Mud Man 2023

I had to laugh being a veteran ‘Burner’ for almost two decades at social media and news posts that came into Burning Man this past Labor Day weekend. From Mike Lee declaring the flood on the Playa as ‘God’s Judgement’ on us for ‘for engaging in lewd and sexually charged events at the festival’ to all of us having Ebola, to hearing the National Guard had been called out to control the 72,000 of us stuck in the mud those days. We got 1” of rain, which for an area that gets a total of 6” per year…that was a lot in a short period of time. The desert itself always has extreme weather and temps as evidenced by 2002’s Burn with heat @103° in the afternoons and high winds that made white-out conditions impassable to cross the Playa. We come prepared with all the things like extra tarps, water, food, spare tires, trailers, RV’s and the like. Newbies (we used to call them ‘virgins’ before BM got woke) often don’t come prepared and bring tents without enough preparedness for rain.

When it rains out there, and it does, Burners are told to stay in place and to find shelter as fast as possible. The Playa which is on BLM and Paiute land is like the Bonneville Salt Flats in that it’s a really flat hard packed surface most of the time. As Utah has salt as the base, the Playa has alkaline dirt that when wet acts just like clay. BM only provides porto potties to its citizens, and for those who didn’t have a trailer or RV, you have to wear plastic bags on your feet and slide to the Johns, or wear socks because the mud doesn’t stick as much for some reason.  If you are wearing shoes the sticky clay-like mud will accumulate 4-6” on your shoe soles, bike and car tires and you can’t move!  It took a few days for the desert to dry out but we discovered the Playa wasn’t completely flat, as certain areas continued to be flooded lake-front property even through exodus.

Certainly you saw on social media the 10-lanes of vehicles leaving the Playa, which for them took 6-12 hours to get from dirt to tarmac? We left at 4:30 AM and there was no wait line because we know not to leave during the BM rush hours. Lot’s of folks wanted to escape early and there was evidence of cars stuck in the mud from too-early of a retreat home and of course you saw Diplo and Chris Rock who had hiked 5-6 miles out to flag down a fan to get them home? They most likely flew into the Playa and no planes were leaving in our unique airport that is built from scratch and taken down just after the event.



Size Matters

Do you remember during the Covid-19 pandemic when there were rampant shortages off and on of different types of foods, dry goods, building supplies, baby formula, new cars and such? Did you dare travel during those years and find that gasoline, airfare and hotel prices were nuts? When it came to foodstuffs, manufacturers adjusted quickly by sometimes raising prices due to lack of ingredients and decreasing the size of the final product.  As an example, Snickers bars downsized form 50g to 44 g-equal to about one bite per bar but they kept prices the same. During the same time we heard how lumber and plywood nearly quadrupled in cost. Wholesale prices for plywood increased form $400 to $1500 per thousand square feet, with average retails prices that increased from $12.80 to $48.00 per sheet.

Well that pandemic is basically over and the supply chain has improved across the country. The National Assn. of Home Builders estimate that 9 out of 10 single-family homes built in the U.S. feature wood-framed walls, ceilings, floor sand roofs. The prices of new homes hasn’t dropped since those masked-up days even though lumber prices have fallen, but what has happened is that many builders around the country are doing the same thing as Snicker’s manufacturer (Mars, Inc.)…decreasing the size of new homes. On average, the Builders group has seen a 2% decrease in new home size across the country, it’s own form of ‘shrinkflation’.

The U.S. Census Bureau and HUD’s August housing report for the country found that housing permits were up 0.1% in June but are still 13% below last June’s numbers in 2022. Housing starts in July were up 3.9%. We aren’t as a nation keeping up with demand and statistics also point to a continuing lack of affordable housing being built to fulfill demand of first time buyers and seniors who want to downsize. Home owners don’t want to give up mortgages they got during the pandemic with annual interest rates of 2.5-3% and this fact alone is what’s keeping housing inventory low nation-wide. The National Assn. of REALTORS reported last month that the U.S. housing market is short more than 300,000 affordable homes for middle-income buyers. They found that middle-income buyers can afford to buy less than a quarter (23%) of the listings that are currently being offered for sale around the country. That’s a lot different than five years ago when those same buyers could afford to purchase half of the homes on the market.

As a side note, the Census Bureau report found that Salt Lake County single family home prices increased by almost 60%  during the pandemic and that we had a huge population increase during the pandemic, with more than 23,000 folks from California moving to Utah for work which is three times more people than the next largest group of immigrants-8,300 from Arizona.


Inspect it!

