Monday, September 22, 2014

Buying a House is Like Magic: The Gathering

Alright, it's about time I put together a post that addresses the huge audience of Magic: The Gathering players who are also real estate enthusiasts.

I came up with this idea a couple months ago when I was explaining the buying process to a client.

Buying a house is like attacking someone in Magic: The Gathering. Let me explain:

Draw: Prequalification

There's little use in going house shopping if you don't know what resources you have available. I've already written about this before, so I won't rehash it here. Prequalify for a loan. Draw that card. Make sure you know what you have available. I have a mortgage guy that I like working with, and I'll happily refer you to him if you want help with this step.

Also, I skipped Untap and Upkeep. Because those have nothing to do with real estate.

Pre-Combat Main: Shopping Around

This is the luxurious phase, where you look at your available resources, you get a feel for the board state, and you prepare for the Combat phase. In order to prevent you from spending an eternity (really, an eternity) in this phase, you should get together with your realtor and use their search engine tools to narrow down the possibilities.

Unless, of course, you genuinely enjoy looking at houses on the Internet. If that's the case, allow me to recommend this website, as it consistently has the most up-to-date information on what's available.

Combat:
Declare Attackers: Go Under Contract

Alright, now you've found your winning move, and you're ready to end the game. Pick the house that you like, make a competitive offer (What constitutes a "competitive offer" depends on what the market is doing, along with other factors.), and get that offer accepted!

Declare Blockers: Due Diligence, Financing and Appraisal

Unless you had an extremely compelling reason not to do so, you made your offer to purchase contingent upon Due Diligence and Financing and Appraisal. During Due Diligence, you will send in an inspector, find out every last problem with the house, and decide whether you want to proceed with the purchase or not.

Before Financing and Appraisal, you will have an appraiser come in and say whether the price being offered is justifiable, and also you'll make sure that your loan is good to go.

In either of these cases, if there is something wrong with the house or if there's something wrong with the appraised value (if there are blockers, you see), you can use Instant Spells, in the form of addenda, to try and rectify the problem.

Swing for Fatal: Buy the House!

All potential blockers have been vanquished. You go to settlement! If you settle with my favorite Title Company, then we will be sipping on sodas and apple juice while munching warm cookies as you sign a stack of papers that would make War and Peace jealous. It takes a bit, but then you've won the game! As soon as the loan funds (generally the next business day) you're a home owner!

Post Combat Main: The Housewarming party, I guess?

Realtors don't have a post-combat main. We always swing for fatal. Every time.

Want help winning a big, expensive game of Magic: The Gathering? Let me know!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Utah is a red state with a purplish hue

Well, here I was getting ready to write a bombshell article about how Utahn politics were more moderate than you think (I was playing a hunch, honestly), but it turns out that the guys over at Five Thirty Eight already did a much better report on the topic in 2012.

Here's the report. It's a pretty quick read, and will give you a much more accurate picture of Utahn politics than Facebook memes. The report points out that while Utahns tend to draw a hard line on being opposed to same-sex marriage (but this has changed; see below) and abortion (this has not changed), they tend to have much more moderate stances on immigration. Utah was the first state to initiate a guest worker program, and is one of three states where illegal immigrants can legally drive cars. It also points out that Jon Huntsman, a Republican, was re-elected to the Utahn governorship on a campaign to invest in renewable energy sources and protect the environment, which is typically thought of as a flagship of liberal ideology.

By Ikiwaner (Own work) [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons


So is Utah a conservative Republican state? Sure, but it's more nuanced than that. Check out the report.

Noteably, the report was written in 2012, and due to an interesting twist of fate, Utah became the 18th state where same-sex marriage was legalized on December 20, 2013. Upon reading the significantly complicated story of the legalization, one might conclude that this was the case of the judiciary overruling public opinion, and that conclusion would be incorrect. That link is to a statewide poll taken by the Salt Lake Tribune that shows that Utahns are just about evenly split on the question of legalizing same-sex marriage.

