in Salt Lake has put up the Greenprint Apartments on 800 South and 200 West. These micro-unit apartments are 250-350 sq. ft (think hotel room size) and work great for minimalists and rent for $700-800 per month. This is the cheapest new product I have been able to find anywhere in Utah. Salt Lake City does not require developers of rental buildings to make a percentage of the units affordable, but as a builder you can get certain tax incentives to include some in your overall project. Our rental housing inventory in the state is estimated to be down 43-45,000 housing units, and author James Woods recently stated, “For the first time in 40 years, the increase in households in Utah exceeds the number of new housing units.” St. George reports less than a 1% vacancy rate-yike! Low inventory/high rents is a fact in the majority of larger cities in the United States and why we’re seeing more homeless camping in tents and in boxes along the main roads and around shelters.
Second, so why not get a tiny home? Well, zoning wise, they aren’t allowed in most places in the Salt Lake Valley. You can put one in a trailer park, but have to pay $600-800 a month for the rental pad underneath the home. Affordable lots are a thing of the past, with land values going for $65-300,000 per ¼ acre along the Wasatch Front. Portland, Oregon has come up with a great idea, though. “A Place for You” is a new experiment where the city will put a 200 sq. ft. modular unit in your back yard for 5 years. You agree to have it put in your yard and the adult and one or two kids who occupy the place will be under strict rules while living there to keep the place in order, not do illegal drugs, adhere to noise ordinances, etc. After 5 years you get to keep the structure and use it as an accessory dwelling/rental. Win/win!
Salt Lake City and County own a ton of land, which leads me to wonder, why not tiny home villages here subsidized by our tax dollars?
You might be too young to know the reference of ‘Shangri-La’ unless you were a Lit major or an old movie buff. Shangri-La is a mythical place in the mountains of Tibet imagined by James Hilton in his 1933 novel, Lost Horizon. It was perfect paradise cut off from the world, with no violence, no protests, no famines. Many Tibetans today believe it does exist, and even the present Dalai Lama thinks it may be hidden in one astral plain or another. Bali Hai is a real place (mountain in Hawaii) but also a mythical island in the South Pacific where only good things happen. Glocca Morra is a dreamy but fake place in the British Isles, probably Ireland, where everyone is in love and dances the day away. All three places are in great old movies-check ‘em out if you want to live in a perfect world for a minute.
Utah is becoming for some the paradise only Mormons could envision so long ago when Joseph Smith told his fold to head west. For today’s techies, Salt Lake City has just been named #8 on the REALTOR.com list of potential Silicon Valley 2.0 Cities. That list looks at other cities known for big tech companies and trends within the geographic locations and industries, and it’s finding that workers in many traditional tech locales are being priced out of housing and are seeking better areas to live throughout America…and we’re looking good in their eyes. That research is backed up by another report from SmartAsset, a financial tech company that studies what markets are best home buyers polled in their survey. Salt Lake County ranked among the best places in their recent report. DK Eyewitness Travel this month named Salt Lake City #5 and Provo #16 in their list of the ’20 Best U.S. Cities for Making a Fresh Start’. And for senior citizens our fine state ranks #2 among all the states with the lowest proportion of ‘senior isolation’, with 22.5% of seniors living alone (as opposed to places like North Dakota with 32% of seniors living alone). This is according to seniorcare.com.
For those of us already living in the Beehive State, the garden of Eden is still a pretty idyllic place to live, yes? The skiing is fantastic, the red rocks are gorgeous and opportunities for employment are seemingly endless. Yet, the veil is lifting and the smoky mist hiding us from the rest of the world is beginning to make us sick. Our Shangri-La is beginning to bust our seams with traffic congestion, higher housing prices and too many low wage jobs. I’m afraid the secret is out about Utah and the masses are coming.
The definition of comfort is simply the easing or alleviation of a person’s feelings of grief or distress. We all know how to get our own comfort, from a hug of a loved one to a grilled cheese sammich and soup. It may come from a favorite quilt wrapped around you at home on the sofa to the purring of your favorite 4 legged beast. “Comfort animals” have become quite the rage to folks in this decade and sadly they are not so comforting to other folks. But comfort animals are different than assistance animals.
