Introducing Home Expressions

A short, quick note regarding a change in this blog and email newsletter.

Friends, Family Members, Clients (past, present, and future!), Colleagues - Please keep your eyes open for an email from me in the next day or two titled "Home Expressions." It will be the same great content you've come to expect, but in a better-looking format.

Realtors, Loan Officers, and other industry specialists - I'm making this change in an effort to help you. Please visit to see how you can cultivate the same long term relationships with your friends and clients that I have enjoyed.

As I mentioned in my last article, I will continue to write about things homeowners find useful and interesting - anything and everything is fair game, but I am going to distribute this content via a direct email newsletter, rather than the current format of publishing a blog post and then having a service auto-email my blog post to you. And thus, "Home Expressions" is born...

Thank you,

Chris Butterworth


Under the Bed storage options

Under the Bed storage options

Most people I know have two things in common:

1.) We tend to have more stuff than we have space for, and

2.) We have something shoved under the bed, but without much thought towards using that space for effective organization and storage.

A Queen-sized mattress is approximately 60 inches wide by 80 inches long, which leaves us a footprint of about 33 square feet of storage area - let's put that space to use!

I've put together some ideas, pictures, and links below. These should get your creative-organization-storage juices flowing...

Bed Risers

First thing's first - if you're going to store things under the bed, why not lift the bed 3-6 inches and give yourself possibly double the space?

under bed storage risers

stackable under bed storage risers

The pictures above were from The Container Store, but I also saw different styles at Bed Bath and Beyond.

Types of Containers

A quick search online brought us hundreds of different types and styles of containers:

  • open or covered
  • basic plastic tupperware style or designer fashionable
  • with or without wheels, sliders, or rollers
  • compartmentalized or not

Here are a few that caught my eye:

under bed storage containers

under bed storage containers
Pottery Barn

under bed storage containers
Better Homes & Garden

under bed storage containers
Better Homes & Garden

under bed storage containers

under bed storage containers

Feng Shui

Not everybody loves the idea of storing things under your bed (see Feng Shui Monsters Under Your Bed). But even the Feng Shui experts understand that sometimes space is at a premium and under bed storage is a necessity. In that case, you might want to consider what items might have a positive impact on your life if stored under your bed...

Other Thoughts

Storing things under your bed(s) is a great way to free up some additional space in your closets and/or garage, but some things work better than others. Trading out summer and winter clothes works well. So does gift-wrapping paper and supplies. Or that box filled with knick-knacks in your closet. Or the extra linens and towels that don't fit in the linen closet...

You get the point - there are hundreds of things that will fit under the bed, and if you use the right containers they'll stay clean, neat, organized, easy to get to, and out of the way!

-Chris Butterworth


May recap - how's the market?

May recap - how's the market?

I've been hearing that question a lot lately; more than I have over the last few years.

Maybe that means the market is closer than I've thought to getting back to normal. Maybe people are thinking more and more about putting their house up for sale, and moving into another one. Maybe the positive statistics I'm seeing in the mass media are the truth.

How's the market?

It's hot - we're seeing sellers get full asking price, sometimes with multiple offers, very quickly.

It's tight - we're seeing buyers struggle to land a contract on the home they like.

It's active - we're seeing a large number of homes selling each month.

But it's not normal.

Here are the stories of some of the people we've talked with over the last few months:

  1. Family moving back to the Valley after being out of state for the last few years.
  2. Divorcing couple selling their home and moving into smaller homes.
  3. Retiring couple selling their second home. They'll live full-time in their other state.
  4. Family buying a home, after renting for the last few years.
  5. Homeowner taking advantage of low interest rates to buy an investment home.
  6. Retired couple buying a second home.
  7. Family selling their parents' home and moving the parents into assisted living.
  8. Long-time Valley resident family selling their home to move to another state for a career opportunity.
  9. Couple selling their Valley home to move back to their original state.
  10. Retiring couple selling their home to retire in another part of the country.

Do you see what's missing from that list? We haven't talked with one person recently who wants to sell their current home and move into another home locally - one that's larger, or smaller, or on a better lot, or in a different school district, or that's closer to work, or closer to family... Or any of the dozens of reasons why people move in a normal market. That entire segment of the market is simply non-existent.

