In a move Elizabethtown Mayor Jeff Gregory is calling “transformative” for the city’s downtown, officials have worked out a land trade for part of the former Herb Jones Chevrolet downtown and in a separate move announced a $50 million commercial-residential development next door.
The deal, as defined in a unanimously passed municipal order Monday by city council at a special meeting, exchanges 8.78 acres of city-owned property on Ring Road for approximately two acres belonging to Herb Jones Chevrolet on East Poplar Street and East Dixie Avenue.
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Have you met the Joneses? Of course you have, they’re everywhere. They’re your neighbors or friends who seem to have it all. Their homes are decorated perfectly, always on trend with the latest and greatest. Their kids are the captains of every team, have the perfect ACT scores, and win all the National Scholar awards. The Joneses even have that little designer dog, perfectly bred to not bark, shed, or poop.
But worst of all, the Joneses are always on vacation. They post on social media about it constantly, or just talk about it when you happen to run into them. Meanwhile, you’re neck-deep in your non-genetically modified dog, who does poop, and you’re not on vacation. No fair.
You need a vacation. Better yet, you need a lot of vacations, and Ember has the perfect solution for that: luxury vacation homes. The Joneses, bless their hearts, spend way too much money staying in fancy hotels, whereas with Ember, you don’t waste your money paying some landlord’s mortgage by renting, you buy your very own vacation home – well at least a portion of it.
So how does it work? Each Ember home is divided into eight equal parts, with each owner getting 6+ weeks for each 1/8th share they purchase. Owners looking for more time can buy more of the home, with each owner only paying a fraction of the cost that corresponds to their ownership. Voila. Vacation home granted.
But isn’t that just a timeshare?
No, Ember isn’t a timeshare. If you and seven of your buddies go in together and purchase a home in Bear Lake, is that a timeshare? No. Why? Because you didn’t have to listen to a 90–minute presentation from Sharon, and because you actually own the property (with timeshares, you generally only buy the right to use someone else’s property).
With Ember, you co-own the property in an LLC with up to seven other owners, and once all eight shares are sold, you can sell your portion at any time, capturing any appreciation in the property value. Keep in mind, you don’t actually know the other owners, nor do you have to recruit any friends to buy in with you. Ember knows vacation homes can sometimes be more enjoyable when you aren’t co-owning a home with your mother-in-law.
Who takes care of the house when you aren’t there?
Ember’s innovative approach to vacation homeownership promises a five-star experience from start to finish—free from hassle and stress. Each home is professionally designed and furnished so you can simply show up and start relaxing. A 24-hour property concierge is available for any issues that may arise. Need a few extra home supplies? Did you lock yourself out… again? The on-call concierge will be there in minutes, sort of like a personal Butler (pretty sure the Joneses don’t have a Butler). Ember manages the entire property, making sure the home is always clean, the linens are washed, the lawn is mowed, and the pool is sparkling.
Make memories while you’re there, rent it out when you’re not
Ember understands that plans change. Six weeks might be just enough in a given year and too much the next. With select “Ember Flex” homes, owners can rent out their time when they won’t be at the home – to potentially offset the costs of ownership – and not worry about the home sitting vacant. Too bad the Joneses haven’t thought of that. Plus, when you’re not there making memories, the home is making you money. Win win.
It’s time to out-Jones the Joneses. With Ember, you’re ensuring you actually take those vacations, while not paying costly rental fees. Life is short; build memories and build equity in a home. Start by browsing our available properties in destinations like St. George, Park City, Newport Beach, Bear Lake, and more. Then talk with an Ember advisor to get all your questions answered and finalize your purchase. From there, it’s all about making memories that you’ll cherish forever with the people you love, with or without the Joneses, but probably without.
Ember Advisors are available for call or chat from 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Mountain Time. Visit the Ember website or call 1-800-366-6891.
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This story was originally published by the South Side Weekly.
While much of the attention on the night of February 28 was on the outcome of the mayoral race, Dixon Romeo, founder and executive director of the housing advocacy group Not Me We and his network of fellow activists and volunteers, watched from the Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP) office on 61st Street and St. Lawrence Avenue to see if their two referenda had passed after a long day canvassing through South Shore and Woodlawn.