It is rare that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (the Feds) file claims against Utah Landlords. In my 33 years as a real estate broker I can think of about a handful of cases that I’ve read about, so it’s pretty unusual to hear about a new case filing. HUD even does random tests of landlords by sending in phony tenants or buyers to leasing and real estate companies to check that all is in order of the laws of fair housing. In this story, HUD has just announced that the owner and manager of the Pine Cove Apartments at 1243 E. Alameda Avenue has allegedly violated the Fair Housing Act by denying reasonable accommodation requests to potential renters with disabilities. A woman and her 10 pound dog were denied a lease even though she had a doctor’s note prescribing the animal as an emotional support. She was supposedly told by the landlord that other tenants are allergic to dogs or don’t like dogs. The complainant went to the proper authorities who conducted a sting operation at the property and each time it was found that there appeared to be discrimination going on against people with disabilities. The case will go to court and if the landlord is found guilty, they could pay some big bucks in fines.
Anyone can get a certificate on-line that certifies their favorite miniature pig, cat, dog, horse, snake, turtle are their Comfort or Assistance Animals. For a landlord, a letter from a doctor is pretty clear evidence there’s a need for the animal. Know though, that during this time of year when many people travel, airlines have strict rules for your comfort pets when traveling with you. Effective this 2016, Delta Airlines no longer accepts warm blooded animals on flights with an average flight time of greater than 12 hours. If your flight is shorter you can carry on a pet if it can fit under your seat for a onetime $125 fee. Birds can only travel on domestic flights. Larger pets must be shipped in a kennel in the cargo hold for a fee. Seeing eye dogs/guide dogs/assistance dogs are permitted to travel in the cabin on the floor or in an adjoining seat and man, if you’re a landlord, don’t even think you can ban such an animal from your property if a tenant qualifies to lease!
I just got back in the office from a meeting with a 94-year old ex-REALTOR because I had an offer on her condominium. She lives in assisted living and I always bring her ‘biscuits’ (cookies) from Ruby Snap which she adores. I’ve been in the real estate business for 32 years and she too .was in for decades. We both lived through markets where interest rates on home loans were 18% (mid-1980’s) and seller’s markets in the 80’s 90’s and 2007. And we had to laugh because we are currently experiencing yet another seller’s market.
What’s a seller’s market? - In real estate it’s a phenomenon when the inventory of homes and condominiums is very, very low and there’s nothing to buy. It’s like walking into the men’s jeans section of The Gap and only finding three pairs of green khakis size 44/34, you’re a 30/28 and want blue denim. Why is it a seller’s market? - There are many reasons: 1) after the crash of 2008 people were terrified to ever move again; 2) demand is higher than supply because Utah is seeing a huge growth in jobs and businesses moving in (most counties); 3) investors have been buying up short sales and foreclosures like mad throughout the state since the 2007 crash as rental inventory and 4) parents have been seeing an influx of grown children moving back into their homes because affordable rental housing is hard to find. Oh, and speaking of rental housing, my property manager friends ensure me that we are really low in rental possibilities too in the capitol city. Luckily the flux of students moving in and out of rentals around the semester endings and beginnings allows for more units coming and going than the overall vacancy rate of 3% (meaning 97% of rentals are rented!).
What happens to buyers in a seller’s market? - They get run over, beaten up and walked on. To win the game, buyers will need to be aware that any ‘good’ property that hits the market will generally have multiple offers within a day or two. Unless you can pay all cash for a property you better be pre-approved with a local lender. The more earnest money (think ‘deposit’) you’re willing to throw upfront at the sellers, the better. Having your financials in order and having that pre-approval letter in your fist to wave at the seller is absolutely mandatory. And you may have heard it from friends, write a letter to the sellers to accompany your offer. Include a photo of you and the dog, or you and the kids. In multiple offer situations you’ll have to present your ‘highest and best’ bid and sometimes just the photo of that 8-toed cat of yours might win you the home. Really.
The Utah Apartment Association tells us that the vacancy rate for apartments in Salt Lake City right now is 3%. That means that 97% of all rental housing is leased out. That blows if you’re looking for a place to hang your hat, and it’s probably even worse if you have a cat. Most landlords do not like animals as renters which seems odd to me since most people have a cat or dog, right?