Vacant Homes Still Dominate

Here are two charts I've shared a number of times before, updated through the end of April. One shows the percentage of New Listings that are Vacant. The other shows a comparison of Vacant vs Occupied Homes Sold, by month.

percentage of new listings which are vacant in maricopa county

vacant vs occupied homes sold in maricopa county

While both of these charts show we're trending in the right direction, they both also make it clear that we're a long way from normal. A normal market will have some vacant homes - sure, a family moves out of their home first, either by necessity of time constraints or by desire to not have the home for sale while they live there. But this is usually a small percentage of the market.

Single Family Homes Market Shifting to Rentals

From the CalculatedRisk blog:

"Making this adjustment, and using estimates for the 2012 ACS data based on HVS results, it would appear that from 2007 to 2012 the number of SF detached and attached homes that were occupied by renters increased by about 2.6 million, while the number of SF detached and attached homes that were occupied by owners declined by about 1.3 million. The largest increase in both the number and the share of renter-occupied SF homes appears to have been in 2009. 
Since “active” investor buying of SF homes that were then rented out has been going on for many years, why has the media only recently begun to focus intently on this “trend? First, investor buying in earlier years occurred when for-sale inventories (and REO inventories) and the pace of foreclosure were high, the economy in general and labor markets in particular were extremely weak, and there were no signs either of a housing “recovery” or improving home prices. Second, last year a number of large institutional firms very publicly announced plans to ramp up purchases of SF homes as rental properties. Third, their ramped-up buying came when overall inventories of existing home for sale, and especially “distressed”/REO properties for sale, had fallen sharply, as well as when an improved economy and record-low mortgage rates were producing a modest increase in potential demand from folks wanting to buy a home to live in. (Folks love anecdotal stories about how investors are “out-bidding” or “crowding out” first-time home buyers!)

percentage of all cash sales by city

Artificial Demand putting stress on inventory and prices

From John Mauldin's Outside the Box, "Taking Distortion at Face Value":

"While some observers will reflexively point to the housing market as a sign of economic recovery, it is important to recognize that the millions of homeowners with underwater mortgages (home values below the amount of mortgage debt still owed) have no ability to sell their homes even if they wish to do so, unless they can come up with the difference out of pocket. As a result, the natural flow of demand from new household formation must be satisfied from an inventory of homes for sale that is much smaller than the actual “shadow inventory” that would be available if losses did not have to be taken in order to sell those homes. So the demand for homes resulting from household formation is satisfied from limited inventory plus new home building, even though there is an ocean of distressed and unsold homes already in existence. From this perspective, it should be clear that the bounce we’ve seen in housing is not a sign of economic recovery, but is ins tead a sign of misallocation of capital due to what economists would generally call a “market failure.” (emphasis mine)

How's the Market?

Back to our original question - how's the market?

To tell you the truth, I'm not sure. Seems like a good time to be a seller, and a challenging time to be a buyer. Inventory is low, and prices are rising. Prevailing wisdom says the higher prices will unlock additional sellers from being underwater, which will help replenish the supply while at the same time keeping demand strong. Many folks would call this a good market.

On the other hand, vacant homes still dominate the landscape, and I don't have any anecdotal evidence of "regular" sellers and buyers; all the recent activity I've seen has been due to external factors necessitating the move.

It seems to me that home prices are fairly high compared to income; ie: people are having to reach to afford the neighborhoods they feel comfortable living in. And that's with the lowest interest rates since forever helping out. If interest rates creep back up to 6%, most buyers will be shut out of the neighborhoods they like.

In addition, what happens if the banks and cash buyers are playing a shell game we don't know about? Or if large investors decide to start selling lots of homes, maybe as a way to cash out some profits. We could see the market stall, and prices fall, if their demand evaporates.

That's a long-winded version of my answer: The market is busy, but it isn't healed. I'm hopeful it will continue to heal without seeing another bubble and bubble-burst, although I do have some concern about the downside right now.

Is that all clear as mud for you now?

-Chris Butterworth


Fitness Gazette is live!

This week my newest blog went live:, 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…


-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.

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

Moon Valley market update, 5-31-11

Market Update, moon valley mapMoon Valley is located in North Central Phoenix, and covers the mature neighborhoods between Thunderbird Road and Bell Road, and between 7th Street and about 15th Avenue.