Speaking as someone who has lived here for most of my life, let me tell you that none of this information surprises me. In my neighborhood, I grew up around a wide variety of political opinions, and the milieu of differing worldviews only increased when I went to BYU. I guess it's a little comforting to see the statistics validate my experience.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Easy ways to make your home sell for more money

I found this picture while looking for images to this article. It makes me inexpressably happy.

President Obama is unimpressed with this post. I live and work in Utah, though, so I'm not too worried. 


In my last post, I talked about Comparative Market Analyses (CMAs) and how realtors find the market value of your home.

What I hope was clear from that post is that setting the price of an asset like your home is fairly subjective.

Buying a home, much like selling a home, is an emotional process. This is one of the reasons it's important to have a good realtor, as we can act as a guide through what can become an emotional minefield.

When people are buying a home for themselves, they are going to instinctively picture themselves living in it. As the seller, your job is to make sure that the picture they see in their heads is unforgettably attractive.

Virtually every buyer has a couple qualities they're looking for in a home. For me, I wanted a yard that I could see a dog running around in. I've worked with folks who were really interested in having plenty of storage space, and also one buyer in particular who was enchanted with the idea of a closet under the stairs, because why not?

You can't appeal to all buyers at once, obviously, but you can work on the things that almost every buyer considers, whether they know they're considering it or not:

Curb Appeal:

I guess technically there's no curb here.
Photo by Andrew Shiva
The other fun reality of home selling is that buyers make decisions on homes way before you may expect them to. In many cases, the decision is made while looking at pictures, and merely confirmed when arriving at the home.

I'll cover pictures in a later post about staging, but let's talk about curb appeal.

Basically, curb appeal is what the buyer sees the moment they drive up to the house. The front yard, the front door, the windows, what have you.

Take care of your yard, especially the front yard. Plant brightly-colored flowers. (Friendly yellows, exciting reds, elegant blues, all good things. White flowers are overrated, but if you love them, go nuts.) Make the yard beautiful, and make the buyers' hearts flutter just a little when they look at your house.

The Front Door:
By Iampurav (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

This is part of curb appeal, but is worthy of its own section. Your front door is really the face of your house, even if you never use the thing. It is, at least initially, where buyers will picture the ingress and egress of friends into and out of the home. The front door should be freshly painted in a tasteful color, in good repair, and generally inviting.

Smell:
Someone, at some point, thought this fountain was a good idea.
By Joseolgon (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

You don't want the house to stink, obviously. I think sellers intuitively understand that, but what I want to stress here is you really don't want any weird smells. This should be a priority in staging. The moment buyers pick up a musty smell, they're going to start worrying about mold. Now, buyers should always get an inspection that checks for mold, regardless of how suspicious they are, but you don't want to be the house they remember as "the one that might have mold in it."

There are different schools of thought on what your house should smell like. Some realtors push the idea of baking smells, which I think is sensible, although I know people who get suspicious when it seems like you might be trying to cover something up, smell-wise. I'm in the cleaning materials camp. Wipe everything down with pine-sol, and your house will smell clean. Which brings us to...

Cleanliness:
By Uploaded by Duk 08:45, 16 Feb 2005 (UTC) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It is basically impossible to overemphasize the need for cleanliness in your home when selling. I don't think a lot needs to be said about this, although it may come up again later in my staging article.

Kitchen and Bathrooms:

Depending on how you're staging a home, bedrooms are surprisingly nondescript. For the most part, they are relatively plain rooms that the buyer can imagine being whatever they want them to be. With kitchens and bathrooms, it's a different story.

You can't control the layout of your kitchen and bathrooms for the most part, but you can make sure that they are immaculately clean, completely devoid of anything on the countertops (put those appliances in cupboards while people are viewing your home!), and well lit. Potential buyers will picture themselves using the kitchen and the bathrooms, and they have their own loads of appliances that they'll want to put around the kitchen, and what have you.

Questions I hear:

I hope this helped. Now I want to address some things I hear fairly commonly.

Should I repaint the house?

If you think you need to, then probably yes. The nice thing about painting is that it's cheap, and the difference between an old, cracking paint job and a new one is a dramatic difference, indeed.

Should I install granite countertops/hardwood floors/a fountain/a spaceship/etc.?