“We are constantly meeting people in the course of our work facing rent increases, who are concerned about rent increases, who saw the building across the street from them get converted and [are] worried about what happened to them, who are worried about tax increases that they can’t afford,” said Brandon Patterson, a housing organizer for Not Me We who canvassed that day.
Their referendum in South Shore called on the future 5th Ward alderperson and mayor, both of whom will be decided on by Chicagoans in the April 4 runoff election, “to prevent the displacement of renters, condo and homeowners in South Shore in light of the impact of the Obama Center” by passing a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) ordinance that would create more affordable housing and also provide protections to renters, owners, and condo owners.
A referendum, or ballot question, can become an organizing tool to demonstrate public opinion on a given issue. In all, eighty-eight percent of South Shore residents voted in support of a CBA ordinance. A similar referendum in Woodlawn pressed the mayor’s office and City Council to abide by the provisions of the 2020 Woodlawn Housing Preservation Ordinance and passed with a comparably high level of community support.
The two referenda are non-binding, meaning the future mayor and 5th Ward alderperson—either Desmon Yancy or Martina “Tina” Hone, who will face off in the April 4 runoff—can ignore them should they wish, but they show strong public support for more affordable housing at a time when candidates are still actively seeking votes.
The coalition fighting for the CBA for South Shore, of which No Me We and STOP are a part, is also composed of three other groups: Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), of which current 20th Ward Alderwoman Jeannette Taylor was a prominent member before taking office; Black Youth Project 100’s Chicago Chapter (BYP100), which has also been involved in demonstrations against the new police academy on the West Side; and UChicago Against Displacement, a group that includes current and former students of the university.
The Obama CBA Coalition’s comprehensive demands for South Shore feature many of and are indeed modeled provisions in Woodlawn’s housing ordinance, especially ones targeting the neighborhood’s specific housing needs in light of the Obama Presidential Center’s (OPC) groundbreaking in 2021.
Three quarters of the neighborhood’s residents are renters and half are rent-burdened, meaning they spend most of their income on rent.
“People with the lowest incomes can’t afford housing in the private market,” Bob Palmer, policy director at Housing Action Illinois, said. “This is an example of market failure where just the basic cost of building and maintaining and operating an average rental apartment…if you’re doing it to make a profit, you have to charge higher rent than what people with the lowest incomes can afford, which is why we need government investment to create more affordable rental housing.”
And with investors purchasing almost a third of homes in South Shore, almost twice as many as they had bought in 2015 when the OPC site was first announced, many fear that rents will get even less affordable.
“There are certain landlords that want to keep long-time tenants and so forth and don’t increase rents or only do modest increases. But certainly, though, when you have new property owners who don’t have those relationships, they’re likely to just increase the rent to whatever the market will bear.”
South Shore currently has only six affordable housing developments with a total of 412 units, while nearby Woodlawn has seventeen similar developments with 764 units. This is despite the fact that South Shore has a population more than double Woodlawn’s.
Approving more people on the waiting list for subsidized housing, also known as Section 8 vouchers, is another effective way to keep renters in South Shore from being priced out by rent increases, according to Palmer and other experts who study housing affordability, because the amount they pay remains fixed at thirty percent of their income.
Of the 41,000 voucher holders in Chicago, nearly 3,500 live in South Shore already, which is the most of any neighborhood in the city, according to 2019 data.
While the Coalition’s South Shore specific demands do not include expanded housing choice vouchers because that program is subject to the federal government’s control, they include a loan fund to purchase and covert broken down vacant properties into affordable housing units, and a grant for long-term South Shore home and condo owners to fix up and maintain their properties. The coalition also asks for an expansion of the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase program which would allow tenants to form an association, make an offer on the property, and access financing to buy their building before a landlord can sell it to an outside party.
Other demands are wider in scope, like offering benefits to renters citywide, such as: a cap on rental and application fees, a right to return when a tenant is displaced from a unit while code compliant repairs are being made, a publicly accessible rental registry that would help identify vacancy and rental rates, and a tenants advocacy office that would help them better understand and enforce their rights against delinquent or exploitative landlords.
This set of demands were based on the examples of other major cities that have experienced considerable gentrification in recent decades like San Francisco, Washington D.C., Portland, and New York City.
