SCHOOL DAZE

It’s September, when the smell of a pencil erasure or a new pad of paper makes me sigh for school days gone by. If you’re a commuter, you may sigh more often because school zones are now in effect around the state. I recently had a conversation with some buyers who really liked a home I showed them but were not pleased there was a school across the street. Having lived across from an elementary school years ago I gladly chimed in to say that there were great benefits to living near a school, like knowing when people would be there or not be there during the day and weekends, and having a swell playground to throw a ball with my dog or shoot hoops with friends. Sure, there is traffic during certain hours as buses and parents bring and take students to and from the school which brings noise, but there’s also a lot of eyes on the grounds which can help with security in the neighborhood.

School locations actually add value to a property, and according to two decades of research done by Duke University housing prices increase when student scores are high, and economists at the New York Times have estimated that a five percent improvement in student test scores in suburban neighborhoods can raise home prices by 2.5%. The Brookings institution found that after studying one hundred of the largest metro areas in the United States they found an average difference of $205,000 in home prices between houses in areas where students have high test scores vs in neighborhoods where schools have low test scores.

A study by BiggerPockets.com found that schools with a low student to teacher ratio, great enrollment and test scores with a school rating of four or five stars were ‘completely insulated form declining home values during a recession’.  That means it would be easier for you to sell your home if the market went south, and conversely get a great price when the market is strong.  I often have parents or parents to be who are buyers come to me to say they don’t really care so much about the house and its condition but they definitely want to be in a certain school district or by a certain school and would sacrifice square footage, parking and such to live there. Is it just me, or have you noticed that the whiter the neighborhood, the higher the property values and the better the schools?

There are a bazillion websites now that rate schools. Ones I recommend are greatschools.org, utahschoolgrades.schools.utah.gov, and slcschools.org. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway…DO your research if you’re planning to buy or rent near a school, or, want to be near a specific school itself. Your REALTOR should be able to put you in touch with past clients who live near the school or have kids attending there who can give you a real take on the sitch.

 

https://www.raleighrealtyhomes.com/blog/how-schools-impact-home-values.html

BUBBLE BURSTING?

Uh oh! Is the bubble bursting? Park City’s Board of REALTORS reports that all three of their major weekly stats, new, pending and closed listings, continue to drop compared to 2020. That makes seven weeks in a row this has happened. And the drops are either the largest year-to-date (new listings) or second largest (sold listings). Pendings are down as well but not as severely.  They see a trend developing here which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the market traditionally trends downward starting in late summer,  as people get ready to go back to school or their get their kids ready to go back into classes. Inventory is still at insane lows (less than a month’s worth of inventory).

Most Boards of REALTORS/MLS sites are reporting a slowing in September in Utah, from Washington County to Northern Utah. Interest rates on home mortgages remain at all time lows and the Fed isn’t expected to raise rates anytime these last few months of the year. The stock markets in the U.S. are at the highest they’ve ever been and there really aren’t any indicators that the financial markets are headed to hell in a handbasket.  So what’s this mean to you?

If you’re in the market to shop for a home or condo, now would be a great time to get super serious!  You may have a chance to NOT get in a bidding war on a property or only go up against a few other buyers in an attempt to win a contract. Although homes in entry level prices are still flying off the MLS in record time, you may be able to discover a gem that may have been sitting too long on the market at an inflated price. Many property owners have dipped their toes in the real estate market this year to see how much buyers are willing to pay for their property. Given Salt Lake City homes were selling in less that ten days this summer, a home still on the market after 30 days looks super suspicious!  Savvy buyers who’ve been paying attention to the MLS feeds ask me, “What’s wrong with that house-it’s been on the market for THREE months!  Is it broken, or haunted?”  My sage advice to any buyer who hasn’t been able to secure a contract this summer should look to properties that have ‘soured’ on the market by sitting there without aggressive pricing and price reductions. Grab your cahones and throw in a low bid and see what bounces back at you! It doesn’t cost a dime to MAKE an offer on a home, and who knows, you might just get an accepted contract!  (Mind you, if you do get a seller to agree to your terms you would have to deposit your earnest money within four days of the contract being accepted).

