What $300,000 buys in the East Valley

The Valley of the Sun is a big area - somewhere in the neighborhood of 900 square miles. (For comparison, Washington DC is about 75 square miles and the State of Rhode Island is about 1,500.) And as can be expected for an area of that size, there are significant differences between different neighborhoods - styles, communities, and yes - prices.

Today I thought I'd take a look at what a $300,000 house looks like in different parts of the East Valley.

Programming Note - upcoming change in format

Before we get started, I have a major announcement regarding my website and this newsletter.

Beginning next month, I will be separating this newsletter from my website, creating a true newsletter - whose content is distinct and unique, and will only be distributed via email. The name will change as well; it will no longer be called Viewpoint.

For the last several years I've published these articles on my website at, and the website has emailed them to you as the "Viewpoint" through the magic of rss technology.

In summary - you will still receive the same great newsletter you've come to expect, only it will have a different title and will only be available through email.

And now, back to the East Valley...

Before we look at the homes, let's discuss the parameters - how exactly did I choose these homes?
  • I pulled (from ARMLS) all the Single Family Detached homes that sold in February for each city.
  • If the city had more than one home which sold for exactly $300,000, I chose the home which sold the fastest as my example.
  • If the city did not have a home sell for exactly $300,000, I chose the home which sold closest to, but not above, $300,000.
  • If the home looked like a statistical outlier in some way and did not represent other homes from the same price range and area, I skipped it in favor of the next home which matched the above.

The Results - What does $300,000 buy in:

  • 2,100 square feet on an 11,000 square foot lot
  • 3 bedrooms / 2 bathrooms
  • Built in 1968
  • Swimming pool
  • Bank-owned / Foreclosed property
  • 13 days on the market
  • Located west of Loop 101 between Indian Bend and McDonald

  • 2,400 square feet on a 10,000 square foot lot
  • 3 bedrooms + den / 3 bathrooms
  • Built in 1995
  • 135 days on the market
  • Located southwest of Greenfield and Brown

  • 2,900 square feet on an 8,000 square foot lot
  • 4 bedrooms / 3.5 bathrooms
  • Built in 1988
  • Swimming pool
  • 45 days on the market
  • Located east of McQueen between Warner and Elliot

Queen Creek
  • 3,200 square feet on a 12,000 square foot lot
  • 4 bedrooms + den + loft / 3 bathrooms
  • Built in 2004
  • 35 days on the market
  • Located east of Ellsworth and Rittenhouse


These four homes are very different; so are the four neighborhoods. Year built, size of house (and yard), and the quality of appointments (cabinets, counter tops, fixtures, hardware, etc.) stand out the most. Using size as the most basic measurement, the homes get larger as you get further away from the center of the Valley: 2000 ft in Scottsdale, 2400 ft in Mesa, 2900 ft in Gilbert, and 3200 ft in Queen Creek.

I also see differences in the quality of the MLS photos - for example, the Mesa house's kitchen picture appears to be a large family-style kitchen, but if you look closely there are only 5 tiles between the edge of the picture and the kitchen island. The photo was taken with a camera lens that makes it look much larger.

Considering it can be upwards of a 2-hour drive from one corner of the Valley to the other (think Surprise to Queen Creek), where you buy can have a profound effect on what you think about the "Phoenix area."

Please give Cheryl or myself a call-email if you have any questions about different areas, or if you want to see more photos of certain neighborhoods. We can set up an MLS search for you to see all the listings of a specific area, based on whatever criteria you choose.

Thank you for reading,

Chris Butterworth

Note - All photos are copyright of ARMLS (Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service). All data is believed to be accurate but not guaranteed. Home sizes and lot sizes may have been rounded.


Moving Stills - a digital drive around Phoenix

Moving Stills - a digital drive around Phoenix

I've been taking Moving Stills pictures off and on for several years - it's my favorite series on this web site. Unfortunately, I lost every Moving Stills post when I moved web platforms last fall. It has taken quite a bit effort to put them all back together, but now that I have it up and running, I'd love to share it with you.

