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Salt Lake City has been named the 10th best place to live in the nation in a new ranking by U.S. News & World Report but it may not be the place you have in mind.
Defined as an area that includes Ogden and Provo, Salt Lake City rose 17 spots from last year's ranking of No. 27, out of the 100 largest metro areas in the country. The report noted that residents flow and commute between all three areas to live and work.
But the low housing prices cited as one reason for Salt Lake City's rise would likely come as a surprise to anyone who has recently tried to buy a home in the state's capital city.
Salt Lake Board of Realtors President Troy Peterson, a 22-year veteran of Utah's real estate market, said anyone seeking a home in the Salt Lake City metro area for less than $350,000 is in a "near impossible" competition.
"I've never seen a housing shortage like it is right now," Peterson said.
Salt Lake City's single-family home costs jumped 8.1 percent from 2015 to 2016 with condominiums, town homes and twin homes increasing 7 percent in the same period, according to a Salt Lake Board of Realtors study forecasting the 2017 housing market.
The median price of a single-family home on the east side of Salt Lake City rose from $275,000 to $296,000 with home sales boosting Salt Lake County's residential market to its best year since 2006.
The buying boom has slashed availability in Salt Lake County leading to the lowest apartment vacancy rates in over 20 years. The median cumulative number of days a home is on the market has dropped from a peak recession level of 81 days in 2009 to just 13 days in 2016.
Peterson said he's taken to showing out-of-towners houses "on the outskirts of the valley" in Tooele and Herriman. Trading a longer commute for a cheaper home isn't a big deal to people coming from locales like California, he said, where an hour-commute is commonplace.
"If you live in Salt Lake City or Sandy, the idea of moving to Utah County is almost unthinkable," Peterson said. "If you live in LA County, moving to Orange County is no big deal."
All three areas included in Salt Lake City's U.S. News ranking were among the "hottest housing markets for 2017" compiled by real estate analytics company Zillow last month. Provo placed third, Salt Lake City was fifth and Ogden was eighth, because of home value appreciation above 4 percent and unemployment rates below 3 percent.
The U.S. News survey included multiple areas for several cities, such as Cleveland and New York City.
Miriam Weiner, real estate product manager for U.S. News, said housing availability in Ogden and Provo may have balanced out Salt Lake City's lack of housing and high prices in the wider area's "value score."
"The metro areas are so close together that people can benefit from living and working in all three," Weiner said.
With state population expected to nearly double by 2050, Peterson said, a longer commute is becoming more palatable by choice or by necessity.
"These valleys will grow together as time passes," he said.
Weiner said she expects Salt Lake City's popularity to grow as the state loses its "uptight" image nationwide.
"Salt Lake City is one of those places where people are underestimating it," she said. "I think people are catching wind that it's a great place to live."
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