Back to the bubble: NO it’s not bursting. Our markets are slowing because that’s normal this time of year when many of us would rather be rooting for the home team on a Saturday or Sunday than out looking at homes to buy.

FALL CHECK UP

Before winter sets in, it’s good to prevent maintenance issues! Unless you have mad skills, call professionals to come and do a health/maintenance checkup at your home:

-check your appliances. Vacuum the refrigerator fan/coils at the bottom or back of the unit to avoid overheating and save on electricity.

-Check hoses on the dishwasher and washer/dryer once a year for any bulges, cracks, or leaks.

-Change furnace filters every 3 months-especially now that our air is so smoky from West Coast fires.

-Check to see if you have surge protectors connected to your electrical devices to avoid overheating and fires. Replace frayed or worn cords on all electrical appliances.

-Check your roof for loose shingles, worn flashing and damaged/leaking gutters.

-If your water heater is making noises or you have low water pressure you may have issues. If there is water evident on the floor underneath it, you need a new one!

Has landscaping and dirt creeped too close to your foundation? Keep at least two feet of space between your home’s foundation and landscaping. You don’t want water coming into your basement if we get the surprise deluge from Mother Nature. Check that your gutter downspouts are pointed away from your foundation, and remember to clean out your gutters.

We recently installed a new security system at our home. We added two small wallet-sized water detection alarms that we put near our water heater and near the washer/dryer. Twice this summer the alarms went off and we were notified on our phone. Thank goodness because if we hadn’t been alerted our basement would have been flooded due to a broken water softener! Smoke, water, and CO2 alarms are all available at Lowes.

Also, quit throwing money in the grave-Try these simple tips to save on utility bills this winter:

-when clean your refrig and remove the dust bunnies, set the temp so that it’s cold enough to store food but not so low you waste energy;

-use the right size burner on your stove for the pan you’re working with. It saves heat and saves you money.

-only run your dishwasher when it’s full. It also saves water to use a full dishwasher rather than handwash each dish.

-make sure when you wash clothes you set the machine for the appropriate load size and clean your dryer vent often so it will run more efficiently. Washing on COLD saves money and use dryer balls to reduce drying time.

-change furnace filters at least every quarter and update your thermostat so you can control your temps via an app. Nest-like thermostats have helped improve our wise use of our heating and cooling systems.

-update your light bulbs to LED bulbs.

-update appliances if you can afford them, and with the interruption of the supply/shipping chain…if you can find them!

I made a checklist that I go over every quarter for me to check around my home, inside and out, to avoid potential surprises and disasters at our home base, our nest.

Our Salt Lake

I heard some info about our future in this state regarding the Great Salt Lake. Frankly, it put chills up my spine and made me wonder if I should be thinking of an exit plan before it’s too late to get the hell out of Dodge because our lake is dying FAST and the outcome is going to be horrific!

Our photographed, but much maligned lake is about 75 miles long and 28 miles wide covering @1700 square miles, and is the largest lake of it’s kind in the western hemisphere. It is also one of the most important bodies of water for bird migration in this same hemisphere, and if the lake dies, millions of migratory birds will also die…as wells mammals, plants, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. Many of you reading this don’t know that part of the lake is fresh water and is fed by northern streams. This is where our avian friends like to rest before migrating north or south. According to Westminster College’s Great Salt Lake Institute millions of birds from 257 known species rely on our funky, salty lake to survive.

The southern portion of the GSL is now at a historic new low-with some levels only 1.5 feet deep. There is algae and tiny creatures there that the brine shrimp feed on, and all those birds love to get fat on those sea monkeys (aka brine shrimp). If those creatures all die, then the birds will die. As the lake dries up from poor runoff that leads into the north and south sections, more dust will get into our air. U.S Magnesium Corp. mines the lake and provides 14% of the world’s supply of the mineral that’s used in all sorts of metal products. Companies also take potash (fertilizer) and salt for seasonings, plastics, roads and detergents. All that gets into our air and ends up in the winter on top of our snow. That dust and color change affects our snow melt. Lower snow melt means less water for the lake. Do you see the trending circle of hell?

