Today is the reason we live in Phoenix

Today is the reason we live in Phoenix

Well... Maybe not specifically today, and maybe it's not the only reason, but come on - have you been outside today?

75 degrees with a slight breeze, and not a cloud in the sky - the weather's nearly perfect!

This winter seemed unusually long, cold, wet, and snowy for most of the country, and I felt bad at times watching the news and seeing videos of cars sliding all over the roads and people being stranded overnight in gridlock. But then I always think - why don't they just move out here? (heck, many of them have!)

New York City



Oklahoma City

At least now it's getting to be spring-time for everyone (sort of) - this post wouldn't have been fair to write a month ago. I hope you all get a chance to enjoy it..

Your loves being outside Realtors,

Chris & Cheryl Butterworth

a detailed look at one non-HOA neighborhood

a detailed look at one non-HOA neighborhood

Last week I took a walk through an established neighborhood in North Phoenix, sort of between Paradise Valley Mall and Desert Ridge Marketplace. I saw mostly medium sized homes sitting on large lots, with wide streets, tall trees, and lots of quiet. But I also saw changes and customizations which were the result of not having a Home Owners' Association.

Imagine you lived on this quiet street - in a well-maintained, 3 bedroom, ranch-style home on a half-acre lot.

ranch style home in north phoenix

Now imagine this was your neighbor across the street:

modern style home in north phoenix

A large, modern-looking, stucco on frame home, which would fit in nicely in many of the newer high-priced areas around the city. But it looked grossly out of place in this neighborhood.

This home across the street from yours is most likely to cause either anger, because you don't want a modern style home in your ranch style neighborhood, or envy, because it's big and new and shiny.

But wait, there's more. Now imagine the home on the corner, a couple houses down from yours:

ranch style home in non hoa neighborhood

So many things going on with this house we'll need to look at it more closely.

statue of horse rearing in front of home

Yes, that is a giant statue of a horse in front of the house. Imagine driving by that every day on your way to and from work. But this neighbor is offering more than just this rearing beauty.

Which would bug you the most (not including the statue)?

  • Dirt with weeds front yard?
  • Four different styles of brick trim (brown rough bricks on the side of the home, wagon wheel bricks at the front porch, stone wall on the front of the home, and the fancy design gray block wall)?
  • Roof which looks like it might not survive the next monsoon?

At this point, I know what you're thinking - it's probably better to leave the neighborhood in the other direction, so you don't have to drive past these two neighbors repeatedly. Well, this article wouldn't be complete if the neighbors on the other side of your house weren't just as impressive.

Here's the neighbor on the other side of your house:

home in non hoa neighborhood in north phoenix

Let's take a closer look at his statue:

statue in front yard of home

I'm not sure if that's a tribute to the ancient Mayans (or some other tribe), or if the homeowner just loves animated movies..?

robots movie poster
image clipped from imdb.com

But there's more than just statues and robots. On the other side of this yard is a special treat for any neighbor who has arachnophobia..

large spider statue in front yard

Bottom Line

There are some great non-HOA neighborhoods out there. But there are also some neighborhoods that look a bit more eclectic. There's no right or wrong on this one - just different. Some people love neighborhoods where all the houses have a different look and feel. Others can't stand seeing one neighbor "bring down the neighborhood." Different strokes for different folks.

I've heard plenty of stories from people who are frustrated by their HOAs - tired of the the nit-picking, nagging notes, and less than equal enforcement of their rules. But, before you throw the baby out with the bath water, remember the goal of an HOA is to keep all homeowners' interests in mind. If you decide to forego the HOA and move to a non-HOA neighborhood, you might not have to deal with nagging letters in the mail, but you might have to deal with horses, robots, and spiders instead.

-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


Average Sold Price


Average Price per Square Foot


Average Number of Days on Market


** 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

Desert Ridge Market Update

Market Update, Desert Ridge MapThe Desert Ridge area is located in the far North Central section of Phoenix, and covers several new-ish neighborhoods just north of the Loop 101 freeway, between Scottsdale Road and Cave Creek Road.

Most housing in the Desert Ridge area was built between the mid 1990s and the early 2000s.  Almost all housing is wood frame covered by painted stucco, with concrete tile roofs. This is standard for construction in this age range. While most homes built were single-family detached, there were a few condos and townhomes built as well.