Organizers began seeking a CBA following the announcement in 2015 that an Obama library would be located in Jackson Park. They originally sought an agreement with the Obama Foundation directly so that the planned development would bring benefits to then-residents of the South Side and not just future ones.
This ask echoed the words of former President Obama himself, when he spoke to a crowd at a public meeting in Chicago in 2018, “Those are the kinds of plans, activities, foresight that we have to have in order to get that perfect balance: revitalizing and renewing the community but also making sure that people who are already living there are benefiting from it.”
But in the same speech, Obama also said, “We’ve got such a long way to go in terms of economic development before you’re even going to start seeing the prospect of significant gentrification. Malia’s kids might have to worry about that. Right now, what we’ve got to worry about is you have broken curbs, and trash and boarded up buildings, and that’s really what we need to work on,” downplaying activists’ concerns about displacement.
Obama’s idea that Black South Siders need not fear being pushed out of neighborhoods adjacent to the OPC for a generation or two set the tone for what were ultimately unproductive discussions between organizers and the Obama Foundation.
In the face of its unwillingness to sign a CBA, organizers changed tack and began seeking an ordinance from the City of Chicago that would have covered residents anywhere within five miles of the planned location, including both South Shore and Woodlawn.
In the course of those negotiations, however, this was whittled down to cover only Woodlawn, leaving out highly vulnerable areas like South Shore and Greater Grand Crossing which are also adjacent to the park where the OPC development is underway. These areas were left unprotected by that ordinance, which included a number of measures for affordable housing for renters and assistance for financially distressed homeowners. This was not because the coalition had acceded to the City’s arguments that only Woodlawn merited affordable housing protections—rather, this reflected their strategic calculation to come back and fight another day.
The coalition’s current focus on securing an ordinance for South Shore has been held up by the recalcitrance of retiring 5th Ward alderwoman Leslie Hairston, who, according to Savannah Brown, housing organizer for STOP, pulled “the neighborhood out at the last minute.”
When the coalition met with officials from the Department of Housing, they expressed no qualms with the organizers’ listed demands, but said that they needed the backing of the mayor to support the passage and implementation of the ordinance.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, deferring to long-held custom not to pass legislation that affects a single ward without the alderperson’s approval, asked for Hairston’s blessing, which she would not give despite making promises on housing when she was last running for reelection in 2019. Instead, she said organizers were staging displacement “theater.”
Romeo, of Not Me We, cited peer reviewed studies and data. “The Department of Housing, University Illinois Chicago, DePaul University, the University of Chicago all have come out and said there’s a housing issue in South Shore,” he said.
“[An] eviction tracker shows that right now the Fifth Ward is the number one ward for evictions,” Romeo continued. “If it is theater, what is the role that she is playing in this play?”
Data from the Law Center for Better Housing reveals that South Shore had 1,741 evictions filed in 2019, ranking it first out of Chicago’s 77 community areas. The amount of back rent sought in those cases averaged only $2,174, or about two months’ rent, an amount that relief from the city or state could reasonably step in to provide.
In fact, the city’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program is already helping South Shore residents struggling to make rent, giving out 1,050 grants totaling $8.5 million—more than any other zip code in the city—but it is not clearly not enough given that South Shore still has the highest level of evictions filed for service in 2022, according to the Inclusive Economy Lab at the University of Chicago.
One of the reasons why people in South Shore are so often evicted is that they overwhelmingly represent themselves pro se—only 8.7% of tenants can afford to hire attorneys—whereas the landlords they go up against in court are almost always lawyered up, 94.2% of the time. This suggests that the lack of legal aid for renters in South Shore is also a major issue and why an office of the tenant advocate could be an important step.
Not all South Shore residents agree with all of the CBA Coalition’s demands, however. Val Free, executive director at the Neighborhood Network Alliance, strongly opposes the construction of more affordable rental units in South Shore. “We’re not lacking any affordable housing.”
“Condominium owners are the most vulnerable people in the neighborhood,” according to Free, and thus, resources should be devoted to helping them instead of renters, she said.
Free lived in the Parkways, a Section 8 housing project facing Jackson Park, until May of last year. She has no nostalgia about living in public housing. “If you interviewed anyone in the Parkways, they would tell you they would not want to see another [public housing development].”