Now that the $20,000 grant has become available for 2,400 potential homebuyers of new construction under $450,000 has been released through the Utah Housing Corp., some of you lucky folks will be buying homes that might be almost finished inside. If you are so lucky to have found something in this age of low inventory, congrats and know that it’s really important to get a full inspection before signing the final paperwork to close escrow.

I have found over the years that buyers who purchase a home or condo to be built or under construction are not counseled to have an independent home inspection prior to closing. They generally have several meetings with the builder reps and trust that all the sub-contractors of the builder are all terrific and do a great job. Well, not always. Earlier this spring I was working with buyers who were working with one of the developers in Daybreak. The husband had some building experience and went to the new construction project every few days to watch the progress. As the concrete was poured and the framing started, problems began to surface. The concrete in some places cracked immediately and was very noticeable with the front stairs pulling away from the house. He noticed that several beams in the roofing trusses that had been delivered to the site had large cracks in them. More things about the construction process became noticeable and he called local officials/engineers to come inspect the work and lo and behold, they agreed with the problems and wrote up the builder to fix them. Sadly, the sub-contractors in several cases hid their shoddy work and continued to install broken trusses. The buyers wanted out because they had lost all faith in the builder and for a moment the company wasn’t going to allow them to bail and get their earnest money back. With a call from the buyers attorney the money was refunded immediately and they bought another home.

Just before closing escrow I suggest buyers hire a home inspector to check that the roof looks installed properly, the main electrical panel does not have a lot of ‘double tapping’, the HVAC and water heater appear to be working properly, etc. A ‘roof to foundation’ inspection. One time on a home in Cranberry in Draper, my buyers and I found out that the home they were about to purchase had never been connected to a gas line, nor had a gas line been stubbed into the lot! A home inspection can be $300-500 or so and you get a 30+ page report with photos. I suggest getting a radon test if there’s a basement and even a sewer line scope to make sure the pipe wasn’t cracked or is sagging upon installation.

Be careful and protect yourself before buying any home or condo, new or used. It will save you a ton of money in the long run!

Tough Business

The Salt Lake Board of REALTORS just released last month’s sales data for Salt Lake County. Basically, all the stats pointed downward form the same time last year, to wit: 1) number of sales of all types of property were down 26.1%, 2) the median single-family home prices dropped to $600,000 (down 4.1%), 3) the number of sales of just single family homes down 26.1% (748 sales in June), 4) median price per sq. ft. $254.41, down 1.2% and 5) the median home price of all types of residences down 4% to $519,000.

Last week the Fed met and raised key interest rates it charges to banks by .25%, the 11th time since last March, and the highest level in 22 years.  Mind you when I got my real estate license in 1984 interest rates were 18%!  Houses were NOT selling, and builders were in a panic. The market responded by creating something called a ‘negative amortization loan’ which almost immediately boosted home sales here. How did that work?  Imagine walking into a builder’s sales office knowing that mortgage rates were 18% for a 30 year loan, but the builder’s rep asked you if you’d buy one of their homes if the interest rate was 6.5%?  Well of course, you’d be interested, right? The deal was that indeed, the rate would be that low, but the interest difference between 18% and 6.5% would be added back into what you owed on your mortgage…11.5% each month. That difference would increase what you owed the bank each and every month, and well, if you wanted to sell a few years after your purchase you’d find out you owed MORE than the property was worth!  Just like in 208-09, many people lost their homes and simply gave them back to the bank. The 1980-82 recession in the U.S. was the worst economic downturn in the country since the great depression and property values dropped. It was influenced by the 1979 energy crisis which was mostly caused by the Iranian Revolution that caused a major disruption to the global oil supply. There were long and ugly lines at gas stations around the country as vendors ran out of fuel due to the poor supply chain. Much like today, Americans in the Reagan era were concerned with high budget deficits in the U.S. Treasury and bemoaned a lack of trust in the government. Sound familiar?

The June sales stats also picture a local real estate industry that can’t possibly support a living wage for real estate agents when total sales in a month of all types of residences in the County were a mere 1,072 when there are over 10,000 members of the Salt Lake Board of REALTORS. That stat points to just over 10% of the membership selling homes last month, and like any sales profession, ‘10% sell 90% of the inventory’. Thinking of being a real estate agent? It’s a tough business!

$20K Help or Not?

First time home buyers or folks who haven’t owned a home in the past three years should be jumping up and down now that the $20,000 has been authorized/released from the State Legislature for qualified buyers. BUT it’s not as wonderful as it seems.