There are several factors that make the area desirable to many buyers:

  • Beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, with nearby hiking  recreation areas;

  • A gigantic shopping mall at the intersection of Tatum Road and the Loop 101; and

  • The area lies within the Paradise Valley school district, widely believed to be the best in the metro region and possibly the best in the state

Homes for Sale in Desert Ridge

  • Active Listings: 33 homes (view these homes)

  • AWC Listings: 13 homes (what is AWC?)

  • Pending Listings: 20 homes

  • Sold Listings, past 90 days: 35 sales

Desert Ridge Price Information

  • Average List Price: $150.90 per square foot

  • Average AWC Price: $125.29 per square foot

  • Average Pending Price: $135.74 per square foot

  • Average Sold Price: $134.33 per square foot

  • List Price to Sold Price Ratio: 96.82%

Average Days on Market for Desert Ridge homes = 121 days

Popular Desert Ridge area Home Searches:

Pleasant Valley – Neighborhood Spotlight

Viewpoint 4/28/2011

Pleasant Valley – Neighborhood Spotlight

Sometimes a single neighborhood can act as a microcosm for the city as a whole.  Yes, this is contrary to my normal disclaimer about market conditions varying greatly from city to city and neighborhood to neighborhood.  But hear me out..

Pleasant Valley is a medium sized subdivision in the northwest valley.  I’d call it upper-middle class; the kind of homes which feel like luxury to those who aren’t used to such things, but which the truly affluent would turn their nose up at.  Spacious homes (2,800 – 4,500 sqft), large lots, and the surrounding by mountain views help keep the neighborhood a desirable place to live.


The subdivision was built out in the early to mid 2000’s, far enough away from the hustle & bustle to feel tranquil, yet only a few minutes away from amenities and infrastructure.

OK – this is starting to sound like an advertisement – why am I bringing all this up?  Because these facts show what the neighborhood has been through:

  • Some homeowners bought before the price run-ups in 2004-2006.
  • Most homeowners bought during the boom years.
  • Prices went through the roof and have since been decimated.
  • Many people lost their home.
  • Through all this the neighborhood has remained a desirable location.  (much the way Phoenix is still a destination city for people in other parts of the country.)

Let’s take a look at Pleasant Valley in detail, through the ups and downs, and see if we can extrapolate any information for the greater Phoenix area at large.

Historical Data

Number of Sales per Quarter (Red) and

Average Sales Price per Quarter (Blue)


The red line (# of sales) shows us an obvious seasonality – sales peak in Q2 and Q3, then dip in Q4 and Q1.  This is true of Maricopa County as a whole, although it’s more pronounced in Pleasant Valley.

But unlike Maricopa County, this also shows us an upward trend through the boom and bust years.  (I placed a marker on the chart to represent April, 2011 * 3, since the Q2 number is falsely shown as one month.)  2009 was a big sales year for the county, but it was not 50% bigger than 2005.

The blue line mirrors Maricopa County much more closely – a price run-up of about 150% from 2003 into 2006, then a slow decline through 2007, then a sharp drop-off in 2008.  Prices today are slightly less than they were in 2003.

Here are the actual numbers (for my number crunchers out there.)




Now let’s take a look at distressed activity.  MLS didn’t always require sellers to identify short sales and lender-owned property, so I’m using occupancy for the chart below.

Owner Occupied Sales (red) and Vacant Sales (blue)


Again the trend is similar to, but not exactly like, Maricopa County as a whole.  More owner occupied sales early in the decade.  More vacant sales in 2008 and 2009.  Fairly even in 2010 and 2011.

Next I wonder how many of those owner occupied sales could still be distressed.  I said before MLS didn’t require a short sale notification until a couple years ago, so let’s look at the recent data:


Hmmm.  OK – so even though the owner occupied and vacant sales numbers were about even over the last couple of years, the owner occupied sales are heavily weighted with short sales.  In 2010, there were 24 distressed sales compared with 10 non-distressed.  And in Q1 2011 the numbers were 7 to 1 – wow!


