No Mansion Tax

The ‘mission’ (no pun intended) of a tax collector it to provide the public with fair market value of real and personal property and to comply with local laws per that county and our state have enacted to set up a taxing system.  We can be taxed on our real estate holdings, mobile homes, air craft, motor vehicles and property used in the operation of a business. In Utah, property tax notices go out mid to late summer for you to review and accept/pay or protest.  School districts in the state take up almost 60% of tax revenues collected in the state. Your County Assessor’s computers determine a property’s value and if it’s residential the owner will automatically get a 45% deduction from their home value to determine the taxable rate, which means you pay taxes on 55% of your home’s value.  We are blessed with a relatively low tax rate here. BUT be glad you don’t live in say, Los Angeles where as of last April high end homes are now subject to a ‘mansion tax’ that levies a fee on transfers of real property that sell for over $5 million. Revenue from the tax will fund affordable housing and services to combat homelessness in the city.

We don’t have transfer taxes in Utah. The story I was told when I got my real estate license years ago that we as REALTORS made a deal with the Tax Assessors to give them sales data each year so that the Assessor could calculate property taxes in exchange for not levying transfer taxes on the sale of land, homes, condo, commercial buildings and multiplexes. This tax has nothing to do with capital gains taxes on profits that the IRS charges.  Our legislature has not considered charging any transfer tax in some time and well, there’s an argument for and against them on both sides of politics to either keep taxes low or tax more and give the funds to worthy causes like funding homelessness programs.

As you can imagine many California millionaires are challenging this transfer tax in the courts and there are huge arguments if this kind of tax will have any effect on the local economy. Some say it will have zero impact and others say that L.A. is going to lose millions of dollars in revenues. Wealthy homeowners and buyers are just like anyone else-they want to pay the least amount of taxes and save as much money as possible when selling a property. Some sellers who thought of asking $5,025,000 might list their home instead for $5 mil just to avoid the taxes which will unfairly effect comparable sales. Some think that this kind of tax will discourage flippers and speculators. We shall see.

MORE INFO ABOUT YOUR PROPERTY TAX: or call 385-468-8000 or call your local assessor 4info!


SNOWBIRD: noun. 1) any of several birds seen chiefly in winter 2) a ski resort in Utah 3) one who travels to warm climes for winter.  Right now, spring fever is RAMPANT here in our state even though Spring Break at our state universities and colleges was last week. Some will have joined the crowds of hikers, bikers and ATV’s in southern Utah while others avoid that chaos and will travel in the next month to enjoy their favorite warm vaycay spots and/or our ‘Big 5’ National Parks.

More established folk look to St. George and Washington County as a place to retire or to have a second home to get out of the cold and snow in other areas of the country. With the amount of Winter that Mother Nature dropped on so many areas this season flights, hotels and B and B’s are in high demand. One of my twin daughters lives in Lake Arrowhead, CA and got 11 feet of snow in 5 days, and another 5 feet the following week. She and her husband are chomping at the bit to find the warmth, and places like St. George have them eyeballing prices.

It’s not surprising then to learn that Washington County was awarded the nation’s top luxury second-home market in the country this past year as gathered from data by Pacaso-a luxury home real estate website that hooks up dreamers who want to make owning a luxury second home a reality. The firm analyzed lock-in rates for second mortgages with lenders by buyers in Utah, California, Florida and Nevada. Their definition of a luxury home is any residence listed at over $1 million or more that is specifically designated as a second residence. The MLS in Washington County currently lists 1504 homes and condos for sale in all price ranges, with 208 of them (14%) asking $1 mil+.  The MLS for Salt Lake County has 230 properties (16%) listed at over $1 million with a total of 1452 active listings in all price-ranges.

The most expensive home listed in Salt Lake County right now is a 15,540 sq. ft. seven bedroom home at 2304 S. Oneida Street for $11.9mil. There are two homes in Washington County listed at $10mil, almost two dozen asking over $1mil in Summit and Wasatch Counties with the highest price property I can find in Utah going for $50,000,000 in White Pine Canyon. That one sold last year for $36mil-17,567 sq. ft, 6 BR/10BA, 15 fireplaces, 6 car garage, 60’ indoor/outdoor stainless steel pool, motorized interior walls, spa with a Himalayan salt room, hammam, bowling alley and cinema laser projection system. Hey, if you have the bucks I’d be more than happy to sell you any of these whether it’s your primary residence or second home!

Damned Ice!