Probably not. People have all sorts of ideas about what hypothetical buyers are looking for in a home. Generally, you'll end up projecting what you as a buyer are looking for in a home, but as I stated above, buyers are fickle and unpredictable creatures.

If you installed something in the home because you wanted it there, then chances are it fits well with the home and will impress at least some of your buyers. If you install something specifically to increase the home value, you are playing a risky game, and most of the time you'll only end up recapturing the expense of the installation. It's generally not worth your effort.

The potential exception to this rule is if you already have all the supplies you need to install the new thing because you meant to install it awhile ago and just never got around to it. Since you've already put the money into the supplies, you may as well do the installation and try to recapture the expense.

What about adding bedrooms and bathrooms?

The MLS system values an extra bedroom at $1,000, and an extra full bathroom at $5,000. Of course, there's no guarantee you'll actually fetch that price, but that's the system's estimation. Honestly, I would apply the advice in the previous question. If you already have the stuff, and you just haven't gotten around to installation, then it may well be a worthwhile endeavor for you.

Is there anything COMPLETELY FREE I can do that will dramatically increase the value of my home?

Why, yes there is! It's called staging, and most of what I've written here falls under that category. There are a couple other things that go more into the specifics, and I'll cover those in a later post.

How much is my home worth now?

Good question. Click here and tell me a little bit about your house, and I'll send you a CMA as soon as I can. (Generally within two business days.) It's free, and involves no commitment of any kind.

(Do you want to get home-buying and home-selling tips emailed to you? Do you want to stay up to date on the national and local real estate market? Do you like ninjas? Subscribe to my newsletter at the bottom of this page!)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Pricing: The Comparative Market Analysis

By Evan-Amos (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

If you talk shop with realtors all the time, you have probably heard the term "CMA." If you're a normal, healthy person, you probably haven't.

CMA means "Comparative Market Analysis," and it gets into the somewhat-murky waters of How Housing Prices Work. Let me explain:

Ultimately, your house is worth what someone is willing to pay you for it. A standard purchase contract allows you protections, including making sure that a professional appraiser agrees that it's a fair price, but in the end, there might be someone out there who is willing to pay you one million dollars for your 1200 square foot three bedroom house. (Full disclosure: There probably isn't, though.)

When you and your listing agent (me) sit down together to price your house, you're going to want to do a CMA for it, though, which is essentially a very educated guess at what someone would be willing to pay for your house, based on what people have been willing to pay for houses like yours recently.

If your realtor is good, they are going to have working knowledge of price levels in your area, and be able to determine where, geographically speaking, price jumps or dives happen around your house. They will access the Multiple Listing Service which, for realtors, has a massive collection of most house sale data from the past several years. They will take sales data from the past three months on homes that are similar to yours, and then run that data through an algorithm that adjusts for difference in square footage, number of beds/baths, garage, and so on. (Note: Three months is pretty standard, but in particularly slow areas, I've had to look at four months of data for reasonable comparisons, and I've done a CMA for an area where one week of data was plenty to get good comparisons. It depends on how fast homes are moving in your neighborhood, really.) When I prepare market analyses for clients, I also take into account similar houses that are currently for sale (the competition), houses that are under contract (prices that probably worked), and houses that have expired from their listing without being sold (prices that probably didn't work).

The point is, house pricing is not an exact science. There are powerful tools available that help us make very good estimates, but in the end, that's what they are-- estimates.

So, I'm guessing that two questions have occurred to you while reading this:

1. What's my house worth?
 -Glad you asked. I've built a form that will let you submit a CMA request to me. For reasons that should be apparent from the explanation above, CMAs are not (and shouldn't be) automated. I will happily give you a price estimate for your home with no obligation to you.

2. How do I increase my home's worth?
 -This is an excellent question, and its answer is deserving of its own post, so it will get one soon.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

How to Train Your Dragon DVD

I have acquired a How To Train Your Dragon DVD. What better way to prepare for the sequel coming out this weekend? I will randomly draw a name from my subscriber list and give it to them. If you want a chance to win this DVD, or if you'd just like to receive occasional updates on what the real estate market is doing, subscribe to my newsletter at the bottom of this screen!

