We get some frequently asked questions from time to time and delight to post some here for your use. Please use us when you go to buy- and we really appreciate you and your business!
1) Is right now a good time to buy?
This is a common scenario question, I get. To put it quite frankly, YES! Are you kidding, right? Just get a hold of anyone that is old enough and they will tell you the days when interest rates were at 18%. That can happen again. They are supposed be going up. They are at all time lows right now, comparatively. Getting in could never be better! I might be able to provide some answers to help guide you in that decision making process. My St. George real estate blog often contains updated info on the current market.
A) Historical St George Real Estate Market
Basically, we were like the thin aluminum cooking pan- we heated up artificially too fast and the consequence also is cooling down fast, as particularly local people knew how low it had been as a basis to assert a very inflated market. Distressed sales have been plentiful, and while we are below the national average, currently the inventory of distressed sales is significantly less than it once was.
All areas of the market have been put into a reality, that exists up against new traction, with some new home building starts significantly increasing. New build starts are not back by any measure to match the inflated rates they were at before but they have started to come back to a surprising degree.
B) National Economy Affects St George Real Estate
Interest Rates are a key factor making housing affordable. From what I've read, interest rates while lower now, are scheduled to go up. Several factors to read into that will affect this are: inflation, national debt legislation's, strength of the U.S. dollar based on how much confidence could become forfeit in it and the U.S.'s ability to remain strong in paying their foreign debts and confidence in the international community, how the export or import vitality of trade is going, both in the U.S. and in large consumer countries like China, the employment rate. Basically it comes down to the overall prospects of the U.S. economy getting stronger and if the approach towards dealing with the national deficit is strong enough to instill strength in our U.S. dollar.
2) What is the current property tax rate? How do I know what it will be on each home? Property taxes are paid at the end of the year for that year, called paying them in arrears.
Some pretty gross generalizations can be made regarding property taxes. By default they will be real close to the traditional rate which has been 1% times the market value for second home owners and .55% times market value if it is a primary residence [exemption status]. I've generally found it a good assumption to multiply the rate (.55% or 1%) by the current asking price on the MLS to know what the current owner is getting taxed at, primary rate or secondary rate. You can also do this for yourself, to know what your new property tax [value] will be- which actually takes affect in the new year when they can standard process your application for such status.
The new ordinance 2012 is such, that any home purchased in any given year, by default gets taxed through the end of the year, at the prior owners status attributed to the home, either, second home status or primary residence exemption status. Then at the turn of the new year, it is assumed at a secondary home status/rate unless the new home owners usage is as primary resident or as an investor, has full time renters in it as primary residents. While the new owner needs to apply for this exemption, it has more to do with what it actually was on January 1, than anything else. Once qualifying for the primary exemption tax status, that actual way is that it is computed off of 55 % of the market value times 1%, thus a "gross" generalization to say .55% times the current market value.
Update: You will notice that often these values do not seem to compute on a particular listing. Please note that the above information is the quickest way to say what is more complicated and that school levies and the tax rates will vary year to year or even slightly in any given area. Thus, please consult with our Washington County Property Taxes page for the in's and out's of how property taxes are really applied and as to further scenario information.
3) Why do homes seem to have no predictable tax value showing, to match what you just said? How do I know what the tax assessed value is to base the computation off of?
When looking at the reported property tax on listings, what we need to take into account is: At what rate does it appear the home is being taxed at, the primary residential rate or secondary rate? This difference between .55% and 1%, can account for the largest variance in the amount of property tax listed on listings. However, the standard rule of either .55% or 1% seems to apply every time I've tried to discern what is going on.
Sometimes I'll be baffled, as well, as to how that current listed property tax amount has been derived, but it is usually safe to assume, that what you buy the home at, will be close, at very least, to the new years tax assessed value. In other words, just use the sales price of the home to compute your property tax- 9 times out of 10 it will be close to the tax assessed value.
