SUNSHINE

With the cost of utilities rising more homeowners are considering converting to solar to get free energy from the sun and even store some for emergencies. There are a bazillion companies out there looking to get your hard earned dollar to install their brand of solar products, some better than others.

Solar energy collection isn’t new to Utah. At 3 MW, the Buckhorn Solar Plant in Paragona is one of the newest solar installations in Utah. It has the capability to power more than 589 homes.  The Utah Red Hills Renewable Energy Park was completed in 2016. This photovoltaic project has the capacity to generate enough power to feed over 20,419 homes. Best of all, several large retailers have gone solar, including IKEA, Patagonia and Uinta Brewing Company. Our neighbor, California, has by far the greatest installed capacity of solar photovoltaic power in the U.S.

The big news for our state is that a Utah company is partnering with PacifiCorp to build the state’s biggest solar ‘farm’ with a battery storage facility smack dab in the middle of coal country! Utah’s largest farm will sit on about 3,200 acres by the tiny city of Moore in Emery County-just south of Castle Dale and Huntington. What will be known as ‘The Green River Energy Center’, the project will generate 400 megawatts from the farm and 200 megawatts from the battery storage facility. The area was chosen mainly because it’s by major transmission lines from the coal /power plants nearby and the amount of sunshine the area gets.

Unfortunately Emery County’s Lila Canyon coal mine caught fire on Sept. 20th, 2022 and experts say the flames could smolder indefinitely, which would close the mine forever. The owners will try and drill and flood the mine with water and foam because the Fed’s won’t let anyone go down into the mine while it’s on fire. This sucks for Rocky Mountain Power, as the two largest power plants in Emery County have now lost access to one of their biggest coal suppliers. The high quality of Utah’s coal is highly desirable not just in Utah but is shipped around the world. The best quality coal is found in Wyoming-the nation’s leading coal producer since 1986. Our neighbors provide @40% of the country’s coal through the top 10 mines in the cowboy country of Powder River Basin. They too are developing solar alternatives, as Wyoming now has it’s first solar project, “Sweetwater”, in Green Giver, Wyoming. It’s expected to generate enough clean energy to power 12,000 homes per year.

If you want to get more information on solar company/providers: https://www.energysage.com/local-data/solar-companies/ut/?rc=seia

This website is a gem of information, from the history of solar policies in Utah to state government energy programs, energy-saving strategies, the State Solar Policy, solar installers and solar companies, energy statistics, solar incentives and rebates and up-to-date pricing information. You can actually search other states in the same website. Do be careful in researching solar options-there are unfortunately many scammer’s greedy for your money!

 

Data: nsenergybusiness.com

 

3RD QUARTER STATS

Third quarter real estate stats are out for Salt Lake County and frankly, they are a bit odd. The median sold price in the Q3 here was $600,000, which is down almost 6% over Q2 of this year. BUT if we look at stats from last year, we see a growth pattern in sales of 9%. Interest rates on 30 year mortgages are now up to 7% or more and less buyers are coming into the market right now, so predictions for this final quarter aren’t looking too great. The Fed is definitely going to keep raising interest rates until inflation cools and we’re seeing massive price reductions of homes on the market. Nationally, new listings in September fell 22% over the previous month, and 17% of listings under contract/sale pending failed to close. Sales are down 20% over 2021. In the County, Q3 sales were down 18.8% compared to Q2 and down 30% compared to the same time in 2021.

‘Run, don’t walk to the nearest exit’ is starting to be the war cry for some sellers, as ‘days on market’ in Q3 moved to 22 days, VS six days on the market until recently. If you love house porn you’ll notice on many listings that sellers are willing to ‘help pay buyers closing costs’ or are offering incentives like new carpeting. This is the time of year when people begin to seriously nest-cold weather, holidays. And given those vibes it’s when the market generally slows down. Although we’ve seen only smoking statistics for the last few years here, we will experience a slow down as predictors are saying that the housing market needs this kind of correction to balance out housing supply and demand.

