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Selling Your Home in a Down Market


You’ve been married so long that you’ve forgotten how to be single.  Your t-shirts all have holes in them, you don’t shave on the weekends, and you haven’t consumed a “Diet” anything in years.

While your spouse may love you despite the fact that you have completely let yourself go, you are in for a rude awakening if you ever find yourself back on the market.  Flaws are only endearing to loved ones, not strangers.  Before you hit those nightspots, you’ll need a new wardrobe with the latest fashions.  You’ll need to cut that hair and clean underneath those fingernails.  Don’t even get me started on the unibrow.  You need to put your best face forward if you are to attract one of those cute, little minx.

But what about when it’s your house that you are divorcing?

You look at your home, and you know that things just aren’t working out.  Either you have lost that loving feeling or it’s simply time for a change.  It may be amicable or there may be irreconcilable differences.  Maybe you’ve always known that this house was only “Mr. Right Now.”  Regardless of the reasons for your split, it’s time to move on.  All of those things that you have lived with over the years?  The creaky front door hinges?  The balky A/C unit?  The old, pale yellow linoleum that you originally detested, but grew to loathe?  It’s all gotta be gussied up.

Now you can’t take every middle-aged home and turn it into a supermodel overnight, and that’s okay.  You don’t necessarily have to be the best looking house on the planet, just the hottest little number in the club.

When you are elbow to elbow with competing properties, you don’t want your fly to be down.  That’s not how you drag home a buyer of which your mother would approve.  No, that’s how you pick up that other kind of buyer.  You know the type.  Offers you a hundred thousand off of list price and demands umpteen thousand dollars to repair things that cost a couple hundred.  That is one coyote ugly buyer.  Keep such buck-toothed, cross-eyed suitors at bay by using the right bait.

Trolling for a trophy buyer? Change out those tired carpets, paint those grimy walls, oil those squeaks.

Fishing for carp?  Throw a big wad of Velveeta around your hook and toss it out there.

We have all heard the reports about the overwhelming levels of housing inventory.  Vastly more homes for sale than qualified buyers.  It can be quite discouraging to a seller.  I have been through a great many of these properties, however, and the poor showing condition many of them display never ceases to amaze me.  There may be a glut of houses for sale, but in my own myopic view, there is a whole lotta rough for every diamond.  If I had to speculate, and I will, I’d hazard that many sellers have either given up hope or refuse to spend any money that they don’t expect to recoup in full.

Don’t fall victim to this mindset.   Now, more than ever, you need to get your home standing tall if you plan to sell it any time soon.   I know that these are lean times, but if you can afford to carry a non-selling house for months on end, you can afford to stage it properly to expedite the process of finding a new beau.  After all, the sooner you find the next Mr. or Mrs. Right for your home, the sooner you can stop writing those alimony checks.

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New Construction Vs Bank Owned Homes – A Brewing Battle?


It is an inevitable starting point for many buyers right now. Before I can finish saying hello, I am bombarded with requests to see bank-owned and short sale housing. Frankly, were we to change places, I would most likely do the very same. I am aware enough of the opportunities this market has created in the foreclosure arena to dedicate a more or less weekly post to bank-owned property spotlights, after all.

However, there are values everywhere right now. Resale homes have been dragged inexorably closer to the shallow end of the pool by the bank properties, and builders have been forced to sell off their inventory homes at even deeper discounts than usual. There is no part of the market that isn’t coughing up a bit of water.

Ah, brand new construction at foreclosure pricing … can it be?

New construction homes in Phoenix Foreclosure Pricing

In some cases, yes, it can.

Builder spec homes just might provide the alternative to bank-owned property that Phoenix area value hunters seek. A spec home is either one which the builder constructed without a waiting buyer in the wings or one in which the original buyer bailed out on the transaction after construction commenced. These homes make great options for buyers who prefer brand new construction, but don’t want the lengthy wait involved in having their new home built from scratch. A buyer can typically move into a completed spec home within 30 days. Of course, if construction is complete, the new buyer will not be able to make any cosmetic choices in regards to flooring, cabinetry, etc. The big discounts, however, are often very persuasive arguments for that sacrifice.

Eager to dump existing inventory in the best of times, builders are even more anxious to get their specs off the books in this market. As evidenced by the near standstill in new permits being pulled by builders for new projects, it is cut and run time for many. I am seeing completed spec homes with significant levels of upgrading being advertised for sale well below base price. In other words, if you signed a contract to build from scratch, you would pay more for a home with absolutely no upgrades than you would for the completed home with cherry cabinets, slab granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, premium culdesac lot, etc.