First, only 2,400 qualified homebuyers will be able to get the funds through the First-time Homebuyer Assistance Program.

Second, you can’t buy a home that costs over $450,000.

Third, and this is a biggie…you can only buy NEW CONSTRUCTION.   This last requirement was lobbied by developers and may not help that many people wanting to live in certain areas. There’s very little new affordable construction going on in rural areas of the state, and almost none close-in to downtown Salt Lake City except for a few townhomes. When searching the WFRMLS for new construction properties in the Salt Lake Valley, a whopping 37 show up under $450,000 and all are townhomes. Townhomes may be great for some, but often they have many stairs so that differently abled persons and seniors could not buy one. Utah County had 74 properties with only two home subdivisions (not townhomes) in Eagle Mountain and Spanish Fork. Davis County had a mere 9 available, again, all townhomes. Washington County also had 9 properties, mostly townhomes, with a few one level homes available in Hurricane. Summit County has NO properties that fit the requirements and Wasatch County has one newly constructed home in Daniel for $160,000. Many builders do NOT list their properties on an MLS and so buyers have to drive around or hunt and peck on the interweb to find other options.

Townhomes are similar to condos in that some have HOA fees for exterior insurance, water, sewer and grounds maintenance. Depending on the subdivision you may or may not own the land underneath the unit. They are a great housing alternative for some because they are an affordable option for some and offer a ‘lock and leave lifestyle’ if the exterior landscaping is paid for in a monthly fee. The most common floorplan is living space above a two car garage, with the second level the kitchen, great room and probably a half bath, and laundry and the rest of the bedrooms/ baths on the second floor.

IF you think you’ve found housing that fits the rules for the program, your first step is to get pre-approved with a participating lender to get credit-qualified. The $20K loan is 0% interest with no monthly payments and can be used toward the down payment and/or closing costs. When you refinance or sell the property you have to repay the amount borrowed OR 50% of the home equity.

For more information, contact a local mortgage broker who can qualify you and spell out the numbers for you for a loan. I don’t suggest internet brokers as they may not be familiar with the program. And check out


When it’s hot as hell we all like to find cool water. From our myriad of lakes and reservoirs to out rivers around the state, people love to swim, boat, paddleboard and kayak especially now that a really harsh winter has almost melted away. There’s one waterway many of us don’t think about-the Jordan River with its Jordan River Parkway connecting 45 miles from Utah Lake to the Salt Lake Fairgrounds. Yet the earliest known people in the state, from Native Tribes to Mormon pioneers knew the river intimately as a source for irrigation.

The Jordan began as a cold-water fishery with 13 native species including the Bonneville cutthroat trout, it later turned into a warm-water fishery with mostly the common carp fish swimming in its waters. It is the only outlet for the waters from Utah Lake.  Sadly, the river was a catch-all for sewage from settlers and later industry waste like from the Geneva Steel smelter where Vineyard in Utah County is now located and in the 1960’s Utah Lake and the river was a stinking mess. Yet citizens cried out and sewage treatment began and with help from the Feds Clean Water Act and monies from the Superfund it got cleaner and cleaner.

Nowadays the Jordan River is much cleaner and is a destination place for many as there are now many boat ramps and parks along the waterway as well as a wonderful, paved pathway. The Jordan River Commission has a great website that shows the addresses of all the current boat ramps from Utah County to Salt Lake County. The helpful site offers videos about paddling along the river, hints for self-guided and group paddle trips and where to sign up for Utah Outdoors bicycle trips alongside the waterway as well as paddle trips in the water.  The Commission is also going to lead guided paddles weekly during September as part of the “Get To the River Festival”.

The most recent boat ramp just opened up at Pioneer Crossing Park in West Valley at 1272 W. 3300 South (just east of the Utah Cultural Celebration Center) last week and to the joy of many suffering from the July heatwave it was great to slip into the river and enjoy a cooler temp along the banks and under the trees and brush alongside it. Alongside the ramp there is a park with a small playground and places to sit that will be expanded to an even larger park soon.

I have to laugh at people who look at Utah Lake and the Jordan River as a ‘no-go’ because the water looks polluted and is almost white in color. The water in Utah Lake sits over a white/gray clay bed which makes the waters murky. Although no one is encouraged to swim in the Jordan, you can rent kayaks through the commission to enjoy this wonderful waterway.