Current Market Analysis

Looking at the historical numbers above, it’s pretty easy to think this is a neighborhood in trouble – a real buyer’s market.  Prices are way down from their peaks, and bank/distressed activity dominates the market.  Well, not so fast…

Recent Sales

These are the homes which have sold since 1/1/2011.


Of note:

  • 12 sales in the last 120 days, an average of 3 sales per month.
  • Avg CDOM (Cumulative Days On Market) hovers around 2 months.
  • Avg Sold Price is very close to Avg List price – no big discounting going on recently.

Current Listings


Of note:

  • 1 Active listing.  Read that again – 1 house is for sale.  (and quite frankly it’s listed at a price so far above the market that it’s not really a listing – leaving 0 homes available to buy at today’s prices.)
  • 7 Pending Sales – these are homes which have negotiated through the contract and are heading towards closing.
  • 8 Active With Contingencies – these are homes which have offers on them but which are still negotiating &/or looking for backup offers.

If you count the Pending and AWC as “homes which have been for sale but which are no longer available”, and add them to the homes which have sold, here’s what you get:

  • 28 homes have been available for sale this year.
  • 27 homes have been bought.
  • 1 home remains available – the one asking $200,000 above market price.

So now I ask – is it really a buyers’ market?

Kind of, but not really.  If you wanted to buy a home in Pleasant Valley today, I can’t take you over there, show you all the available inventory, and ask you to take your pick of the litter – and then advise you to make a low-ball offer to some desperate seller.  Not possible.  (and not advisable).

But it’s not a sellers’ market either.  Even though there are more buyers than sellers right now, sellers aren’t afforded the luxury of padding their price.  The market is ruthlessly efficient right now; buyers will bid against each other for properties priced fairly, but will demand discounts from homes which are overpriced.

This is true for most of Phoenix right now.

Buyers can get great homes at great prices, but only when you compare those prices in a big-picture, historical context.  Getting into Pleasant Valley at prices less than what the builder originally sold them for – that’s awesome!  But don’t think you can walk into any listing and offer 70% of their asking price – not gonna happen.

Sellers can unload a home in a matter of days, if it’s in good condition and priced aggressively.  In fact, they might even start a bidding war among multiple buyers.  But don’t think it’s a sellers’ market and you can ask 5% more than the last home sold for – that’s not gonna happen either.

We’re in a strange market right now.  It’s been this way for quite awhile, and it’ll be this way for longer than we’d like.  Buyers get frustrated because they have to compete so hard to buy the home they really want.  Sellers get frustrated because there are so many buyers, but none of them will pay what the seller really wants to receive.

Buyers – plan on spending a little more than you expected.

Sellers – plan on receiving a little less than you expected.

Once we get realistic expectations in place, the market isn’t so bad – there are plenty of homes selling.  No need to be frustrated, right?

Your trying to keep frustration at bay Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

Do buyers of bank owned homes pay for back owed HOA dues?

Image ID 1279316 by StockExchange user Yello-dogGot this question from a current buyer client:
Hi Heather:

Silly question, we are not responsible for back HOA fees, are we?


This isn’t a silly question at all. The short answer is “no”. The longer answer is below. Keep in mind I’m talking about buying a bank owned foreclosure (“REO”) home in the metro Phoenix real estate market in April 2011. Consult a residential real estate professional in your area.

1) Whatever HOA dues the former owner of the home didn't pay are not the new buyers' responsibility. Those unpaid dues follow the former owner, and the former owner is financially liable for them. HOAs have the rights to sue former owners for those unpaid back dues, but in reality many times the HOA won't get that missing money back. (huge thank you to our colleague Dean Ouellette for catching my former error here by saying the old dues get wiped out by foreclosure).

2) The selling bank customarily pays all HOA dues owed from the date they took ownership until the date you close your purchase.

3) The dues for the month in which you close will be pro-rated with seller paying for days they owned the home, and buyer paying for days they will own the home. Note that closing day is allocated to the buyer, meaning the buyer pays for the HOA dues for that day.

4) Note though that HOAs usually require 1 to 3 months pre-paid HOA dues at close, and there are transfer fees as well (usually $100 to $500) and then there is sometimes another fee called "Capital Contribution" which is essentially a payment into the HOA's Reserve Fund (savings account) which is usually another 1 to 3 months.