The rules for a Moving Stills post are simple:
(from Moving Stills 1:) "the picture must be taken from my car. Inside my car, standing on top of my car, or within a few feet of my car. No hiking across fields or through city centres to get the perfect shot. And no staging whatsoever – these will be natural pictures of our fine city."
Click Here to scroll through all the Moving Stills pictures - see if you can identify what/where they are before reading the descriptions..

collage of pictures from in and around phoenix az
here's a random assortment of 10 Moving Stills photos as a collage.


-Chris Butterworth


Maricopa County Sales Charts - February 2012

What a difference a year makes! Average Price per Sqft is up 9%, while Average Days on Market is down 21%. And in both cases it's the result of a trend which started back in August - the same month the number of sales per month began to trend downward. Hmmmm.

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.

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

- Chris Butterworth

Hiking tips for Phoenix, Scottsdale visitors

It's gonna be a hot one today, folks! The metro Phoenix area is slated to see 98 degrees Farenheit today.

If you're visiting the metro Phoenix-Scottsdale area and you're considering hiking some of our beautiful mountain trails today, take note...  it's hotter than you think, and the trails are steeper than you think.

Remember that our firefighters routinely pull tourists (and sometimes even locals) off the mountain trails on stretchers and take them to the E.R.

Here are some tips to keep you safe when you're hiking the desert mountain trails of the metro Phoenix-Scottsdale area. Tips courtesy of the Scottsdale Parks department and the Phoenix Parks Department, and you can see more tips on their websites.

  • Always tell someone where you're going, when you'll be back, and stick to your plan!

  • Hike with a friend; it's safer and more fun.

  • Bring lots of water, three or four times as much as you think you need. The Scottsdale Parks department recommends at least one gallon of water per person, per day. I personally think that a standard-sized 16 to 19 ounce bottle is enough for about 15 minutes when it's really hot outside.

  • Wear a hat! If you've forgotten a hat, cover your head with whatever's handy

  • Wear and carry sunscreen, SPF 15 at minimum. Reapply more often than you think you need to.

  • Wear closed toe hiking shoes, or at least wear sneakers.

  • Rest 10 to 30 minutes for each hour of walking, depending on your overall level of fitness.

Get some info on the trail before you go. The Phoenix Parks department has a wonderful online library of information about the trails, their length, their degree of difficulty, locations of Park Ranger ramadas, etc.  The City of Scottsdale also has a wonderful online resource about their hiking trail system.

Trail etiquette

  • ALWAYS stay on a designated trail. City ordinances prohibit trailblazing.

  • Learn to share the trails with all other users.

  • In general, bike riders yield to both hikers and horseback riders; hikers yield to horseback riders. However, for all trail users, downhill yields to uphill. Use common sense and courtesy while on the trails.

  • Announce your intentions and slow your pace when passing someone on the trails

Well dear reader, I hope you have an enjoyable experience hiking our desert southwest trails! I'll be out there on South Mountain, sweating it out with the rest of you today, April 1, 2011.

Just wondering... have you ever thought of buying a vacation property in the metro Phoenix region? I am a Realtor, after all, so I tend to talk about property values all the time. Can I ask what you paid for your seasonal rental? I know, it's a pretty personal question. But we're on the Internet, so nobody will hear your answer. Did you know that you can pick up a vacation condo in the metro Phoenix area for as little as $25,000 to $50,000? Really. And after 3 or 4 years of price declines in Phoenix, it is possible to pick up a small home in several metro-Phoenix communities for about $100,000, give or take $25,000.

Want to do a little online home browsing? Search Phoenix-area homes for sale, online. When you're ready for a Realtor's help, contact us, The Phoenix Agents at Thompson's Realty. Real people, making real estate, real simple.

Should we privatize education?

Via Freakonomics Radio, with guest Edward Glaeser, who  recently published a book called “Triumph of the City:  How Our Greatest Innovation Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier.”

The author makes a couple interesting points:

1. Cities are green.  Contrary to the first impression most people have of equating cities with smog and suburbs with green grass & blue skies, cities are actually better for Mother Earth than the suburbs.  More walking, more public transportation, smaller living spaces to heat & cool…  He makes some good points.

