Happy New Year!
We're looking forward to a great new year here at The Phoenix Agents and we wish the best to all our readers.
image courtesy of user djayo at Stock Exchange, the leading free stock photo sharing site
Wow! Thanks for following me and finding me over here at my new home, ThePhoenixAgents. I've combined forces with my colleague Chris Butterworth, who is an outstanding Realtor and all around great guy. In future, all our posts will be here, so I hope you'll take a moment to update your bookmarks and/or feedreaders.
As Chris mentioned in his welcome post (immediately below), it turns out to have been quite a big job to combine our 2 blogs. I must say, he did most of the heavy lifting! Readers here will notice a few cosmetic quirks and tweaks over the coming few days.
Some days working as a Realtor is pretty discouraging. Buyers are scared to buy a house now, afraid it won't be worth what they paid for it on the day they take possession. I'm not sure I can blame them.
Cash investor buyers make offer after offer at 50% of list price or less, only to be turned down or beat out by other bidders.
Too many sellers seem to still be desperately clinging to the idea that their house is the one in a million that has increased in value over the past 24 months. And they want me to spend my hard earned dollars on advertising to find "the one buyer who'll really appreciate it." Of course what that means is "the one idiot silly enough to overpay for it."
It seems the topsy turvey market is bringing out the worst in people. Some days the only sane way of dealing with this craziness is to have a stiff drink at the end of the day. Cheers!
image courtesy of user cx ed over at stock exchange
These holiday lights photos are compliments of the North Phoenix community of Moon Valley, located at the northwest corner of 7th Street and Thunderbird Road.
Moon Valley has a special Christmas Eve tradition: holiday lights and luminaria. Every year on Christmas Eve, homeowners place brown paper bags weighted with sand on the sidewalk perimeter of their home. At the appointed time, tea light candles are lit inside the bags and voila! the show is on. Valley residents come from miles around to see the luminaria display. Most of my pics below don’t capture the luminaria themselves but you can see tons of great photos of Valley luminaria displays on Flickr.
The annual tradition is that folks drive slowly through the neighborhood (with only the car’s parking lights on) to see the holiday lights. This year I noticed a new trend - families sitting in their front yard with a brightly burning chiminea to keep them warm as they enjoy the festivities. It’s become almost a moving tailgate party!
This year I also noticed a bunch of families walking the sidewalks to catch the holiday light displays. Last night I even saw an SUV towing a little rickshaw-type wagon full of teens who were belting out holiday songs. I rolled down the car windows to catch most of these pics, and realized that lots of people were shouting “Merry Christmas” to each other through their open car windows. No wonder many of my school friends moved back to Moon Valley to raise their kids - such a special family-oriented neighborhood.
Lawn deer are a holiday favorite:
Outlining the house is also very popular (and thankfully makes a decent night time photo for my crusty old digicam, sans flash.)
And then there’s always the neighbors who go all-out.
Wishing you and yours and very happy holiday season!
It’s a map based tool that allows you to see crime reports in your area. The website claims the reports are in real time, i.e. they show up online within 3 to 24 hours of the occurence of the crime.
The smudges in the lower left frame of photo 2 are my dashboard. Didn’t have time to open the window, just shot right out through the glass. Me? I’m SO excited to see this project finally come to fruition. I got giddy and squealed like a school girl when I saw the train passing me. It was moving! I’d guess about 30 or 32 miles per hour. Drivers should be alert starting this Saturday.
I lived in Philadelphia for 12 years and visited Manhattan frequently while there. I missed my native Phoenix like a long lost boyfriend as I endured 2 truly horrible Northeast winters in the 90’s. I pined for good Mexican food, colorful sunsets and our oven-like heat. But one thing I always regretted is that we didn’t have public transit worthy of our stature as the country’s 5th or 6th largest city. My NYC friends never used a car, and I frequently got around Philly on public transit. It was easy, quick, and nearly everybody used it at one time or another.
For Phoenix, our upgrade to world-class public transit is finally here. I refuse to listen to the naysayers who complain about cost, lack of appeal to the average Phoenician or anything else. I’m stoked!
The Phoenix Business Journal reports that 200,000 people are expected to take free train rides this weekend, during the Light Rail’s Grand Opening. The Grand Opening begins with a huge kickoff party, Saturday at 8:30 a.m. at the Metro Operations and Maintenance Center. That’s on 48th Street just south of Washington Street.