Moon Valley Market Update

Moon Valley market update graphicMoon Valley is located in the North Central section of Phoenix, and covers the mature neighborhoods between Thunderbird Road and Bell Road, and between 7th Street and about 15th Avenue.


Homes for Sale in Moon Valley

  • Active Listings: 7 homes (view these homes)

  • AWC Listings: 3 homes (what is AWC?)

  • Pending Listings: 5 homes

  • Sold Listings, past 90 days: 3 sales

Moon Valley Price Information

  • Average List Price: $236,200

  • Average AWC Price: $164,300

  • Average Pending Price: $278,400

  • Average Sold Price: $279,200

  • List Price to Sold Price Ratio: 91.84%

Average Days on Market for Moon Valley homes = 67 days


Popular Moon Valley area Home Searches:


“Information in this article is based on single family home sale information from the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service (”ARMLS”), for April 2011. ARMLS does not guarantee information accuracy.  Data maintained by ARMLS may not reflect all real estate activity in the market.”

Distressed Activity by Month – March 2011

A quick look at the distressed sales and listing activity shows nothing new this month.  Distressed sales are up a bit from the last few months, as are distressed listings.  But neither is out of line with anything we’ve seen over the last couple of years.  More of the same…

This post will have a lot of easy to read charts, and then I’ll write up a couple thoughts at the end.  I hope you enjoy it.

(Click on any chart to see a larger version.)

Listings First – Here are the new distressed listings hitting the market each month going back to January 2009, broken out by different types and views.

Chart 1 - New Bank Owned Listings  - (new listings actually owned by the bank – think foreclosures and REOs.)



Chart 2 - New Short Sale Listings (new listings, still owned by the ‘owner’, but needing the bank to take a short payoff because the home is worth less than the mortgage balance.  The bank will need to approve the sale.)



Chart 3 - New Bank Owned + Short Sale Listings  (a combined look at the above charts – these are the new listings where the bank is going to take a loss on the property, and the best reflection of my former Distressed Listings chart.)



Chart 4 - New Vacant Listings  (new listings which are vacant homes.  While not all vacant listings are distressed listings, I am including them because they represent a very large percentage of the overall market, and therefore provide some measurement of Distressed.)



Now the Sales - I’ve pulled all the homes sold since 1/1/2009 for Single Family Residences in Maricopa County, broken out by who owns them and who lives in them.

Chart 5 - Home Sales by Type of Owner



Chart 6 - Home Sales by Type of Occupant



I am including Single Family Detached Homes listed for sale (or sold) in Maricopa County via the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service.  These numbers are believed accurate but not guaranteed.

What does it all mean?

The good news:  Owner-occupied homes and traditional sellers shows significant increases.

The bad news:  So did everything else.  More bank-involved listings, more bank-involved sales.

One day we’ll see this distressed activity subside.  We’ll dance in the streets and claim the market is ready to get back to normal.  That day isn’t today, and doesn’t look like it’ll be next month either.

Your could probably type this post without seeing the charts if things don’t change soon Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

Income and Wealth Distribution in the United States

These numbers are staggering, and I’ve now seen them in 2 different sources.

The Wealth-Income Pyramid, from zerohedge.com:
“The key to understanding “recession” and “recovery”:  The Wealth Pyramid
The top 20% are prospering and spending money; the bottom 80% are not, but thanks to vast wealth disparity, the top slice of households can keep consumer spending aloft.  This provides an illusion of “recovery” that masks the insecurity and decline of the bottom 80%”

“This goes a long way to explaining how "consumer spending" can be "recovering" even as the incomes of the bottom 80% stagnate or fall. The top 5% of Americans by income are responsible for 37% of all consumer spending-- about the same as the entire bottom 80% by income (39.5%).”
I recommend reading the entire article; the author does a good job of showing 2 different classes of Americans – the haves and the have-nots.

Of the 1%, By the 1%, For the 1%, from Vanity Fair:
“Americans have been watching protests against oppressive regimes that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few. Yet in our own democracy, 1 percent of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation’s income—an inequality even the wealthy will come to regret.”