I can’t stress enough that if you can qualify for a loan, there are options to get better rates. The ‘two-one’ buy down is a great product, wherein if rates are at 7, you loan starts at 5% for a year, then 6% for another year, and then fixes at 7% for the rest of the loan. You can refinance if rates go down and the initial discount will hopefully allow for you to get raises at work to afford that 7% rate down the road. PLUS buyers are starting to get great deals as the market softens. There’s no better time in Utah to shop for homes than during the colder months. Why? It’s nice to know how that potential house fares in winter! When you walk into an empty house, does it feel drafty although the heat is on? How’s the insulation in the attic, around the doors and windows, and under the floors? Does the furnace growl like your stomach in the morning? Since it’s cool to cold here about half of the year, a well-built home with good insulation is a must. And if seller’s are willing to chip in to the deal to make you more comfortable by giving you a credit towards closing costs or added insulation…well, it doesn’t cost a dime to make an offer!

SCARY CHANGES

To many, change is scary.  And big changes are coming to Salt Lake neighborhoods since the City Council has voted to loosen zoning laws and easing ordinances. After a few years of debate, grumblings and public input citizens will find that Boarding Houses will become a thing again, the Tiny Home Village has been approved, builders will not be required to carve out as much parking for their projects as in the past, and the Ballpark area will get getting zoning changes.

The Ballpark area has been a mess of development without long range planning which has caused a weird pattern of more car than foot traffic with big box stores (Walmart, Lowes) and large apartment buildings taking up land. The changes will in effect create a ‘Ballpark Station Area Transit Station Area zone’ which the city is calling ‘Heart of the Neighborhood’ that will reportedly reconfigure the Ballpark TRAX station to improve access from the west, make it easier for pedestrians on 1300 South with new and improved crossings and adding green space around the stadium. Mind you, no one is sure the stadium will be there in a few years, but for now, it’s still a landmark to build around to improve the neighborhood experience.

There are 45 pages of parking ordinances created in 2019 being updated, to include new minimum and maximum parking spaces required for new construction, electric vehicle parking, more assessable parking (the capitol city is not known for an abundance of handicapped/accessible parking), bike parking, off street loading areas, and drive-throughs. Shared housing was big in the 1800-1900’s as an affordable housing alternative, and boarding houses will now be allowed in all TSA, downtown, Sugarhouse Central Business District and several other zones with a minimum bedroom size of 100 ft per person, 24-hour on-site management, and security cameras except in bathrooms.

Another item that spooks homeowners -changes to RMF-30 zoning (which is traditionally a low density multi-family residential district). This would eliminate the width of a building lot (currently the rule is 80’ ft wide) for multi-family dwellings to allow for potentially more accessory dwelling units and tiny homes to be added to current properties that formerly didn’t have a wide enough lot to put in an addition.  RMF zoning exists mainly on the city’s east side and this change would allow for more density-something NIMBY’S are opposed to as a change in their hood. The downside is that a home could be torn down and replaced with multi-units, meaning potentially more traffic and parking problems. A huge part of the discussion for changes to this zoning is a ‘Housing Loss Mitigation’ -people don’t want homes torn down and replaced with multi-units. This adds to loss of place and gentrification as we see neighborhoods decimated by aggressive developers throughout the city.

Time to take off your masks and rip off the bloody bandages, Salt Lake. Life here and around the state is changing fast and if you don’t pay attention you’ll end up falling into an open grave!

Spooky Times

It’s October. Fall has officially begun and for many, it’s not just hoodie season, it’s scary season!  What could possibly be scary when buying a home? Or selling one? I could write a few dozen books about what I’ve seen in my almost 40 years as a REALTOR! Since my editor requested something spooky malookie, here’s a few highlights that I personally witnessed:

-My buyers and I found an old wicker wheelchair in the basement of an old bungalow when we were going through a vacant home just before sunset, similar to the one in the Alfred Hitchcock movie, Psycho. Yeah, that was creepy, but what was worse was that it was kinda rocking back and forth when we discovered it. NOPE, we were out of there so fast we were virtually crawling up each other’s back getting up the stairs and out of the place!

-Yes, I have seen a ghost in a property. It was in the heat of summer in a vacant home in Marmalade. My client had just walked from the front door through the living room and entered the kitchen. I was right behind. The home was stifling hot and the summer flys (the big ones) were attempting suicide at the glass windows to get out, making weird banging noises as they flew at top speed into the glass and then ending upside down on the window sill. There were like 100 of them. As he kept going I looked up from the fly graveyard to my right. It was then I saw an adult, white male dressed as an 1800’s miner with a hard hat with a half burned candle on it. He looked at me, not with any malice, and walked directly into the wall and disappeared.