(Note: mobile users will need to use the Web version of this page. Subscriptions are not currently working for mobile devices.)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Learn about real estate, and get free iTunes stuff!

Hey, do you want to know more about the real estate market? Do you like buying things off iTunes? Then have I got a deal for you!

This picture is unreasonably cute.
By Huhu Uet alias Frank Schwichtenberg (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I recently found out that Keller Williams puts together a newsletter that comes out about 2.5 times a month. 1.5 times a month, it's random little tidbits about home ownership and home sales that I'll spruce up to make a little more readable. Once a month, it's a pretty interesting compilation of data that tells you what the real estate market has been doing. They provide nationwide analysis, and I'll be adding information specific to Utah County.

So do you not only want to sound smart, but actually be smarter about real estate than your friends at parties? Sign on up! Just scroll to the bottom of this blog and give me your name and email address. (I'll only use this information to send you information about real estate, or possibly to invite you to awesome parties; I won't give it to anyone else without your express permission because I'm not a jerk.)

Oh, and once I have twenty subscribers, I will do a drawing for a $25 iTunes gift card. At the time of this writing, I have eight subscribers, and I will only be drawing from the first twenty.

I have another gift card, that I will keep a mystery for now, that I'll use in a future drawing, so don't worry if you don't win this one. All subscribers will get multiple chances to win gift cards. So sign up now!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Texting while driving now a primary offense in Utah


Texting while driving is now a primary traffic offense in Utah. A primary offense means you can be pulled over for doing this, rather than just having it add to your penalty if you're pulled over for something else.

This is something I feel strongly about. It's boggling to me that we had to make this law at all, and yet here we are.

Here's a sad video:




A group called Heads Up, Thumbs Up, is working hard to reduce distracted driving and to save lives. If you're willing to live a long, healthy life instead of destroying yourself and others, take the pledge to never drive distracted!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Brassa's Mexican Grill

This weekend you should go to Brassa's Mexican Grill located at 238 W 100 S in Provo. It's really good Mexican food. You should plan on spending about nine bucks if you go there, but you can get away for a lot cheaper if you just stick to the plan tacos, which clock in at about 1.75 each. But show up at 4 PM to get two tacos for the price of one!

The location is kinda funky. A cabin and a tent have a baby. Then you eat in the parking lot. It's fun, though.

I people just love pictures of food, so here's a taco!

And the only thing better than food is bewildered-looking babies next to food.
Special thanks to Clarissa for taking the pictures on this post. She's an up-and-coming photographer, so send her compliments!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Of Beauty and Disappointment: Why you should Prequalify



Unless you have a couple hundred thousand dollars sitting around, you're going to need to qualify for a loan in order to get a home. I feel like that's pretty simple logic. What you may not have considered, however, is that you should prequalify for a loan before you look at any homes.

You see, I have learned from personal experience that one of the cruelest things you can do to a home buyer is show them a home they can't afford to purchase. I love my home in Orem, but to this day I can tell you everything about a nice place in Springville that got away from me.

The importance of prequalification, however, was driven home to me recently when I attended a board tour with the Utah County Association of Realtors.

There were three homes on the tour. The first was going for about $850,000, the second for $500,000, and the last going for $200,000, just below the median price of homes in Utah County. (It was $212,000 in April, if you're curious.)

You can probably see where this is going.

Yep.
By DXR (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The million-dollar home was gorgeous. For copyright reasons, I can't post the pictures of the home here, so here's a link to the listing for the home on the MLS. Look at the pictures.

Before we go any further, I want to tell you: Do you want to buy that home? If so, call me right now. I'll drop everything and help you.

Anyhow, after spending some time in that home, we went to the one that was listed at half a million dollars. Out of respect to the sellers and the listing agent, I won't post links here, but here's the thing: I walked into the $500,000 home and though, "Huh. That's nice, I guess."

It was a beautiful house in a great neighborhood. It will make a great home for someone who isn't coming into it right after seeing the $850,000 one. But all I could see was that it wasn't the million-buck one.