2. But what I found most interesting was this paragraph condemning the public education system:

“Certainly for anyone who’s a parent, like myself, the suburban school districts offer huge enticement to leave cities. And this is really a question of how we’ve decided to structure our schools. So I want you to just imagine, if, for example, instead of having a New York restaurant scene that was dominated by private entrepreneurs, who competed wildly with each other, trying to come up with new, new things and, you know, the bad restaurants collapsed, the good restaurants go on to cooking show fame, and you have these powerful forces of competition and innovation working. Imagine instead if there was a food superintendent, who operated a system of canteens, where the menus were decided at the local level, and every New Yorker had to eat in these canteens. Well, the food will be awful, and that’s kind of what we’ve decided to do with schooling. That instead of harnessing the urban ability to provide innovation, competition, new entry, we’ve put together a system where we turned all that system off. And we’ve allowed a huge advantage for a local, public monopoly. It’s very, very difficult to fix this.”

I think charter schools are a step in the right direction.  I would love to see an expansion of a system where there are more private or quasi-private (charter) options to choose from, where tax dollars followed the child to whichever school he/she attends.  Good schools thrive & grow; bad schools wither and die.

The current system sounds efficient in theory:  Superintendent drives overall mission; administration is centralized for the district; schools are left to teach.  But theory rarely works in practice, and this is no exception.

Your would love to one day run a private school Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

Avoid foreclosure: tips to short sell your home

If you live in metro Phoenix, chances are that your home might be "underwater" - you owe more on it than it's worth in the current real estate market. Is this a problem? That depends.

cartoon image of brick house with "for sale" written on roofIf you don't want to move for many more years in the future, it might not be a problem to be underwater. If you can afford the mortgage payment, it might not be a problem to be underwater. But, if you're struggling to make your mortgage payments and/or you absolutely *must* move, you might need to consider a short sale of your home. (see our series on when strategic default sometimes makes the most sense)

There are serious tax and credit consequences of foreclosure. Some lenders and credit experts estimate that foreclosure can knock 250 to 300 points off your credit score! In addition, some experts believe a short sale is less damaging to your credit than a foreclosure. For many metro-Phoenix area homeowners, a short sale can be a viable alternative to foreclosure.

Here are a couple of tips for successfully requesting and completing a short sale with your mortgage lender.

(1) Hire an experienced Realtor and then share your financial information fully with him/her. (see this prior article for a partial list of information homeowners must send their lender in a short sale situation). This might be tough advice to take, but your Realtor must know your complete financial picture in order to successfully advise you the best way to proceed in a short sale situation. Realtors are bound by a strict Ethics Code that requires they keep their clients' sensitive information absolutely secret from anyone not authorized to view the information. Don't feel you can trust your Realtor not to share your sensitive financial information with unauthorized people? Hire a different Realtor.

(2) Consider hiring an attorney. Arizona is an "anti-deficiency" state. This means that generally, lenders cannot sue homeowners for the money lost during after foreclosure. Example: your Realtor helped your short sell your home for $125,000 but you owed $225,000. In most cases in Arizona your lender cannot sue you later for the "lost" $100,000. BUT! There are loopholes in the Arizona anti-deficiency statute. We here at The Phoenix Agents highly recommend you consider hiring an attorney to help you determine if you fall into the Arizona foreclosure anti-deficiency loophole. An experienced attorney can probably help you avoid being sued later for the debt anyway. Do you need a referral to an attorney experienced in handling metro-Phoenix area short sales? Contact us, we know several.

Need more help? This blog is run by Chris & Heather, The Phoenix Agents @ Thompson’s Realty. We’re a boutique brokerage of 20 or 30 dedicated, full time professionals. We really do have a good track record at helping homeowners avoid foreclosure by completing a short sale. Give us a call, a text, an email or a Tweet. We’re here to help and look forward to speaking with you about your unique situation.

Image credit - Image ID 1235157 from Stock Exchange user meerlap

How safe is nuclear energy?

I’ve never been wildly pro or anti nuclear energy, mostly because I’ve never spent the time to really understand it.  But with the Palo Verde plant (the largest energy producer in the country!) in our own backyard, it’s something I’ve always wondered about.