It’s hard to say IT’S SPRING when it just keeps snowing and snowing!  If you live in the Salt Lake Valley, you probably don’t have much stacked up on your yard but in the benches homes that face north still have up to a foot in some places. Then there’s all the snow in the canyons, Park City, Cache Valley, etc. We’re breaking records for snowfall left and right and when this stuff does melt some folks are going to be dealing with ice dams, water damage and mold.

During and after a snowfall, the snow on your roof can be warmed two ways leading directly to the snow melting: One way is through the sun’s rays which are refracted through ice crystals of the snowflakes that have collected on your home’s roof creating warmth and melting the snow. The other way is through the heat from the inside of your home escaping through the attic and it’s vents and warming your roof. When this snowmelt reaches your home’s cold gutters it can freeze into ice. This ongoing process of thawing and refreezing creates ice dams in your gutters. These dams can cause water to back up under the shingles of your roof or behind the fascia boards where it can lead to damage to the roof decking, wall sheathing or the ceilings and walls of your attic.

Ice dams can cause awful problems and cost a ton of money to fix. The absolute worst thing you can hear in your home or apartment is the sound of running water, a sound you didn’t cause by turning on a tap. If the water gets under your shingles it will pool in the attic and then run down your walls or inside your walls and could end up in your basement. The scary part is that you might not hear the water melting until it’s too late, when your ceiling can fall in on you. It starts as a bubble in the paint which can grow to a huge bubble before it pops and then woe and behold attic insulation and sheetrock come tumbling down onto the floor. Or it travels inside the walls and you find your basement has water in it from the roof dam. It can happen slowly or quickly depending on the outside temperatures and weather conditions.

The longer the melting water runs into your home, the more damage it will cause. Almost immediately mold will start to grow in any warm area of the home that the moisture touches. Mold can lead to serious breathing and health problems and many times isn’t discovered until it’s done havoc to your home.

If you see a large bunch of icicles hanging from sections of your gutter knock them down. You can also add insulation and heating wires on your roof and in your gutters to eliminate this problem.

Sears Big Hole

There’s a big hole in the ground in Salt Lake City-you know the one, on the west side of State Street between 700 and 800 South.  The ‘Sears Pit’ will be transformed in the near future from a huge block that’s now a pool of water and mud to a new hospital for Intermountain Health Care. So many of us old farts have many memories of Sears, Roebuck and Company that it was hard to see the diggers and dozers pull down the building this winter.

Richard Sears was a railroad station agent in Minnesota who came up with an idea in 1886 to sell modestly priced watches that no jeweler wanted to offer, and did it through mail order.  Soon he partnered up with a friend, Alvah Roebuck and then a clothing merchant (Julius Rosenwald) to create a mail order firm that penetrated rural areas who didn’t have department stores but could be reached through railroad and mail delivery. Their original catalogues sold buggies to bicycles, sewing machines and fishing poles, clothes and shoes and of course, watches. They literally had to train Americans on how to ‘catalogue’ shop with mail order protocols for payments and returns. Many credit Sears as the company that taught Americans how to shop! The Sears and later Craftsman line of products became a high standard of reasonably priced items and the annual catalogue was treasured by every kid in America who was able to look at pictures of the newest bikes, trikes, dolls and banjos and could circle the ad to let Santa what they wanted for Christmas and birthdays.

From 1908–1940, Sears, Roebuck and Co. sold 70,000 – 75,000 homes through their mail-order catalogue “Modern Homes” program. Over that time Sears designed 447 different housing styles, from the elaborate multistory Ivanhoe, with its elegant French doors and art glass windows, to the simpler Goldenrod, which served as a quaint, three-room and no-bath cottage for summer vacationers. (An outhouse could be purchased separately for Goldenrod and similar cottage dwellers.) Customers could choose a house to suit their individual tastes and budgets. Sears was not an innovative home designer but instead a very able follower of popular home designs but with the added advantage of modifying houses and hardware according to buyer tastes. Individuals could even design their own homes and submit the blueprints to Sears, which would then ship off the appropriate precut and fitted materials, putting the home owner in full creative control. Modern Home customers had the freedom to build their own dream houses, and Sears helped realize these dreams through quality custom design and favorable financing.

The Salt Lake City store was built in 1947, a big box looking thing of Mid-Mod design. Sears lost a lot of customers to new competitors in the 1970’s, like Target, Kmart and Walmart. It was eventually bought out by Kmart in 2005 for $12 billion. They filed Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 2018 and this store closed in 2018.


Big in Japan

Long story short, I was asked to tour a Japanese film crew around the Capitol City for a friend. They were here featuring a local business but wanted content about our fair city. They had already been here once before and shot film in and around Temple Square so I was responsible for suggesting places to visit off the beaten path that your typical tourist might miss. Since part of my job as a real estate broker is to tour potential buyers moving to the area around it was an easy task, made easier for me as I’m the volunteer Chair of the Historic Landmarks Commission for Salt Lake City!