The Mayors of Phoenix (Phil Gordon), Mesa (Scott Smith) and Tempe (Hugh Hallman) will attend, along with outgoing US Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and Arizona’s Representatives to the US House, Ed Pastor and Harry Mitchell.
All three cities are going for the gold with their opening day celebrations. Local rock favorites Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers will play during the Saturday festivities in Tempe. Mesa is hosting the legendary Grand Funk Railroad.
Phoenix, it seems, couldn’t find or didn’t want to spring for the cost of musical entertainment and is instead combining the light rail event with the ribbon cutting ceremony at the newly renovated Convention Center. Nice job keeping an eye on our tax dollars at work, Mayor Phil!
All light rail train rides are free through December 31. What a great reason to head downtown to enjoy New Year’s celebrations! Trains will run every 10 minutes, with additional buses on hand to move visitors from train stations back to the park and ride stations as needed.
“Several streets will be closed for the crowds, including Main Street between Sycamore and Dobson in Mesa; Third Street between Monroe and Jefferson streets; Washington Street between Second and Fifth streets; and parts of Third and Fifth streets and sections of College and Forest avenues in downtown Tempe.” (direct quote from the Biz Journal, as linked above)
Want more info? Get it straight from the source, Valley Metro Transit
I was thinking about writing (again) about how buying a foreclosure home can be a great deal, but isn’t always what it seems. Then I found Realtor Amy Jones’s post about the same topic, complete with a picture (below). A picture is worth a thousand words indeed. Go check Amy Jones’s post about foreclosures out.
Foreclosure homes frequently have zero appliances. The owners take them on their way out the door. They often bang up the walls on their way out too. Frustrated and frightened people who’ve just lost their home and are (likely) moving to a dingy rental aren’t too careful moving big stuff through small hallways.
Foreclosure homes are almost universally dirty. The carpet must be replaced. The walls have shoe scuff marks on them. The ceilings have shoe scuff marks on them, which leaves one wondering…. The doors are outlined with magic marker. The door handles are missing. So are the the light fixtures.
Is that blood on the carpet? Or is it mushed-in dog poo? The counters have been cigarette burned, or are still sticky with jam and peanut butter. Don’t dare open the fridge if the power is off. Whatever’s in there is about ready to climb out on it’s own! In a word, it’s naaaasty. A maid service is likely to charge you $400 or $600 to clean it all up.
I’ve seen bare concrete floors, missing cabinets and bathroom mirrors, three month old dinner still in the oven, unopened bills and court orders on the kitchen counters, missing toilets, mold so bold it nearly smacked me, and pools so green I thought I saw Nessie lurking beneath.
What haven’t I seen? Anyone other than sophisticated investors willing to buy in.
I took this photo earlier this week, on Central Avenue between Bethany Home and Northern, just a few dozen feet south of Maryland Avenue.
Those unfamiliar with this section of downtown Phoenix might not recognize the bit at the far left of this photo. It looks like a wide sidewalk, but it's actually a section of the Murphy Bridle Path (variously spelled as "bridal" on some internet venues.)
Whether it was people on horseback out for a ride, or scores of young women wearing wedding dresses that gave the trail it's name is unknown. Well at least I couldn't find it after a lengthy Google search.
Trails.com claims the trail was founded in 1895. My colleagues Artur and Joanna at Realty Executives found some online info claiming the path was named for a man named Murphy Bridle who invented the Styrofoam cup. Hmmm.
No matter the origins of the name, Phoenicians flock to Murphy Bridle Path weekdays and weekends. You'll see serious joggers, folks walking dogs, high school track teams and stay-at-home Moms out for a quick walk and chat with girlfriends. The shady lanes on either side of Central run for 2 miles, from Bethany Home Road to Northern Avenue. As you can see from this photo, on a rainy weekday no one flocks anywhere near the Bridle Path.
I've always thought of this as the "old money" section of Phoenix. The houses are set back off the road, on deep lush lots, just peeking out from behind tree branches. No two are the same and each seems to tell a little bit of a story about the lives of the people who built them. Tudors, Colonials, sprawling ranches, and even a few that truly looked like mansions.
I remember spending a good deal of time as a child, being driven up and down Central Avenue. We were probably on the way to the Burton Barr Library (Mom was a big believer in library books as babysitters). What I remember best about the trips though is pressing my nose to the glass as we passed one stately home after another and imagining which one I'd buy when I was all grown up. I poked around the internet before posting this and found my family aren't the only ones who played the game of "Which house would you choose?"