-I’ve had several sellers tell me tales of their haunted houses. Two that I remember are still located  in the 9thand 9th area. One possessed house wouldn’t let the owners put nails in the walls. Anytime they tried to hang a picture, a painting, or curtains the nails would go flying back at them. And yes, the cabinets would bang closed in the middle of the night just like you’ve seen in B-rated horror movies. They ended up calling a witch who came in and read the house and talked to the spirit. I don’t remember what she said but the cabinets settled down and they were able to hang curtains. There were still troubles with the nails, tho. The other home just down the street had voices in the attic. The owners discovered that the owner in the 1930’s was fighting prohibition by making whisky in the home and hiding it up there.

What’s spooky now?  The FED raising interest rates another .75%.  That means interest rates on mortgages are going to go up. Home sales across the nation have slowed during the past 7 months in a row, but prices aren’t dropping. Homes are sitting longer on the market and Utah is among the top states for price reductions. Buyers and sellers are feeling scared in this spooky market, and there’s more adjusting coming.

The Buzz and the Bees

It’s almost time for the Boys of Summer to finish their season’s games and the top teams vie to get into the World Series beginning October 28th.  Our local Salt Lake Bees haven’t has a swell season this year and rumor has it we might not be seeing Bees baseball after 2024 when the lease on Smiths Ballpark at the corner of 1300 South and West Temple in Salt Lake City.

Our local ballpark opened in 1994 with a seating capacity of 15,411 which is the largest stadium in the Pacific Coast League. The first team to play there was known as the Salt Lake Buzz but then in 2001 the name changed to the Salt Lake Stingers. Joe Buzas (a former baseballer himself) moved the Portland Beavers to Salt Lake as long as the city built a new ballpark where Derks Field was located. Franklin Quest field opened in 1994 and drew almost 800,000 ticket holders in the first year. When Buzas died in 2003 the team was purchased by the Larry H. Miller group. When he died his wife sold the team to Ryan Smith last year, the new owner of the Utah Jazz.

I was sad when the name changed from the Buzz to the Stingers but there was a trademark owned by Georgia Tech.  Since the honeybee is the official state symbol (as of 1959), the official state insect is the honeybee, the name for honeybee in the Book of Mormon is Deseret and our flag has a beehive on it, ‘the Buzz’ seemed like an appropriate name at the time. But now all may be lost as rumors have it that a new ballpark is in the works with a potential MLB team replacing our Bees.

Apparently, our City Council has been looking at ‘improving’ the neighborhood where the Ballpark is located, possibly doing upgrades to make it bigger with a vision of new commercial properties and housing opportunities around it. Right now the area is s a mess of homeless camps and increased crime intermingled with sweet historic homes   The lease on the field expires in 2024 and the Bees will need to be re-licensed with MLB by the end of this decade. Note that the Larry H. Miller group has purchased a s-load of acreage in Daybreak and sold of part of its ownership of the Utah Jazz and Vivent Arena to a sports group so it’s possible we could getting an MLB team down the road. Which is much more likely and less expensive than a MLF league!

My best memories of our Bees were watching Mike Trout play. He was moved up to the home team (we’re the farm for the California Angels) and became the highest paid MLB player in terms of total contract value in baseball. Trout, a three-time AL MVP, signed an extension before the 2019 season that will pay him a total of $426.5 million through 2030. When we root for the Bees we’re rooting for the Angels too-befitting a saintly state, eh?

Just released

Salt Lake County prices still moving up, but market is slowing with ‘Days on Market’ now 23. BETTER for buyers as sometimes you can actually go back for a second look before making an offer. BUT interest rates are now up to 6.5%