Here’s a rundown of apartment buildings in Salt Lake City currently under construction or in the planning phases as of March, 2016:
-165 units on 200 East between 100 & 200 South/Cowboy Partners developers
-277 units on 100 South between 500 & 600 West called ‘Alta Gateway’/Hunter Group developers
-the former ‘Carriage for Hire’ site at 400 West between 200 & 300 South-high end apartments adjacent to the Light Rail station there
-165 Units on 400 West between 400 & 300 South/Garbett Homes
-about 200 units planned for the former Sizzler Steakhouse property at 400 East and 400 South
-110 units on 600 West just south of the North Temple Viaduct/Kier Construction
-158 Units at 260 So. 500 East
-Salt Lake County announced the sale of its property at 600 So. State to Wasatch Development, which plans for a mixed use development of homes and offices/retail
The numbers add up to @ 1800 units under construction in or near the downtown core, which adds to the 2000 or so which have been completed in the past three years here. If you head out a little further south from downtown there’s more plans:
-The Ritz Classic bowling lanes are now closed forever. The 4.11 acres is scheduled to have 289 units built there in the next 1-2 years
-The ‘Habits’ bar/property has been sold to the same buyer who built the Lotus apartments on South Temple. He purchased the bar at 832 E. 3900 South and another piece of property at 3723 So. 900 East and is planning about 60-70 townhomes similar to ones he built on the corner of 1700 South and 900 East.
The Salt Lake Tribune called us recently to ask about all the new condo projects going up in Salt Lake that we knew about. Well, there’s aren’t really any to talk about except the Paragon Station on 300 West and 200 South that is in construction stages right now. Lenders have been very tight on their monies for condo developers but much looser on funds for apartment projects. If you were thinking of buying, lack of inventory is almost as bad as it is with rentals. The average price of a home in Salt Lake County in 2015 was $248,000; Utah County $222,000; David County $229,000 and Weber County $170,000.
It’s always interesting to watch trends in housing regardless if you’re a real estate agent or investor. I’m not talking about the statistics of sales data so much as what kinds of homes are selling and what homes are being built for the current consumer. Maybe you noticed all the articles on living in tree houses, pods, micro-homes and apartments in the last decade? That’s because the economy tanked and people found they couldn’t afford big homes. Fist time buyers were especially hit hard and looked for alternatives. The American Institute of Architects recently reported that ‘home sizes are beginning to turn around, particularly for custom and luxury homes as well as the market for existing homes.’ That pretty much sums it up-the economy gets good again and people look to building their dreams again and spending the bucks to attain them.
Most interesting and impacting to me as a real estate broker is the effect our aging population has on home sales. Seniors who are close to retirement or newly retired are often shedding their homes and downsizing to condos for the attractive ‘lock and leave’ lifestyle. Two of my clients last month sold their homes because their kids and extended families kept moving back in with them and they really wanted to have peace and quiet without the constant noise of grandchildren. Then again, one client moved up so that she could live with her daughter and son in law because her mobility was slowing decreasing and she was beginning to need assistance.
The summer Parade of Homes in the Salt Lake Valley polled people to see what they wanted in a new home, as in their ‘must haves’. Here’s the results:
1) Bigger great rooms to gather family and friends for movies, game nights and holiday get-togethers;
2) Master bathrooms with double sinks, walk-in closets and built in organizers in the closets;
3) Tech features such as remote control door locks, live video feeds of the house to smart phones, alarm systems, etc. Also green features . . . tankless waterheaters, and more energy saving appliances and fixtures;
4) Walk out basements. Oh, and speaking of basements, put in a radon venting system at the time of a new home build-so much cheaper than after the fact when the radon is discovered and you have to get an engineer in to mitigate the levels of gas;
5) High ceilings for better light and mental creativity;
6) Three car garages (because so many people in Utah have ATV’s, boats, bikes and ski equipment);
7) Large kitchen pantry-for Costco items methinks!
8) Central air. It appears that global warming is making the evaporative cooler industry here cool off in unexpected ways.