"Based on the "true conforming" loan limit of $417,000 with 740+ credit scores and 80% loan to value for purchase or rate/term refinance - owner occupied....drum roll please....
4.375% priced with 1 point (apr 4.605)
4.625% priced with 0 points (apr 4.705)
For credit scores of 720-739
4.500% priced with 1 point (apr 4.731)
4.650% priced with 0 points (apr 4.831)"
If you've been thinking about buying real estate in the metro Phoenix region, I think this is the beginning of The Time.
Prices are down steeply in many metro regions over the past 18 to 24 months. Especially in outlying areas like Surprise, Avondale and Queen Creek, prices are downright silly affordable. Try a 3 bed, 2 bath, 1100 square foot starter home at Waddell & Reems for $85,000. Or how about a studio sized vacation condo in a downtown hi-rise with a 180 degree view from the 7th floor.... for $38,000? $38,000!
Search for your next investment or your first home on my Search the MLS page.
There's been a mini-explosion of new construction in the metro Phoenix area, in the form of about 2 dozen new Fresh and Easy food markets.
There are 3 new F&E markets within a 10 minute drive of my home alone. Find a Fresh and Easy near you on this map.
With the motto "A simple shopping experience with everything you need right in the neighborhood," F&E aims to make shopping easy and affordable again.
The company's mission statement:
Personally, I like the Fresh and Easy near me and have shopped there several times. I also shop at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Safeway and Fry's. My rundown of the pro's, con's and personality of each:
Trader Joe's - earthy-crunchy-granola. Offbeat items, lots of organic foods, great wine & beer selection. TJ's caters to the hippie inside you with items from small, independent producers you can't find elsewhere. They're also a great source for pop in the oven quickly snacks for a party. My biggest beef? They don't carry Helman's (Best Foods) mayonnaise. They've got some wacky soy based "nayo-naise", a sunflower mayo and so forth, but not the real deal. What I love? I feel good when I leave there, like I got some great quality food and supported the local Mom and Pop food producers too.
Whole Foods - upscale organics. Tons of organic grocery items, meat, fish and poultry that can't be beat for quality, and they carry the largest selection of macrobiotic-friendly items I've ever found. My biggest beef? They're expensive. What I love? The huge selection of oganic produce. Organic produce really does taste better. Lettuce has a taste. Believe me. Try the organic varieties and you'll see what I mean.
Fresh and Easy - convenient quality. Many ready to heat-and-serve items, prepared lunches for busy bodies on the go, and a good variety of packaged foods and groceries in convenient small family sizes. Fresh and Easy carries a full line of products from groceries to health and beauty items. They have 2 to 5 different brands of each item they carry. My biggest beef? Their packaged salads wilt after 2 days in my fridge. What I love? Their self-checkout aisles. Scanners that read your items easily, a conveyor belt that speeds along without hurting your precious produce and friendly employees right there to help you if you need it.
Safeway and Fry's - traditional grocery supermarkets.
Many people will say that Safeway is a 'step above' Fry's in quality and selection but I'm not sure I agree. Fry's quality & selection can be spotty, depending on the location of the store. The Fry's near me is my favorite shop spot for everyday staple items. It's near the village of Sunnyslope, which is a heavily Latino neighborhood. Hence, they carry a lot of ethnic foods, unusual produce and packaged goods brands I've never heard of. A friend who lives closer to Desert Ridge says she never shops Fry's because the produce stinks, but the veggies in my Sunnyslope Fry's are the best around, without question. Many Fry's locations also carry household items and furniture, much like a Target or K Mart. Fry's also has a separate division called Fry's Electronics, and I'm certain you can guess what they sell.
Safeway is known for their friendly customer service: employees are always standing nearby ready to help and if you ask where something is located, the employee literally takes you there and asks if you need any other help. My particular Safeway's produce doesn't hold a candle to Fry's but I have friends who swear by their local Safeway. Find your local Safeway or Fry's by clicking the links in this sentence.
Hope this is helpful to new Valley residents!
It's an oddly upside-down chart.
On all the charts and graphs we see in the media lately, lines rocketing higher to the right mean “Bad”. This chart is different.
Stand on your head or turn your display screen upside-down. The line marching upward to the right here means “Good”. Houses are getting more affordable. Quickly.
This October's index number (141.8) means that "a family earning the median family income had 141.8% of the income necessary to qualify for a conventional loan covering 80% of a median-priced single-family home" (quote from Seeking Alpha, but I suspect the language is NAR's).