Another advantage that a builder can offer a prospective buyer right now is tough to beat in-house financing. Not usually a fan of running my loan through the same guy who is selling me something, any conflict of interest concern tends to melt away when they disclose the cheap rate blocks they have purchased for their customers. In addition to the low sales prices, I have isolated several builders who are paying up to the maximum allowable buyer closing costs. A recent client is getting a fixed rate in the 4’s with an additional buydown for the first two years. At no out of pocket cost. All he has to show up to closing with is a downpayment. Not too shabby. *

You have to be careful, however. As I mentioned in a previous post, there are many struggling builders throughout Maricopa County. While a little financial pinch works in the buyer’s favor, too much can lead to unfinished subdivisions, mechanic’s liens and other fun stuff. You want to do your research (or better yet, work with a knowledgeable Realtor 😉 to ensure you are not walking into a doomed project. I recommend national builders with ample working capital and developments that are nearing close-out.

Ghost towns make poor investments

You don’t want to get stuck in a ghost town.

Bear in mind that you may have to venture a bit further from your desired location if brand new construction is your bent. Scottsdale is largely landlocked, with only the valuable land in the North remaining open to development. There is infill construction in central Phoenix, but the majority of new home projects are located in South Phoenix (Baseline corridor), North Phoenix (I-17 corridor) and pushing ever Westward towards LA. For those in the Southeast Valley (Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler, Tempe, Queen Creek), there are still plenty of options.

I spent the last week looking at a fair amount of them, as a matter of fact.

I had one of those purported foreclosure buyers who ended up buying a brand new spec home from a quality home builder instead of any of the bank-owned homes in the same price range that needed work, had no available warranty and disclosure information and no special financing incentives.

The moral of the story is not to rule anything out. Look less at the property label (bank-owned, resale, new) and more at the property itself. You just might be surprised at the unexpected bargains that are available to be had across the full color spectrum of the 2009 Real Estate market.

Give me a call if you want to find just the right shade of perfect.

The color of money

* I always advise speaking with a reputable outside lender to compare programs/costs

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Hayden Estates in Scottsdale AZ

Hayden Estates in Scottsdale AZ

In the land of stucco and tile, there are a few scattered pockets of homes that break the architectural norms of Scottsdale, Arizona.While many would never consider living in the Southwest in anything other than a Southwestern style home, there are those who tire of street after street of Spanish/Territorial style housing.New residents from other parts of the country may love the Arizona lifestyle, but pine for the architecture they left behind.With the buyers who yearn for something a bit different in mind, I am launching a series of posts devoted to those subdivisions which feature unique design.From mid-century modern to quaint Victorian, there are alternatives out there for those who know where to look.In this first installment, the spotlight shines on a hidden treasure known as Hayden Estates.

Hayden Estates is one of those subdivisions that people pass by every day without ever knowing it was there.Just south of McCormick Ranch and the Silverado Golf Course, this community of 128 homes is just Northeast of the Hayden/Lincoln Road intersection.The homes on the perimeter of the subdivision are noteworthy in only the fact that they resemble construction of surrounding neighborhoods.Built in the late 1970s by NuWest (a spinoff of the more famous Hallcraft brand), these homes are single-level slump block construction.What these homes hide, though, is an interior development built by Coventry Homes in the early 1980s.

A great departure from the standards of the time, these Coventry Homes remain virtually the only pocket of Victorian style architecture in central Scottsdale.For those without the means to afford the Victorian beauties that have appeared in the Arcadia area (multi-million dollar range), Hayden Estates provides a terrific alternative at a fraction of the price.Phoenix Magazine once named the subdivision amongst its “Top 10 Neighborhoods”.

If you miss the charm of the east coast, this just might be the neighborhood for you.With the dramatic rooflines and beautiful tree-lined streets, you might just forget you are in the desert.

Ready to find your own Scottsdale Victorian?

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Scottsdale Arizona Golf Courses

Grayhawk Golf Club (Talon Course)

Scottsdale and Golf go together like peanut butter and jelly.  Like Sam and Dave.  Rest and relaxation.

Listed in the 2006 Robb Report as “America’s Best Place to Live for Golf,” scratch players and weekend duffers alike make the pilgrimage to play Scottsdale’s traditional and target desert courses every year.  Many end up purchasing a second home or moving here altogether for nothing more than the amazing variety and plentiful choices that the Valley provides a golf enthusiast.

Averaging 330 days of sunshine a year, few and far between are the outings that must be cancelled due to inclement weather.  And for those hot summer days?  You can get on some of the very best courses for a fraction of the standard cost.  And while there are private clubs with equity memberships available to residents, the vast majority are public courses.  Of these, The Boulders & Golden Spa Resort was selected as the second best golf resort in the nation for 2005 by Travel & Leisure Golf Magazine.  The Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North was #4.

