2012

From the Archives - December

From the Archives - December


I hope you're all having an awesome Holiday Season!

christmas cactus


I figure most of you are off from work, or out of town, or otherwise celebrating and enjoying company with family and friends. But a few of you might still be around, so I thought I'd share a few posts we've written in December over the years...

Why Phoenix is Known for Sunsets - December 8, 2008. A beautiful picture, and one of the reasons thousands of people move here each year.

Snow in Phoenix - December 30, 2010. Yes, it does snow in Phoenix - probably about once a decade. And yes, we do tend to get over-excited about it when it does..!

Fixing a Clogged Bathroom Sink - the Layperson's Guide - December 3, 2008. A pretty handy tutorial for those who are a bit intimidated by unscrewing things under the sink. Turns out it's a 5-minute job, and it's very easy.

When Good Sprinklers Go Bad - December 30, 2009. Whether it's the end of the month, the end of the season, or the end of the year, it's a good idea to check on your sprinklers once in awhile to make sure they're doing the job.

This will be the last post I write in 2012, so have a safe and happy New Year's, and I'll see you again in 2013!

-Chris Butterworth

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ceiling fan without blades

ceiling fan without blades


bladeless ceiling fan


Imagine a small, unobtrusive disc attached to your ceiling that does a better job of circulating the room's air than your traditional ceiling fan. If the folks at exhale fans are as good as they claim, this could be the look of the future.

Technology Forward

The technology has been headed this way. Haven't you noticed the public restrooms that have the Dyson high-powered hand dryers? (the ones that are 1,000 better, where you don't need to wipe your hands on your pants after "drying" them!)

high powered hand dryer


Or how about those bladeless fans, also by Dyson? They're a bit pricey for my living room, but they look sooo cool, and they get great reviews.

dyson bladeless fan


Well, the two companies are using different technology and different airflow mechanics, but the results are similar - more air movement, more consistent air movement, and less energy used. Not bad...

Video Demonstration

Here's a video of the exhale ceiling fan submerged in a "room" of water, showing how evenly the flow gets distributed. (and a really cool vortex where the water is pulled up into the fan.)



Here's a link to the video mentioned: http://youtu.be/JTAXaX4wlZU (in case your rss readers strips the embedded video).

More Info and Where to Buy

Yes, they come in different colors.

Soon they will have LED lighting, and an option to be a Wi-Fi router for your house.

Price point looks to be around $300, give or take.

It looks like delivery will be available in the spring of 2013. Check out the exhale fans website for more information.

What do you think? Would you give up your traditional ceiling fan in favor of this new air-moving technology?

-Chris Butterworth

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November 2012 Charts

November 2012 Charts


The trends continue...

  • Inventory is tight. It's a great time to be a seller; not so much fun trying to buy over the last year or so.
  • Prices are rising.
  • Bank-Inventory has been declining sharply, but it still makes up over a third of the new listings each month.
  • Vacant Listings still dominate traditional listings by about a 3 to 2 margin.

Here are some charts. (my thoughts below):





Some thoughts as we head into 2013:

  • Vacancy. That 3rd chart is the key. There shouldn't be more than a few hundred vacant homes in a "normal" market. As long as the vacancy numbers are high, the market is in uncharted territory.
  • Foreclosure Buyers. How long will it take the "foreclosed families" to get back into the home-buying market? There are a couple hundred thousand families sitting on the sidelines these days, currently renting. How long will it take them to repair their credit and save up for a down payment? Will they come back en masse?
  • Interest Rates. What happens to interest rates could have a major impact on our market. The payment on a $250,000 mortgage at 3.5% is $1,123. At 6.0% (still low by historic standards), the payment rises to $1,499. A spike in interest rates could dry up demand overnight.
  • Prices. Prices today are at or near where they were at the start of "The Bubble", but interest rates are significantly lower. Are we seeing another bubble forming?


We have a lot to keep our eyes on this year. I'll continue to share what I'm seeing, as I see it.

-Chris

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pre-fab skyscrapers - including time-lapse video

pre-fab skyscrapers - including time-lapse video


This spring, a Chinese construction company will build the world's tallest building, using prefabricated modular technology, in 90 DAYS! (gizmodo.com)

It's name is Sky City. It'll be 2,749 feet tall and 220 floors, and built in ninety days..