I picked up the crew from their hotel and lucky for me they spoke English. First stop, a drive downtown around Temple Square to explain the current scaffolding around the LDS Temple and then a photo stop at the Lion House. “Lion of the Lord” was one of Brigham Young’s nicknames, and he lived at 63 E. South Temple where he ultimately fathered 57 children by more than two dozen wives.

Next, up and around the state capitol building and then into the historic Avenues past the grand old Victorian, Federalist and Craftsman homes up to the Mid-Mod area of Pill Hill where we toured a home for sale with sweeping views of the valley where I pointed out the geographical benches (foothills), the Rio Tinto mine, Mt. Nebo (you can see it’s peak from the top of the Avenues).   Then, off to the ultimate oddity-Gilgal Sculpture Garden at 749 E. 500 So. (free). This little public park is the legacy of Thomas Child’s desire to give physical form to his deep-felt religious beliefs, and the garden contains 12 amazing stone sculptures and 70 stones engraved with scriptures, poems and philosophical tests that rang true to his spiritual quest. I had to take the immediately to see what I call ‘Mr. Brick Pants’-one of the largest sculptures in the garden, as much else was covered in snow. They ooo’d and awed and took lots of video before I shuffled them back in the car to drive them by Trolley Square (the original service barns of a long gone trolley car system in the city), Liberty Park to our final destination…the ‘World’s First Kentucky Fried Chicken’ store!

Harland Sanders created his secret recipe for fried chicken in 1940. He met Pete and Arline Harman at a convention and they made a deal to franchise Sanders restaurant at his motel in So. Carolina. The host of the program informed me that it’s tradition for Japanese to order KFC as a Christmas day delicacy in their country and they photographed the museum pieces at the flagship store at State and 3900 So. They bought swag there and we ended up at the Sun Trapp tavern as they wanted to shoot a gay bar in Utah. Fun was had by all and the show should be up in Japan soon!


Isn’t everyone along the Wasatch Front groaning… “Enuf snow!”. Well, except for very happy skiers, I guess!  What I’m grinding my teeth about is not the weather but what is surely coming this spring-FLOODS!  Back in May in 1983 Salt Lake County declared a water emergency after a crazy wet winter the year before and in ’83 and had to divert rising waters from Red Butte, Emigration and Parley’s Creeks as temperatures warmed up fast and snow melted even faster. Unfortunately, city officials kinda overlooked City Creek in Memory Grove Park below the state capitol building and well, the ‘State Street River’ was born. City officials reached out to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to call on it’s members to help fill sandbags on a 90-degree Memorial Day weekend that year along State Street. Those not sandbagging became kayakers and sidewalk fisherman (yes, they caught trout on the watery street) or helped built pedestrian bridges to get over the floodwaters.

Folks ask me if we’re going to see main roads under water in our big cities and my answer is simple: yes, there will be stormwater/snowmelt and hopefully the remediation cities did back then will hold this Spring and early summer. Flood prevention since the ‘80’s has seen cities and towns add bigger culverts and storage ponds-many of which look like small pocket parks that are lower than street level. These ‘bioretention areas (aka ‘rain gardens’ in desert climes) help slow the flow so hopefully it will infiltrate to the ground. Smaller versions are found in parking islands and street medians.

We want snowmelt to get to the Great Salt Lake and other reservoirs in the state. WE ALL CAN help in our everyday activities to make a huge difference in getting the water to where it needs to go and to help with water quality. Homeowners and businesses can collect trash around their properties weekly, making sure that cigarette butts and trash, Fall’s leftover leaves and grass clippings don’t get in the gutters but in dumpsters and appropriate trash receptacles.  It is illegal to wash your sidewalks into the gutters, mainly because oils, industrial wastes, human and animal feces, detergents, fertilizer and pesticides will contaminate the runoff. Sadly, I’ve seen businesses and even Gateway Mall regularly power wash sidewalks into gutters when the temperatures are warmer.

If you see or suspect anyone or any business illegally dumping or spilling into the storm drains, gutters or the sewer system call the stormwater hotlines/departments in Salt Lake City: 801-483-6729, South Salt Lake: 801-412-3245, Utah County: 801-851-7873, Ogden: 801-622-2900 and St. George: 435-627-4142. It is so important that we try and keep the quality of the storm waters and snow melts for the health of our waterways, reservoirs, and lakes.

Earn it!