After twenty years, Free was only too happy to move out, despite raising a son there and successfully organizing a tenant association to get rid of problematic property management staff. She now rents in the neighborhood, although she is in the process of purchasing a condo.
Her nonprofit seeks to increase homeownership in South Shore by providing workshops and support to transition renters into prospective home and condo buyers. Just last November, the Alliance and Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago hosted a housing fair in South Shore that was free and open to the public as part of their ongoing work.
To help prevent what happened with Hairston from happening again with the next 5th Ward alderperson, Not Me We held a forum where nine candidates expressed their commitment to or against a CBA ordinance with or without modifications.
Candidate Desmon Yancy, a South Shore resident who came in first in the February 28 election with twenty-six percent of the vote, expressed unqualified support for the CBA ordinance as is and promised to introduce such legislation in his first 100 days in office if elected.
“People who say it’s not as pertinent an issue should see the number of South Shore residents who supported a CBA on election day,” said Yancy.
Martina “Tina” Hone, who placed second in the February 28 election with 18.7 percent, was more qualified in her support. She argued that the CBA coalition’s demand that one-hundred percent of units on City-owned vacant lots be set aside for affordable housing would deter development. The number she’d like to see is thirty percent instead.
Additionally, Hone contended that the vacant lots shouldn’t only be reserved for housing—small businesses, restaurants, and infrastructural improvements could make good use of that space, too. However, she commended the work of organizers, saying, “There are principles in that CBA that should be citywide.”
“I pledge if I’m elected, to sort of take those pieces and work with colleagues in City Council to get citywide protections.”
Although Yancy conceded that a lot of the demands specifically for South Shore should be in place for all Chicagoans, he views South Shore residents as a priority, given that construction of the OPC is already underway. He added that the ordinance would offer the City the opportunity to pilot certain programs that could later be made available to residents in all neighborhoods.
When asked about the possible difficulty of passing such a housing ordinance if Paul Vallas ends up in the mayor’s office, Yancy replied, “The needs of the community don’t change regardless of who ends up as mayor, whether it’s Vallas or Johnson.”
Hone expressed a similar level of urgency about South Shore’s housing needs: “I know it’s not ethnic cleansing, but there’s…socioeconomic cleansing that seems to be going on and we can’t allow that to happen.”
“I want to really restore the sense of community that was like the Black communities that I grew up in, where we were all together,” Hone said. “South Shore could be a shining example of how to have a community that’s predominantly African-American but mixed income so that we can all thrive and have examples of folks to aspire to.”
For now, the CBA Coalition is watching the outcomes of the mayoral and 5th Ward aldermanic races scheduled for April 4 and remains in contact with the candidates. After that date, they intend to host large public meetings to make evident to whichever candidate wins, be it Brandon Johnson or Paul Vallas, Desmon Yancy or Tina Hone, that the community will hold them accountable if they do not take dramatic steps to alleviate the yearslong housing issues in South Shore.
DeKALB – DeKalb Mayor Cohen Barnes is calling for countywide collaboration from area taxing bodies to reduce the property tax burden on residents.
The mayor recently spearheaded a tax summit bringing together representatives from area taxing bodies that he says he hopes to encourage to help reduce the burden across the board for taxpayers without cutting services.
Among the area taxing bodies represented at the summit were the city of DeKalb, DeKalb Community Unit School District 428, DeKalb Park District, Kishwaukee Water Reclamation District, DeKalb Public Library, DeKalb Township and DeKalb County government.
“My main goal was to get all the taxing bodies to have representatives in a room where collectively we could start having a conversation about working together toward a common goal and that common goal being reducing our aggregate property tax rate to 9%,” Barnes said. “Every taxing body is going to have different challenges, different needs. We know that. But this was unprecedented to be able to bring everyone together, have a conversation, and everyone in the room by the end all agreed to be supportive of further discussion to continue to talk about reducing the tax rate, which is, I think, incredibly exciting.”
The city has seen an estimated $200 million in new value over the past three years spurred, in part, by development incurring on DeKalb’s south end from Meta, Amazon and Ferrara Candy Company.
