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Moving to Utah: Buyer Basics

By May 31, 2023September 8th, 2023Moving to Salt Lake

In 2020, the Census Bureau reported that the Beehive State was the fastest growing state in the nation over the last decade–with a population increase of 18.4%. You don’t have to look far to see Utah in the news with accolades for having the Best Economy, GDP Growth, and location for Work Life Balance.

Aside from a quick layover at the Salt Lake City International Airport, I had never spent time in Utah before making the life-changing decision to move here. Our family’s move to Utah was our ninth military PCS (permanent change of station) and our fifth home purchase, so we were not exactly spring chickens. We were told Utah is the plastic surgery capital of the U.S., the Utes Women’s Gymnastics team gives the football program a run for their money, there are A LOT of kids, skiing, skiing, and more skiing, and the air quality impacted by inversion is a real concern. Relocating to Utah came with plenty of surprises including the inability to order a mimosa before 11AM, for example.

Whether you’re a local, transplant, or contemplating moving to Utah from out of state, below are aspects of homeownership that are unique to this great state that every buyer should be aware of.

Utah is a Non-Disclosure state, meaning what a home was purchased for is not part of the public record. Square footage, lot size, and property tax information can be searched through the county’s Office of the Assessor’s website. Conversely, in a disclosure state such as Florida, when you perform the same search by name, address, or parcel ID, you can find when the property was purchased, the dollar amount, and go as far as downloading a warranty deed from the clerk of courts. Because real estate property transaction information is limited in a non-disclosure state, the public often looks to third party sites such as Zillow.

The National Association of Realtors estimated 86% of individuals used a Realtor in 2022. In non-disclosures states like Utah, hiring a Realtor is an important first step, as they have access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). The MLS contains not only when a specific property last sold but how many previous owners it’s had. While these data points do not necessarily impact the price, it is important for noting the story of a home. In addition, not all sold data is reported on the MLS, specifically for sale by owner and new builds. Also, the Utah MLS was not founded until 1994.

Inventory is limited and expanding West. Since 2012, Salt Lake County has witnessed home appreciation. The very mountains where we love to ski and hike are also physical barriers to development. Demand exceeds supply, which has led to an unbalanced market in favor of Sellers. Westward movement in residential construction in locations like Syracuse, Davis County and Grantsville, Tooele County, and West Haven, Weber County have ramped up in an effort to alleviate the housing shortage and create more affordable options for Buyers.

Basements are included in square footage, regardless if it is finished or unfinished. This can be a bit misleading if you are looking solely at price per square foot. A few aspects to consider are the following: is it liveable, the ceiling height, and are there egress windows. Cue your Realtor and our MLS. While not as pretty or user friendly as third party search engines, the MLS property fact sheet provides a clear breakdown of features per floor and what percentage of the basement is finished. This information ultimately gives potential buyers a better understanding before they step foot inside the property.

Utah has the lowest smoking rate in the county. However, Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer and should be tested in properties, as it is a gas found in soil and rocks. To search your home by ZIP code and order a test kit, visit Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

Utah is free of transfer taxes on a real estate purchase. In some states the tax is up to 4% of the purchase price.

Utah Property Taxes are predicted by HomeAdvisor to hike 90% in the next five years. Currently, Utah on average has one the lowest property tax rates.

Earnest Money a Buyer contributes when their real estate purchase contract is accepted is refundable until the Financing and Appraisal Deadline, unless it is specified otherwise. In both Texas and Washington state, earnest money is non-refundable upon an offer being accepted. Thus, we refer to real estate contracts in Utah often as being “buyer friendly.”

The average cost for monthly utilities is a common question for buyers moving in from out of state. According to a nationwide study based on the U.S. Energy Information, U.S. Census Bureau, and the EPA published in 2022, Utah has the lowest average electricity rate for residential properties. On the flip side of the coin, the Beehive State ranks 43rd for carbon and pollutants.

In conclusion, there are numerous factors far beyond what school a property is zoned for or if the countertops are quartz that all buyers should consider when purchasing their future home. Buyers do not pay real estate commission. The commission for both the listing agent and buyer’s agent is paid at closing by the Seller. Therefore, buyer’s due diligence starts when they make the decision to purchase real estate property. Interview multiple agents and hire the best fit for you. Niche Homes is committed to honesty, transparency, and helping our clients find their home with the best terms for them. Happy Hunting!

Kerry Harding is a Realtor with Niche Homes, specializing in Military Relocation and the Avenues neighborhood

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