Babs DeLay

Babs DeLay

December 18, 2017

Condo Drought

‘How much are all those condos going for that they are building everywhere?’  ‘ALL OF THOSE ARE APARTMENTS, NOT CONDOS!’  That’s right-just about every crane and every high rise in construction is an apartment building in the Salt Lake Valley and we are in a bona fide drought for condo buyers.

Who buys condos? Well everyone of course. But the demographic has traditionally been active seniors (Boomers) downsizing from their family homes once the kids flew off to college, and, single women. I remember a developer friend told me that when he built his first condo project in the 1990’s he was surprised to sell it out to mostly women. He learned that their motivation was security that they weren’t finding in the apartment inventory at that time. They wanted a lobby that was permanently locked except to visitors owners let in and a parking garage which didn’t open without a pass card or code. This amenity has become a must in today’s projects, from video cameras to nest door knobs.

There is no way in hell that I can give you the number of apartment buildings vs condo buildings under construction or completed in the Salt Lake Valley in 2017 without moving up a pay raise here at the weekly (from free to paid!). I’d have to call every city and burb and talk to each town’s planning staff. I can give you the data from the Wasatch Front Regional MLS tho: 2003 condos were sold in Salt Lake County in 2017; 264 have sale pendings and there are 271 currently for sale.  They report that the supply of condos has been about three months-worth until there would be zero inventory.

Condos currently for sale at the end of December range from $69,900 to $2,499,000 with an average asking price of $372,206. Oddly enough, the average asking price of a condo with a sale pending was $254,441-meaning it’s the cheaper inventory that’s selling. Sales prices in 2017 were an average of $299,836 per unit.  Sadly, I can personally count less than half a dozen new condo buildings initiated or built this past year in Salt Lake City itself. Instead, thousands of new rental units have reached up to the sky as well as the rents landlords are charging for them.

Builders these days have found that condo developments are harder to finance for construction than apartments, and simpler to build when you take in the grueling process of permits, planning and zoning. All in all, the WFRMLS reported 1671 homes for sale and 271 condos for sale mid December…that’s a total of only 1942. Certainly in a county with over a million people there’s been an obvious drought of not just snow this time of year but inventory of homes and condos to buy.

August 11, 2017

The Apocalypse?

The President of North Korea keeps threatening to blow up the U.S. with nuclear bombs. Are you scared we might all be glowing with radiation in the near future? Are you ready for the apocalypse?

When I was a kid the same nuclear threat occurred in 1962 during what was known as the ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’. Our country feared we were all going to be vaporized in mushroom clouds from our neighbors to the south of Florida. School children like myself were drilled to protect ourselves (don’t laugh, this is real) by hiding under our desks when the school bell/alarm was set off. Nowadays I’m thinking kids do practice drills in case of a mass shooter attack, but back then we worried that an A-Bomb would go off, the roof would fall in on us and then an invisible gas called ‘radiation’ would kill us if we didn’t hide. Out teachers never spoke of guns, just bombs. Additionally, if we were able to crawl out from under our desks after the attack had begun, we were to go to the nearest “Fallout Shelter”. These hiding spaces were set up all around the country in public buildings like schools and were to serve as emergency spaces for survivors to stay in until some mysterious person would come and give the ‘all clear’ to us. Inside the shelter there would be provisions, bedding, water and medical supplies, flash lights and batteries, etc. that might last a week, a month or a year. Generally, the shelters were in basements marked by a yellow sign with three black triangles on it and the words FALLOUT SHELTER.

The man who designed/created/copyrighted that sign-Robert Blakeley-passed two weeks ago at the age of 95. This sign of the times marked an era of fear of our Cold War past that is just as real today as it was back then. However, we don’t have Fallout Shelters anymore to run to in case of foreign attack! The last four in Salt Lake City designated as community shelters were in the Masonic Temple on South Temple, The Utah State Capitol, The Pioneer Memorial Museum on 300 North and the YWCA. Yet by the 1970’s we had enough shelters to house Utah’s entire population. I called each one of them and no one I spoke with said the shelters were still available in case of attack.

In 1962 it seemed every neighbor had dug up their back yard and installed a small underground concrete bunker in case of a nuclear attack. Our family however, did not put one in. I honestly was terrified that we would thus die due to lack of planning. I asked my dad what we would do if we faced the end of the world and he said, “We’ll just use the neighbor’s shelter.” That sorta made me calmer.  Luckily the ‘crisis’ only lasted for about two weeks in and then the threat vaporized itself.