Sky City to be built spring 2013


Let's look at some details:

Here is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, currently the world's tallest building at 2,719 feet (including the gigantic spire at the top.)

Burj Khalifa


Here's how much taller the Burj is than other skyscrapers from around the world.

World's Tallest Towers


Sky City will be taller than the Burj, and without a spire. Wow.

The Burj Khalifa cost $15,000 per square meter to build, which equates to $1,394 per square foot. That sounds about right - architects, engineers, planning, zoning, steel, glass, concrete.. I'd expect the tallest luxury skyscraper in the world to cost a lot more than building a house.

Sky City, on the other hand, will cost only $1,500 per square meter to build. ($139 per square foot.) What?! How?!

220,000 tons of steel. 104 high-speed elevators. 4-pane glass windows. Extreme energy efficiency. Housing for 31,400 people. Offices, schools, hospitals, shops, restaurants. Basically, they're building a small city for the same money it costs to build a house!

Enter prefabricated modular technology. Here's a time-lapse video showing the same company, using the same technology, constructing a 30-story building in 15 days.



The video loops through twice - you can stop it at the 2:45 mark. Also, here's the link - embeded videos don't always pass through feedreaders and emails..

I'm interested to see how this technology impacts the construction industry over the next decade. Faster build times, more precision, better insulation and efficiency, lower costs... All good things.

-Chris Butterworth

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DIY - closet organizing shoe rack

DIY - closet organizing shoe rack


Sometimes I stumble across an idea that's so simple, and so awesome, I have to share it. This is one of those times.

Originally posted by Jen on her Epbot blog, "How's it Hangin'? A Flop Tutorial" Click through for more pictures and detailed instructions.







Let's think about this idea for a minute. It's:

  • Inexpensive. I throw a few of these hangers into the recycle bin every week - you can't get much more inexpensive than that.
  • Easy. If I'm not overwhelmed by a project, it can't be that hard to do.
  • Functional. You couldn't fit that many pair of flip-flops in that small of an area without them being a complete mess. This gets them off the floor, paired up with each other, and easy to find the pair you're looking for.
  • Decorative. Jen prettied hers up with the little decorative bow-ribbon-thingy, but even without the decoration, it would still add a splash of color to your closet. (Most girls in phoenix have a pair in every color, right?)

I think it wins on all four counts. How about you - are you going to try this?

-Chris Butterworth

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election day - how will the results affect the Phoenix real estate market?

election day - how will the results affect the Phoenix real estate market?


I have smart friends voting red, and I have smart friends who vote blue. My question is, does the winner of today's election matter, in terms of the Phoenix real estate market?

In terms of social issues and the parties' overriding directions, of course it matters. Taxation, pro-life vs pro-choice, military, health care, size of government, business regulation... The winner of today's election will get to move the country in the direction of his (and his party's) beliefs.

But the local real estate market? Not so much, at least not directly.

It's all about the budget deficit

How dysfunctional does a family have to be for the kids, when asked about Mom and Dad, respond "They both break all their promises - all we really care about is that one of them remembers to pay the bills."

We've been through a Great Recession - the worst economic times most of us has ever seen in our lifetime. And while things aren't back to great yet, they're better than they were and seem to be getting better each quarter.

However, we still haven't dealt with our runaway deficits. This will be the most important job of our president over the next couple years - regardless of who that president is.

Plan, propose, compromise, discuss, be a leader, compromise some more, remove pride and party lines from the discussion.. Do these things, and show the rest of the world we have a very real plan in place for reducing our debt, and our recovery will continue unabated. Everybody wins, on both sides of the aisle.

Play party politics, blame the other guy, keep your pork barrels, kick the can down the road, and prepare good sound bites for the next election, and we're all in big trouble.

At some point in the future - maybe 2014 or 2015, we're going to issue Treasury Notes, and the bond market is going to say "We're not sure you'll be able to pay us back without renegotiating, so we want more return for our risk - we'll take these notes at 7%, rather than 0.5%."

Ask Greece what happens next. (or Ireland. or Portugal. or Spain, Italy, or France.) It isn't pretty. One day mortgages are 3.5%; the next they're at 8.5% and rising.