“It’s no use pretending that what has obviously happened has not in fact happened. The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent. One response might be to celebrate the ingenuity and drive that brought good fortune to these people, and to contend that a rising tide lifts all boats. That response would be misguided. While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall.”
The article goes on to outline several reasons why the growing disparity between the wealthy and the poor will ultimately be bad for the country as a whole.

My Viewpoint (the short version):

I grew up a staunch believer in big capitalism and small government – you work hard, you create value, you get rewarded.  I’ve moderated over the years, becoming much more liberal, especially socially.  But articles like these bring what we’re seeing and hearing from people we talk with out into the open.

The have-nots ARE working hard, sometimes working 2 or 3 jobs, but they aren’t getting rewarded.  The current system/environment, especially with its high unemployment, feels like a throwback to the times of the industrial revolution – “if you won’t do this hard work for this low pay, there are 100 people in line behind you who will.”  Meanwhile the CEOs and land-owners are getting rich.

Yes, it’s fair, and it’s the capitalism our county was founded on.  But our country was also founded on fairness and equality – no unfair taxes just to line the King’s pockets, all men were created equal, and all that jazz.  The current wealth gap is starting to breach these fundamental values.

I don’t know what the answer is – I’m certainly not a politician – but something’s gotta give at some point…

Your working to get by Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

Maricopa County Sales Charts – March 2011

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 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



** 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.

My Viewpoint?  I’ve said many times before that you can’t make a trend out of one month.  But it’s still nice to see every chart moving in the right direction – sales are up, prices are up, days on market are down.  Personally, I’ll hold my applause until I see the Distressed Activity Charts moving in the right direction…

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

Your keeping an eye on the trends Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

The Fed's 10-Year Projections

It's easy to make projections; it's a bit more difficult to make accurate projections.  And far more projections are made than accurate projections.  So why do we listen so intently to the experts' opinions, giving ourselves an emotional roller coaster, when they're probably no more likely to be right than you or me?

Let's take a look at Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan's projections from 10 years ago this spring.  (testimony given on March 2, 2001):

Surpluses Forever!

Both the Bush Administration and the Congressional Budget Office project growing on-budget surpluses under current policy over the next decade.


The most recent projections from OMB and CBO indicate that, if current policies remain in place, the total unified surplus will reach about $800 billion in fiscal year 2010, including an on-budget surplus of almost $500 billion. Moreover, the admittedly quite uncertain long-term budget exercises released by the CBO last October maintain an implicit on-budget surplus under baseline assumptions well past 2030 despite the budgetary pressures from the aging of the baby-boom generation, especially on the major health programs.

These most recent projections, granted their tentativeness, nonetheless make clear that the highly desirable goal of paying off the federal debt is in reach and, indeed, would occur well before the end of the decade under baseline assumptions.

Yeah.  Not quite dead-on accurate...

He did go on to warn about the potential for fiscal bloat:

With today's euphoria surrounding the surpluses, it is not difficult to imagine the hard-earned fiscal restraint developed in recent years rapidly dissipating. We need to resist those policies that could readily resurrect the deficits of the past and the fiscal imbalances that followed in their wake.

Seems like congress listened to & believed the first part of Greenspan's projections, but the second part never got through.

More importantly, if the top expert in the field - the one with more access to more information and resources than anyone else - can be so incredibly wrong in such a short time horizon, why do we bother to get wrapped up in so many projections?

Thanks to the Calculated Risk blog for digging this one up.

Your happy when he occasionally gets a projection right Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

10 Tips to save more money

From time to time, we post articles that aren't related to our primary business, real estate sales... except that they sort of are.

All our clients, friends and family are in the same boat we are: living through the New Normal Economy, learning to make due with less in a post-Great Recession world.

Pretty much everybody we know has made resolutions to "spend less money" and "save more" but it's awfully hard to do so without a definite plan. Today's 10 Tips come from one of my favorite blogs, CreditSlips.

  1. Meeting friends at a restaurant for dinner? Tell them "I already ate," to save you from chipping in on the big tab at the end of the meal. Of course you either need an iron will, or you need to have pre-planned and already eaten something from home!  See CreditSlips' 10 Mantras to Help You Meet Your Financial Goals, Tip 1, for sneaky ways to get out of tossing money on the table when the tab arrives.

