Appraising in Utah

Jeff Morley
Jeff Morley, MAI, SRA, MNAA

Utah is a state in the west with incredible geographical variety ranging from high mountains to low desert and everything in between. The vast majority of the state’s population is found in the north end of the state in the greater Salt Lake Valley and Utah County regions. Salt Lake is over 300 miles from St. George. At an elevation of 4,500 feet above sea level, Salt Lake is surrounded by the Wasatch Mountains. We are located on the south end of the state where the population of our largest county is 165,000: a small fraction of the state’s total population of just over three million. The southern portion of the state brings millions of tourists and visitors from around the world to see the various national and state parks and monuments, Zion National Park being the best known. Appraising Southern Utah is scenic, fun, and challenging all at the same time.

Our primary office is located in St. George at an elevation of 2,500 feet above sea level. Our climate is hot and dry, and we are typically within about 5 degrees of Las Vegas heat in the summer and enjoy mild winter months. The area also has large mountain ranges; within a 45-minute drive from St. George, you can be in Pine Valley at 6,800 feet or in 1.5 hours, you can be in Brian Head Resort (Utah’s highest ski resort base) at 9,800 feet. In this area, we appraise homes ranging from southwest and adobe style desert homes to high elevation mountain log homes. From dripping sweat while measuring homes in 110 degrees or freezing on a snowmobile finding the subject property and comparable sales 8 miles from the plowed road, and everything in between. We have all of the variety anyone could hope for in valuing properties! In the hot summer months, scheduling inspections early in the morning and keeping hydrated is preferable. However, fate being as it is, we often find ourselves measuring property in the 110+ degree heat. Air conditioning is an essential feature for your car. Climbing into your car that has been sitting in the sun that has reached about 140 degrees can be a real adventure.

Multiple times I have rented a snowmobile to inspect properties in remote mountain settings in the wintertime. On my last outing I contacted an agent I have worked with who has snowmobiles and he told me I could rent one from him. When I arrived, he informed me that they had done some work on the machine and he thought it was running well but wasn’t sure. He said to call if I have any problems. Of course, you are lucky to have a faint signal, at best, and I didn’t see another living soul coming or going. Fortunately, the machine worked fine, I got the subject, comps, and inspected. It’s not a bad day when the client pays you a premium to ride a snowmobile around for four hours!

In the Southern heat, we have a high-end area developed at the base of red sandstone cliffs in the scenic area of Snow Canyons State Park. Mixed with white rocks and black extinct volcanoes and lava flows, this is home to some of the highest property values in Southern Utah. Some of the homes have very unique and custom layouts and designs. After receiving the assignment to appraise a certain property and looking at the county information on it, I found this attached sketch  on the county assessor site.

I made it a priority to get the floor plans from the owners, as replicating this sketch on my software was not something I was eager to attempt! Fortunately, the client was content with using and relying on the building plans in that case with my verification of the exterior wall dimensions.

Many areas offer mountain resort homes, high end golf course communities, and high-end southwest style home. Appraising in Southern Utah offers both and a huge variety in between. We have a very diverse geography which can lead to very challenging valuation assignments and some spectacular scenery. Southern Utah is a fun place to work; it seems unlikely the automation will replace us anytime soon given the limited data, non-disclosure of sales data on the public record, and diverse range of properties with limited track type production housing.

We love being appraisers and working in this unique area.


About Jeff Morley

Jeff Morley
Jeff Morley is a Certified General Appraiser in Utah and Nevada and holds the MAI and SRA designations from the Appraisal Institute since July 2014. He has extensive commercial and residential appraisal experience. Jeff has been appraising full time since 2002 with Morley and McConkie LC. Jeff was appointed to a 4-year term on the Utah Appraiser Licensing and Appraisal Board in 2016 and is currently the chairman of the board. He has served as a tax appeal hearing officer for the Board of Equalization in several counties since 2008. He appraises properties throughout Southern Utah including in mountain resort settings. In addition to the appraisal of general commercial properties, Jeff has experience in the appraisal of lodging facilities, restaurants, RV parks, subdivisions, apartment housing and large tracts of land. He also has experience in eminent domain, appraisal work of fee and partial interest acquisitions for Right-of-Way, and utility line easements. Morley and McConkie joined with Accurity Valuation in 2015 and Jeff is a contributing member of the management team of both companies.

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