Yeah, that'll put a stop to our little recovery. The payment on a $200,000 house goes from $1,075 to $1,700, and suddenly people aren't willing (or able) to pay $200,000 anymore. Either the market stalls, or the market crashes. In the meantime, businesses feel the same cash crunch from lack of cheap credit, so we go back to hiring freezes and even more layoffs. Now unemployment rises, from our already too high levels. Throw in another round of foreclosures and fewer people who can afford to buy homes, and we've got another decade in front of us which will be worse than the last 5 years we just went through.

Who needs to Win?

So who's going to be the better president, given all of the above? I don't know.

Our incumbent hasn't shown me as much conviction and passion as I think it's going to take. On the other hand, he won't have to worry about re-election in his second term. This might give him the flexibility needed to make waves while doing important work.

The challenger talks a good game and looks good on television. But then again, so does every newly elected president. (Our incumbent looked great four years ago!)

I'm not telling you who to vote for, and I'm not telling you who I'm voting for. I'm just saying the winner better make a balanced budget his top priority.

Bottom Line

How dysfunctional does a family have to be for the kids, when asked about Mom and Dad, respond "They both break all their promises - all we really care about is that one of them remembers to pay the bills."

It doesn't matter to me who wins this election, as long as they're up to the task of balancing our budget. If either party gets stubborn and decides to play politics as usual, we're all going to lose, big-time.

* Editor's note - this is an op ed piece - my opinions are mine alone. You're welcome to agree or disagree in the comments below, but please don't turn this into a political flame-throwing match.

-Chris Butterworth

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Maricopa County Charts - October 2012

Maricopa County Charts - October 2012


I normally look at a rolling 13 months, so we can see what's happened over the last year. But today I wanted to see a little more history, to see if it can help us spot any emerging trends, so I'm pulling in the last 25 months' data.

Sold Price per Square Foot - You can argue any individual property as having unique qualities and not tying exactly to the price per square foot trend. And that can be very true for a given property. But for the market as a whole, no other statistic gives us a better feel for which direction the market is going..

Maricopa County - price per square foot


New Vacant Listings as a Percentage of the Total - a "normal" market will have some vacant listings; a "Great Recession" market will have lots of vacant listings. I'm expecting this chart to show a downward trend over the next year, as more traditional sellers get back into the market.

Maricopa County - new vacant listings


Number of Homes Sold - This is one of those basic charts. Forget all the fancy statistical analysis-type stuff - days on market, months inventory, etc., and let's just look at how many homes are selling. This will give us an indication of whether the market is hot or cold, heating up or cooling off...

Maricopa County - number of homes sold


New Bank-Owned and Short-Sale Listings - If the banks are involved, people are still hurting. This causes excess inventory over what would normally be available. It also puts a "homeowner" on the sidelines for a few years while he/she repairs their credit. A downward trend on this graph is a very good thing.

Maricopa County - new distressed listings


Summary

We've been moving in the right direction, slowly but surely, for a long time.

  • Last month was the first time in a long time with fewer than 2,000 new distressed listings.
  • Prices are still on the rise. (a little faster than I'd like to see, but better up than down.) This helps people who were borderline underwater regain positive equity. It also helps people who have been waiting for a better time to sell, to sell. All of these factors will help lead us back to a more normal market.
  • Homes are still selling at a brisk pace. Maybe not record numbers, but we have enough volume that the market isn't in danger of stagnating.
  • Overall, I don't see anything magical, but I do see a long-time trend of heading in the right direction. One day we'll finally get to where we've wanted to be. (since 2008 - what's a half decade, give or take?!)


Note - all data was pulled from the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service (ARMLS) and is considered accurate but not guaranteed.

-Chris Butterworth

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the nest - a learning thermostat for your home

the nest - a learning thermostat for your home


Have you heard about the nest thermostat?

the nest thermostat


I've been hearing about it and reading rave reviews for the last couple months - it's billed as being super easy to use, learns your house's habits within a week, and saves you a lot of money on your electric bill.

It's an interesting concept, and I'm big on both saving energy and saving money.

