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Murray Journal

Home built by Murray High students sells for almost $1 million

Aug 23, 2021 10:06AM ● By Julie Slama

Murray High students built this 4,900-square-foot house near Wheeler Farm over a three-year period, which sold this spring. (Quin Drury/Murray High School)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Sold signs are posted on homes before families have a chance to contemplate offers. Some buyers make bids, sight unseen. 

According to Salt Lake Board of Realtors’ website, the median home’s sale price in April 2020 was $365,000 and was on the market for 29 days until it sold. This past April, the price jumped to $440,649 and was on the market only 14 days.

Looking in the past 30 years, a home that was valued at $140,000 now may be worth $500,000 in Salt Lake County, well above the national growth rate of 1.5%.

Experts say much of it boils down to the basic principle in economics: supply and demand. In this case, more people are moving into the area because of a strong economy and the shortage of homes.

Murray High School skilled and technology education teacher Quin Drury just saw it himself as his 100 to 120 students constructed a 4,900-square-foot home near Wheeler Farm the past three years and it sold within a week in May for $975,000.

“This program is real-life experience for our kids,” he said. “We produce a quality product that goes out on the market. It’s a real testament to our kids.”

The three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home has a covered porch, marble countertops, walk-in closets, nine-foot basement ceilings and a four-car garage. It also features three-tone paint and Craftsman-style cabinets.

Murray High’s construction management program advanced students—mostly juniors and seniors—worked on the exterior of the house, then learned about the interior as they completed the home. 

While working on the home, students learn about framing, cement work, flat work, roofing, windows, installing doors and drywall, painting, tiling, putting in hardwood floors and cabinets and other house construction.

Throughout the process, students can put in as much as 1,000 hours into building the home, Drury said.

By enrolling in the high school’s four-term carpentry classes and Salt Lake Community College’s construction management structures course, they can receive up 16 college credits, and many times, students are offered college scholarships, Drury said.

“The kids learn to stick with it until they get it right; often times, we do it twice (or more) to make sure they learn and understand the skill and the end product is correct. It’s the only high school program that is on the market for anyone to purchase, but the kids are still in high school so they’re part of Murray High and have that sense of belonging,” he said, explaining that it’s common for other school districts to offer the program with their tech centers so students are away from their schools half-days.

Drury even had three former students return with SLCC’s cabinetry program to make cabinets for the home and bussed his 10th-grade students to see the completed house on May 12’s open house, before it sold.

Typically, the homes are built in two years, but because of COVID-19 and the soft closure of schools in spring 2020, students were unable to work on the home on schedule. Instead, Drury had them do construction or repair work on their own families’ homes to complement their book learning. As a result, this house was completed in three years.

The project homes traditionally have Granite Tech Institute students complete plumbing and electrical work, since they are enrolled in those programs, but this year, those students were only able to complete the plumbing, so electrical, mechanical and foundation walls were subbed out, Drury said.

Drury said that the price for the home sounds unbelievable until other factors are accounted for.

“It sounds great if we built it and were done, but we put the money back into another house so more students can learn these skills,” he said. “The administration’s support is great for this program. We just bought property on Bullion Street for our next home and then, there’s the high price of lumber and supplies right now.”

In late June, National Association of Home Builders Chairman Chuck Fowke acknowledged the price of lumber.

“While lumber costs have come down in recent weeks, they are still more than 210% higher than a year ago,” he said, adding that the supply continues to be a challenge, with the count of new homes sold that had not started construction up 76% over the last year.

However, Drury said the high school program isn’t about making money during this unprecedented market; it’s about giving students opportunity.

“We’re in it to teach our students the right way to build homes and to give them that real-life experience,” Drury said.