“Because of all the economic development especially on the south end of town, taxing bodies have been able to receive more tax revenue, which means their budgets have increased. This is a perfect opportunity for us to work together to figure out how some of that money can be returned to the taxpayer in the form of a reduction of our tax rate.”
— DeKalb Mayor Cohen Barnes
Barnes said the time is now for area taxing districts to lower the tax rate. He attributes what he called the city’s upward trajectory to 15 years-in-the-making of planning. Last fall, the DeKalb City Council approved a plan to keep DeKalb residents’ property tax rate flat, meaning city residents likely won’t see an increase on the city portion of their 2022 property tax bill.
“Because of all the economic development, especially on the south end of town, taxing bodies have been able to receive more tax revenue, which means their budgets have increased,” Barnes said. “This is a perfect opportunity for us to work together to figure out how some of that money can be returned to the taxpayer in the form of a reduction of our tax rate.”
One such reason the city would like to lower the tax rate is to remain competitive with neighboring communities such as Sycamore, Geneva, Batavia and St. Charles.
Barnes said he views this as a way to level the playing field for DeKalb and its efforts to entice new housing and commercial development.
“[The reason] why we don’t have the amount of commercial that we could have as well as the reason we have so few housing starts is our property tax is just too high to make it economically feasible for a developer to come in and build houses or build commercial buildings,” Barnes said. “That’s why we’re always having to offer continued incentive programs to reduce the property tax rate to attract businesses.”
Property tax relief was approved for a number of significant developments on the south side. In 2020, the Meta DeKalb Data Center, owned by Facebook’s parent company, was granted a 20-year, 55% property tax abatement which includes stipulations for number of jobs and wages. In 2019, property tax abatements also were approved for Ferrara Candy Company, which announced its arrival to DeKalb in January 2020. The candy company was approved to abate their property taxes by 50% for the next 15 years.
Each of the tax abatements were approved in public meetings by elected officials without the developer being publicly identified.
Barnes stressed that he’s not asking taxing bodies to cut services to make a reduction in the tax rate happen.
“The levy that they’re going to get is going to go up,” Barnes said. “They’re going to have more dollars to spend in their budget. I’m just saying rather than taking all the new money that you’re going to get and increase your budget to the maximum, why not give some of that money back to the taxpayer? … You can lower your tax rate and still have a larger budget. That’s only possible because of the Facebooks, the Amazons, the Ferraras that are coming to our community because all the property taxes they pay are new dollars into the pool that everyone dips into.”
The city anticipates that the 2022 tax rate will likely be published in April, after which Barnes intends to meet with representatives from area taxing bodies in another tax meeting.
A portion of land between Trent Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd in New Bern is looking to be rezoned for commercial use.
According to documents from the New Bern Board of Aldermen meeting on Tuesday night, a company named Price and Poole 2612 Investment Property, LLC. is requesting consideration to rezone a portion of Lowes Blvd.
The portion of land is located on the east side of Lowes Blvd, beginning at the intersection of Trent Road and moving up towards MLK Jr. Blvd. In total, the land is listed at just shy of 7-acres and is currently zoned for Neighborhood Business use.
A neighborhood business district is established as a district in which the principal use of the land is to provide the retail of goods and services to nearby residential neighborhoods. The regulations of the zone is to limit the businesses that may be established in order to protect the surrounding residential areas.
According to meeting documents, the property has road frontage on both Lowes Blvd/ and Trent Road. Additionally, there are several commercial structures located on site.
There is a mix of single-family and multi-family dwellings, commercial development, and a school within half a mile of the site. This includes homes located along Trent Road, Camden Square Apartments, Highland Village Apartments, Trent Village and Southgate in the area of the property.
New Bern’s Planning and Zoning Board unanimously approved this application at their Feb. 7, 2023, meeting and recommend approval of the request.
A public hearing will be conducted by the board of aldermen on Tuesday, March 28 at 6 p.m. The hearing will be a part of the regular alderman meeting, taking place inside the city hall courtroom.
For residents who have questions or would like more information on the matter, they are asked to contact Jessica Rhue at 252-639-7587.
A planning application has been submitted to Milton Keynes City Council to deliver a 20-storey residential-led development in the city.
