How do they afford it?


If you’ve ever driven by the exclusive neighborhoods in Utah Valley and wondered who lived there, here is your answer.


   Utah Valley has its share of wealth, celebrities, professional athletes and million-dollar properties.

It’s no surprise that Utah Valley has become a prime spot for builders and real estate agents alike. The question is — where is the money coming from?

Visitors to estate properties at the Parade of Homes can be heard asking each other, “What do you think these homeowners do for a living?” A drive through the Provo Riverbottoms or Alpine hillsides begs the same question.

Gated communities are being announced up and down the valley, and all of this real estate development is in the face of a national economic downturn.

Ron Clarke, president of Vintage Properties, has a three-word theory on the high-end homebuyers he services in Utah Valley: Learn. Earn. Return.

Clarke, who specializes in buying and selling million-dollar properties, says the majority of his clients earned degrees at BYU before leaving Utah to make their money on Wall Street or as entrepreneurs. When they retire they return to Utah Valley.

Many high-end homebuyers choose Provo because it offers a wholesome lifestyle and the opportunity to teach at BYU, Clarke says. BYU students benefit from learning from successful professors who were previously captains of their industry.

As a general rule, Utah Valley’s wealthy did not inherit their fortunes, Clarke believes.

“Most of these people are self-made,” he says.

Rob Clauson, president of Westfield Real Estate, agrees with Clarke that Utah Valley’s wealthy are not making the majority of their money in Utah. Clauson, who sells high-end properties in Alpine, Highland and Cedar Hills, says that 80 percent to 85 percent of his clients are not making their money in Utah. He estimates that roughly 75 percent of the local affluent either run their businesses from home or fly out of Utah for business. They rarely have 8-5 jobs at Utah Valley corporations.

The age bracket for the people buying homes through Westfield Real Estate is 35-45 years of age.

Another factor for homeowners being able to afford high-end properties is that interest rates have been extremely low. Clauson says people are moving up in the community by upgrading their homes simply by acquiring a lower interest rate. In Highland and Alpine the market for homes valued between $300,000 and $450,000 has switched from a buyer’s market to a seller’s market.

While the million-dollar homes are mostly owned by those who have worked out of state, there are plenty of homes valued near $500,000 that are purchased by Utah’s homegrown business owners and employees.

About two years ago, many half-million-dollar properties were being purchased by a younger age group.

Clarke says that young professionals who made their money through Internet companies and the computer craze were purchasing expensive homes, but that trend has since died down.

And last, why the celebrities?

Utah Valley may not be Beverly Hills, but it’s not lacking an A-list. Why do Donny Osmond, Steve Young, Larry King and Dale Murphy own properties here?

According to Clarke, Larry King has a $20 million home in California, so why would he purchase a $1.6 million home in Provo? The same reason the other celebrities come — they have roots here.

“Utah County — there’s no other place like it that has that kind of draw,” says Clarke.


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