Our legislature passed a bill a few years back that basically states ‘Our lake is important to the state and it should have water’. However this bill did nothing to fund programs to increase water flow to the lake.

Every hour on the hour radio and TV news squawk about Covid and what it’s doing to our country. I rarely see news about how scary it’s going to be if and when our lake no longer produces the food necessary in the environmental chain of life in Utah. Odd, but most local television news that I watch gives regular reports on Lake Powell, Echo, Sand Hollow, Bear Lake, etc. but never a regular report on our Great Salt Lake.  The professor I listened to said that come this November we may reach the tipping point that the lake won’t come back from this drought and we’re in for bad news on the horizon.

Tiny Town

Los Angeles has built apartments for homeless people out of shipping crates. The Hilda L. Solis Care First Village is located close to downtown L.A. on 4.2 acres. You might recognize her name if you’ve lived in California, as she chairs the LA County Board of Supervisors.  This amazing project offers 232 housing units along with a common building that holds a commercial kitchen, dining area, laundry facilities and administrative offices. There’s also a dog park, good parking and wise landscaping.

The simplicity of this project is beautiful. The steel shipping crates were stacked atop each other to three stories. They are stacked and fixed into place, with stairs and ramps leading up and down. Each container is able to offer two apartments, each about 135 square feet, and each equipped with a private bathroom (shower, toilet, sink), a twin bed, microwave (not stove), small refrigerator, it’s own heat/AC unit and a flat screen TV attached to the wall. It opened this spring and was fully occupied within 30 days. It cost $57 million to build, but $51 million of the total cost came from monies generated by the CARES Act during Covid and the rest paid for by Los Angeles County.

Why do we care about what LA is doing? Well Salt Lake City is all a buzz with a new planned development of mini homes being created in a partnership between Salt Lake City government and the non-profit, The Other Side Academy in an industrial area of the west side on about 1800 West and 800 South (Indiana). Currently the 45 acres there has one home and a huge auto junkyard as neighbors, and so to actually build a mini home subdivision a major zoning change would have to occur. Although this isn’t a plan to use shipping containers, it is a credible idea that could make an impact on the lack of housing options for the unsheltered…about 400 of them if this plan succeeds.

I have seen the proposed renderings of the subdivision and it looks pretty cool on paper, with plenty of green space around the homes and a mix of some retail and office space as well as room for community gardens and common spaces.  The goal would be to have non-profit service providers on site to counsel inhabitants to improve mental health (if needed), assist in job searches and a space for medical services. A lot of the idea for this project come from a truly successful program in Austin, Texas, called Community First! Village which was built by a non-profit in Texas (‘Loaves & Fishes’) back in 2004. It has enabled hundreds of chronically homeless people living on the streets. They were able to get their master-planned community of men and women through the ‘NIMBY’s who feared such a group of people coming to live in their city. Funny, but those people were already living in their city!

Let’s cross our fingers that maybe Joseph Grenny and his Utahcentric Other Side Academy can do the same here for our unsheltered friends that Texas has been able to do for theirs.

ECON 101

Remember back in Econ 101 when we learned what a GDP is? Refresher: It’s the market value of all the goods and services produced in a certain geographic area. Places with a large GDP will generally have a high standard of living. Politicians and economists want their city, county, state and/or country to have a great GDP, and Utah now has that golden ray of sun shining through the clouds at us right now. Forbes magazine has just rated us the number one state with the biggest growth in our gross domestic products. But really, what does that mean?

Utah’s economy is HOT. It has been for several years. Our GDP has grown from $123.47 billion in 2010 to $168.62 billion in 2020 (despite COVID). It grew 82% from 2000 to 2020 and the pandemic barely seems to have made a major difference in our state’s production machinery, having come back from the pandemic faster than any other state. We have a diversified economy that’s strong in technology, oil, gas, salt and coal mining, tourism, manufacturing, agriculture and finance.