Wasatch Front home prices in this year’s second quarter climbed to their highest point ever. The median Wasatch Front home price reached $300,000, up from $275,000 a year ago. In Salt Lake County, the median single-family home price was $327,000, a 10 percent increase from last year.

The top five most expensive housing areas by ZIP code in the second quarter were:

1. Emigration Canyon (84108) $561,000, up 19.4%

2. The Avenues (84103) $502,000, up 2.7%

3. Eden (84310) $501,000, up 24.5%

4. Alpine (84004) $497,000, up 5.9%

5. Draper (84020) $482,250, up 8.0%

                Competition is fierce for homes priced under a half-million dollars. Many sellers continue to make the sale of their home contingent on them finding another property. Buyers typically offer more than asking price and compete with several other offers.

                The higher prices and limited housing inventory are putting a drag on existing home sales. In the second quarter, there were 8,201 single-family homes sold across the Wasatch Front, down 7 percent from 8,810 sales a year earlier. It was the first decline in sales for a second quarter in four years. In Salt Lake County, home sales were down 5 percent. Utah County saw a 6 percent drop. Davis and Weber counties each saw declines of 11 percent. The biggest drop was in Tooele County were sales fell 15 percent year-over-year.

                While overall home sales were down, many areas saw double-digit increases. Taylorsville (84129) saw sales rise 38 percent. Provo (84604) sales were up 25 percent. In Holladay, sales climbed 22 percent. Nearly half (46 percent) of all single-family homes sold along the Wasatch Front were in Salt Lake County. Utah County captured 22 percent of all single-family home sales. Condominium sales were up in all counties on the Wasatch Front, except Salt Lake County were they fell 7 percent. The median priced condo in Salt Lake increased to $224,000, up 11 percent year-over-year.  The average cumulative days a single-family home was on the market in the second quarter along the Wasatch Front fell to 9 days, down from 10 days in the second quarter of 2016.

August 11, 2017

Utah's Bad Drivers

I wonder if Donald Trump drives anything but a golf cart. I’ve never seen a photo of him behind the wheel of an automobile, but then I don’t remember seeing any presidents in my life time driving and waving at a camera. The first U.S. president to ride in a car was William McKinley, who hopped aboard a steam powered auto called a ‘Stanley Steamer’ in 1899.  Automobiles were first made by hand and not on assembly lines and so they cost a ton of money to buy one. It’s reported in the annals of Utah state history that in 1909 Utah’s 370,000 residents owned only 873 cars and trucks.

            Jump ahead to 2017 and note that the Larry H. Miller Group owns and operates 54 car dealerships in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Idaho, Washington and California. Wikipedia reports that 015 as of Utahns owned 745 vehicles per 1000 people in the state.  We have too many cars and according to the Utah Transit Authority only 16% of folks along the Wasatch front use public transportation.

            In my personal life I take TRAX because I live in the ‘Free Zone’ in the capitol city. Being a real estate broker I pretty much drive for a living schlepping anxious buyers hither and yon to see properties or speeding to a seller’s home to list it. I’m a great driver. I’ve never caused an accident, and luckily have only been in one minor mishap when someone rear-ended my car. I do see accidents every day and my cop friends tell me that most of those happening now are caused because people are texting and not paying attention to the road.

            Here comes summer, holidays and road trips. The insurance website QuoteWizard confirms that New Yorkers are notorious for horn honking, Los Angeles drivers are more prone to road rage than the rest of the country and Portlanders are famously slow and polite. They weighed statistics from 2016 for 75 of the largest U.S. cities as far as accidents, speeding tickets, DUI’s and other citations and found that Salt Lake City drivers were the SECOND WORST in the country.  We apparently they found that we also have the second highest rate of speeding tickets in the country. That’s only salt in the wound after found in 2014 that Utahns are the 10th rudest drivers in the country.  My own survey says that Utahns are probably #1 in making left hand turns from the far right hand lane without signaling, have more people in a vehicle than seat belts in the car (illegal).

Besides the NBA finals and your brackets, the two hottest topics these days are affordable housing and tiny homes. First, affordable housing is really two things…what you think you can pay for a roof over your head, and what the government thinks you can/should be able to afford.