There is also a process at which one can protest a tax assessed value based on the actual sales price at which one recently bought their home at.
So, generally speaking to figure the current property tax the current home owner is paying, you can safely attribute any assumption of the current tax rate, either primary or secondary rate, multiplied by the sales/purchase price, to come up with what you'd be paying, property tax wise, to finish out the year. You can also apply for a primary home owner lower rate for the upcoming new year. You can compute it confidently by the appropriate rate, at the rate you'd qualify for the next year, either primary exemption rate of .55%, or secondary rate at 1%, for the new year.
In cases where reported property taxes do not seem to match well with the above rule of thumb: First, I've also heard that school tax levies also apply and can raise the property taxes in one area over another. Generally, I've not seen this to be a significant varying factor. Secondly, it used to be more difficult when values of homes were more in limbo, to figure out what was going on, by looking at the listings report of what the property taxes have been in a preceding year. Because properties have had such huge fluctuations in value, it is not always the case that we could trust a 'prior years' property tax to reflect current pricing, especially if the reported property taxes are being reported for two years prior, instead of one. Confusion comes if the current [asking sales price] varies too greatly with last years tax assessed value.
One can find out what the current years tax assessed value is by accessing the tax record. Each listing has a Tax ID number. You can call me, your St George Realtor®, or any title company with the Tax ID or address, to find out what the most recent tax assessed value is.
4) What qualifies for primary residence exemption tax rate?
In review, the things I was told by Carl, down at the county tax assessors office: Part of state law requirements to qualify may include the following, but are not necessarily a conclusive list:
Drivers license and your address is showing all here- Utah state.
Fed tax returns are filed in this place.
Vehicles registration is here.
Voters registration is here.
Where you bank is here.
One may be asked place of employment.
One may be asked regarding other homes owned and where.
5) How is the job market in the St George area?
The job market has been hit in St George pretty much like elsewhere. Particularly the construction and building related fields we know were hit hard here. We have had some displaced or out of jobs workers generally speaking.
These are my speculations after talking to some people that had to obtain new work, so please accept this as local perception only and not fact. St George employers still may have had a difficult time finding good employees because the pipelines have become filled with various skilled workers whose skills may not directly relate. So, it has not been uncommon for the interview process to be extensive, until the right employee is found. It has also become very tedious for various skilled workers to find a job, having to suffer through many interviews before one is found. The unemployment rate however, is better than in most other states and much of the interviewing problems could be perceived as having worked themselves out.
I do not know how the commercial real estate sector is doing in relation to all of this. However, with the advent of the new St George Airport we will have opened several land and corridor opportunities to big business to come in.
I heard one report, second hand, from a fellow veteran real estate agent involved in new developments, that the commercial sector stayed stronger through our otherwise 'overbuilt' St George Ut Real Estate residential market. We've experienced some price reductions and depreciation in the housing market- probably not a bad time to buy when things are so low.
6) Are there neighborhoods to stay away from and what are some of the more desirable neighborhoods in town?
7) What is St. George like for a family with school aged children?
I am biased about the area. I love it here. I have 5 children from the age of 17 on down to 7. They are happy where they attend being the Bloomington Hills Schools. Two attend the Bloomington Elementary school, which is awesome. Two have attended Sun Rise intermediate, which is stellar. Desert Hills Middle school, which is testing high scores so has been underestimated. The Desert Hills High school is new and exciting and is prospering with a good image.
In the elementary school the kindergarten teacher cried on orientation day because she loves working with our children. I think that the St George schools system, on a wide scale, fosters morals and values and not just academic knowledge. The schools here in our area are above average on all accounts in my estimations. Across the board I've heard great things about all the schools in the Washington County School District. I helped the superintendent of the district over finance find his home, and he shared how they handle and foster talent in teachers and principles. They have a way of spreading the talent around and bolstering areas that might be weaker. As you know budgets are strapped and it takes leaders who make difficult decisions in order to maximize the best use of resources. National test scores are well above average in the district as well. This sense I've gotten of good teachers, leadership and test scores has been a significant factor rounding out what I perceive this area already intrinsically excels at, with the value of- 'it takes a village' to raise not just "academics", but morally straight citizens.