Small Steps

If you travel to NYC and happen by Central Park, you’ll most likely see the park’s horse carriages for hire. They generally seat four humans and cost about $150 for a 45 minute tour of the lower end of the park. Salt Lake City used to have carriage rides but in August of 2013 a carriage horse by the name of Jerry collapsed and died from heat stroke downtown. It was captured on video and went viral, and 15 months later the City Council unanimously outlawed horse drawn carriages in the capitol city.  If you’re walking or driving around the downtown/Avenues area and periodically see a large sandstone block in front of a home, generally very close to the curb, you’ve stumbled onto a wee bit of history here. I drive by these blocks of stone all the time-there are five I know of just on South Temple alone at 529 E, 731 E, 808 E, 1135 E and one at 1167 E with the name ‘Lynch’ carved into it, which was probably the name of the original home owners that lived there.  Back in the day before cars, there were wagons, carriages, and horses to get you from here to there. Many standing homes in Salt Lake, especially in the Marmalade, Avenues, University, Harvard/Yale and Sugar House areas still have carriage houses and even small barns where the ‘transportation’ was kept at night. Nowadays these structures are either small garages or have been converted to studios or ADU’s.

Sandstone carriage steps in Salt Lake City were essential in the city’s early days. In the mid-19th century, when Mormon pioneers settled in the Salt Lake Valley, they brought with them their knowledge of construction and architectural traditions. The use of sandstone for use in foundations for homes and businesses, which is abundant in the surrounding Wasatch Mountains, became prevalent due to its durability as rock and its availability nearby in Red Butte Canyon. The point of the big square rock by the curb was to allow humans to be able to get up onto a horse or vehicle without using a ladder. They served as both a practical and decorative element in front of homes and public buildings, and were a symbol of social status. The steps were sometimes meticulously carved and crafted by skilled stonemasons, adding an element of elegance to the streetscape. They are generally about 1’ tall, 2’ wide and 2’ long.

Are they protected? Michaela Oktay, SLC Planner says “,The Historic Overlay would protect any carriage steps from being removed if they were on a landmark site or a within a local historic district. I have never had someone actually want to remove them to my knowledge. Generally, they are in the right of way, the city owns that land and would also have to approve removal if they were alerted to the removal.”


Growing Pains

We love our cars, don’t we? As our state grows, so does our need to address traffic around the state. Six groups, including the Cache Metro Planning Org. (CMPO), Dixie Metro Planning Org. (Dixie MPO), Mountainland Assoc. of Governments (MAG), Utah Dept. of Transportation (UDOT), Utah Transit Authority (UTA) and Wasatch Front Regional Council (WFRC) are sponsoring a state survey to find out what you think about how, when, where and why you travel in and around the state in order to help plan for future transportation improvements.

You may have heard that UDOT is considering turning the Bangerter Highway into a full blown freeway? Currently there are four new freeway-style interchanges and off-ramps planned for 2700 West, 13400 South, 9800 South and 4700 South which will eliminate stoplights at four more intersections for drivers on the current highway. This is needed as @60,000 drivers use the road everyday but double that is expected by 2040 as growth along the southwest corner of the valley continues to explode with commercial and residential growth.

UTA is going to be adding double track and electrification of FrontRunner commuter rail lines to increase service times, and I-15 may build more lanes from Farmington’s Shepard Lane to Salt Lake City’s 400 South. The public transportation agency has a few options they’ve been presenting to the public. Option A would include five general purpose lanes, an express lane and auxiliary lane in each direction with express lanes being reversed during commutes. Option B proposes reversible express lanes in the middle. Residents along the I-15 corridor could lose homes and businesses in the Guadalupe, Fairpark, Rose Park, Poplar Grove and Woods Cross areas with potential expansion plans on the west side of the freeway. This opens up a huge debate between homeowners and the government, because if it’s decided there will be expansion and home and business owners don’t want to sell, they could lose their property in a public ‘taking’ of their properties which is supposed to give fair market value for those properties if the plans go forward.

Seems like a long time ago when I-15 first began construction. In 1926 when the numbered system of U.S. highways was created, it was known as US 91.  Back in 1957 I-15 started as an interstate highway with a segment between Los Angeles and Las Vegas open to traffic in 1966. Construction continued through the 1970’s and the final part of the freeway opening in 1990. In the 1960’s the north-south section was built in Davis County that eventually led to Layton as a new commercial hub and made a huge difference in growth in Centerville, Farmington and Kaysville.

As we grow we need better transportation options. The six groups sponsoring the survey are asking random folks to participate in a statewide survey about how, where and when we travel each day and gives each participating adult a $25 gift card to report their travel for a seven day period.