        The Housing Authority of the County of Salt Lake warns that: “Section 8 housing scams prey on home-seekers and use websites that look like registration sites for Section 8 waiting list lotteries. They take “registration fee” money, personal information and offer a chance to register for the real lottery-since these hopefuls usually don’t know they’ve been scammed until the real waiting list is closed.” Guess what? Salt Lake City AND Salt Lake County have both closed their waiting lists for Section 8 housing. There aren’t any units available for rent. 

        One new developer here in Salt Lake has put up the Greenprint Apartments on 800 South and 200 West. These micro-unit apartments are 250-350 sq. ft (think hotel room size) and work great for minimalists and rent for $700-800 per month.  This is the cheapest new product I have been able to find anywhere in Utah.  Salt Lake City does not require developers of rental buildings to make a percentage of the units affordable, but as a builder you can get certain tax incentives to include some in your overall project. Our rental housing inventory in the state is estimated to be down 43-45,000 housing units, and author James Woods recently stated, “For the first time in 40 years, the increase in households in Utah exceeds the number of new housing units.”  St. George reports less than a 1% vacancy rate-yike! Low inventory/high rents is a fact in the majority of larger cities in the United States and why we’re seeing more homeless camping in tents and in boxes along the main roads and around shelters.

        Second, so why not get a tiny home?  Well, zoning wise, they aren’t allowed in most places in the Salt Lake Valley. You can put one in a trailer park, but have to pay $600-800 a month for the rental pad underneath the home. Affordable lots are a thing of the past, with land values going for $65-300,000 per ¼ acre along the Wasatch Front.  Portland, Oregon has come up with a great idea, though. “A Place for You” is a new experiment where the city will put a 200 sq. ft. modular unit in your back yard for 5 years. You agree to have it put in your yard and the adult and one or two kids who occupy the place will be under strict rules while living there to keep the place in order, not do illegal drugs, adhere to noise ordinances, etc. After 5 years you get to keep the structure and use it as an accessory dwelling/rental. Win/win!

        Salt Lake City and County own a ton of land, which leads me to wonder, why not tiny home villages here subsidized by our tax dollars?

You might be too young to know the reference of ‘Shangri-La’ unless you were a Lit major or an old movie buff. Shangri-La is a mythical place in the mountains of Tibet imagined by James Hilton in his 1933 novel, Lost Horizon. It was perfect paradise cut off from the world, with no violence, no protests, no famines. Many Tibetans today believe it does exist, and even the present Dalai Lama thinks it may be hidden in one astral plain or another. Bali Hai is a real place (mountain in Hawaii) but also a mythical island in the South Pacific where only good things happen. Glocca Morra is a dreamy but fake place in the British Isles, probably Ireland, where everyone is in love and dances the day away. All three places are in great old movies-check ‘em out if you want to live in a perfect world for a minute.

        Utah is becoming for some the paradise only Mormons could envision so long ago when Joseph Smith told his fold to head west. For today’s techies, Salt Lake City has just been named #8 on the list of potential Silicon Valley 2.0 Cities. That list looks at other cities known for big tech companies and trends within the geographic locations and industries, and it’s finding that workers in many traditional tech locales are being priced out of housing and are seeking better areas to live throughout America…and we’re looking good in their eyes.  That research is backed up by another report from SmartAsset, a financial tech company that studies what markets are best home buyers polled in their survey. Salt Lake County ranked among the best places in their recent report. DK Eyewitness Travel this month named Salt Lake City #5 and Provo #16 in their list of the ’20 Best U.S. Cities for Making a Fresh Start’. And for senior citizens our fine state ranks #2 among all the states with the lowest proportion of ‘senior isolation’, with 22.5% of seniors living alone (as opposed to places like North Dakota with 32% of seniors living alone). This is according to

        For those of us already living in the Beehive State, the garden of Eden is still a pretty idyllic place to live, yes? The skiing is fantastic, the red rocks are gorgeous and opportunities for employment are seemingly endless. Yet, the veil is lifting and the smoky mist hiding us from the rest of the world is beginning to make us sick. Our Shangri-La is beginning to bust our seams with traffic congestion, higher housing prices and too many low wage jobs. I’m afraid the secret is out about Utah and the masses are coming.

September 12, 2017

#1 Place to Grow OLD!

To practice your Utah accent, repeat after me: “Lard, Darris, wat a gar jus arng farmal ur wear un!” (Lord, Doris, what a gorgeous orange formal you’re wearing!). Good job!  Sister Dottie S. Dixon would be proud. Guess what?  Utahr is sa speshul that we’re now the bestest playce ta git old!