Sadly though, the drought we’re suffering may tilt some of the figures into negative columns in the next few years and slow our GDP. For example, farmers can’t get water to grow hay, ranchers are planning to sell off stock because hay is too expensive and beef prices will be skyrocketing. Snow totals are down and expected to get worse which will affect tourism at our resorts. This despite how well we are known since we hosted the world in the 2002 Winter Olympics.

The next nine states with the highest GDP are Washington, Colorado, Arizona, Oregon, California, Texas, Georgia and Florida. The western states are all experiencing extreme weather conditions which include heat and drought as well as fires. GDP can turn sour if we buy less, government cuts back on spending, we export less and business investment falls. Utah exports a wide variety of goods, like microchips, medical equipment, aircraft parts, and auto safety products. But if you want to win the weekly trivia night at your local pub, answer this question: What is our largest mineral export? (fade in Jeopardy music). GOLD. Utah and Nevada are the two states neck and neck with gold production.

If you’re a stats geek or just interested in following the health of our economy, watch the periodic, but regular GDP reports. If the measurement in Utah begins to drop that means we’re going to see a decline in per capital income. The poor will suffer more than the rich, as in the adage ‘The poor will get poorer, the rich, richer’. When you hear reporters talk of businesses suffering in declining revenues and unemployment is rising, the talk will start up again to sus out if we are heading into a recession. What we do know right now is that food and gas prices are just going up, up and up which is making an impact on all our standards of living.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewdepietro/2021/08/04/2021-us-states-by-gdp-and-which-states-have-experienced-the-biggest-growth/?sh=17796b0a846c

Water Woes

Planning that annual trip to Lake Powell soon? How about just a quick trip from Salt Lake up to Echo Reservoir? These Utah bodies of water and many others are in crisis due to the extreme drought conditions, down to just 25-35% of capacity. Powell had to recently steal from Flaming Gorge just to keep enough water to spin the turbines that create enough electricity for places like Las Vegas. The forecast for water here is grim, and it’s not looking good for skiers thanks to global warming.

We can all help save water, and it starts simply with being aware of our water use. Here’s examples: shower: 5 gallons/minute; bath: 36 gallons/per use; brushing teeth (with water running): 1 gallon/minute; washing hands or face: 1 gallon/minute; dishwasher: 10 gallons/load; hand washing dishes: 2 gallons/minute; laundry: 40 gallons/load for older models, 27 gallons for newer models; flushing toilet: 3 gallons/flush; watering the lawn: 10 gallons/minute.  Make yourself a list of what you do based on the uses stated above and see how much water you’re using every 24 hours.

On top of evaluating your usage, check your faucets. The U.S. Geological Survey has a handy Drip Calculator that will show you how much water a leaky faucet wastes over time. Locally we’re being asked to just water lawns twice a week. In Las Vegas, grass lawns have been outlawed. Planting drought-tolerant plants or putting in a good quality of fake grass will drastically cut water use at your home.

Until recently it was illegal to harvest rain water in Utah. As of 2010, all Utahns are allowed to collect 2,500 gallons of rainwater on their property in covered above ground containers or in underground cisterns. Most water in the state is owned by the state of Utah. If you want to collect it in more than two containers under 100 each or in one container over 100 gallons, you must register with the Utah Division of Water Rights (free, and simple on-line form). You can then use that captured rain to irrigate your lawn or garden, supplement your drip irrigation system, water inside plants, wash your car or bike, wash your windows, wash out recyclable bottles and cans before putting them in your recycling bin, and use it to rinse off your artificial grass after your animals use it for a potty station.