Tax Time

Property tax notices have been mailed to folks who own land, homes, commercial buildings, condos, etc. During mid-summer we get a notice from the County Tax Assessor where we live that shows what our property taxes were last year and what the Assessor intends to charge for the coming year. Folks are calling me to get comparable sales data from January of last year to show the Assessor how LITTLE their property is worth so they don’t get a major bump in property taxes. In Salt Lake County the average home value rose 28.7% over 2021. The Assessor didn’t raise my taxes by that amount, but it’s looking like I’m going to get an increase of about 20% over the previous year. YET, the value of my home is way under what it would be if we put it on the market today to sell. So, we’re winning the property tax game-for now.
Anyone can protest their property taxes. Do you have a chance battling the big bad gubmint? Actually, yes. I called a friend who used to work for the Assessor and they shared you might be able to get a bit off the proposed tax valuation BUT you must apply by September 15th with an application that has a current appraisal or comparable sales data attached to it. You can simply send it in (there’s a form/envelope included with the notice) or you can go in person to plead your case. IF you lose your protest you can appeal to the Utah State Tax Commission for a hearing, or argue your way all the way to the Utah Supreme Court.
Many people can’t pay their property taxes in one lump sum. You can talk to the Assessor’s office in your county to find out options for payments. They can’t take away your property until you have been delinquent for four years of non-payment. The county can sell your property to pay off the tax bill via a public auction, where the wining bid must equal at least the amount of the overdue taxes, penalties, interests and administrative costs. IF the County accepts the sale terms the winning bidder gets a tax deed as long as they pay the terms of the winning bid within a few days. Property owners can then file a claim to receive any amount paid to the county in excess of the property taxes plus interest.
Where do most of the taxes go, once paid? School districts, city services take up the most of your property tax money. If you are having trouble paying your taxes, there are several programs that can help if you are 65 or older ore getting disability benefits, income /assets less than $35,807, are blind or the unmarried spouse or minor of a deceased blind person, veterans with a service-connected disability or on active duty outside of Utah. For more information: slco.org/treasurer/tax-relief.

Crypto Buyers

The real estate business can be creative at times. It’s not always ‘write up an offer, get an inspection, and wait for the lender to send out an appraiser and finish your loan’ kinda thing. For example, I had friends (a social worker and a librarian) wanting to purchase their first home but had little in the bank for a down payment. Except…the husband had his original baseball card collection which had value. We went to a creative lender that I liked and presented the idea of buying a home with old printed pieces of cardboard, and the lender simply said “I think I can get you a loan, but let me talk to the underwriter”. So, a day later, the lender came back and said my buyers could use the cards as a down payment but would have to a) sell the cards for the appropriate amount for the down payment and b) provide a receipt for the sale. My buyers figured out what they needed to sell and we found them a great house where they still live today. If I recall, one of the cards was a Micky Mantle. A mint condition Mantle Card just sold last month for $12.6 million-the most ever paid for a sports memorabilia card and possibly the most for any kind of sports memorabilia to date. A Honus Wagner card recently sold for $7.25 million, which was the second highest amount for memorabilia in all of sports-so far. Something tells me that the legends of the all American game of baseball would not have minded that their faces were used to buy housing for first time buyers.
Clients I worked with presented a slightly different problem to me when they handed me a neatly wrapped piece of tissue paper to say they would use ‘emeralds’ as their earnest money and down payment. When I opened the tiny packet I saw ten green pieces of what looked like jujube’s (candy). I had no idea if they were real stones or their value, and neither did my broker. In this case, the seller of the home they wished to buy didn’t have a problem with them using emeralds but wanted assurance the stones were real and of value. My broker went to O.C.Tanner and had the gems appraised and they found that they did have appropriate value, which satisfied the seller.
I asked our favorite mortgage broker, Julie Brizzee with Intercap Lending, if a buyer could use cryptocurrency as a down payment. She replied, “It’s like selling a car for the down. I would have to provide documentation of value-an appraisal of value, then a bill of sale and receipt of funds.” My own real estate brokerage is not set up to accept cryptocurrencies as earnest money and regardless of that I would still have to prove a buyer’s earnest money (cash, check or wired funds) was valuable currency that could be transferred into an escrow account once the buyers offer was accepted

News and Notes

If you’re driving or taking TRAX from downtown SLC to the airport, you notice the massive Rocky Mountain Power triple stacks @1400 W. North Temple. They’ve been there for a long, long time-since the 1950’s.  More than 100 acres belong to RMP (a subsidiary of PacifiCorp) and the company has applied for a zoning change to tear down a bunch of old and decrepit buildings and replace them with a new headquarters that will hold about 700 employees. The more interesting news is that RMP envisions a mixed use development over time which they have dubbed ‘The Power District Campus’.  The construction will be environmentally correct for current standards and will of course be all-electric. After the new commercial buildings are completed, the company will hope to change more of it’s acreage into housing and businesses to create a ‘vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood.’  What’s crazy to think about is that this huge tract of land is about the size of downtowns Central Business District or slightly larger than the Sugar House business district so the possibilities for creative development are tremendous. The power plant that’s on the site is scheduled to be phased out by 2032.