Anyway, next we went to the sensible $200,000 home, and you can guess what that was like.
By Nat Edwards [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I was talking to a couple other agents at the home, and we were discussing how the tour, in all honesty, probably should have done the homes in the opposite order.

So that's my point. When you get prequalified, you know right off the bat what you can afford, and you know not to look above that price range. Be smarter than I was when I was buying my home! Prequalify, and avoid finding yourself in a $500,000 shack.




Monday, May 19, 2014

Utah is the nerdiest state!

By MG (talk · contribs) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

I realize that this was making the rounds on Facebook a couple weeks ago, but this blog is brand new, and Red Day was last week, so I didn't have time to celebrate this yet. Estately recently harvested Facebook data to figure out, based on what people listed as interests, which was the nerdiest state in America. They then measured which state has the highest number of nerds per capita.

Utah was first place in Cosplay, Harry Potter, Star Wars, LARPing, Fantasy Literature, and Lord of the Rings. We came second in Star Trek and Dr. Who.

Dungeons and Dragons made the list of things they checked, but not Pathfinder. Not sure whether that would have changed anything, though.
Looks fun, right?
By Philip Mitchell [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

A really big hint that we're a nerdy state is the fact that FanXperience, the Salt Lake Comic Con, had over 100,000 attendees, making it the largest convention ever held in Utah, and the third-largest Comic Con in the nation. We were beat out by California and New York, the former which has 13.2 times our population, and the latter which has 6.7 times our population.

Heck, even some of our realtors are a little bit geeky.

If you know what these are, we should definitely talk.

The point is, Utah is very friendly towards nerds, geeks, and anyone who cares about what the difference is between nerds and geeks.

Do you want to live in the geekiest state in America? Let's talk.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Wasatch Chorale

If you know Utah, you have inevitably heard of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They are wonderful, and I will almost certainly dedicate a post to them in the future. However, I would not be a dutiful son-in-law if I did not also call your attention to the fantastic Wasatch Chorale, based right here in Utah Valley. They're fantastic; I've been to a lot of their shows, and you should, too.

But since pictures can't really do them justice, here's a video of a performance they did last year.

If you want more information about the Wasatch Chorale, be sure to check out their website!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Why do you need a realtor? Here's an Anecdote:

The short answer to why you need a real estate agent is that we have the expertise, connections, and resources to get you in the best home for the best price, and if you're selling, we can get you more money for your home with less hassle. I will do more posts about this in the future.

For now, however, here is a story an associate told me from his own experience which illustrates a somewhat dramatic example of why you need a realtor.
A real estate agent is someone with a license to sell. A realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors. I'll get into the distinction in a future post.

None of the names in this story are the actual names of the involved parties, and I'm almost certainly getting some of the details incorrect. This story is for illustrative purposes.

...

My associate's wife, "Wilma," had someone coming over to do some work on their home. The woman working on the home, "Barbara," was outside for most of the project, and at one point, Wilma noticed that Barbara was crying.

Concerned that Barbara might be too cold, Wilma invited her to come in. Barbara, however, said she wasn't cold, but rather she was very upset, because she was trying to buy a home, and everything seemed to be falling apart. Wilma mentioned that her husband, "Ronnie" was a realtor, and asked Barbara if she wanted to talk to him. Barbara took her up on the offer, and explained the situation to Ronnie.

Barbara had chosen to buy unrepresented, and when she had gone in to see the Mortgage Company, there were a number of fees that she hadn't been expected added to the closing costs. These fees (most of them bogus) totaled more than 20,000 dollars. Barbara decided not to move forward with the deal, but the Mortgage Company told her that even if she walked away, she would be responsible for the closing costs.

She told this to Ronnie, and he quickly recognized it as a shake-down. He called the Mortgage Company and asked them what was going on. They explained that Barbara had already agreed to pay these costs, and there wasn't anything Ronnie could do to change that.

"Hold on one second," said Ronnie. He then started a three-way call, adding the Attorney General's office onto the line.

Once they realized what Ronnie had done, they hung up. Ronnie talked to the AG's staff for a bit, then called the Mortgage Company back.