Homes for Sale/Sold in Moon Valley

  • Active Listings: 7 homes (view these homes)
  • AWC Listings: 2 homes (what is AWC?)
  • Pending Listings: 7 homes
  • Sold Listings, past 90 days: 10 sales

Moon Valley Price Information

  • Average List Price: $339,500
  • Average AWC Price: $239,500
  • Average Pending Price: $186,100
  • Average Sold Price: $282,750

List Price to Sold Price Ratio: 89.80%
Average Days on Market for Moon Valley homes = 95 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 May 2011. ARMLS does not guarantee information accuracy.  Data maintained by ARMLS may not reflect all real estate activity in the market.”

Rentals, Investors, and the Future of the Market

Viewpoint 05/27/2011

Rentals, Investors, and the Future of the Market

First of all, I need to come right out and say it - there will be some over-simplifying in this Viewpoint.  We'll be discussing very complicated concepts with lots of variables and moving parts, yet this isn't a Harvard reviewed journal - my goal has always been to make things easier to understand and talk about.

Next we'll need to define a very important term:  "Normal Market".

Normal Market:  Think about the 1990's.  Relatively low interest rates.  (yes, 10% in 1991 seems high by today's standards, but it was much lower than the 15% from a few years earlier.)  Relatively stable appreciation.  People could buy a home, then sell it a few years later and buy a bigger home, using the proceeds from the sale as their down payment on the purchase.

Example:  My wife & I bought our first home in 1995 for $132,000, making a 10% down payment.  In 1998 we sold that 3-bedroom home for $160,000, and used the proceeds ($38,000 give or take) as the down payment on our larger, 4-bedroom home.  Our appreciation was a little higher than expected; we were fortunate enough to buy in a desirable neighborhood which was going through a renaissance of sorts.

It might be a generation (20-25 years) before we return to that kind of Normal.  Everyone who bought a house after the year 2000 has been severely impacted by the Great Recession and the decimation of home prices.  Many, if not most, who bought during the peak boom years (2004 - 2006) have lost their home.  Good news is they aren't burdened by negative equity; bad news is they have to start saving for a down payment all over again, along with rebuilding their credit.  Those who bought earlier in the decade are sitting in homes worth about what they paid for them, maybe even less.  Good news is they've paid close to 10 years on their mortgage, and they might have even taken advantage of mortgage rates in the 4's to refinance to a 15 year loan.  Those who bought late in the decade are in a similar position as the early-decade buyers, except they are starting with a brand new mortgage.

So, if it's going to be that long before the market is Normal, what are we left with?

Who are today's homeowners?

1. First-time buyers.  Lots of first-timers have joined the ranks of homeownership over the last few years, especially during the tax credit craze in 2009.  The vast majority of these purchases have been at the lower end of the pricing spectrum - buying either fixer-uppers which have been foreclosed by the bank or already-fixed-up homes from investors (usually).

2. Investors, however, have been the largest pool of buyers over the last several years.  And investors do 2 things with their houses:

a) Fix n Flip - they make the homes pretty & sell them for a profit, often to a first-timer.

b) Fix n Hold - they make the homes pretty & rent them out, often to people who have lost their own home.

3. Longer term homeowners.  Those who bought their homes before the big boom.  Many of these folks are somewhat stuck in their homes, unable or unwilling to make a move until the market heals.

How will these homeowners impact us, and/or be impacted by us?

Let's talk about 1 & 3 first; they're the easiest.

Many first-time buyers are in great shape today.  Imagine being in your 20s and owning a 3-bedroom home which you only paid $120,000 for, financed at 5.5%.  Today you're carrying an FHA mortgage at under $1,000 per month.  And that's on a fixed rate, can never increase, will be paid off in 30 years, mortgage!

Granted, the job market isn't what we'd like it to be.  Nor is the housing market.  So these kids can't move at the drop of a hat.  But, if they stick around for a few years (5, 7, 10..?)  Pretty soon they're making more money, they have equity in this home, and they can think about moving.  They'll have the option of either selling this home (like my personal example above), or keeping it as a long-term rental - eventually this home could be paid for, free & clear, and generating income every month for the rest of their lives!

Longer term homeowners are in a position which isn't too much different.  The job market and home market are dictating they need to stay put today, but eventually our economy recovers and they'll be in a position to make a move.  However, I bet there are many people out there who originally wanted to move, but after being in their home for longer than they wanted, have seen their lives move on while their mortgage has gotten smaller - there will be plenty of people who decide to stay put and pay their home off completely.