First time buyers most likely have never seen a real estate purchase contract (called a ‘REPC’, pronounced ‘Rep-C’) but have probably heard of down payments, earnest money and closing costs. Nowadays lenders can grant you a zero-down mortgage but a seller is still going to want to see you put some skin in the game up front. That skin is called ‘earnest money’ and is really often misunderstood by both buyers and sellers. Here’s some clarification that should help:

Earnest money is considered good faith funds, money that is put down before closing escrow on a property to show the seller(s) that you’re serious about purchasing. In some states it is common to put 1% of the asking price as earnest money, whereas in Utah there is no common amount. Technically a contract doesn’t need a bunch of earnest money because a contract becomes a contract when the parties agree on terms. I certainly have written many contracts in my day that had no earnest money up front because it wasn’t required by the parties, but in reality a seller would FREAK if a buyer didn’t wiggle some funds in front of the seller up front in the negotiations.

Let’s say the purchase price is $500,000. I would suggest to a buyer to offer $10,000 earnest money. If there are multiple offers I might suggest putting the buyers cajones on the table and write in $50,000 earnest money to really show the seller how serious they are!  BUT WAIT! What if the home inspection turns out horrific and you want out of the deal. Will you lose your earnest money? Simple-if you abide by the terms of the contract you won’t lose your money.

There are four dates in a REPC that we pay attention to: 1) the seller’s disclosure to the buyer (wherein the seller gives the buyer a title report showing liens on the property, a plat map of the lot and a ‘seller’s property disclosure’ form-a 16 page ‘what do I know about my property’ form, any leases and if a condo, the budget, rules and minutes of the homeowners association), 2) the buyer’s due diligence deadline (the time the buyer has to inspect the property and go over any information the seller has provided), 3) the appraisal and loan deadline for the buyer and 4) the closing date of the sale. Home inspections can take a minute, and a normal time to complete them is about 10 -14 days. IF the buyer backs out of the contract before the 14 days, the buyer gets all their earnest money returned.  IF the property doesn’t appraise for the sales price or the buyer doesn’t get final loan approval, the buyer gets their money back.

Once the earnest money check is deposited, the money belongs to no one! It sits in escrow until the buyer fails the deal or it’s credited to the buyer at closing as part of a down payment, or returned if it’s a zero-down loan.


In one week basketball (NBA) fans will be tuning into the All Star game here on Sunday the 19th as the smallest arena in the country squeezes in as many fans, players, coaches, support staff, owners and VIPS to the Vivant Arena. Every year I like to bring my fav brother out to see a Jazz game, so I was curious to see what ticket prices were for this event. LOL!  When I checked a few months ago the seats in the sky were going for $3000-5000 and those down on the floor a mere $45,000!  Not kidding!  If you wanted to impress someone and take them to the game to sit behind Team LeBron or Team Giannis you’d be out just under $100 grand!

Salt Lake City is going to make sure we put on a good show apart from the game itself. There’s a free snowboarding competition outside at the Gateway Mall Feb. 17 and 18 called ‘Gril Rail Jam’, free concerts and art shows on top of shipping containers at Gallivan Plaza Feb. 17-19th 1 pm-10 pm each day (open to all ages) and a free hoops contest ongoing Fridays-Sundays at Trolley Square similar to ‘Pop-a Shot’. There are other events under $50-just Google the NBA All-Star weekend events for more info.

What visitors might not see are lines of tents on North Temple and around Gateway of the homeless. Although Mayor Mendenhall has said publicly on many occasions that she wasn’t going to destroy campsites, she actively had SLPD and the health department sweep 500 West two weeks ago when the temps were in single digits at night. I watched them load new tents and sleeping bags that had been donated by different charities scraped into backhoes and thrown into dumpsters. One woman, sleeping in her tent, was picked up in her tent and thrown into one of the dumpsters (luckily lived to tell the tale). Methinks the Mayor will be having massive police and UTA police presence around TRAX stations and the arena and will most likely be very aggressive in hiding our homeless from the TV cameras and visitors during ALL-Star weekend.

On the flip side, visitors will see how vibrant our economy is and all the cranes in the air. The tallest building (Astra, 200 So. State) is 15 stories up, with 24 more to go. It will be the tallest building so far in downtown. Next is the site of the old Tavernacle on 300 So. and 400 East-31 story building that’s about 15% up in the air so far. Previous visitors will be impressed with the new Hyatt Regency attached to the Salt Palace that opened recently with terrific bars and restaurants. City Creek Mall tenants are drooling at the potential for increased sales but probably sad they can’t be open on Sundays…and this particular Sunday…to do shopping before the game.

Those fans flying in will gasp at how small the Great Salt Lake has become, how much snow we have and hopefully we won’t be sporting an inversion that week!