"Why'd you hang up?" he asked.

"Listen, just let us talk to Barbara," said the Mortgage Company. "We'll sort this out."

"I can't do that," answered Ronnie. "She's already on her way to the Attorney General's office with the paperwork you gave her." After a brief silence on the phone, Ronnie added, "Good luck," and hung up.

...

Now, I'm not saying this to scare you out of ever talking to mortgage officers. In my experience, most mortgage officers are great people who just want to help you get into your home and be able to make your payments.

The point is that in the real estate business, a lot of money changes hands, and that can potentially attract people who would want to take advantage of you. Having your own realtor--someone who is legally bound to act in your best interest--is bringing your own champion fighter to the ring. A realtor will stand up for you, defend you against shenanigans like the ones I've described, and generally make your home-buying experience a lot better.

Oh, hey! Did I mention that I'm a realtor? If you're looking to buy or sell, let me help you!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Red Day

Somewhere in the city of Provo, there's an elementary school called Sunset View. In that school is a library. In that library, there's a door leading, well, out of the library. Over that door is painted a tree.

And I painted that tree.

Most of it, anyway. I drew the outline and painted most of the trunk. I helped plaster some of those snowflakes to the wall, too.

Last Thursday was Red Day, when Keller Williams associates all over the world give back to their communities. We painted the library in Sunset View and wore matching shirts. It was a good time.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Bridal Veil Falls

You should visit Bridal Veil Falls this weekend. It's located here, and it's a beautiful time of year to visit.

It's just off the Provo River Trail, which is worthy of a post all in itself, and you can splash around in the pool at the base of the falls without anything that even resembles hiking. (There's parking right next to it.)

There's also a trailhead just east of the Falls that takes you up to about the halfway point. The trail only takes five or ten minutes to walk, and it gets you right into the spray. It's gorgeous.
This is the view of the mountains from the Bridal Veil Falls trail.

This is my wife and I. (Predicate nominative!) We're at the base of the falls, where the snow hasn't melted all the way yet.
This structure is at the top of the falls, and I'm not completely sure what it is. I've heard it was a restaurant with those tram-car doodads leading up to it. Do you know what it is? I'd love to do a Monday post about it. Let me know in the comments if you know anything.
I'm very proud of reaching the top of the short trail. For someone of my, um, build, that's an accomplishment!
A big thank-you to Kiffen, who took the great photographs. And to Rosalyn for helping with the editing.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Do cities run out of water?

By LineM1FLEReunion (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

If you're living in a city, or if you're in any situation where you're not using your land for agriculture, chances are you don't put a great deal of thought into where your water comes from. Generally, when you're buying a home, you're going to have a utility arrangement with the city you're buying it in: they make water come out of your tap when you turn it on, and you send them a certain amount of money every month.

However, if you're looking at buying property with a water source on it, be aware that water rights are transferred separately from land rights. If I had an underground water source on my property, I could theoretically sell my land to Thomas Red, and then sell the water to Alfred Green, his bitter enemy.

As a city-dweller myself, I do not have any water rights, though, and therefore could not sell any. The City of Orem owns my water, and I get it from them through utilities. The Red/Green feud will have to wait.

Someday...
David Morier (circa 1705-1770) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


But do cities run out of water?

The answer to this is somewhat complicated. Usable water sources only replenish at a certain rate (dictated, generally, by nature), and so it stands to reason that eventually we would have so many people in a city that we'd be drinking more water than we were getting from our source. (It's more likely that we're using it to water our crops and livestock, actually, but you take my point.) Further complicating this idea is the fact that water replenishment rates are inconsistent. Utah gets an average of 61.5 million acre feet of water every year. However, after evaporation and plants have taken their greedy share (as well as our neighbor states, who dip their hand in Utah's water pot a little bit) we actually only have 3.3 million available for consumption.

Oh, an acre foot, by the way, is the amount of water it requires to cover an acre of land in a foot of water. One acre of agricultural land uses about four acre feet of water in a year.