  • Motion-sensing technology lets nest know when you're not home.
  • You manually select temperatures as you normally would, and nest learns your habits and gets the house to the right temperature without you having to think about it.
  • You tell it what temperature to use when you're not home, and nest automatically knows when you're away and turns up/down accordingly. But unlike your current thermostat, nest will have the house back to your preferred temperature before you get home.
  • It connects to your home's wi-fi network, and is then available to adjust from your smartphone. (iphone, ipad, android).
  • You can access your nest from online to view reports, history, and change settings.


The nest website shows a real-life example of a couple from Phoenix using nest in their 2,000 sqft home, who cut their energy bill by 23% in the summer and 20% in the winter.

At $249 it's not cheap, but if it could cut my energy bill by 20% it would more than pay for itself in one summer!

Available at Lowe's. 144 Reviews - 5 Stars.

Have you tried the nest yet?

-Chris Butterworth

winter rye grass - from the archives

winter rye grass - from the archives


It's mid-October - we're getting close to the end of the winter grass planting season.



From the Archives:


More food for thought: If you're not going to plant winter grass this year, now is a good time to reset your sprinkler system for fewer and shorter watering times..

-Chris Butterworth

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Another 20% Drop in Home Prices?

Another 20% Drop in Home Prices?


I read an article this weekend which I thought was worth sharing.

To set it up properly, I'll introduce some names. John Mauldin is an economist, writer, and founder of Mauldin Economics. He publishes a couple different free economic newsletters which I highly recommend. One of his newsletters, "Outside the Box", features a different guest writer each week. The guest writers are always very successful economists and financiers who may or may not agree with Mauldin's opinions, but who provide a different take on the topic at hand. This weekend's Outside the Box newsletter was titled "A Little Chronic Deflation", and featured guest author Dr. A. Gary Shilling.

In the article, Shilling writes about housing prices (excerpt below - click above link for the full article):

Housing Woes
House prices have been deflating for six years, with more to go (Chart 10). The earlier housing boom was driven by ample loans and low interest rates, loose and almost non-existent lending standards, securitization of mortgages which passed seemingly creditworthy but in reality toxic assets on to often unsuspecting buyers, and most of all, by the conviction that house prices never decline. 


I expect another 20% decline in single-family median house prices and, consequently, big problems in residential mortgages and related construction loans. In making the case for continuing housing weakness, I've persistently hammered home the ongoing negative effect of excess inventories on house sales, prices, new construction and just about every other aspect of residential real estate.
...
That further drop would have devastating effects. The average homeowner with a mortgage has already seen his equity drop from almost 50% in the early 1980s to 20.5% due to home equity withdrawal and falling prices. Another 20% price decline would push homeowner equity into single digits with few mortgagors having any appreciable equity left. It also would boost the percentage of mortgages that are under water, i.e., with mortgage principals that exceed the house's value, from the current 24% to 40%, according to my calculations. The negative effects on consumer spending would be substantial. So would the negative effects on household net worth, which already, in relation to after-tax income, is lower than in the 1950s.

What I find interesting is whether Phoenix will face the same declines as what he predicts nationally.
  • We're seeing bidding wars at today's already-appreciated prices.
  • Investors have proven they can rent homes out for a profit, even at today's already-appreciated prices. (this is why there are bidding wars.)
  • A downward trend in rental rates will scare investors away from the market, which would cause prices to fall.
  • Downward rental rates would be caused by fewer renters (less demand), which probably means these renters are buying homes.
  • This would simply trade one set of buyers (investors) for another (former renters), which seems like a net-neutral effect on prices.
Mauldin and Shilling are a lot smarter than me, so I tend to listen to their forecasts with great respect. However, I don't see how the Phoenix prices can fall another 20% from where they are today..

-Chris Butterworth

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Maricopa County Charts - September 2012

Maricopa County Charts - September 2012


We've been watching this "market correction" for a long time now, and there's still a lot of uncertainty about what's coming next. Here are a few charts worth noting this month..

Number of New Vacant Listings

This chart shows how many homes went up for sale as vacant homes. Obviously, a "normal" market will not have thousands of vacant homes for sale each month.