Utah’s economy is hot hot hot and vacancy rates for apartments, office space and retail space are about as rare as the Steak Tartare at the Paris Bistro. Here’s the good news in what to look forward to in our city…with just a side of sad. Closures bring new beginnings though, right? The gourmet hot dog shop next to Juniors Tavern will now be a Greek souvlaki joint. After 19 years downtown Iggy’s sports bar has shut their doors at the Pioneer Park location. Their lease was up in the Homestead Suites and they opted not to renew. All their other locations along the Wasatch front are doing great. Ken Milo’s ‘DOPO’ Italian restaurant has been closed for months at the Gateway with a sign in the door saying their chef died. The pastry case has had the same sweets molding in the cold case all summer long. ‘Twist’ restaurant and bar has opened in Exchange Place across from Maxfields. Bad Ass Coffee is moving to the vacated deli at the entrance to American Towers Condos.
That aweful fenced-up eyesore just east of the Bourbon House on 200 South (formerly an Eat A Burger) is going to be a hotel. Owners have bought and parceled together pieces of land around the building and will put up a little boutique place similar to a Hotel Monaco. The new digs will sit at the entrance to the new Regent Street entertainment alley being built behind the mega-performing arts theater that will open in the Fall of 2016. The Bay Leaf restaurant on Main Street will soon have a new cafe from Park City. Patrons will pick from all fresh ingredients on the menu and the chefs will create a meal for you from your choices. The ‘Chamber of Commerce’ building on 400 South was built over a plaza in an architectural style which made it look much like a popsicle. The owners of the building have decided to build out the main floor where a new tenant (24 Fitness) that will take up a big glassed-in space and make the building square and appear more active to people who drive or walk by the place. Disney gaming has taken up several of the top floors in the past six months so the gym will have almost an instant clientele of night owls.ori
The original Northwest Pipeline building known later as the Salt Lake Public Safety Building on 200 South has been standing vacant for a few years now. It’s a classic mid-century modern design known as a corporate “International Style”, similar to the First Security Bank Building (now the Ken Garff Building) on 400 South. The Utah Heritage Foundations wants us all to save the former cop shop. The city’s Housing and Neighborhood Development Division wants to help turn it into affordable housing units with shops on the main floor, so watch for opportunities for public feedback because affordable housing is a rare commodity these days. Salt Lake City has reported that ‘we need over 8200 affordable housing units NOW’.
The Utah State Legislature is having special meetings to determine all the details for the upcoming move of the State Prison from Draper to west of the Salt Lake Airport. Grab your wallets and your morals and hide! Utah is known for it’s really short normal legislative session (Jan. 26 to March 12) and for two past Attorney General’s currently being prosecuted for a number of naughty things.
The Capitol building is a great/free place to visit and is pretty much open every day from @8 a.m. until 6 p.m. unless it’s a state or major national holiday. The building itself took four years to construct during 1912-1916. It was designed by Richard Kletting in the Neoclassical revival, Corinthian style. Funny though, the state capitol was originally in the smack dab middle of the state in Filmore, Utah. It turns out that Salt Lake City was a much better place to bring leaders together in a town with better food, housing and transportation and in 1856 the Utah Territorial Legislature met and decided to abandon poor little Filmore and move to Salt Lake City. For years legislators met in the Salt Lake City Council Hall and by 1909 we were one of the few states that didn’t have a capitol building to show off to visitors. Then Governor Spry was able to eek out $1 million in bonds from the elected officials but needed plenty more money. Oddly enough, more funds came from death taxes. It appears that when the Union Pacific Railroad Pres. died in 1909, his widow had to pay a 5% inheritance tax to the state of Utah which turned out to be $798,546. That was like a billion dollars back then! Once the money was in hand the land had to be found. The building was almost placed by Ft. Douglas but then put on Capitol Hill. Property owners up there charged the state a fortune to give up their parcels. A giant steam shovel came in, a little train track was built up City Creek Canyon to haul dirt and and another was built to Alta to bring in the granite rock.
If you go up to the Capitol building for a visit (the views of the valley are terrific from up there and it’s only 4 blocks straight up a hill from downtown on State Street), go visit the Daughters of Utah Pioneers Museum next door (west of it) at 300 North Main. Their hours are Fridays from 9-5 but closed Sundays. It’s a funky little place that stores turn of the century Valentines, hair jewelry and pioneer artifacts.