Today I saw a graph depicting the relative safety of various kinds of energy, and I have to say WOW!

Death Rate per Watts of Energy Produced


Click through to Seth Godin’s post on the topic, where he gives credit to additional sources and information.

I’m not here to start political arguments, but to me this is just mind-boggling.

Your loving energy efficiency, and efficiency of all kinds for that matter, Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

Can I remove a short sale from my credit report?

[caption id="attachment_8877" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Don't be the victim of a credit repair scam"]two human hands grabbing a set of stacked coins[/caption]

Had an interesting question this morning from someone who's using our The Phoenix Agents Search All Homes feature. Thought I'd share my answer in case any of our readers have also been presented with this credit repair scam.

Question - My wife has a previous short sale on her record and we've recently discovered that the lender reported the last payment 30 days late.   A California lawyer promised to help us correct our credit report. He said he couldn't get the 30-day late payment off the record but could work towards getting the entire short sale expunged for a mere $2600.  It makes me nervous.

Answer - You should be very nervous about anybody who claims they can remove a short sale from your record, especially if they want money for it.  See these websites which explain no one can remove negative information from your credit report if the information is accurate.

Browse our other Credit Management articles.  Or, visit some of the credit management sites listed on our blogroll.

The New Normal: save money on laundry detergent

A while back I re-posted a money saving laundry tip from the blog HomeEc101. It mentions the many ways white vinegar can help you save money when you do your laundry at home. See the original money saving laundry tips there and over here too.  Then the super-awesome Sarah Cooper of CoopCrafts dropped by and mentioned that she makes her own laundry soap.


I was baffled, and intrigued. I googled around her site and found the CoopCrafts recipe for homemade laundry soap. I got more intrigued. I went shopping. I decided to give it a whirl.

[caption id="attachment_8858" align="alignleft" width="105" caption="retail box of 20 Mule Team Borax household cleaner"]retail box of 20 Mule Team Borax household cleaner[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_8857" align="alignleft" width="107" caption="retail box of Arm and Hammer "washing soda" laundry additive"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_8859" align="alignleft" width="109" caption="Retail bar of Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap"]Retail bar of Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_8860" align="alignleft" width="79" caption="retail box of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda"]retail box of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda[/caption]

First you grate the bar castile soap very finely (this is especially important for cold water washing).

I used the smaller of the 2 lemon zester options on my kitchen box grater.

[caption id="attachment_8861" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="box grater for kitchen use"]box grater for kitchen use[/caption]

Then I mixed the soap crumbles with 1 cup each of the Borax, Washing Soda,  and baking soda.

Et voila! Laundry detergent.

Estimated total cost for about 5 cups of detergent = maybe $2.00.  Use 1 tablespoon per laundry load, 2 for big loads or very hard water.

GoogleCalculator tells me that's 80 loads of laundry worth of detergent... for about $4! I stored it in my laundry room, in an old heavy-duty plastic bucket with lid.

retail package of Kirk's Original Coco Castile soap
retail package of Kirk's Original Coco Castile soap

Dr. Bronner's isn't the only castile soap out there. It does come in many scents, but it's a bit pricey at a little over $4 per bar. I found a cheaper version at my local supermarket where Kirk's Original Coco Castile soap is about $1.39 per bar.  I found all the ingredients I needed locally, at my regular supermarkets.

I also have begun adding about 1/3 cup of white vinegar to the rinse water and gave up my regular fabric softener. Holy laundry revelation, Batman! I can hardly even begin to describe the positive difference: Soft, fluffy towels. Super clean and clean-smelling laundry. No static cling. No more chemicals going down my drain into the public water supply. No more rendered animal fat on my clothes.**

Making my own laundry detergent and using white vinegar in the rinse water has been a revelation to me. I can't believe I spent a fortune for all those years on commercial laundry soaps.  Never again will I buy All, Cheer or any of the others.

You should try this at home. It's a ridiculously easy way to start if you're baffled by how to live a little greener and reduce your carbon footprint on the planet. Plus your laundry will come out cleaner with no static cling.