Generally speaking, I think kids have a better chance to grow up happy and successful here. It has to do with the people and their emphasis on their children and family life.
8) How is the culture unique?
The culture is unique in the sense of where we are located, in the mid-west states between the north and south and along I-15, along with the last bit of warmer weather before you head north. We are a crossroads as it were, heightened in tourism involving Zion National Park and Snow Canyon State Park. The culture is unique then in the sense that it was settled by pioneers, early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and of which about 60% of the population base is still comprised of. It is unique in the sense of the Tuacahn open red rock canyon amphitheater never ceases to thrill audiences. It is unique in the sense that there is a more than normal segment of second home owners and retirees that form the real estate base.
The culture is unique with how well the city government has utilized its resources to be able to keep building infrastructure and the new airport during difficult economic times. It was with money they pulled out of "savings" to cover the Federal governments portion, when they could not come up with it. The culture is unique in the sense that their is no graffiti or rarely a report of any gang whatsoever. The culture is unique in the amount of golf courses that dot the landscape. The culture is unique because of the high number of volunteers their are hosting several events such as the world-class Huntsman Senior Games, St George Marathon, Iron Man and myriad of other special events.
The culture is unique because of the geology. This of course helps shape our architecture being southwestern in style. Some of the more exclusive homes are adobe style with flat roofs. The area was indigenous settled by the Paiute Indians and the influence of the Indian people is found in some of the southwestern art. Many a hike or geologic adventure can be had here. The people are unique because of how friendly they are. The culture is indeed "unique"!
9) What is it like living in a predominant LDS (Mormon) area?
Short Version: 9a) Many a person have asked me about the social climate..." (read more)
Long Version: 9b) What constitutes St George areas unique culture as it pertains to 50%-60% of the population base being of the LDS faith?
You need to know that Wikipedia reports Utah as being the most homogeneous state in the Union, with 60% of the population base being reported as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS members). It is more like 50%-60% in St George I believe.
Disclaimer: Please be aware that the experience of other people being impacted by LDS people and its churches teachings is what is being discussed in this question. Also, I want to disclose that I am LDS.
I increasingly, when searching for information and venue stats/reports about the area, I run into stories of others who report their experience of living here. In the past, I've read some reviews of people who have been affected both negative and positively. However, just as our TV news often focuses on the negative, it somehow gets an inordinately higher report than the good news. Similarly, I think there can be more the negative reported possibly than is actually existent over the positive. I consider why most would even be inclined to make a report- sadly it I think it is often when things are negative and not positive. This has made me want to help others looking to relocate to this area from other backgrounds to properly see the whole picture- to set the record straight.
Basically, just like anywhere, you can have good neighbors or not so good ones. We, here in the St George Utah area, are not immune to the possibilities that may have nothing to do with religion.
Much of the LDS peoples presence in the area applies somewhat to vicinity of historic migration- the early pioneers were LDS (Mormon). So, it is a bit more historical in nature and not just the ideology of a people holding only to its own beliefs. As the world had grown more accepting of others who are different, it is the same here. Granted when you see each other at church every Sunday, you might tend to talk to that neighbor over the fence a little more, whatever the religion, sport or common interest. It is not exclusive LDS caricature.
But let's look under the hood at the beliefs that influence the "holding to its own" vs. the "opening up more to others" interplay. First, one of the 13 Articles of Faith of the per-dominant LDS faith says "We claim the privilege of worshiping the almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may".
Non-distinction, tolerance, respect and love seem to be the main consideration given any individual or class of people when it comes to LDS deep down beliefs. Peoples seem accepting by nature of being a person, not a person of a particular religion.