The Moon Tree

Did you know Utah has a Nasa Moon Tree?  Pardon me, as a tree hugger by nature I’m surprised I had never heard of this beauty in our state. “This tree has boldly gone where no trees-and few humans-have gone before”, chimed KSL a few years back. And yes, sci-fi fans love the thought of humans growing plants in space so this is a great little piece of local trivia that will help you win any local pub’s trivia night!

First, the tree is located in an exterior corner of the State Forestry Department’s Lone Peak Office at 271 Bitterbrush Lane in Draper.   Second, it’s a 52 year old sycamore tree that was planted here in 1976. Third, it’s a plant with a lot of history and fourth, it may be dead or almost dead.

In 1971 Apollo 14 blasted off from it’s launch pad and inside the cockpit one astronaut (Stuart Roosa) had a stash of tree seeds on him. Each flyer gets to carry a small personal amount of goods with them and this former Forest Service smokejumper was the perfect guy to give the seeds a ride. In his cannister there were @500 seeds-not just sycamore seeds, but hundreds of redwood, pine, fir and sweet gum seeds.  His job was to bring them home safely to earth as the Command Module Pilot after orbiting the moon (and ultimately landing on it). The great news was that most of the seeds sprouted and NASA then divvied them out to various forestry departments around the country to see what would grow and if anti-gravity would effect what they grew into. Would there be freak trees?  There aren’t any reports of odd growth that I could find.

Utah reportedly got two starts of sycamores and two of Douglas fir were planted in Utah. Utah state capitol building grounds and a local nursery. Folks around the country nicknamed them ‘moon trees’ and local interest was fairly high as to the future of these special plants. The nursery gave out cuttings and clones to its customers. Sadly, the tree at the capitol was destroyed by a freak tornado when it was split in half by the wind in August of 1999 and the other is somewhere by the old prison site in Draper by the State Forestry office out there. I wasn’t able to find out where the other two seedlings disappeared to in Utah as even the State doesn’t know where they are now and if they survived.

This past November NASA launched the Artemis rocket as part of a plan to get us back to land on and explore the moon. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has decided to reactivate the moon seed program for the future. What’s a bummer is that NASA forgot about the program for many years and lost where the trees had been planted around the country. A NASA employee was contacted by a teacher who found a plaque near a moon tree who had asked where others were planted. He had not heard of the program but ended up posting on social media asking for the public’s help finding the trees and hopefully plaques around the country. The current Moon Tree Foundation is now run by Roosa’s daughter who sees to plant moon trees around the world.

Winter Staging

I don’t know if it’s an abundance of snow or the dread prediction that the Great Salt Lake will be dead within five years and the subsequent dust will kill us all, but I’ve had numerous clients contact me already this new year wanting to relocate OUT of Utah. The good news is that I have a huge network of real estate agents around the country whom I’ve met, worked with over the years who I can hook you up with or find to help you transition to a new locale. It’s pretty scary to just ‘pick up and go’ in general if you don’t have a network of friends and family in your planned destination, so having a REALTOR be your first friend can take some of the fear away. A seasoned broker will be able to, in advance, counsel you on types of housing found in that destination, pricing of said housing and really simple things like good links to school data if you have or plan to have kids, utility companies and recycling options, mortgage brokers, great restaurants, transportation options, local festivals and farmers markets.

Some folk will have to sell their home to relocate, others might opt to rent out the property in case they don’t like where they moved to and can return in a year or two and move back into their home or condo. I know a great property manager who will help you find great tenants by checking their credit and criminal history and make agreements with you as to what you’d authorize them to repair if something went wrong and set a limit where you don’t want to be disturbed if say a repair costs under $500. They will take out their monthly management fee (say, 10%, and it’s negotiable) and deposit the rental income into your bank account each month. The MOST important thing if you wish to rent is to talk to a CPA. If you turn personal residence into a rental there’s a certain time allowed regarding capitol gains on any profits of a sale, so check first what you should plan for in the future as far as taxes are concerned. And, talk to an attorney to decide if you want to put the property into an LLC and/or your living trust.

You have to stage a home to sell it these days-it’s just standard practice now. In winter you must make sure you keep snow removed from walkways, clean windows to let in as much light as possible, deep clean appliances and the home itself and declutter.  Don’t overwhelm potential buyers with massive smells, like too many burning candles. If you’ve got one, light the gas fireplace for showings. Keep the temp @70°, put on mellow music and create a vibe that the home is warm and inviting. Throw a soft lap blanket on the sofa with an open book to give the impression of comfort. With the market adjusting downward you have to step up your game to sell these days!