Been to Arches lately? If you recall our state/national parks were overrun with visitors during the pandemic when flying was either banned to many areas around the world or just a plain pain the butt. In 2022 Arches went to a ‘entry reservation’ system from April to October. The park reported an increase in visitors of 66% from 2009 to 2019, and then was deluged with visitors once Covid-19 hit. People wanting to see the big red arches had to line up at 4 in the morning prior to the reservation system and other who came later in the day weren’t able to get into the park, as it was full. Other of our ‘Big 5’ experienced massive visitors but there are no reservations for riding the park shuttle or to enter Zion National Park. Utah’s five national parks reported a record 11.3 million visits in 2021, compared with 10.7 visits the previous years.  Arches reports that with the required reservation system visits have dropped this year which is probably due to the fact more people are stepping on planes to destinations beyond Utah.  Friend report that having a timed entry to the park was convenient and really cut down on chaos around some of the most visited arches.

Finally, Millcreek Canyon is getting massive road construction that’s going to narrow the road to one lane during weekdays.  They have to resurface the road and do work on the drainage system in the canyon this fall. For those of you who LOVE bike riding up Millcreek Canyon, find a new route/adventure as it will be closed for cyclists all summer long. Except, you can drive up, pay your tiny fee, and haul your mountain bike along to get to the trail head. If you plan on eating at the Log Haven or Millcreek Inn, they will be open, but expect delays to get there.

 

Scenic Utah

One of the best day trips out of Salt Lake City is to head southeast to 9 Mile Canyon outside of Price (actually, outside of Wellington). The canyon name is a misnomer-it is not nine miles long, it’s about 43 miles long from the highway, through the mountains and up to Duchesne before the road back to Park City/Salt Lake. It’s worth a stop after two hours or so in Helper at the Balanced Rock Eatery and Pub on Main Street for pancakes (all day!) bigger than the size of your head, burgers, sannies and dinner entrees. The little town has done a great job of changing from empty boarded up storefronts, saloons, and hotels to a little vibrant art community of @2500 residents.

Once you’re full as a tick it’s not far to the turnoff to the Canyon adventure. You can see thin layers of coal (it is Carbon County!) in the hills, smell fragrant cedar pines and sage brush, discover colors of earth from a light green to a sandstone red on your drive and best of all, the infamous petroglyphs along the roadside.  There’s the ‘coyote and the stars’ on a rock high above road (with markers to help see it), large ‘newspaper rocks’ of stories showing humanoids, sheep, deer, snakes, giant owls, and many dots in patterns that look like calendars. Sadly, A-holes of this century have scrawled their own graffiti alongside the precious Native art including adding vaginas and penises to some of the smaller human figures carved into the rock. It’s a felony and a bad Federal rap to damage any of these sites.

Scenic Utah is a 501(c)3 non-profit state-wide organization out to win my heart. They appreciate our history and our vistas around the state. These volunteers are out to educate us, the legislature and larger communities about protecting dark skies, scenic byways and help to ban new electronic billboards to reduce the light pollution that damage dark skies and help to ensure local governments keep rights to regulate and ban billboards of all kinds that are ‘intrusive eyesores that harm the visual environment, reduce property values and detract from community character.’  They appreciate as I do our visual environs. They have found that more than 75% of Utahns believe billboards are intrusive eyesores that harm the visual environments where they are located.

Having served as a volunteer Planning Commissioner for Salt Lake City for 8 years I got a hard and fast education on how powerful the billboard companies are and how difficult it is to get rid of a single one. You can go to scenicutah.org to find out more about their vision and purpose. Best of all, they are having a photo contest (Deadline is SEPT 1) with categories like ‘scenic night skies’, ‘my rural roots’, parks in towns and cities, ‘visual pollution we wish would go away’, ‘off the beaten path’ (remote or hard to reach places in our beautiful state), etc. to celebrate the vistas of this great state.