However, the human tenancy and brains tenancy to class certain people into a certain group or another is all the same here as anywhere. Yet, I maintain it is based on the more hurried lifestyle of urban America, more than any impact of local belief system. More and more we come home and talk less with the neighbor in our yard, and more with our TV's, our entertainment centers, our painted garage floor that we could eat off of, and sometimes our kids. Sadly, we drive into the garage, shut that cave-like door down after a long day, to retreat into our homes.
It is as it should be, when to be more neighborly- it almost has to be a belief. This is where I think the local belief system, while indoctrinate, lends to a "more friendly people" than normal, in my own personal estimations.
After talking about a genuine side of being probably more friendly, you need to be prepared for how your LDS neighbors are also taught to be 'available for sharing' if need be. There is enough of a total life style involvement in the faith of the LDS member, that there has become an overly mysterious element or mystique that often needs to get resolved in peoples minds, involving the LDS people, being a little peculiar then. That may tempt many who come here to eventually want to know more [or less] about their neighbors. And while neighbors are taught to treat others by the Golden Rule, they also do have some teachings about being available to share the faith if an occasion arises. But let's be fair, actual sharing, quite frankly, is not very often; my guess on average, the subject might be broached, on the high side, maybe once every two years for the average citizen surrounded by LDS neighbors, employees or friends. It might even be indirect, like in terms of an invite to a social function. Members while taught to share, have also been taught to not wear their religion on their shoulder. Think of it this way, there is such a large commitment that is made inside the faith, that any member ascertains there would have to be a genuine interest in order to sustain any kind of sharing experience anyway.
Another dynamic looms larger than the predominant religion, as to ascertain ones desire to move here, if you are a retiree. That factor involves more of a Life Cycle Evaluationthan it does a religious one. To be retired and living in a mixed neighborhood of Families and Retirees, goes to the luck of the draw. As a Retiree I might ask myself, "Will I get more families around me or more retirees if I move into this neighborhood?". So, remember, while religious affiliation may play a role as to the big families, having more kids IS exhausting in and of itself. And if being responsible to all those kids would take your neighbor completely sometimes away from YOU, it is not reflective of an alienation process. Rather it is a Life Cycle Process. All the more reason, if I were a Retiree, I'd be asking a local Retirement Professional, "Where are the areas that seem to be areas where it might be composed of 'mostly retirees' if not an exclusive 55+ neighborhood?". I am just such a specialist and have even made a map that features areas I think that entail that, with the listings automatically populated inside it, updated in real time. All you have to do is ask/text me for it at: 435-632-0250.
Also, we have one larger 55+ community of Sun River, set up with all the amenities, that is increasingly becoming more heterogeneous. Ask them, but I would estimate only 20% (vs. 50-60%) of the people being of an LDS background.
Please be aware that perhaps over half the stores shut down on Sunday, there are very few coffee or alcohol places or pubs; and the main street life, shops, cafes, is only a couple blocks long or so. We do have strip malls, and all the various varieties of drug stores, hobby shops, stores, alternate hardware and commercial outlets.
I happen to know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches values that are very much a friend to the common person and are all part of the "golden rule". I am here to tell you, after pretending to some objectivity, my bias, of how passionate I am about the unique culture of our area being inclusive of all people from all faiths or backgrounds and that taken in total, of the other variables contributing, that any faith here, represents being an asset and not a liability to people of other faiths or non-faiths and backgrounds.
I am open to any questions in this area and I, Brian Habel, as your REALTOR®, feel like it is just a non-issue and as such am open to any and all and the myriad of questions people seem to ask about this area. So ask away!
Mostly... I am just all about real estate when doing real estate. Mostly I just discuss homes and home values, areas such as Greater St George or Hurricane Valley, events, sometimes stores and restaurants, things to do, and the such- that really do have nothing to do with religion at all. This FAQ is for getting this other full on education under foot for those 'out of townees' who really might appreciate this having been addressed. I'm hoping more for the appreciation of helping these few 'relocatees' get a feel for the "unique" culture here, than anything else. Find out more about me or the area here at our blog.