Sadly, we don’t have state laws that ban car washes from using drinking water, but many chains do recycle some of the water after each wash. However, we do have a site to report water abusers: www.water.utah.gov/fameorshame. You can use the site to answer a Survey Monkey to snitch (shame) on water wasters, and you don’t have to leave your name. They won’t publicly shame abusers but will seek them out to help mediate the waste.  For those who are trying not to waste our water you can use the same site to report water savers (fame).

www.scienceovereverthing.com  for water use amounts

Climate Gentrification

We hear this term ‘gentrification’ a lot these days when it comes to neighborhoods. Basically, by definition, it’s when a poor neighborhood is changed by wealthier buyers and renters moving in, which then generally pushes out the less financially abundant folk living there.  I became aware of this in Salt Lake City many decades ago when John Williams, one of the owners of Gastronomy/Market Street Grill/The New Yorker purchased a home in the Capitol Hill area. At that point in time many people were astounded that he didn’t buy a home in the Harvard/Yale, Federal Heights, or Holladay neighborhoods where expensive homes are traditionally found. Williams had lived downtown and buying on the Hill was a natural for him because the new home was close to his office, but people still scratched their head as to why he’d live in an area that hadn’t been known as an ‘exclusive neighborhood’.  Thanks to Williams homesteading in a less expensive neighborhood, buyer’s eyes turned to the wonderfully historic homes around the state capitol building and soon a younger and more affluent group of buyers called the Marmalade and Capitol Hill neighborhoods home. Over the years this has happened to such neighborhoods in the Salt Lake Valley as lower Sugar House, Taylorsville, areas around Cottonwood Heights (i.e., White City), and Rose Park. It’s now visible in the lower 9th and 9th neighborhood, Poplar Grove and Glendale as the ‘up and coming’ places to live.

A whole new type of gentrification is beginning to happen along the East Coast shoreline communities, now dubbed ‘climate gentrification’ CNN news stated last month that it’s a “process in which wealthier people fleeing from climate-risky areas spur higher housing prices and more aggressive gentrification in safer areas.”  The black working-class neighborhoods on high ground in New Orleans have seen new neighbors coming in and grabbing up cheaper homes above the flood plain and pushing up housing prices. Did you happen to see the horrific news of the condo building collapsing in the Miami area last month that killed almost 100 people living in building the middle of the night? There’s a new mentality to flee from the danger of hurricane winds, storm surges and water damage and move inland to higher ground.

“Climate-risky cities around the country are also seeing signs of gentrification…where booming real estate prices in higher-ground, minority neighborhoods – like Little Haiti – have been tied to sea level rise,” reported CNN. It’s a fact that as the climate changes sea levels will rise. New York City is only 33’ above sea level, Miami is 6.5’ and San Francisco is 52’ near the bay.  The areas of the U.S. that see the most coastal flooding include Tampa, Charleston, Long Island and New Jersey.

Given the massive monsoon rains in Southern Utah this year, homeowners may want to re-assess if they should live on higher ground in the future if these storms are going to become the norm. The theory of climate gentrification would then logically point to affordable housing appearing in flood-prone neighborhoods. And flood insurance is extremely expensive!

Splash Time

If you haven’t been acting like a lizard and hiding in the shade under one rock at time in this unwelcomed heat, just think: summer has only begun!  What’s August going to be like around our state? The Gov has asked us to pray for rain (for reals) and to conserve energy and water. I might ask him to go further and put some rules into place now rather than when we’re down to our last drops, like asking restaurants to not serve water unless asked to do so and requiring all decorative fountains to be shut down if they aren’t constantly recycling the water, making sure each county that has golf courses evaluates their water use and actually enforce watering times for lawns and agricultural crops.

Where are big fountains in Utah? Free fun can be had at Gateway’s ‘Olympic Legacy Plaza Snowflake Fountain’ which shoots water from the ground into the air, as does the Town Square Park fountain in St. George. The Seven Canyons Fountain at Liberty Park is a favorite play area for kids that’s also free as well as the Oquirrh Shadows Park Splash Pad in South Jordan. The Desert Wave public pool in Price has the WIBIT indoor pool obstacle course at 250 E. 500 North as well as large outdoor pools for all ages, and Lagoon in Farmington has plenty of swim and water play options. The Bellagio-like musical fountain at Station Park in Farmington is not a place to swim but certainly gives you a cool feeling to watch when you’re hot.