And that brings us to the investors - the largest group of recent buyers.  What will happen to them over the next few/several years?  Or more importantly to us non-investors, how will they affect us over the coming decade?

Investor Mindset - Profits

An investor buys a home as a tool to help turn his money into more money.  This can be done in a couple different ways:

1. Rental Income.  If you buy a home for $120,000 and pay cash for it, you've invested $120,000 but you don't have any monthly mortgage payments.  If you can rent that house out for $1,000 per month, you'll earn $12,000 per year, which is a 10% Return On your Investment (ROI).  (yes, I'm ignoring taxes, insurance, vacancy, maintenance, etc. etc. - simplicity, remember?)

The example above works even if the home isn't bought with cash.  If the investor puts $12,000 into the home (10%) and borrows the rest, he only needs to earn $100 per month, which is $1,200 per year, to earn that same 10% ROI.  So as long as the rent covers his mortgage payments, this is equally profitable.

2. Profits from Sale.  Let's again assume you pay cash for a $120,000 home.  You rent it out for whatever the market bears - $700, $800, $900?  But then, after a few years, the market comes back, home prices go up, and you sell the house for $160,000.  You end up earning $40,000 in rents and then $40,000 in profits:  $80,000 (a 67% ROI) in 4 years.

So, given that, investors stand to make more money when either rent rates or home prices rise.

What happens next?

We talk about recovery and getting back to normal, mostly while looking at the inventory of homes hitting the market for sale.  I've written many times about the distressed and vacant listings being a leading indicator for the recovery.

But I haven't heard anybody address the concept of these thousands of investor-owned homes as a sort of hidden inventory.  The recovery works well if these homes are permanently "off the market".  But what happens if, as prices rise, investors begin putting homes up for sale?  One or two at a time won't have any effect on prices.  Thousands at a time would affect the market the same way thousands of bank-owned homes are doing today.  And if there's an avalanche of new listings competing with each other..  It'll cause the triple dip!

So these investor-owners, the very ones who are saving our collective bacon today by clearing thousands of listings from the market each month, could become a serious headwind against the recovery if they decide to liquidate their holdings as prices rise.

Next let's look at interest rates.

Interest rates are low, and have been for a decade and a half.  But that doesn't mean they can't rise again.  In fact, the longer our economic problems play out, the greater the likelihood that the bond market will push interest rates higher - long before the Federal Reserve decides to take action.  (And if that happens, look out.  Ask Greece what it feels like to lose the market's trust.)

What would happen if interest rates go back to 10%?

That $120,000 home I mentioned earlier, the one a first-time buyer could buy for less than $1,000 per month..  At 10% interest, that same home now carries a monthly payment of about $1,300.  That's a BIG difference.  $300 per month (30%) more for the exact same house at the exact same price.

So our first-time homebuyer has to make a choice:

a) Buy the house and spend 30% more each month on housing payments.

b) Buy a less expensive house to keep the $1,000 monthly housing budget in tact.  (about $85,000 in this example)

c) Forget buying and continue to rent.

Let's assume some first-time buyers choose each of the three choices - some stretch their budget, some buy a smaller home, and others decide not to buy.

We all know about supply and demand's effects on prices.  This scenario would have a negative impact on demand.  1/3 of all these buyers decide to rent, which reduces the demand for homes to buy (but increases the demand for rent...)  Another third of the buyers are going to move their demand to a lower price range - this should put downward pressure on prices at the $120,000 range, yet potentially put upward pressure on prices at the $85,000 range.  And, since 2/3 of the buyers are not looking at $120,000 homes, the lack of demand should put further downward pressure on prices.

Now, while housing prices are probably falling, rental rates could very well rise.  Rents are usually in balance not as much with housing prices, but with the cost of owning a home.  If the cost of owning a home increases by 30%, it's very likely that investor-owners will be able to ask a higher amount for rent.  When it cost $1,000 per month to buy a 3-bedroom home, the rent might have been $900.  But when it costs $1,300 per month to buy, there's a lot of room for rents to increase.  Add in the extra demand from those who can no longer afford to buy, and there's quite a bit of upward pressure on rents.

Let's recap..

Prices are about as low as we can imagine.  Yet rising prices could trigger investors to sell.  And if enough investors sell, they could add enough inventory to causes prices to fall.  So, rising prices could cause falling prices.