Call your folks, grab your grandmother’s dentures and your grandaddy’s reeking old Skechers and have them make Utah the last eternal place to live because just voted us the best state in which to grow old. This data collector found that the elderly in our state have great access to high-quality care that costs far below the national median. They report our seniors on average page $35K for assisting living and $48K for a home health aide (if they want to remain in their own place but need health care). In reading the study it looks like Utah shoves the Ben Gay up the butts of all other states by having excellent nursing home costs, senior communities and more.  Iowa came in #2, followed by South Carolina, Washington State and Nebraska. 

I work a great deal with active seniors and the elderly. Many folks in the capitol city want to retire here/stay in Utah. Torrey and Escalante are beautiful places but they aren’t near health care. Moab is swell but good luck finding housing in the town. And you have to love the temperature of HELL if you want to live in St. George in the summer! Lard Darris, it’s sa hot down ta Saint Gaarge that you gots to eats hot chiles jus to cool yer mouth off. Ya gotta put ice in ur water bed! And the chickins lay the hard bowled eggs! The study found we are great in caring for our seniors but I’m not so sure it focued much on senior housing other than care centers.

There aren’t that many senior-only apartments or condos available along the Wasatch front where the majority of people are 55 years or older. It’s also extremely hard to find one-level housing.  Legacy Village of Sugar House opened its doors last month and made a dent in our dire needs here for elder care. The 6 level senior housing component offers 286 luxury residential units, dining, meeting and activity rooms and a theater mixed in with main floor retail and office space.  Even though the state’s average age is under 30 years old we have a ton of Baby Boomers. And Boomers are getting long in the tooth (like me) and are feeling the housing crunch. Darris, it’s jus swell ta have all them hospitals for us, but if ya ain’t got no place to live but Pioneer Park they ain’t no use! It might be time to offer housing incentives to builders focusing on seniors-since we are now the #1 place to grow old!

January 04, 2017

Comfort Pets

The definition of comfort is simply the easing or alleviation of a person’s feelings of grief or distress. We all know how to get our own comfort, from a hug of a loved one to a grilled cheese sammich and soup. It may come from a favorite quilt wrapped around you at home on the sofa to the purring of your favorite 4 legged beast.  “Comfort animals” have become quite the rage to folks in this decade and sadly they are not so comforting to other folks.  But comfort animals are different than assistance animals.

                It is rare that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (the Feds) file claims against Utah Landlords. In my 33 years as a real estate broker I can think of about a handful of cases that I’ve read about, so it’s pretty unusual to hear about a new case filing. HUD even does random tests of landlords by sending in phony tenants or buyers to leasing and real estate companies to check that all is in order of the laws of fair housing.  In this story, HUD has just announced that the owner and manager of the Pine Cove Apartments at 1243 E. Alameda Avenue has allegedly violated the Fair Housing Act by denying reasonable accommodation requests to potential renters with disabilities. A woman and her 10 pound dog were denied a lease even though she had a doctor’s note prescribing the animal as an emotional support. She was supposedly told by the landlord that other tenants are allergic to dogs or don’t like dogs. The complainant went to the proper authorities who conducted a sting operation at the property and each time it was found that there appeared to be discrimination going on against people with disabilities. The case will go to court and if the landlord is found guilty, they could pay some big bucks in fines.

                Anyone can get a certificate on-line that certifies their favorite miniature pig, cat, dog, horse, snake, turtle are their Comfort or Assistance Animals. For a landlord, a letter from a doctor is pretty clear evidence there’s a need for the animal. Know though, that during this time of year when many people travel, airlines have strict rules for your comfort pets when traveling with you. Effective this 2016, Delta Airlines no longer accepts warm blooded animals on flights with an average flight time of greater than 12 hours. If your flight is shorter you can carry on a pet if it can fit under your seat for a onetime $125 fee. Birds can only travel on domestic flights. Larger pets must be shipped in a kennel in the cargo hold for a fee. Seeing eye dogs/guide dogs/assistance dogs are permitted to travel in the cabin on the floor or in an adjoining seat and man, if you’re a landlord, don’t even think you can ban such an animal from your property if a tenant qualifies to lease!