In English, the average American family can now easily qualify for a mortgage large enough to cover 80% of the cost of purchasing the average American house.
One problem, of course is that pesky 20% down payment that lenders are now requiring. Bad, bad lenders! <tongue in cheek> For cash-strapped Americans who've become used to spending every dime we make and then some, coming up with 20% of the purchase price of the average American home is next to impossible without winning the lottery or gaining an inheritance.
In Maricopa county, the median home price is somewhere near $176,000. Twenty percent of that is over $35,000. How long would it take you to save $35,000?? The disappearance of No Money Down home loans (and 80/20's and 125% cash-out refi's and all the rest of those "liar's loans") means that fewer buyers are actually able to buy a home now, regardless of how much of a mortgage they'd qualify for.
Another problem - arguably the overriding problem for the entire world economy right now - is the confidence factor. Americans lack confidence in their own (and the country's) near-term financial future. Most of us are afraid things will be worse in 6 months, so we've all stopped spending. Of course I'm generalizing but you get the point.
As one commentor on Seeking Alpha put it, "Now that almost nobody can afford a tent, castles are cheap."
An optimist at heart, I can ususally find something to be hopeful about. So, where's the good news in this scenario? Here:
All recessions end. I don't know when or exactly how this one will end, but it will end.
When we get there, houses will still be relatively affordable, mortgage money will be flowing again to those who can reasonably afford it, and buyers will begin buying homes again in large numbers.
We won’t all qualify to buy a castle, but neither will we all be living in tents.
One of the nicest side-effects of blogging is the people you meet. I've "met" a really great Realtor in New Zealand, Rodney Dunn. Somehow he found my blog, and commented here. So in return I visited his blog and found a kindred soul, business-wise. If you ever move to New Zealand, or know someone who's going there, I've got a Realtor there you can trust.
On to the point.
It seems that real estate is falling on hard times worldwide, as prices fall, buyers hesitate and sellers wallow in denial about the value of their home. Many New Zealanders want to list their home for sale and over price it, hoping the "right buyer" will stumble along and pay waaaay more than the property is worth in this market.
This won't happen. That's not a news flash by any stretch. I'm still amazed at the number of potential sellers I speak with who won't believe me when I try to explain this.
Even if you happened to find the 1 buyer in the world with his (or her) head under a rock for the past 24 months.... and that buyer is willing to overpay for your property.... that buyer will have a lender and an appraiser, or at the very least a Realtor.
You don't need to find just 1 idiot to sell your house for more than market value. You need several. A fool is born every minute, it's true. But the chances of finding several fools all in the same place at the same time, being foolish about the exact same thing aren't good.
You're better off playing the lottery.
Here's a piece of good news about the foreclosure mess and the overall bad housing market. Good news in this arena is as rare as snowmen in the summer, so I wanted to pass it along right away.
An acquaintance called me some days ago to tell me he successfully got his mortgage company to renegotiate his mortgage loan terms. Woot! Woot!
This is phenomenal news! On your average $200,000 mortgage, this renegotiation brings the payment down from about $1183/month to $820/month.
The homeowner in this case had suffered both a medical disability and a job loss. Both these events are typically "qualifying events" for almost every mortgage company. Experiencing a qualifying event means you're eligible for the mortgage company's renegotiation plans.
Haven't had a job loss or medical disability? It's still worth contacting your lender if you're struggling to make the current payment, or if you know you soon will struggle when the adustable rate (ARM) adjusts in the future.
Further good news on the credit card front --
Another friend of mine fell 2 months behind on credit card payments. He had a 5 to 15 year good payment history on the various cards. He's 100% commission in a profession related to the housing industry, so times are tight.
Bank of America contacted him and offered their "Hardship Program" --
If you're falling behind on or struggling to pay any of your consumer debt, call the servicing company today! They're as scared of the word "recession" as we all are, and they're agreeing to reduced payment plans to avoid writing off the bad debt entirely.
Downtown living has boomed in the past few years as various revitalization plans have taken root. The Arizona Republic reported that 10,000 new residents have put down roots in the downtown area since 2000.
Surely the current economic slowdown has put a pause in that growth pace. But the December grand opening of the Metro Light Rail system should boost interest in and visits to the downtown corridor. The Grand Opening is Saturday and Sunday, December 27 and 28 and all train rides that weekend are free. Read all about Light Rail on the ValleyMetro website.
Interested in housing prices downtown? Hi-rise condos are especially popular. You can search for downtown Phoenix hi-rise condos for sale here.