Located on Midsummer Boulevard, the proposed development will see 355 new homes, over 8,000 sq ft of resident amenities, 7,500 sq ft of landscaped terraces and a commercial offering.
It has also been proposed that 31% of the homes delivered will be available at discounted market rent (DMR).
The planning application includes a mix of studio, one, two and three-bedroom apartments.
Branded as PLATFORM_ MK, the development will reach up to 20-storeys and will feature resident amenities including a dedicated co-working hub, residents’ lounge, games room, cinema room, gym and a private dining space incorporating a bespoke bar area.
According to plans, there will also be three outdoor areas for residents including a dedicated pet zone, child-friendly play area and landscaped garden on the 1st floor, as well as further terraces with panoramic views across the city and facilities for entertaining friends and family on the 14th and 17th floors.
Jean-Marc Vandevivere, CEO at PLATFORM_, said: “Milton Keynes is enhancing its reputation as a destination of choice for skilled workforces and businesses alike as it continues to diversify its offering and celebrate its new city status. Through the delivery of high-quality homes for a wide demographic, PLATFORM_ will further establish Milton Keynes as one of the fastest growing UK cities.
“MK City Council is a forward-thinking local authority that, like PLATFORM_, prioritises sustainability by targeting carbon neutral operations by 2030. We’ve actively engaged with the council and a range of local stakeholders to create our proposed vision for homes that respond to the city’s needs, and importantly, positively deliver against Milton Keynes’ Housing Strategy 2020 – 2025.
“PLATFORM_ MK will contribute to bridging the gap between demand and supply of high-quality homes in the city-centre while setting new standards for design, service and quality.”
Plans also include an ‘energy conscious and sustainable design’ combining renewable energy sources, smart in-home technologies and energy efficient heating and lighting systems, to create a low carbon development.
PLATFORM_ MK will lead the way with its biodiversity credentials as it is expected to achieve a biodiversity net gain of 79% – significantly higher than the current legislative benchmark of 10%. The ecological benefits are also strong, swift bricks and bird and bat boxes are included across the development, which were integrated following feedback from local stakeholders.
Dipa Joshi, Partner (Residential Lead), at Fletcher Priest Architects, said: “It has been a positive experience working on this exciting project which will create a landmark for central Milton Keynes, supporting its growth as a city. PLATFORM_ is a forward thinking and engaged client who aspire for sustainability and innovation in the residential market.”
The Development Bureau said yesterday that it will continue to launch commercial sites in Kowloon East.
The commercial floor space in Kowloon East has increased by about 90 percent over the past 10 years to 3.2 million square meters, including more than 60 redeveloped or converted industrial buildings, it said.
Together with the projects under construction or approved, the commercial space in the area will reach more than 4 million square meters, which is similar to the core business district in Central, it said.
Other commercial sites will be put on the market in the future, including a number of sites in Kai Tak that will provide a total of about 910,000 sq m of commercial floor space, it noted.
The bureau added that many multinational companies and financial institutions have already moved to Kowloon East, indicating that it is growing as a second major business district and enhancing Hong Kong’s status as an international financial and trading center.
Separately, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said in his blog that Hong Kong should target its resources on economic development as its recovery is at a critical stage.
Land use and zoning plans for the community of the Greater Higgins Corner are on the agenda of the next regular Nevada County Board of Supervisors meeting slated for Tuesday, March 14, 2023 during the afternoon session scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
The Realtors Association of York & Adams Counties (RAYAC) released its 2022 annual report on real estate sales within Adams County, which shows some positive results, especially in regard to additional tax revenue coming into the Gettysburg Area School District.
The annual report provides an overview of the county real estate market as well as housing trends for each of the six school districts in the county.
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OREM — “We wanted to do it our way, and we felt like we could save money, and we did.”
That’s what Brandon Merrill said about why he and his wife Karleigh chose to build, rather than buy, a new home.
In March 2021, the Merrills were living in an Orem townhouse they’d bought in 2018. They watched as their neighbors, who moved in a year after them, sold their townhouse for much higher than they’d bought it for. With interest rates being so low, the Merrills figured they could do the same and leverage themselves into a bigger property.
They looked at existing properties and decided they could build for cheaper, so they found an open lot in an Orem neighborhood about a mile south of their townhouse. They broke ground in August 2021 and moved in the following April.
