Maybe you have been considering a move to Salt Lake City and have heard it is becoming an expensive area to live. Well, to answer your question, that really depends on what costs you are taking into consideration. Truth is, the Salt Lake City area and the surrounding Wasatch Front housing market has exploded in the last few years. Demand is way above supply, so prices have really shot up. But even though housing has become pretty expensive, the cost of living in Salt Lake City and the surrounding Wasatch Front areas are still pretty affordable. Let’s break it down into the various parts to see how the other costs compare.

1.Housing Costs in Salt Lake City and the surrounding Wasatch Front

To understand the housing market, you first have to understand the layout of what is termed the Wasatch Front. The Wasatch Front is located in the No-Central part of Utah and is considered the valley face of the Wasatch Mountain Range. Consisting of four counties, Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, and Weber, this area is home to approximately 75% of the 3.28 million residents of Utah. Salt Lake City is the capitol of Utah and the largest city in the state. The other cities in Salt Lake County spread mostly to the South. Utah County extends South of Salt Lake County, while Davis and Weber Counties extend North. 

Salt Lake City, Utah and surrounding Wasatch Front
What is the Wasatch Front in Salt Lake City, Utah

As with most urban cities, the cost of housing tends to be more expensive the closer the location to downtown Salt Lake City. Along the Wasatch Front, you can expect to pay around $420,000 to $460,000 for the average single family home. Now of course that will vary based on location, size of lot, and size and age of home. Although that may seem high, one thing to take into consideration is that Salt Lake County and the surrounding areas tend to have pretty large homes on good sized lots. Most homes in Utah have a finished basement living area that are included in the living space of most of the homes. 

2. Rental Costs in Salt Lake City and surrounding Wasatch Front

Demand for apartments along the Wasatch Front is sky high. Although massive amounts of new complexes continue to be built, there is still a huge shortage in available properties. Given the shortage, rental prices have continually increased about 5% each year. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, market watchers believe that 2021 will see this start to decline to about 3%.

So what can you expect to pay for an apartment?

-A one bedroom apartment will average between $1,150-$1,200 mo.

-A two bedroom apartment will average between $1,400-$1,500 mo.

-A three bedroom apartment will average between $1,750 to $1,950.

In addition, there will probably be additional charges on top of the rent for utilities, cable, and sometimes parking. Prices will vary with the highest around the Salt Lake Metro and the lowest farther North in Weber County.

3.  Utah Property Taxes, State Taxes, and Sales Tax

One area that cost of living in Salt Lake City is considerably less expensive is the property tax. Utah’s Property Tax is about 0.63%, which is considerably less expensive than many states. For example, one of my friends moved to a town outside Dallas, Tx. For their home valued at about $307,000, the property tax is over $7,000 per year. In Utah, for a similar priced home, you could expect to pay about $1,800 per year in property tax. 

State tax in Utah runs about 4.95%. The sales tax for food is around 3% and non food items are about 7%.

4. Food and Groceries

According to Bestplaces,net, you can expect to pay about 7% less for groceries than the national average. So what does that mean for you? If you typically spend $1,000 per month on groceries, you could expect to save about $800 per year in grocery costs. A family of four could expect to spend on average between $700.00 to $1,200 per month. A gallon of milk runs about $2.50. Of course where you shop and the type of food you buy will impact the average. From what I have seen when traveling to other states, Utah’s food prices are usually a little less expensive 

5. Utilities

Another area less expensive than the national average, are utility costs. Bestplaces.net shows Utah having a 6% lower cost. The Wasatch Front has definite extremes in weather based on seasons. The winters are cold and the summers are very hot and dry. So what does that mean for a typical homeowner?

Natural Gas is the main source for heating homes. You can expect to pay about $20 in the summer months and about $125 to $150 in the winter months . These numbers are based on about a 2,500 sf to 3,000 sf home. 

Electricity is the main source of central air cooling in the summer, along with the basic monthly costs to power lights and appliances. For electricity, you can expect to pay about $50 per month in the winter and anywhere from $125 to $250 per month in the summer. 

Water and sewer typically run about $50 to $60 per month. If you have a yard, you will need to irrigate for about 4 to 5 months of the summer. You can expect your water bill to increase to about $80 to $120 per month during the summer months.

Garbage runs about $15 per month and usually includes recycling.

Internet and Cable are going to vary based on the type of service you subscribe to. Wifi and a basic cable package will run somewhere between $80 to $100 per month.

6. Transportation

The cost of transportation in Salt Lake City and the surrounding Wasatch Front is about 7% less than the national average. A gallon of gas at this time is somewhere between $2.70 to $2.80 per gallon, about $.15 less than the national average .Public transportation along the Wasatch Front, consists of buses, street cars, light rail(Trax) and commuter trains (Front Runner) which runs from Weber County to Utah County. For monthly passes students and seniors pay about $40 per month, while an adult pass will run about $85 to $100 depending upon Front Runner use. 

7. Health Costs

Health costs in Utah tend to run about 1% higher than the national average. It’s hard to give an estimate of the average costs you could expect to pay due to the wide variation of costs of health insurance and the individual needs of each person. Utah is known for having  high quality health care. The University of Utah Hospital system and Intermountain Healthcare, which includes Primary Children’s Hospital, are very highly rated for their healthcare. Both have Level I Trauma Care. I have had great experiences with both systems. These are two of the major providers, but others are availailable.

8. Miscellaneous Costs

There is always extra cost of living expenses, such as clothes, restaurants, and entertainment. In Utah, you can expect to pay about 1.5% less than the national average for these expenses. An average movie ticket will cost about $8.00 to $10.00 at full price, with reduced $5.00 tickets on Tuesdays in many theaters. You can expect to spend $12.00 to $15.00 per person in the average sit down restaurant. 

In summary, it’s clear that the cost of living in Salt Lake City and the surrounding areas is a mix of pros and cons. Housing is more expensive, but most other costs are pretty decent. I don’t think these costs are going to go down anytime soon, as the population growth continues and demand outweighs supply of housing. Part of the growth is due to  an influx of people moving to Utah, but the largest part is due to  a young population in need of housing. Many homeowners have decided to stay in their current homes instead of upgrading to another home. This has created a severe shortage of home inventory on the market. New construction continues, but building supplies have increased in price due to shortage in production abilities of the mills.

You may ask, why is Utah such a draw if the Cost of Living in Salt Lake City is becoming so high?  I would say two main reasons. 1. Utah is considered one of the top job markets in the U.S.. Known as the Silicon Slopes, the Wasatch Front is home to a large and growing tech sector. With three of the Top 10 Best Performing cities according to the Milken Institute, #1 Provo-Orem, #4 Salt Lake City, and #9 Ogden-Clearfield,with wage and job growth far above the national average. Businesses continue to move into Utah, so there is no reason to expect the job market to drop anytime soon. 2. Outdoor sports and nature lovers….skiing, hikings, mountains, etc. Utah is simply stunning!

On a positive note, although the housing costs have increased, Utah has shown to have the third highest home appreciation in the U.S., a relatively low rate of unemployment along with the second best job growth in the country, and few past due mortgages. Utah has a very strong economy which is expected to continue for at least the next few years.

By Julie Anderson