Maricopa County - Vacant Listings

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Average Price per Square Foot of Sold Homes

You can see how prices shot up dramatically in the first half of the chart (21% increase in 7 months). And while prices are still increasing, the rate of increase has slowed. (3.4% in the last 4 months).

Maricopa County - price per square foot

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Number of Homes Sold

The number of homes sold has held within the 5,000 - 6,000 range over the last year, with a couple months slightly outside that range.

Maricopa County - number sold

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Numbers represent Single Family Dwellings in Maricopa County. All data was pulled from the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service (ARMLS) and is believed to be accurate but not guaranteed.

-Chris Butterworth

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New Digs - Blogger - Ahhhh, feels good to be back

New Digs - Blogger - Ahhhh, feels good to be back


Good News

ThePhoenixAgents.com is back in business, and COMPLETELY revamped. Good bye, Wordpress; hello, Blogger.

I wrote my very first blog post on the Blogger platform, way back in 2006 - and almost immediately migrated to Wordpress. Since that time I've built and played with a dozen different blogger blogs, yet my real estate blog has held steadfast to wordpress. Truth be told, I've become a much bigger fan of blogger than wordpress, and I'm looking forward to moving forward.

More Good News

As far as websites go, I'm 95% author/researcher and about 5% webmaster (and that's being generous.) This new setup will require less web management, and the management that is required is stuff that I'm comfortable with from working on my other blogs. That allows me to spend less time making the blog work (and/or making it look good) - I'll let a small internet company called Google manage the back end for me!

Bad News

Moving almost 1,800 posts and pages wasn't completely pain free, and I'm still working through a few glitches. I also discovered some broken posts from when Heather and I merged our two former blogs into ThePhoenixAgents back in 2009.

It turns out this process conformed to the old 80-20 rule. 80% of my content moved without issue. But the 20% is being a pain in the butt, and will take me a bit of effort to manage its move. Ok, make that A LOT of effort.

But, be that as it may, the page is turned, and I'm looking forward. (which is good news, since there's no turning back!)

Any comments, ideas, suggestions, or observations? I'm all ears..

-Chris Butterworth

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BIG changes coming soon!

This has been a very busy month - behind the scenes. As the dust settles over the next 9 days I'll have 3 major changes to announce:

1.) Cheryl is joining me! Cheryl Butterworth - my wife - was born to do this job. She loves homes more than I do, and she's better with people than I am (and I've done pretty well in both of those areas over the years..) She's going to be an absolutely dynamite addition, and I'm excited about it both personally and professionally. I'll have more details and a more personal announcement when it becomes official.

2.) Thompson's Realty will be no more. You've probably already heard, via the blogosphere or Facebook, but Jay and Francy have made a personal & professional decision to merge their brokerage with another office. Jay & Francy are two of the best people in the business, and I know they believe they can do more good for more people with the new arrangement. What that means for The Phoenix Agents is we'll have a new home soon. More on that announcement as it becomes official.

3.) Major Website Updates are on the way. Given the two changes above, and the fact I've been running the same blog on the same theme for a few years now, this seems like an ideal time to shake things up online. Everything is fair game (host, provider, theme, blog engine, color scheme, widgets & plugins - it's all up for change) EXCEPT for the quality of the writing. I'm not going anywhere, which means I'll still be sharing my thoughts, opinions, and observations about Phoenix, real estate, Phoenix real estate, and anything else.

So many changes at once, it might as well be an Extreme TPA Makeover, or Pimp My TPA. The next couple weeks promise to be logistically and programmatically challenging, but I'm excited for what lies at the other side.

Please bear with me, and keep your eyes open for what's coming..

-Chris Butterworth

New Home Sales on the Rise

I read this today on the Calculated Risk blog:
Here is a table showing sales and the change from the previous year since the peak in 2005:



YearNew Home Sales (000s)Change
20051,283
20061,051-18%
2007776-26%
2008485-38%
2009375-23%
2010323-14%
2011306-5%
2012136018%
12012 pace through July.

This is still a very low level of sales, but clearly new home sales have bottomed and are starting to recover. I don't expect sales to increase to 2005 levels, but something close to 800,000 is possible once the number of distressed sales declines to more normal levels.