Interest rates are at historical lows, coming off record lows just a few months ago.  It's hard to imagine interest rates going anywhere but up.  Yet, rising interest rates could have a negative impact on prices and a negative impact (to the consumer) on rental rates.

In the end..

I can talk about home prices and what-ifs all day long, but when the dust settles and the smoke clears, it's still all about jobs.  As long as the unemployment rate falls, and people can find jobs &/or feel more secure about the job they have, the rest will take care of itself.

It's hard to budget when you don't have any income.  And it's hard to get excited about moving when you're afraid you're going to lose your job.

Sometimes we forget about a key variable outside of our current discussion.  Yes, there are a lot of investor-owned homes which could hit the market as inventory.  But there are also a lot of people who have been taken out of the labor market, who could enter again and hit the market as buyers.

What will happen?  I don't know.  We're in uncharted times.  But I have a much better understanding today of how my grandfather must have felt in the late 1930's.

Your looking forward to the Roaring 20's Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

What happens at a foreclosure auction?

A frequent question we're asked here at The Phoenix Agents is about the process a home goes through when it transitions from being a short sale to a foreclosure.  Here's the skinny.

Typically, banks and mortgage companies will allow a homeowner many months to attempt a short sale. Sellers hire a Realtor who lists the property in the regional MLS database. Showings happen. A buyer makes an offer. For whatever ridiculously silly reason, the seller's lender denies the short sale. Unless the seller can find a backup buyer in time to satisfy their lender(s), the home goes to foreclosure auction.

What happens at the foreclosure auction?

As you can see, most homes are not "sold on the court house steps" to an investor. They're taken back by the mortgage lender/bank who held the former homeowner's original first mortgage, and the home is now an REO, or Real Estate, Owned. The mortgage lender/bank then hires a Realtor to list the property for sale in the regional MLS.

This information applies only to metro Phoenix, Arizona where we work as residential realtors. This article was published in May 2011. If you're reading this from another state or long after publication, please consult a professional in your town or contact us for updated information.

How many Realtors in Phoenix?

The Arizona Department of Real Estate reports that it's count of licensed agents and brokers has dropped 22% since 2007. Currently there are roughly 51,000 licensed real estate agents and brokers in Arizona. Of course, they're not all in metro Phoenix, but most of them are.

In 2007, the Department tracked about 65,000 licensees.

Maricopa County Sales Charts – April 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.

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

Make your own non-toxic bathtub cleanser

I found this recipe on Apartment Therapy (they credit Natural Home magazine with originally publishing the recipe). Seems to me you could go green AND save a bunch of money using this to clean your bathtub, instead of buying expensive commercial brands of cleansers.

Silky Bathtub Scrub

1 cup baking soda in a medium-sized mixing bowl
1/2 cup liquid castile soap
5-10 drops of antibacterial essential oil, such as lavender, tea tree or rosemary (optional)

Pour baking soda into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add liquid soap a little at a time, stirring continuously. Stop adding the soap after the mixture begins to resemble cake frosting.  Mix in drops of essential oil.  Store in an airtight jar for up to 1 year.

This sounds really interesting to me! I'm going to give it a go, this afternoon. Would you ever think about trying it? Do you have any money-saving or green tips for household cleaning tasks?

Distressed Activity by Month – April 2011

It’s another good news / bad news month, very similar to the last several months.  Good news is the distressed activity charts clearly show activity levels aren’t getting worse; bad news is the same charts show it isn’t getting much better, either.

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?

Take a look at Chart 3 – Bank Owned + Short Sale Listings.  Going back 28 months, April was only the 6th time we have seen the combined number of listings less than 5,000.  Even better, 4 of the 6 times we’ve had less than 5,000 listings have been in the last 6 months.

This is the single most important indicator of the market changing – the market will be back to ‘normal’ when we don’t have an excess number of distressed listings.  Are we getting to a place where we’re routinely below 5,000?  Will we drop below 4,000 anytime soon?  (We haven’t been below 4,000 since I started tracking these numbers in January 2009.)

I like the fact that we’re trending near Great Recession lows, but until we cross the 4,000 and then the 3,000 barriers we can’t seriously believe things are moving closer to normal.  It could be a lot worse, though, as there are a few months with more than 6,000 distressed listings!

Your hoping next month’s number starts with a 3 Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

What's a Notice of Trustee's Sale?

