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.