I’ll also use this opportunity to plug my personal favorite course.  Actually, two.  The Grayhawk Golf Club in North Scottsdale boasts two award winning 18 hole courses (The Raptor and Talon).  Grayhawk is not only challenging and gorgeous, but features a learning center headed up by PGA Tour commentators Peter Costis and Gary McCord.  Until he moved from the Valley a few years ago, Grayhawk was the home club to Phil Mickelson as well.  I actually worked here for one summer upon graduating from college and mistakenly chased Phil off of the practice range one week prior to the Masters.  Ask me and I just might tell you about it while we are out looking at property.

Grayhawk Golf Course

Of course, I would also be remiss not to mention the TPC of Scottsdale at The Scottsdale Princess where the FBR Open (formerly The Phoenix Open) is held annually.  Renowned for the infamous 16th hole, which is without a doubt the rowdiest hole on the entire PGA tour, the FBR is a place for all of the beautiful people to see and be seen.

With 174 public courses in the area and growing, if Scottsdale is not the epicenter of golf in the United States, it is a strong contender.  In addition to being a great place to play, it is a great place to learn.  In fact, Golf Magazine listed 11 Scottsdale-based instructors in its top 100 in the nation for 2001.

So whether your game is up to par, or you need a little help to iron out that slice and putting technique, there is no better place for a golf lover than Scottsdale!

McCormick Ranch Golf Club

McCormick Ranch Golf Club

Orangetree Golf Resort

Orangetree Golf Resort

Sanctuary at McDowell Mountain Ranch

Sanctuary at McDowell Mountain Ranch

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The Phoenix Mountain Preserve

The Phoenix Mountain Preserve

As part of my continuing series of things to do in and around Scottsdale, Phoenix and Paradise Valley, Arizona, today’s edition is devoted to the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.

As the Valley has been beset by rapid expansion and development, political forces have been at odds over the preservation of our native land.  Victories for conservationists have produced a series of preserved mountain areas within the greater Phoenix metropolitan area.  Encompassing approximately 23,500 acres (non-continuous) in total, and open to the public for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding, the preserves offer an amazing opportunity to experience raw Arizona without leaving the confines of the city.

Phoenix Mountain Preserve

There are seven primary mountain preserve areas in Phoenix:  Lookout Mountain, Shadow Mountain, North Mountain/Shaw Butte, Stoney Mountain, Stoney Mountain South, Piestewa Peak (formerly Squaw Peak) and South Mountain.

This past Sunday, I took the family to the Piestewa Peak preserve area.  Instead of accessing the preserve from the South where there is a direct route up the peak, we decided to stomp around the open area to the North.  Not quite ready for mountain climbing, the boys were much better suited to scampering along the relatively flat trails.  On this day, the desert was surprisingly green and vibrant with undergrowth.  With sunshine on our faces and just the slightest nip in the air, it could not have been a better morning for communing with mother nature.

Piestewa Peak Preserve Area, Phoenix AZ

Look, there goes a group of middle-aged mountain bikers.  Up ahead is a gaggle of high school girls chattering away about nothing and everything.  To my left is a couple with three exceedingly happy Labrador Retrievers.  In the distance to the right, I can even see the silhouette of a man on horseback.

Yet, despite the traffic, I do not feel imposed upon.  The preserve so open and expansive, the mountain vistas so spectacular, that it never feels crowded.  Quite the contrary, we trade genuine smiles with each person we encounter.  Eager for the chance to express feelings of contentment with fellow revelers.  Every eye sparkles.

While fruitlessly trying to teach my toddler to identify a “mountain” and “cactus,” I can only laugh as he instead opts to inspect every single rock at his feet.  Trust me when I say that is a lot of rocks.

Jack in the Mountain Preserves Brandi & Wyatt - Phoenix Mountain Preserve

An hour later, tired but refreshed, we found our way back to the parking area.  The paved parking lot which I should note was not paved the last time I utilized this point of entry.  In fact there were no restrooms when I was here last either.  What does this tell me?  That it has been far too long.

Paul & Jack - Phoenix Mountain Preserve

When you need to step away from the rat race, don’t forget this haven is only minutes away.

For access to this part of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, go West on Shea Boulevard from Tatum.  Follow 40th Street South from Shea until it terminates in the public parking area.  Leave your worries with your car, and enjoy an enchanting day in the mountains.

Leaving it all behind in the Phoenix Mountains

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