In Maricopa County where Chris and Heather work as Realtors, the Notice of Trustee's Sale is the official notice that a bank has begun foreclosure proceedings against a homeowner.  Here's a run-down of the typical process as of today's writing.

Remember, this information is meant for Maricopa County, Arizona homeowners, buyers and sellers. Your local market might behave very differently, so consult a professional in your area.

closeup image of a portion of a mortgage applicationUsually, if a homeowner misses 3 to 4 mortgage payments, the bank that holds the mortgage may send the homeowner a Notice of Trustee's Sale. It's a 2 or 3 page document that states the original mortgage balance on the loan currently not being paid. It also lists the date scheduled for the foreclosure auction.  Sometimes the Notice is taped to the front door, sometimes I believe it's sent certified mail.

Regardless of method of delivery, the message in the Notice of Trustee's Sale is simple:  the homeowner has 90 days to come completely current on their mortgage, or make other arrangements with their lender, or the lender that holds the mortgage will foreclose, immediately and without further notice.

The foreclosure process in Arizona is very cut-and-dried. There's no redemption period, there's no additional notice required. You get your 90-day notice and that's all you get.

Homeowners who receive a Notice of Trustee's Sale may request a short sale or a loan modification, or a forbearance period, but the lender holding the mortgage is not required to agree to any of these. There's only 1 thing that obligates the bank which holds the mortgage to stop the foreclosure: if the homeowner comes completely current on the mortgage -- pays all back-owed payments, and pays off any/all penalties and fees imposed by the bank.

There are several circumstances where a Short Sale is the best of all possible uncomfortable options. Look for a post in the near future explaining why a Short Sale might be a homeowner's best option.

The Highs and the Lows, some more

A periodic series about the highest and lowest priced homes in the local MLS. Properties must be:

  • single family, detached homes

  • bank owned

  • currently Active in the ARMLS (Ariz. Regional Multiple Listing Service)

  • located in the Greater Phoenix area (Wickenburg, Florence, Coolidge, etc are excluded; Surprise, Buckeye, Queen Creek, etc are included)

1 House, 2 Lots, $14,840

low, 1 home 2 lots, EF

Property is a 624 sq.ft. home with 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, a family room and a kitchen. House sits on 2 lots in the Valencia subdivision of Buckeye with a total of 13,500 sq.ft. Owned by Fannie Mae and Fannie's Realtor says the property is eligible for Fannie Mae HomePath Renovation Financing.

low, 1 home 2 lots, map(click to enlarge map)

See it there on the far West side, in Buckeye . . . that little black & white star? That’s the location. I sold a home next door to this subdivision, in 2006. I say from personal experience that the surrounding homes are mid-1990s and newer with stucco exteriors and tile roofs. This home is probably the sore thumb in the neighborhood, and almost certainly needs to be just knocked down.

6 Flat Acres in Paradise Valley, $4,850,000

high, pitch and putt SAT close

  • 7,595 square foot house

  • 4 bedrooms, 4-1/2 bathrooms, 4 car garage, pool

  • originally built in 1972

  • a self-contained 500 square foot guest house with full kitchen

  • located on 5.75 acres (250,266 sf)

  • property taxes are $23,616 annually for tax year 2009

The grounds have a pitch & putt golf course, tennis court and gazebo. Located near Lincoln Drive and Invergordon Road.

High, pitch and putt MAP

The former owners tried to sell this home & land for over 3 years before the bank finally took it back via foreclosure. Originally listed for sale at $14,000,000 in January 2006. Later the owners tried to rent it out for Super Bowl Week January 30th to February 4th, 2008 for $100,000. A hundred grand for a week. Mind blowing! Finally in July 2009 the home was foreclosed on. In September 2009 the bank listed it for sale at $5,250,000.

As near as I can tell by zooming in on the satellite photo and Google maps, the house is round. Well, not round round, but built around this central courtyard.

high, pitch and putt COURT

In all the time it’s spent on the local MLS, there are only 3 interior photos of the home, which one Realtor described as “the most romantic estate in Arizona” and another described as “magical.” Magical? One hopes the bank removed the fairies and elves before listing the home for sale. Or at least got rid of the orcs. Nasty, those orcs.

high, pitch and putt KIT Kitchen

high, pitch and putt LIV Living/Family (?) Room

high, pitch and putt DIN Dining Room

At first I thought, “I can’t believe that’s not sold; 6 flat acres in Paradise Valley is easily worth more than the asking price.” But jumbo loans are wicked hard to get these days, and the tax assessor has the property valued at only $3,610,800. Plus the buyer would have to love the ‘look’ of the home, which I call Old Spanish Trail House in my head. I’ve seen this type of decor done extremely well, and it’s beautiful when well executed. But it’s undeniably not popular these days, and it's difficult to change the look & feel of this decor to anything else without investing huge bucketloads of cash.