Read more at http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2012/08/new-home-sales-and-distressing-gap.html



It's interesting to note that, for all the hubbub about the red hot market, no houses available, inventory shrinking, and all that other stuff, this is the first year since 2005 we'll see an upward change in the number of new home sales. And yet, even with this upward trend, they will still build fewer new homes than they did in 2009.

Wow. and Yikes.

But if the author's projections are correct, 2013 should be a very good year...

-Chris

Fitness Gazette is live!

This week my newest blog went live: www.FitnessGazette.net, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

Here’s the introduction article.

The blog’s sub heading reads: Health, Fitness, and Time Management (getting better each day!) And that’s what you’ll find over there. Topics include:

  • Fitness & Exercise
  • Health

  • Diet & Nutrition
  • Goals & Motivation
  • Productivity
  • Time Management
  • Continuous Improvement
  • and anything else I come across which I think you’ll enjoy.

Coming soon I’ll be adding two more series of posts:

  • Fit-20 – will be a 20-minute workout routine you can do just about anywhere.
  • Daily Diet – will offer eating ideas you can use with real food – eating at the same restaurants you eat at today while cutting the calorie count down to a reasonable number.

I’d be honored and appreciative if you stopped by to have a look around. Hopefully you’ll want to bookmark it, put it in your reader, or get daily updates by email. You might even want to share it with your friends…

Thanks!

-Chris Butterworth

Working towards a goal: Don't Break the Chain

One of the cool things about writing a blog for a long time is having things come full circle. I wrote Achieving Your Goals: what I have in common with Jerry Seinfeld almost 5 years ago, yet I’ve been using that concept successfully lately so I felt compelled to reference it last week on my health & time management blog, and to share it again here.


Don’t Break the Chain. If you’re working on a new goal, this is a great concept. Take a calendar and give yourself a big red X each day you successfully achieve what you had set out to do. After a few days you’ll see a chain of red Xs. Your job then becomes very simple: don’t break the chain.


Want more details and examples? Read here.


-Chris Butterworth

Maricopa County Sales Charts - April 2012

Wow – what a difference a year makes! I’ve been seeing people all over the web comment on inventory levels being down and prices being up, (and homes being hard to find if you’re a regular buyer) – but this is ridiculous!

The first chart below doesn’t do much for me, but look at charts 2 – 4..
  • Average Sales Price is up 17%, from $181,000 to $213,000
  • Average Price per Square Foot is up 18%, from $72 to $90
  • Average Days on Market is down 21%, from 106 to 84.
Wowza.

Specific Zip Code reports are now available!  If you’d like to see how the sales activity in your zip code compares with the county as a whole, just click here to sign up, and you’ll receive your zip code report via email each month.

and now, on to the reports.  (click each chart to embiggen)


Number of Homes Sold by Month




Average Sold Price




Average Price per Square Foot



Average Number of Days on Market




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** The data for all these charts represents Single Family Homes sold in Maricopa County via the MLS.  All data was pulled from the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service, and is thought to be accurate but is not guaranteed.  Please do not make any life-changing decisions based solely on the information contained herein.


Questions, comments, suggestions?  Please give me a call/email anytime – I’d love to hear from you!


- Chris Butterworth

Maricopa County Sales Charts - March 2012

Not only are the trends continuing, but they’re gaining strength!  Prices are heading upwards, and Days on Market is heading down.  And while I’m still not ready to say it’s 2005 all over again, it certainly feels that way out there right now.  (and the charts back that up.)



Here’s a look at the recent trends county-wide.  I’m pulling a rolling 13-month history so we can see the last year’s trends plus a comparison of this month to the same month last year..



Specific Zip Code reports are now available!  If you’d like to see how the sales activity in your zip code compares with the county as a whole, just click here to sign up, and you’ll receive your zip code report via email each month.



and now, on to the charts.  (click each chart to embiggen)



Number of Homes Sold by Month





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Average Sold Price





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Average Price per Square Foot





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Average Number of Days on Market





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** The data for all these charts represents Single Family Homes sold in Maricopa County via the MLS.  All data was pulled from the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service, and is thought to be accurate but is not guaranteed.  Please do not make any life-changing decisions based solely on the information contained herein.



Questions, comments, suggestions?  Please give me a call/email anytime – I’d love to hear from you!



- Chris Butterworth