**you do know that fabric softener is largely made of rendered animal fat, don't you? that's a bunch of dead, boiled animals all over your clothes

disclaimer - I do not own sticky-stain-makers, otherwise known as children. Your mileage may vary. Parents, you might want to try this on your own laundry first and work your way up to the truly nasty piles of laundry-like filth kids can create.

Where do people who move to Maricopa County come from?

This is a GREAT map.  (hat tip to John Wake for finding it.)

We often talk about the number of “net new” people who move to Maricopa County each year, and our gut feeling tells us most of them come from the Midwest and Northeast.  But I’ve never been able to confirm that.. until now!


Click on the map to view an interactive version, where you can see the population shift for any county in the country!

Your lost a days’ productivity to checking out counties Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

How to appeal your Arizona property tax valuation notice

[caption id="attachment_8800" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Shocking Phoenix-area "Property Valuation Notice""][/caption]

Did you get your Maricopa County (Arizona) Property Valuation Notice in the mail yet? The Maricopa County Tax Assessor's office mailed their small, white postcards of love to 1.5 million property owners on February 25, 2011.  You should have received yours by now.

When you saw the assessed value of your home, did you shout out a string of really naughty words? Yeah, me too. Before you panic, here are several important things to remember about your Maricopa County Property Valuation Notice:

  1. The Full Cash Value (FCV) shown on the Assessor's postcard Notice is NOT what your property is worth on the open resale market;

  2. The Limited Property Value (LPV) is also NOT what your property is worth on the open resale market;

  3. You can file an appeal of the Valuation Notice, but afterwards your assessed Property Valuation could go up OR down; and finally,

  4. If you decide to appeal you must file the appeal by April 26, 2011.

The dollar value for your property shown by the Assessor probably dropped, a lot. You are not alone. Property values across the Maricopa County region are down 40% to 60% off their peak prices from 2006, with some older homes and outlying areas hit even harder.  Condos have been hit especially hard, with some condo conversions seeing 2011 sales prices that are 70% to 80% lower than their 2006 and 2007 peak resale prices.

More Information

More info on Number 1 & Number 2 above - The Property Valuation Notice value is used by the county Assessor to compute your property taxes. It is not a statement of what your property is "worth". Only a ready, willing and able buyer can help you determine what your property is worth. Although there's no guarantee, a lower value on the Assessor's form means that you might be paying less in taxes next year because of that little white postcard.

More info on Number 3 & Number 4 above - To file an appeal of your Maricopa County Property Valuation Notice, you fill out a fairly simple form from the Assessor's office on which you:

  • state what you think your property is worth,

  • include sales information on recently sold properties that you believe support your claim of value, and

  • submit your appeal by April 26, 2011.

The Maricopa County Assessor's website is fairly user-friendly and you can use it to find property sales close to and similar to your property.  Use the resale values of those properties to support what you think your property is worth.

Want Help?

Want a Realtor's help finding recent metro Phoenix property prices in your area for properties like yours? Contact me and I'm happy to help. Or do your own Detailed Property Search on The Phoenix Agents website (warning, search software is not for the timid... really, contact me and I'll help as much as I can).

For more information, you can read the County's cover letter that came with the Property Valuation Notice, or you can read the Assessor's complete explanation of the terms used on the Maricopa County Property Valuation Notice.

Distressed Activity by Month – February 2011

Good news?  Well, a trend has to start somewhere…

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?

On the good news front, it looks like January’s spike in distressed listings might have been an anomaly, as February’s numbers continue the downward trend of the last few months.

On the not-so-good news front, February is the second month in a row where the number of new distressed listings is greater than the number of ALL sales.  Obviously the market can’t be getting better when there are more distressed listings at the end of the month than there were at the beginning.

Your still searching for the good news Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

Maricopa County Sales Charts – February 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.

See Your Own Zip Code!  If you’d like to see how the sales activity in your zip code compares with the county as a whole, just send me an email with your name, email address, and zip code.  (to  I’ll add you to our zip code mailing list, 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.

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

New Bank of America loan modification program reduces principal

new logoBank of America announced today it will begin offering loan modifications under an Arizona foreclosure-prevention program funded by which is funded by $268 million from the Treasury Department's Hardest Hit Housing Program.