The Merrills only expected to make around $100,000 on their townhouse. By the time they sold in early 2022, they made double that.
Experiences like the Merrills’ are becoming more common in Utah, which is one of only 18 U.S. states where it is cheaper to build a house than buy one, according to a 2022 study from StorageCafe.
Utah comes in as the fourth most cost-effective state for homebuilding after Hawaii, California and Colorado. The average total building cost in Utah, including land and construction fees, is $538,000, the study shows. That is $97,000 less than the average single-family home listing price of $635,000.
Quinn Crowton’s work as a realtor for Century 21 Everest takes him across Weber, Tooele, Salt Lake and Utah counties. He said homebuyers wanting to move to expanding areas like Herriman, Bluffdale and Riverton should definitely look at new builds, which are priced competitively with older homes.
The current housing market has made it much easier to get seller concessions, where the seller agrees to help pay part of the closing costs, Crowton said. Loans and discounts are also more prevalent, including the 2-1 buydown loan, a mortgage where the first two years of the loan are set at a reduced price.
“Since (interest) rates hiked, lots of builders are wanting to get rid of their inventory, so they’re willing to take lower bids and willing to give those incentives back to the buyers to get rid of their inventory,” he said.
Crowton sees a lot of opportunity in the changing market, especially for new builds.
“I am a lot more aggressive now with my buyers and my offers,” Crowton said. “It’s fun to see people get into something that they love, combined with something that they can afford, and to be put in a good situation.”
Crowton said he is concerned not enough people realize there is still a housing shortage, which is why rent prices are still rising as home prices have gone down even further.
“We still have a supply issue,” Crowton said. “Prices may continue to go down gradually, but it’s not going to be a huge drop, in my opinion, like it was in 2008.”
In his work as a realtor for Century 21 Everest in St. George, Bryan Burnett said he’s seen a recent influx of people from California and the Salt Lake area moving to southern Utah.
Around half of Burnett’s clients are paying cash to avoid the high-interest rates, he said. He also sees many people building not just because of the potential for a lower price, but also because of a lack of existing options.
“People like to build because there just hasn’t been that much inventory to choose from to purchase,” said Burnett, who has worked in realty for 21 years. “The cost is probably the same as buying a house that’s five years old, so you basically can get what you want out of a property.”
That’s what Reagen and Cade Gardner did. The Gardners were outgrowing their downtown St. George townhouse, especially with their son Brandt on the way, who was born in June 2022.
The Gardners started building a new house in Washington, Washington County, in March 2022. They moved in that December.
“When we were looking at buying, it was the same cost to buy and remodel versus just building, so that ultimately was the deciding factor,” Reagen Gardner said.
As Burnett continues to watch the market, he said it’s important for realtors to stay ahead of the game.
“It’s the agents that know how to provide a great service in any kind of market and know the fundamentals that will do great,” Burnett said. “You’re going to see a lot of agents struggle because they don’t know how to deal with change.”
Utah’s growth rate
The last U.S. census confirmed that Utah was the fastest-growing state in America over the past 10 years, with a large influx coming from coastal states like California.
Meghan and Michael Caldwell and their four children are part of that migration. The Caldwells recently moved from Orange County, California, to Spanish Fork, buying a lot in May 2021 and moving into their new home the following June.
Their move was largely motivated by house prices and a need for more space. A similar single-family home in California would cost well over $2 million, Meghan Caldwell said, and wouldn’t have the same kind of yard.
“It was mostly just needing space for our family and wanting a neighborhood with a backyard and a community,” she said. “We just did not find that attainable in California.”
In choosing to build, not buy, the Caldwells liked the idea of not having to make renovations to an existing property.
“We weren’t in a rush, and we just liked the idea of starting fresh,” Meghan said. “We saw this as our home we’d be in for a while.”
Things didn’t go exactly as planned: Meghan said finishing their basement and putting in landscaping ended up being bigger expenses than they’d gauged.
“You think when you build a house, ‘I’m getting this beautiful, finished house,’ and in some ways you do,” Meghan said. “But along the way, there’s just bumps that we didn’t really anticipate, and you have to fix certain things, so it’s not as smooth as we might have thought it was going to be.”