It’s not likely that Utah will see legal/recreational pot use in the near future. However the Utah Legislature did pass a law last year and the Governor signed it to allow a tincture of sorts to be used by people with intractable epileptic disorders and to use CBD oils if certified to do so by their neurologists. So in a nutshell, smoking dope is illegal in Utah.
Interesting questions arise when it comes to rental properties and smoking in general in the property. Landlords and condo HOA/Boards can and do put into leases and CCR’s that ‘no smoking’ is allowed on the premisis, but what about ‘vaping’? Real estate lawyers around the country are trying to keep up with the changing laws and recommend to landlords that ‘the more you spell out in your lease agreement with your tenant the more protected you are’. Just because your lease or HOA says no smoking is allowed, I’ll bet it has no language specifically about marijuana or cannabis.
To make your lease more precise as a landlord, write in that ‘cooking, growing or smoking or vaping any illegal substance is strictly prohibited on the property’. Both tobacco and pot smokers have moved to the new trend of ‘vaping’. Vapor pens look like ‘Tiparillo’ cigars and have cartridges of tobacco or pot (with or without flavorings) to smoke via electric/water generated steam instead of smoke.
Smoke shops in Utah do not have any regulations yet on vaping and what’s in the cartridges except that they can’t sell any form of marijuana-based products. There is currently no quality control over the contents of vapor pens by the FDA/government either. The Pew Research center reported last year that 52% of Americans support legalizing pot but the odds are if Utah citizens were polled they would be much less supportive of legalizing marijuana use. We’ve had several clients of our brokerage sell their homes in Utah to move to Colorado last year just because they simply wanted to live in a state where smoking/using marijuana was legal.
As a doddering older person born in the USA in upstate New York in the last century, I did not, and was not ever around this game called soccer/football. I never even saw a soccer ball until I traveled with my family south of the border after we moved to Arizona. My dad was a serious baseball and football fan and also a scratch golfer, and a soon to be bull fight patron. Soccer never entered our paradigm. I only now know about soccer when Ross my intern comes in wearing his REAL sweat suit jacket and he’s in a happy place because his REAL won. Honestly, I’ve tried to be a fan and forced myself to watch games on the TV box. Alas, it’s just not my game.
However, I am a fan of REAL owner Dell Loy Hansen. I met this smiley guy a few years back and assumed he was just your average looking Zions Bank manager or a Church official, or maybe a professor of animal husbandry at his alma mater, Utah State. I didn’t know what he did for a living, just that he was into making Salt Lake City a better place. That got my attention. Low and behold, slap my head and call me stupid, Dell Loy not only is the main REAL owner, but the CEO of the Wasatch Group.
Never heard of his other company? They/he owns huge interest’s downtown, in the Wells Fargo high rise, the historic/retro/restored Ken Garff Building and Questar’s Corporate Center. They own almost 17,000 apartments in five states, too. When Dell Loy’s group bought the shares in the Wells Fargo Building on Main Street he also brought life on the street back to that particular block. He convinced KUTV to move downtown to the ‘sidewalk’ of his little purchase so they could have a Today Show visual format. If you’ve tuned into Channel 2 News you know that anyone can walk up behind the talking heads at 6 and 10 PM and wave at the cameras. He also took an old bank building on 300 South and turned it into one of the finest broadcast studios in the Western US. He bought out most of the assets of Simmons Media and acquired U92, X96, Rewind 100.7, EAGLE 101.5, Mix 107.9 radio stations. He already owned ESPN 700 (the old KALL radio station) and got SLC to approve an electronic billboard over the stations headquarters.
Dell Loy was unable to convince the Utah State Legislature and Salt Lake City that we could use another soccer stadium for his minor league team, the “Monarchs”, out at the State Fairgrounds this past session. He’s still hunting for build options. To dispel rumors, he and the Wasatch Group just purchased 2.3 acres on the southwest corner of 600 So. State for $5.82 million to build ‘mid-priced housing for the city’s regular workforce’…not a stadium. GOOOOOAAAAAAAL for housing!