The program is run through the Arizona Housing Department. The state provides money to pay off up to $50,000 of a mortgage if the bank agrees to forgive an equal amount,

This week, BofA will begin mailing notices to Arizona homeowners who are eligible for the loan modifications, bank spokesman Rick Simon said. The bank is encouraging customers to wait for those notifications in their mailbox instead of contacting the bank to find out if they qualify.

Do You Qualify for Bank of America’s loan modification with principal reduction plan?

Based on reporting in other public news sources (links below), these are the qualifications for consideration for Bank of America’s new loan modification with principal reduction program.

  • Bank of America will send letter in the mail to borrowers who are at least 60 days' delinquent.
  • Borrowers must be able to show their income was cut through unemployment, underemployment, illness, death or divorce, but they must have some income.
  • Borrowers must owe at least 20% more than their home is worth.
  • Borrowers who took out a second mortgage that wasn't used to buy the home are not eligible.

Although most of the money in the Hardest Hit program is intended to encourage loan modifications, a second portion will cover up to $50,000 in mortgage payments for unemployed or underemployed residents.

this data was originally reported by the Arizona Republic

(interesting note: my business partner Chris Butterworth predicted 2 years ago that loan principal reductions were needed in the hardest hit foreclosure cities)

Want more information? Want help?

Are you interested in trying to sell your home as a short sale? Please contact us for more information.

Are you looking to buy a short sale home? Click here to search all Phoenix short sales.

Why does the bank want the first 5 digits of my Social Security number?!?

Image ID 960307, PARTIAL by Stock Exchnage user svilen001  First, an important disclaimer: This article does not create an Realtor-client relationship with any reader. In other words, although I am a Realtor, I am not your Realtor.  Please contact a Realtor, attorney, or accountant/CPA in your community for personalized advice. 

Why does Bank of America require the first 5 digits of your Social Security number if you’re trying to buy a short sale home from them?


  • This situation applies if you – as buyer – are trying to buy a home that is a short sale and the seller’s lender is Bank of America.
  • Bank of America uses a software program called Equator to track their short sales. It (usually) makes the process faster because the software automates response deadlines from the bank.
  • The Equator software system requires that the seller’s Realtor agent enter the buyers’ social security data at the time an offer is made  and submitted to the Equator software system.

Here’s a screen shot of the Equator system at the point of entering a buyer’s offer on the short sale home being managed by Bank of America.

equator screenshot


So what is Bank of America doing with the first 5 digits of your Social Security number?!

I don’t think a bank can do anything useful with the first 5 digits of the SSN.  At least not right now.  (but see where a bunch of Realtors speculate on whether the bank can use the 5 digits of the Social Security number to pull a buyers’ credit – consensus: unknown).

  • I believe BofA is stockpiling info for later use and/or sale.
  • Bank of America is so huge it owns or services 1 in 5 mortgages in the United States
  • I believe that eventually BofA will have enough partial data on enough people to combine the first 5 with the last 4 digits for a significant number of people.
  • bingo! they’ve got all 9 numbers and you’re wide open to identity theft

This is my opinion only. It does not represent the opinion of my broker (my boss), my business partner or the local or national Association of Realtors.

What should I do if Bank of America asks for the first 5 digits of my Social Security number?

First, please re-read the disclaimer at the beginning of this article: I’m a Realtor but not your Realtor. Contact someone local.

Personally, for my buyer clients, I do not provide the first 5 digits of their Social Security numbers. I give the bank zeros:  000-00.

Using zeros instead of the real Social Security numbers has worked for several of my clients who successfully bought short sale properties with Bank of America involvement. Your mileage may vary, but give it some thought.

Need personalized real estate advice in the metro Phoenix Arizona area? Call me. Or email me. Or text me. Or Tweet me.  Just contact me. We’re The Phoenix Agents @ Thompson’s Realty – Real people… making real estate …real simple.

Just want more info without talking to an agent right now? No problem.

Image credit: Stock Exchange user svilen001 – note this is a partial portion of svilen001’s original image.

Scary Condo Statistics

Image ID 752193 by StockExchange user xmje43p

52% of condos* for sale in the metro Phoenix MLS which are priced under $75,000 are in some stage of foreclosure (they’re listed as either “short sale” or “pre-foreclosure”).