  2. Leave your plastic at home so you can honestly tell friends, "I don't have my card," when you're invited out for after dinner drinks.

  3. When it's gift giving time, remember that "simple" and "homemade" equal "thoughtful" and "expensive" just equals "expensive".

  4. See the CreditSlips post, 10 Mantras to Help You Meet Your Financial Goals for the full list of ideas, including The Waiting Period and The List.

Good luck out there in the New Normal Economy! Remember, we're all in the boat together. Your friends and work colleagues are probably trying as hard as you are to save more money.


Are Property Taxes a Perpetual Liability?

I thought this was interesting..

Economist Mish Shedlock published an email correspondence with a reader, where they discuss the concept of property taxes being similar to a mortgage you can never pay off.

Imagine the perpetual loan, a loan that no matter what you do, you can never pay off. To help conceptualize the idea, think of it as a perpetual interest-only loan in which you are forbidden to completely pay off principal.
As preposterous as that deal may sound, it is highly likely you are in one.
If you own a house, you are in exactly that deal, except it conveniently not called interest. Instead it's called a property tax.

It’s a thought provoking discussion, but I’m not sure they’re looking at all angles..

My Viewpoint:

Property Taxes are just another option our government(s) have of raising the funds they need.  If they don’t have property taxes, the funds will come from somewhere else, such as increases in sales or income taxes.  In addition, they aren’t necessarily a penalty against homeowners, because renters live in a home which is still “owned”, even if by somebody else.

What would happen if the local government decides to raise property taxes aggressively?

The first round or two of property tax increases won't make a big difference.  (and that's assuming they can even get passed when put to a vote.)  Eventually though, higher taxes will make owning a home noticeably more expensive.  This will cause 1 of 2 things to happen:

1) Property owners (landlords) pass this increase on in the form of higher rents.  If this happens, nothing changes in the rent vs buy discussion, and the city/state gets their extra revenue.

2) Renters refuse to pay the higher costs - either by moving to less expensive housing or by finding a landlord who isn't trying to pass on the extra cost.  (renters have more flexibility to move on shorter time horizons.) If this happens, the gap between renting and buying will grow, and home prices will fall.  Falling home prices reduces the property tax valuation, so the city/state ends up without any increased revenue - a scenario with the same deficits but less ammunition to fight them (and a host of angry homeowners.)

In normal times, outcome #1 is feasible.  Today, I'm leaning towards #2.

Your would prefer lower taxes Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

Where was that Moving Stills picture taken?

Some of my Moving Stills pictures are obvious to anyone living in the Phoenix area, while others are a little less conspicuous.  To make them easier to find, I mapped each of the pictures onto a Google Map (below).  For future Moving Stills posts I think I’ll include this map, but I’ll have it zoomed in to where the picture was taken.

Here’s a link to all the Moving Stills posts.

Thoughts, Questions, Suggestions?  I’d love to hear them!

View Moving Stills in a larger map

Your one hand on the steering wheel the other on his camera Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

Are CFL bulbs dangerous?

CFL bulb from ipaa dot org slash Blog slash question mark p=301

(image courtesy of http://www.ipaa.org/Blog/?p=301)

There’s a lot of kerfluffle around the Interwebs lately about the supposedly dangerous levels of mercury released if you break a CFL light bulb.

I believe the most widely spread story crazy Internet rumor is about a woman in Maine who broke a CFL bulb in a bedroom, was quoted $2,000 for cleanup, and a month later that bedroom is still closed off with tape and plastic.

I did a little research, being the sort of library-law nerd that I am. Before I spring my findings on you, a question: how many times in your life have you broken a light bulb?** Me? Never. Not one broken light bulb in 22 years of living on my own. How about you?

On with the myth busting: The story above about the woman in Maine is only sort of true and blown way out of proportion.

The Maine resident did break a CFL bulb in her bedroom. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection says they told the woman that one option was to hire a HazMat team (at great expense, no doubt). How about that room being taped off for a month after the breakage? The homeowner did that herself.

Read the full report on Snopes.com <here>, which also includes links to the federal Department of Environmental Protection’s guidelines on handling broken CFL bulbs. In addition . . .