The government is charged with water appropriation, which is to say that they express a large amount of control over who gets water rights, and for how much money they get them. Interestingly, Washington and Iron Counties here in Utah have overappropriated water rights due to incorrect estimates about population growth. That has led to a rise in price for water rights in those counties, as well as plans being discussed to divert water from the Colorado River or, more likely, Lake Powell.

Move to Utah! (Picture of Utah taken from Arizona)


 And that's the key right there. Water rights follow the principle of supply and demand. As more water is appropriated, the remaining supply is scarcer, and prices generally increase. There can even be instances where cities will tell builders of new divisions that they must acquire their own water rights, instead of buying them directly from the city. Just the other day I listened to the lament of a potential homebuyer who was ruing that he couldn't find water rights for his new place.

In these cases, it's important to remember how massive the water sources we're talking about are, though. For example, a division builder in Spanish Fork could potentially try to purchase water rights from an owner in Alpine, because there's a massive water source in this part of the Wasatch Front, so they're drawing from the same place.

Seems small, I know, but bear in mind that bird is the size of Rhode Island.
By Tanu842011 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Truthfully, you probably don't need to worry about running out of water to drink anytime soon. If some jerk were able to convince everyone in Utah to run their taps constantly all day (or if said jerk wanted even more devastating results, they'd convince farmers to run their sprinklers all day), well yeah, that would be a problem. If you're looking into acquiring water in Iron or Washington counties, then you will want to keep an eye on the Lake Powel Pipeline idea.

Here in Utah, though, just be responsible with your water usage, and bask in the weird dichotomy that we have one of the highest per-capita water usages in our little neighborhood of states, but are also, in a way, running at a water surplus.

Note: Most of the facts for this article were drawn from this report, which is awesome.


Monday, May 5, 2014

Does Utah have the worst drivers?

In a word, no. We don't. But there are those who would disagree.



These expert opinions aside, a recent study done by CarInsuranceComparisons.com actually ranked us as the second best drivers in the US based on Fatalities per 100M Vehicle Miles Traveled, Failure to Obey Traffic Signals and Seat Belt Laws, Drunk Driving (in which category we were the best state), Tickets, and Careless Driving. Vermont actually beat us by a significant amount in every category except drunk driving, so there you go. The problem with moving to Vermont to be around the nation's safest drivers would be that then you live in Vermont.
That takes care of the state as a whole, but what about the Wasatch Front, where 80% of Utahns live? The Wasatch Front has more crashes than the rest of Utah, so perhaps they have the worst drivers, and the state's average is pulled up by the angelic behavior of the other areas?

This map, presented in patriotic colors, comes from the Utah Department of Public Safety, Highway Safety Office, linked above.
Unfortunately, it's a little harder to find data on individual cities, weirdly enough. What we can say, though, is that no Utahn city made it into the annual “Allstate America's Best Drivers Report." The good news is that we also didn't make it into their worst drivers list from the same report.
Are the metrics used Allstate flawed? Perhaps. They only use claims to their own company as data, and it's possible that only good Utahn drivers sign up for insurance through Allstate, although given the statistics from Car Insurance Comparisons, that doesn't seem a likely explanation.
In my experience, most of the complaints about Utah's drivers come from people who learned to drive somewhere outside of Utah. What should be surprising to no one is that your behaviors and expectations while driving are learned culturally.

Pictured: Cultural differences
© BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons
Therefore, when a folks come to Utah, they arrive with a load of expectations about how other drivers on the road are going to behave, and since we learned to drive in Utahn culture, our behavior might not match their expectations. Hence, misunderstanding, followed by, rage, which then translates into social media outbursts.

This sounds pretty awesome, actually.
If, upon seeing the statistics indicating that Utah has some of the safest drivers in America, you're still convinced we're the worst, please remember that confirmation bias is a thing.  Please don't hate us, because we think you're great! This is the 13th biggest state in America; surely there's enough room on the roads for drivers of all cultures.
Okay, I know that being the 13th biggest state isn't all that impressive-looking in text, but think of us as being in the 84th percentile. Still didn't help? Look, we're bigger than England. So there.
Hey, do you want to buy or sell a home in the state with the second best drivers in America? Let's talk.