That’s it for today’s Highs and Lows. View other posts in this series. Thanks for reading! Call, email or text us if you’d like help finding your bank-owned bargain.

Heather, 602.999.8831
Chris, 623.570.9940

Is there a benefit in working with the seller’s Realtor when you buy a home?

Some consumers want to work with the seller’s Realtor because they believe that Realtor will reduce his/her commission if they don’t have to split the commission with a buyer’s Realtor. This thought process continues: a smaller commission reduces the seller’s cost to sell and effectively lowers the buyer’s purchase price.

There are a couple of holes in that theory.

First, the sellers and their Realtor signed a contract agreeing to the Realtor commission before the house was listed for sale. The standard-form listing contract used in the Greater Phoenix area doesn’t say the commission is dependent in any way on whether 1 or 2 Realtors are involved. That language can be added to the listing contract by the seller & their Realtor but it’s not standard and it’s not required.

As an aside, buyers who expect the seller’s Realtor to reduce their commission because the buyer doesn’t have a Realtor are effectively asking a complete stranger to take a pay cut after half the job is complete. And it’s not “only 1%”. If the commission is 5% of the sale price, a 1% commission reduction is a 20% pay cut.  (1/5th = 20%)

Second, buyers who work with the seller’s Realtor are actually getting limited representation in their purchase. The seller’s Realtor still owes the seller the duty of getting the highest and best price for the home.

Our broker, Jay Thompson of the, wrote a really eloquent blog post explaining why the “I’ll save money by working with the seller’s Realtor” logic is as holey as Swiss cheese.  He breaks it down into dollars and cents. And sense.

I’ll just say this: if you end up in divorce court and your ex hires a high-powered lawyer, you’d get yourself a lawyer too wouldn’t you? Sure, not hiring your own lawyer might save you some money. But you’d be on your own in divorce court and you could end up like a bad country song: “I lost my house, my spouse, my truck, my shirt and even my old sad, tired dog in the divorce. . . .”

Search the MLS, part 3

Here are the Cliff Notes for part 1 and part 2 of this Pulitzer-winning series on why home shoppers who think they can search the MLS are mistaken:

There is no 1 MLS, there are only lots of city-wide, regional or statewide MLSs.

Consumers can’t search the MLS for their region directly because that database is private and for subscribers only. (i.e. Realtors, appraisers, etc.)

Instead, consumers can view a data feed from the private MLSs. This is shown on thousands of public websites like Trulia and Zillow, and the like.

For a variety of reasons, the housing data consumers on public real estate websites is often imperfect, incomplete, out of date or inaccurate.

Now that you’re all caught up, we’ll move on. But note that consumers can get as close as humanly possible to searching the private database called the Arizona Regional MLS by using our "Search Phoenix Homes" button, up above.

Finding the Seller’s Realtor is Difficult.

A very few sites make it easy to find & contact the seller’s Realtor. does this and so does

margy court on trulia DOT com (click any graphic to enlarge it)

Several websites list the brokerage who represents the seller but not the individual agent. and are two of these.

Margy court on Realtor DOT com revised

Most sites offer no opportunity to locate and contact the seller’s Realtor. In fact, many websites try to purposely misdirect consumers into contacting a Realtor connected with the displaying website. Among these: ZipRealty,, (which is the Greater Phoenix Coldwell Banker website) and a whole ton of others.

margy court on zillow

Finding the seller’s Realtor on a typical home for sale is difficult enough. Communicating with Realtors who list bank owned homes is next to impossible, mostly because they’re so over-busy.

Our colleague Kris Berg San Diego Castles Realty posted a really funny cartoon about how difficult it is to get in touch with the agents who list bank owned real estate.

If you’re a buyer trying to reach the seller’s Realtor on a bank owned foreclosure (REO) home, you should also try winning the lottery. Or accurately predicting the end of Lost.

Tomorrow. . . is there a benefit in finding and working with the seller’s Realtor? In other words, is all that beating your head against the wall worthwhile?