Catch Cans

Wasatch mountain ski resorts had more snowfall than any other recorded year in history. Utah isn’t unique, the Sierras and Colorado’s Rocky Mountains got hammered too.  Happily this translates into the end of the multi-year drought that’s been plaquing the West for several years, as lakes and reservoirs fill and rivers are running high-with several feeding into the Great Salt Lake. Now sail boats are back on our salty sea and rocks are getting covered up at Lake Powell. We can cross our fingers this is a trend for wet and not for dry!  The local news educated us this past year when the Great Salt Lake got to its lowest point on record that most of the water use in Utah is for agriculture. Did you know our clover hay is considered almost equal to gold bullion overseas? Pricey feed!

We cannot relax our water use ever again in this state. Global warming is real and now we know that if the lake goes, we all will probably vanish, either by death of toxic air or by moving the hell out of Utah.  So now we’re officially in summer and some people are sprinkling their lawns and landscaping helter skelter, wasting water every damn day. Utah Water Savers wants you to get paid to replace your grass with water-efficient landscaping knowing that the future of wet years may not be real. You can earn a cash incentive when you upgrade your thirsty lawns to water-wise plants, trees and shrubs. You could increase your curb appeal, decrease maintenance requirements and reduce water use and your water bill. These incentives are not just for residences but commercial, industrial and institutional properties as well that currently having living grass. If you are connected to a municipal water system and you’re not in arrears with your water bill, you can qualify if you do the prescribed landscape upgrades within 12 months from getting approved for the program. There are a few rules to qualify: 1) plant-coverage minimums and grass-covered maxims; 2) grass is prohibited on park strips, slopes, and in areas less than 8-feet wide. You can get $.50-$3.00 per square foot depending on where your water comes from (i.e. Weber Basin, Central Utah, Jordan Valley, etc.).

One of the best things you can do right now is a sprinkler performance test. You can get ‘catch cans’ from the USU Extension County Offices or use a can to collect sprinkler water to measure the depth of water in say, one hour of watering. In SL County it’s 0.5 inches for turfgrass. Right now you should be watering every three days, until September when it’s every six days. If you want to get paid to paid to replace your grass, contact The project minimum to qualify may vary depending on your water district, and you must be pre-approved for the program. The website gives you info to perform your own site inspection on water use.

Damn Bug-ly!

They’re baaaack!  A plague of those creepy crawly Mormon crickets are chewing their way through Nevada and are headed our way.  Native Americans long valued these ugly bugs for their nutritional value, herding them to gather to roast and grind into a flour of sorts making edible cakes of sorts that pioneers called “desert fruitcakes”.

If you’re not a native Utahn you may not have heard the famous tale of the 1848 cricket invasion. The newly arrived Mormons had barely been in the Salt Lake Valley for a year and had worked hard and fast to plant and raise crops. The late harvest that first year was bleak and spring the following year had late frosts that destroyed the second planting season. Sometime during their second summer here black clouds of these kinda scary looking bugs landed and crawled and chewed their way to the gardens of the saints, threatening to wipe out major food sources. This creature is known to travel in huge swarms and will eat all plant material in their path. The story goes that the settlers prayed for a miracle and sure enough a huge flock of seagulls came and ate all the bugs, saving crops. What is now known as the “Miracle of the Gulls” is mostly factual and it is why the seagull (actually the California Gull) is the state bird of Utah. These kinds of gulls are a desert bird and have been in Utah for centuries. They certainly didn’t eat all the crickets and damage to the crops also happened because there was a drought going on in the state those years.

White folk aren’t known to eat bugs. I’ve never seen any historical records that Utah pioneers ate these crickets, but frankly, they should have!  Sun dried and ground up, crickets have 60% protein, 10% carbs and around 3,000 calories per kilogram. Nowadays you can buy ‘3 Cricketeers’ dark chocolate candy bars, Cricket Crunch Bars, Chocolate Chip Cricket Cookie Mix with Cricket Flour, dried edible bugs “Crick-ettes’ flavored with salt and vinegar, sour cream and onion or bacon and cheese flavor and Entolife brand dried crickets form Maine flavored with chocolate and coffee or sriracha. Silly pioneers! We could have had our famous Utah funeral potatoes with dried bugs mixed in or even our office state snack (Green Jello) with crickets suspended in Jello. As an aside, Bill Cosby came to our Utah state Senate in 2001 to encourage legislators to make Jello our official snack.

Elko, Nevada is under siege with millions of bugs and they are headed here. Twenty years ago, almost 2.5 million acres were infested with them in Utah, and Tooele County was one of the worst-hit areas. They may be part of the food chain but they are smelly and BUG-ly!