I'm trained in our local real estate contract paper work, negotiations and appraisal skills. I receive ongoing training and like to focus on ongoing education. I am sensitive to issues surrounding exploitation of different minority groups. I like to consider that I've been trained to be sensitive to peoples from different ethnic or socio-ecomomic or religious backgrounds. Having obtained a Masters of Arts in Counseling in my college years and history qualifies me to say I've had some experience in this- it was a mix of liberal and conservative education. I'm experienced in the real nuts and bolts of negotiations, house showings, and key information gathering that makes a real estate transaction successful. I have great relations in the real estate community that often helps immensely as well. Please call/text me anytime for your real estate needs or to ask any questions about this area at: 435-632-0250, my cell phone. Thank you!
School Version: 9c) How does the LDS (Mormon) culture affect social circles of acceptance within the local school system?
Perhaps the best way to address this question is to assess to what extent the children and youth see religion as the basis for acceptance or non-acceptance at large. While there is a predominant pressure within the faith to conform to standards and rules, they tend to be keeping within the nature of what is decent and cordial and nice. In other words, a wholesome view of respect toward others is so taken on the whole, that it is my belief that it is largely a non-issue at school. Also, I think it would be only the more rare perceived injustice that might try to incite exceptions to this.
Inside the LDS faith, the youth age 12 and up meet on a weekly basis for what they call Mutual, usually mid-week, which is an activity night structured around activities conducive to sports, games, values teaching, camping, hiking and the likes. Because these kids see each other more often, naturally you'd wonder if they aren't prone to be close knit to the default exclusion of others. Some of this could and probably does happen, if all be it on a superficial level. While on the surface there could be some of that going on, I'm going to peradventure that it often the opposite effect could be in play. For instance, in other areas of the country you have youth leading themselves, like in social stigma groups or clicks, for instance.
These youth are all taught good manners and values on a constant basis. I might be living in my own la la land I acknowledge. Still... and I know I'm going out on a limb, but I think there is more an opposite affect toward others that are not part of their group, they get treated more cordial, than if there was not any predominant religion present. Personally, I see an absence of so many of the problems I grew up with in my more heterogeneous school systems, particularly with regards to bullying and making fun, enough for me to speculate only, because I am LDS- but that I think that most other/non-denominational youth AND children here have just the opposite experience, a better chance to feel more accepted and appreciated. The LDS faith is also very missionary schooled and minded, that the example and treatment of others, to include "tolerance", fosters a recognition to the values they teach, as having won others over, with that example of genuine friendship that is common to humanity. Now, I know for sure this is probably not always the case [nor the correct caricature]. I'm just going out on a limb to say in more cases than not.
In all fairness, to play out another side, there is a possible down side in more recognition of the mere incidence that friends tend to gravitate to each other as a basis of what is already friendly. It may be a challenge in some instances to break into that social circle. To some degree, that can be true, but only because those kids may see each other more at church or weekly activities. Kids will be kids and generally speaking, I don't think there is any kind of social segregation of any kind that is not directly related to just that factor alone, of seeing each other more. However, keep in mind that another 40-50% are non-LDS, a fairly large crowd do not share this orientation, so that other opportunities abound. So with regards to the religion, mainly because tolerance and respect are the better rules of the day, that kids do not see religion when they go to school, they see other kids. Also, with regards to the predominant religion, it is not any more isolating of others, that I know of, than if it was a different religion. The same scenario can play out for adults.
I am LDS, and have heard from a non-LDS real estate assistant, that it is a lot like living in a skiing town when you don't ski- just like that would not be a big deal, it is not a big deal here either. I'm sure exceptions abound, but there are chances anywhere, we might have all had that experience with the unkind school bully or brat, it just comes with the territory no matter where you are at. Particularly when we were children we acted like it, such that when we became adults, we put away childish things. At least for me, I hope and count on it being so.
10) Is there anything else I should know about St George?