Data suggests teachers in two major Utah cities struggle to afford homes

Posted at 10:08 PM, Oct 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-09 00:08:45-04

SALT LAKE CITY - If you're a teacher or a construction worker, you might want to think twice before deciding where to live in Utah.

According to Zillow, a data collection agency highly revered in the real estate industry, both occupations have fewer opportunities to buy affordable homes than almost anywhere else in the country.

“My initial reaction is that is surprising and that is interesting,” said Angie Nelden, a real estate agent with Caldwell Banker.

According to Zillow, Provo and Salt Lake City are ranked the two worst cities in the country, respectively. That assertion is based on average salaries for teachers and construction workers in both cities.

home prices and Utah teachersIn Provo, Zillow estimates that the average teacher makes $32,000, and in Salt Lake, $38,000. They factor in the average price spent on mortgages, which in Salt Lake is roughly 22 percent. Based off those two numbers, Zillow determined that teachers in Provo can afford homes under $171,000, and in Salt Lake City under $195,000. Those two budgets account for less than 27 percent of the overall homes available on the market.

"It's not easy," Sofia Gorder said of finding a home in Salt Lake.

Gorder teaches at a local school in Salt Lake City and confirms her salary is not far off from the average Zillow came up with. Last summer, she found a house of her own, but it wasn't an easy process.

"The roof was in such disrepair," Gorder points out. "No one wanted this house, but I feel like I'm somehow lucky to be here, but I think my standards were low."

Gorder's home, a cute bungalow in Salt Lake, was a fixer-upper that turned out beautifully. Now, she says, keeping it is just as hard.

"Going to school every day is just base pay," she explains. "I have to make money on top of that to maintain my home."

Gorder has a side job, in addition to juggling the duties of being a single parent.

Real estate agent Angie Nelden questions Zillow's findings to some degree, and points out that the numbers are based on a single income home.

"$72,000 is the average household income," Nelden says of family incomes in Salt Lake. "Those families can afford 70 percent of homes in Salt Lake City.”

Nelden also points out that Utah is one of a handful of states that is not full disclosure with real estate prices, meaning the final home sale prices are never officially documented for Zillow. As a result, she wonders how accurate the company's number are.