**If you’re old like me, you might remember when most thermometers contained mercury too. My Mom broke one once. We scooped up the mercury blobs on a piece of cardboard paper, put them inside a plastic bag, wrapped the bag in paper towels and tossed it in the trash. It was kind of fun to see the little blobs rolling around the linoleum. I actually touched one. And I’m not <very> crazy. Yet.

True, you shouldn’t lie down and roll around in the stuff, but you don’t need to panic and succumb to crazy internet rumors either.

24 Rooms in a 300 sqft condo

Think your house is too small?  Need an extra bedroom, home office, or garage bay?  We’ve written several times over the years about making the most of the space you have, but nothing compares with this…

Architect Gary Chang lives in Hong Kong, one of the most densely populated cities on Earth.  But that didn’t stop him from designing an uber chic pad to call home.

(4 minute video)

Wow – now I feel really bad complaining about my place…

Thanks to www.freshome.com for sharing this amazing video.

Your wonders what Gary Chang could do with an average sized home in Phoenix Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

Moving Stills 91 – Alvarado Historic District

Moving Stills 91 - Alvarado Historic District

This house is just too picture perfect.  And a quick drive through the Alvarado Historic District will show you an entire neighborhood of picture perfect homes!  Here is a map of all the historic districts.

You can read the rules for a Moving Stills post and learn how the series came to be by reading my initial post in the series - Moving Stills 1.

Your still loves the historic districts Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

Listing Strategy – Trapping vs Hunting

“What did I do today to sell my listings?”

That was a question which used to haunt me early in my career.  I knew I had marketed my listings everywhere buyers were likely to be looking for houses, and I had campaigned to the neighbors who might know somebody wanting to move into their neighborhood.  But at 4:00 in the afternoon, for a listing which hadn’t received an offer, this was a question that drove me crazy with anxiety.

Turns out I was a trapper without patience; I felt like I should be hunting in addition to trapping.  What am I talking about, you ask?  Let’s take a look at the differences between hunting and trapping.


Let’s assume we’re going to hunt for a rabbit.  (without a gun, mind you – we’re talking “catch & release” here!)

For comparison to real estate, hunting for a rabbit will be the same as hunting for a Buyer – finding the specific person who will buy my listing.

First we’ll need to identify where the rabbit might be – hedges, trails, meadows, burrows, etc.

Where will the buyer come from – a local church, a different city (which one?), a divorce attorney, one of the neighbors?  etc.

Next we’ll need to determine & build the tools for the job – our bare hands, a net, a lasso?

How will we “capture” that buyer – postcard, letter, email, advertisement, open house?

Finally the action – go out and find that rabbit (or buyer)!  Look in all the places he might be hiding.  Do this day after day if necessary.  And finding him is only half the job; I still have to capture him once I find him!

It’s nice because I’ll feel like I’m really “doing something”, but what I’m really doing is spending an awful lot of time and energy hoping that one day I am lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.


A different approach to hunting is to trap the rabbit – let’s entice him to come to us rather than chasing him all over god’s green earth.

In real estate, let’s entice the buyer to bring a generous offer to us!

First we’ll have to think about what would entice the rabbit to come out of his hiding place – maybe a nice, fresh carrot, cut into bite-sized slices?

What would a buyer like – how about a beautiful home, clean & well-maintained, in move-in ready condition, offered at a reasonable price?

Next we’ll need to determine where the rabbit is most likely to find our carrot.  Is there a path he travels frequently, or a stream he drinks from?  Can we position our carrot where the wind will carry its flavorful aroma to the rabbit’s burrow?

Where will buyers be looking for a home?  On the internet? (and at which internet site(s)?)  Driving through the neighborhood?  Calling their Realtor?  Talking to their friends in areas they’d like to live?

Now we set the trap.  The rabbit will smell the carrot as he leaves his burrow and heads down the trail towards the stream.  He’ll approach it with suspicion, but after waiting for a bit and seeing no sign of danger he’ll step in for a yummy treat, and… TRAPPED!  Touching the carrot activated an infrared signal which closed the door of a 6-foot diameter pen around him (including a floor buried underground so he can’t dig his way out!)