Here’s a handy chart for the visually oriented. “SS” equals Short Sale and “PF” is for Pre-Foreclosure.

List Price $75,000  & Under List Price
All condos for sale now
Condos for sale now that are SS/PF1,024

52% of total

39% of total
SS/PF units sold since 1/1/10
Months waiting on seller’s lender to OK the deal4.1 months waiting4.9 months waiting
Absorption rate of SS/PF9.7 months20.66 months

What does all this mean?

If you’re trying to buy a short sale or pre-foreclosure condo, patio home or townhome, you’re going to wait about 4 to 5 months between the time you make the offer and the time the seller’s lender approves the deal. If they approve the deal. It might be worth your while to look for properties that aren’t short sales and try to convince those sellers to come down a little in price. It’s so much more convenient to buy from someone who’ll actually answer you in hours or days, not months! Decide how much of a premium you’re willing to pay for a quicker answer, and someone with whom you can negotiate repairs and who pays for a home warranty, prior to closing.

If you’re trying to short sell your condo, etc., you’ve got a lot of competition. Have your documentation in order (for your lender, explaining why you need/deserve a short sale) and have a backup plan. Maybe your backup plan is talking to your lender about a loan modification instead of a short sale or outright foreclosure? Maybe it’s making plans for where you’ll live when time is up? Whatever it is, you’ll have 3-5+ months to create it.

Image courtesy of StockExchange user xmje43p

Disclaimers: data pulled from the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service on Monday March 30, 2010 at 11:20am local time. Data believed accurate but cannot be guaranteed. *In this post, “condos”  includes properties classified as apartment style/flat, patio homes and townhomes.

Your Federal Government – fashionably late to the party

I gave President Obama some advice (over a year ago) on how to fix the foreclosure epidemic:

President Obama to focus on Foreclosures (published on 2/18/2009)


OButter’s Plan – the Real Solution (published on 2/23/2009)

My 2 key points, boiled down to a couple sentence each:

1. If the bailout, loan modification, or whatever you call it – if it isn’t helping reduce loan balances on upside-down houses, it isn’t solving anything.  At best it’s postponing the problems into the future, at worst it’s encouraging more people to walk away from their mortgages.

2. If the federal government wants to spend hundreds of billions of dollars helping out, why not build a government-owned REIT which could work with homeowners to rent/lease/purchase their own houses back as their credit gets repaired and at market values consistent with the changing times (up or down as the market dictates.)?

This morning it’s being reported the federal government is going to explore reducing mortgage balances.

It’s probably too little, and it’s probably too late – by the time they read my suggestions and get around to actually *helping* fix the problem, the problem will be over!  But at least they’re moving in the right direction.

Your wishes he could help govern without being in politics Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

Does Fannnie or Freddie own your mortgage?

Image ID 1238452 by StockExchange user imMrChris (image courtesy of StockExchange user ImMrChris)

Does Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac own your home mortgage loan? Why should you care?

If your mortgage loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you may be eligible for a loan refinance program under the federal government’s Making Home Affordable (HAMP) program.  Only loans owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac are eligible.

To find out if your loan is owned by one of The Two F’s, use this handy-dandy government website. Or you can call your loan servicer using the 800 number on your monthly statement or coupon payment book.

Visit yesterday’s post for links to the HAMP program website. Or, click read all our mortgage articles.

Do you have a 2nd mortgage with JP Morgan Chase?

Just the day before yesterday, JP Morgan Chase announced it would participate in the second-lien program of the federal government's Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). This second-lien program is widely known as "2MP".

Under 2MP, homeowners may see the interest rate on their second lien reduced to as low as 1% for five years. The program also provides a financial incentive to borrowers, servicers and investors if the modification is successful.

What does this means to you?

If you have a second mortgage and it's with JP Morgan Chase, you can approach them about modifying your second mortgage to make it more affordable and stay in your home, instead of becoming just one more foreclosure statistic. I believe homeowners must first apply for assistance with their first mortgage, through the federal government's HAMP program.

Suggestions for next steps

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