February 19, 2016


I just got back in the office from a meeting with a 94-year old ex-REALTOR because I had an offer on her condominium. She lives in assisted living and I always bring her ‘biscuits’ (cookies) from Ruby Snap which she adores. I’ve been in the real estate business for 32 years and she too .was in for decades. We both lived through markets where interest rates on home loans were 18% (mid-1980’s) and seller’s markets in the 80’s 90’s and 2007.  And we had to laugh because we are currently experiencing yet another seller’s market.

        What’s a seller’s market? - In real estate it’s a phenomenon when the inventory of homes and condominiums is very, very low and there’s nothing to buy. It’s like walking into the men’s jeans section of The Gap and only finding three pairs of green khakis size 44/34, you’re a 30/28 and want blue denim. Why is it a seller’s market? - There are many reasons: 1) after the crash of 2008 people were terrified to ever move again; 2) demand is higher than supply because Utah is seeing a huge growth in jobs and businesses moving in (most counties); 3) investors have been buying up short sales and foreclosures like mad throughout the state since the 2007 crash as rental inventory and 4) parents have been seeing an influx of grown children moving back into their homes because affordable rental housing is hard to find. Oh, and speaking of rental housing, my property manager friends ensure me that we are really low in rental possibilities too in the capitol city. Luckily the flux of students moving in and out of rentals around the semester endings and beginnings allows for more units coming and going than the overall vacancy rate of 3% (meaning 97% of rentals are rented!).

        What happens to buyers in a seller’s market? - They get run over, beaten up and walked on. To win the game, buyers will need to be aware that any ‘good’ property that hits the market will generally have multiple offers within a day or two. Unless you can pay all cash for a property you better be pre-approved with a local lender. The more earnest money (think ‘deposit’) you’re willing to throw upfront at the sellers, the better.  Having your financials in order and having that pre-approval letter in your fist to wave at the seller is absolutely mandatory. And you may have heard it from friends, write a letter to the sellers to accompany your offer. Include a photo of you and the dog, or you and the kids. In multiple offer situations you’ll have to present your ‘highest and best’ bid and sometimes just the photo of that 8-toed cat of yours might win you the home. Really.

February 19, 2016


The Utah Apartment Association tells us that the vacancy rate for apartments in Salt Lake City right now is 3%.  That means that 97% of all rental housing is leased out. That blows if you’re looking for a place to hang your hat, and it’s probably even worse if you have a cat.  Most landlords do not like animals as renters which seems odd to me since most people have a cat or dog, right?

        Here’s a rundown of apartment buildings in Salt Lake City currently under construction or in the planning phases as of March, 2016:

        -165 units on 200 East between 100 & 200 South/Cowboy Partners developers

        -277 units on 100 South between 500 & 600 West called ‘Alta Gateway’/Hunter Group developers

        -the former ‘Carriage for Hire’ site at 400 West between 200 & 300 South-high end apartments adjacent to the Light Rail station there

        -165 Units on 400 West between 400 & 300 South/Garbett Homes

        -about 200 units planned for the former Sizzler Steakhouse property at 400 East and 400 South

        -110 units on 600 West just south of the North Temple Viaduct/Kier Construction

        -158 Units at 260 So. 500 East

        -Salt Lake County announced the sale of its property at 600 So. State to Wasatch Development, which plans for a mixed use development of homes and offices/retail

        The numbers add up to @ 1800 units under construction in or near the downtown core, which adds to the 2000 or so which have been completed in the past three years here.   If you head out a little further south from downtown there’s more plans:

        -The Ritz Classic bowling lanes are now closed forever. The 4.11 acres is scheduled to have 289 units built there in the next 1-2 years

        -The ‘Habits’ bar/property has been sold to the same buyer who built the Lotus apartments on South Temple. He purchased the bar at 832 E. 3900 South and another piece of property at 3723 So. 900 East and is planning about 60-70 townhomes similar to ones he built on the corner of 1700 South and 900 East.

        The Salt Lake Tribune called us recently to ask about all the new condo projects going up in Salt Lake that we knew about. Well, there’s aren’t really any to talk about except the Paragon Station on 300 West and 200 South that is in construction stages right now. Lenders have been very tight on their monies for condo developers but much looser on funds for apartment projects. If you were thinking of buying, lack of inventory is almost as bad as it is with rentals. The average price of a home in Salt Lake County in 2015 was $248,000; Utah County $222,000; David County $229,000 and Weber County $170,000.