Setting our Buyer’s trap:  Our listing is clean, well-decorated, and clutter-free.  The front & back yards are manicured to perfection.  We’ve taken fantastic photos (and possibly video) of the home and the neighborhood.  We’ve written descriptive text which presents the home in its best light and captures potential buyers’ emotions.  We’ve highlighted the outstanding features of the home, neighborhood, schools, shopping, parks, freeways, etc etc.

We’ve researched the neighborhood’s pricing in extreme detail, searching for recent activity, trends, and what the competition is doing.  We’ve analyzed what other homes, in what other neighborhoods, potential buyers might be looking at.  We’ve priced our listing to be attractive (but fair).

We’ve placed this home EVERYWHERE a buyer might be searching online.  We’ve installed a conspicuous sign in the front yard so anyone driving through the neighborhood will see it, as well as for the neighbors to notice.  We’ve built a customized website for this home (and for the neighbors to see), which shows even more pictures and more information.

Finally the action – PATIENTLY waiting for the rabbit to find our carrot.  Occasionally we can check on the carrot-trap setup, we can check the prevailing winds, and we can monitor the water level in the stream.  But we’re going to wait for the rabbit to come eat our carrot.

Patiently waiting for a buyer is the hardest part.  We’ll continue to monitor the comps and the competition; we’ll get feedback from anybody who calls &/or shows the listing; we’ll answer our phones & return calls immediately; we’ll update pictures and make other adjustments as necessary.  And we’ll patiently wait for our buyer to find us.

Patience is the hardest part.

Once we’ve done everything else right, whether we’re trapping rabbits or buyers, we have to play the waiting game.  And that’s the hardest part!

(Ask any fisherman who’s identified the right spot, chosen the right bait, and then waited all afternoon for a nibble…)

Your doesn’t have enough patience left over for fishing after using it all up waiting for buyers Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

HOA tries to collect fees after man loses home

The Arizona Republic ran a hot-button story today with a zinger of a headline: HOA still seeking fees despite man losing Chandler home.
A former Chandler resident is learning the hard way that you can't walk away from homeowners' association assessments even if you've lost your home.

In my opinion the paper does a lousy job of making the key point: a bankruptcy does away with a homeowner’s mortgage debt, but it does not strip that homeowner of the ownership of the property.

What does this have to do with HOAs?

Lately banks are sometimes just really slow to file foreclosure actions after a bankruptcy is finalized, leaving homeowners and HOAs in confusion about who owes what to whom.

HOA dues that were accumulated before the bankruptcy action are wiped out by it. But HOA dues that accumulate between the bankruptcy action and the foreclosure auction sale are still the homeowner's responsibility.

Imagine a typical HOA. They have a community park or a Tot Lot, community mailboxes, maybe a pool or rec center. They collect dues from the homeowners to maintain these public spaces. See all those little green dollar signs? Those are homeowners paying their monthly HOA dues.

Tinyville HOA paid up

It all goes along really well, unless…

Tinyville HOA missing money

… a homeowner stops paying their HOA dues.

The Tinyville HOA is now collecting a fraction less money each month. But they don’t get to stop maintaining a portion of the mailbox area, or a corner of the community park, or one lane in the community lap pool. In this way, HOAs are not unlike families: less income, same amount of bills.

Often the HOA board makes the decision to hire an attorney to file judgments against homeowners who have a lot of unpaid dues.

It’s hard to blame homeowners who stop paying their HOA dues: times are tight, jobs are scarce, money is in short supply. And truthfully the HOA has less leverage over homeowners who don’t pay than mortgage companies do. The mortgage company can take away your house. The HOA can only file a judgment against you, and possibly win garnishment of your future wages or something like that.

But it's also hard to blame the HOAs who now have produce the same results with (sometimes dramatically) less income.

If you’re facing foreclosure and your HOA is heckling you for back-owed dues, it’s pretty likely this will be unpleasant and maybe even feel like someone’s rubbing salt in your wounds.

But the reality is that homeowners should be prepared to continue paying their HOA dues until the foreclosure auction sale happens, or be prepared to face the possibility of an HOA lawsuit to get the dues back.

Unpleasant? Yes.
Fair? Debatable.
True? Absolutely.