One of the more popular parks in Utah is Cowabunga Bay in Draper, which reminds me of a ginormous ‘Mouse Trap’ game only with water rushing up and down it’s raceways. They have beaches, pools, splashes and rivers and cabana’s you can rent for more of a VIP experience around a private pool. Driving by on I-15 you can see the huge yellow water bucket dump 1200 gallons of water onto patrons standing below it. The oldest operating water park is Cherry Hill in Kaysville which is so popular this year that they have sold out Season Passes for 2021. This resort is unique in that it has a campground and mini golf, pools, a lazy river, and water slides. Seven Peaks waterpark in Provo is now Splash Summit Waterpark and offers 15 different attractions for swimmers and kids. It is Utah’s largest water park and they have just spent a ton of money on what is called the Rainforest River. “Guests will float around this new masterpiece enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the rainforest,” said Spencer Shumway, owner. Also in Utah County is the smaller Spanish Fork Water Park at 199 N. 300 West.

Also, there’s a splash zone at Hogle Zoo, which helps when you’re roaming around the grounds in triple digit heat wishing you had some way to cool off. It’s got a cute shipwreck/pirate them and an added tide pool full of starfish and other creatures.

House Porn

I didn’t have television for years. Then my clients started talking about this ‘HGTV’ and all these programs about flipping houses and million dollar listings. So, I signed up for cable and of course like many of you, my brain has turned to mush. I have NOT however gotten addicted to house porn, watching all the home shows, and cruising various websites to view dream homes I could never buy in Manhattan, Hawaii, Mexico, etc. Why? Because I live and breath ‘looking at homes’ seven days a week! I do have agent friends all over the country and I love talking to them about their markets and sales prices and the crazy stories that often go with multi-million dollar properties.

NYC is all abuzz this past month after the biggest transaction so far this year closed at 220 Central Park South. The buyer purchased two floors in the building for a mere $157.5 million. It is right in the center of what is known there as ‘Billionaires Row’, where insanely high glass residential towers have been erected on and around Central Park. On the West Coast where my granddaughter is now apprenticing at a real estate firm in Los Angeles, there have been some multi-million dollar mansions trade hands. Barron Hilton’s (as in hotels, and now deceased) Bel-Air estate closed escrow for $61.5 million. It was designed by an architect who worked for Fran Sinatra and Lucille Ball, and had 13,000 sq. ft, 13 bedrooms and 17 bathrooms and was known for it’s famous Moderne-inspired swimming pool with a blue, gold and yellow tiled pool depicting the 12 signs of the Zodiac.

The highest sale reported so far this year by the Wasatch Front Regional MLS is in Park City in the Colony Project at White Pine. This subdivision is the most expensive place to live in Utah. The buyer paid $14.1 million for a three level (9282 Sq. Ft. per floor) 14 bedroom, 21 bath home with an 18 car garage on just over five acres. And of course, the luxury home has all the bells and whistles you’d expect in a millionaire’s home:  multiple bars, a movie theater, sauna, spa, gym and a 3,000 bottle wine cellar. The highest listed home on our MLS is the $69.2 million Deer Hollow Ranch in New Harmony, Utah. The mansion sits on 800 acres and touts a dozen reservoirs of water and plenty of water rights. The Tudor style home was built in 1985 with 11 bedrooms and 13 bathrooms.

Now that you’ve picked your jaw off your chest, the flip side of this is my poor buyer who wants to purchase their first home and doesn’t bring home a lot of money each month. Right now, the WFRMLS reports only TWO homes listed under $250,000 in the entire Salt Lake County area, eight homes listed between $251,000 to $300,000. Given that home prices have gone up a minimum of 20% over the last year I’m afraid if we don’t fine something soon he will be priced out of the market…forever!