weekend edition 10-10-14

I haven't had a lot of time recently to write long, detailed articles, but that doesn't mean I'm not still reading and thinking about it. Today I thought I'd share some of what I've come across over the last week or two. Hopefully you find something interesting and useful in here.

Feel free to shoot me an email about these articles or any other real estate question you might have.

- Chris

1. Ex-Tesla and NASA Engineers Make a Light Bulb That's Smarter Than You
2. What you Can Learn From Those Real Estate TV Shows
3. These 40 Ideas Will Make Your House Super Awesome
4. Student Loans Hindering First Time Homebuyers
5. How Architects Design For An Aging Population
6. 25 Biggest Decorating Mistakes and Solutions

1. Ex-Tesla and NASA Engineers Make a Light Bulb That's Smarter Than You

I've seen the concept of adding technology to light bulbs a few times in recent years. The fact that they're in every room of your house makes them a focal point for whole-house wireless or bluetooth communication systems. This time a company called Stack has created a product called Alba (which is Italian for 'sunrise'), which will start off as a super smart energy efficient light bulb, but which could later work together with smart thermostats and smart beds. And of course they'll work with your smart phone.

There's no doubt in my mind we'll routinely see homes with products like these in the coming decades.

2. What you Can Learn From Those Real Estate TV Shows

If you've ever turned on HGTV, you've probably seen them. The shows usually revolve around making choices - either which house a couple should buy, or whether to fix up their own house instead, or something similar. The part that seems unfair is that they always involve a contractor and decorator offering to make the home choice look spectacular.

While that last part deviates from a lot of us normal folks' reality, the concepts still hold true: budgeting, seeing potential through the junk that's out there, making the best use of space, etc. It's true that few of us will pay for and complete a full scale renovation when we move into a new house, these shows still offer some things we can take away and use.

3. These 40 Ideas Will Make Your House Super Awesome

Lots of photos here.

Truth be told, I only counted 35 ideas, and several of them are not so awesome. But if you find one thing in here that sparks your imagination for what you could do with your own home, you'll come away from this article with a better living experience.

4. Student Loans Hindering First Time Homebuyers

This is one small excerpt from a much larger economics essay by John Mauldin. (I've recommended Mauldin's free newsletter many times over the years - he has a way of making complex global economic concepts understandable.)

"almost everyone thinks that the government's being involved in student loans is a public good. We should help young people with education, right? Except that John Burns released a report this week that shows that student loans will cost the real estate industry 414,000 home sales. Young people are so indebted they can't afford to buy new homes. Collateral damage?"

* Every $250 per month in student debt reduces a household's home purchasing power by $44,000. Most households paying $750+ per month in student loans are priced out of the market. Only those in the highest-earning brackets can afford to purchase.

* 5.9 million households under the age of 40 pay over $250 in student loans per month compared to just 2.2 million back in 2005. The percentage of households under 40 with student debt paying $250+ monthly is up from 22% in 2005 to 35% currently, acting as an added headwind for millions of potential home buyers.

* quoted from www.realestateconsulting.com

5. How Architects Design For An Aging Population

The Baby Boom generation is reaching retirement, which will create a demographic where 20% of our population will be considered elderly. What will this do for living arrangements? This article from Freshome.com takes a look at some architectural designs that can make a big difference, focusing on floorplans with fewer obstructions, better lighting, and color schemes as helpful starting points. The article also references another website called ageinplace, which is dedicated to helping seniors stay in their own homes as long as possible.

6. 25 Biggest Decorating Mistakes and Solutions

Some of these ideas are a bit grandiose, like any list of this sort, but there are a few I felt offered actionable takeaways - things most of us can do easily and inexpensively to make our homes a little bit better.


I hope you have a good weekend. Give either Cheryl or me a call if there's anything real-estate related that we can help with.

Chris & Cheryl Butterworth
623-570-9940 Chris
602-881-0441 Cheryl

3 technologies for a more convenient home

After writing consistently for almost 10 years, it felt good to take a few months off. But I missed it, and it feels good to get this article out to you. I hope you enjoy it..

3 technologies for a more convenient home

In a perfectly secure world, our homes would be locked up as tight as Fort Knox, with locks, bars, laser beams, sirens, the whole nine yards, and breaking in would require an effort suitable for a Mission Impossible movie. But that wouldn't be very convenient.

In a perfectly convenient world, we wouldn't lock our homes at all, and we could come and go without having to remember a key or a code. But that wouldn't be very secure.

The trick is to find the right blend of secure and convenient; making coming and going a breeze while being secure enough to keep the bad guys out.

Here are 3 products which can help you tip the scale towards convenience:

1.) Bluetooth Deadbolt

The Kwikset Bluetooth Deadbolt for iPhone is scheduled to hit stores at the end of this month, and looks pretty cool. (almost cool enough to make me want an iPhone. almost, but I think I'll wait for the android version instead..)

It allows you to open the lock with your iPhone, obviously, but it also allows you to share e-keys with other iPhone users - you can let a visiting relative open the door without having to hide a key under the mat!

2.) Keypad Deadbolt

You've probably seen these keypad locks around for years in commercial use, but now they're available in residential deadbolts. This is another great way to give access without having to make a physical key available, and the code is easy enough to change that you can create a new code when warranted.

This is also useful for when the kids come home after school, so they don't have to remember where their key is..

3.) Keypad Garage Opener

These have been around for a long time, but I didn't realize how inexpensive and easy they were to install until recently. I had always assumed they were wired to the garage, and if you didn't have one installed originally then it would be an expensive pain the butt to add one later. Wrong!

They're actually fairly inexpensive, and they work wirelessly - just like the remote button in your car.

I bought a Chamberlain Universal Remote at Lowe's last weekend for $40 and had it programmed and installed in about 15 minutes. Easy Peasy!

Some thoughts about safety

Unfortunately no security device or system is completely fool proof. Locks can be picked, windows and doors can be broken - even the family dog can be won over with some kind words and a few treats. But there are things you can do to make your home a less desirable target for bad guys. The San Jose Police Department's website has a pretty good list of reminders. (and all three of the items in this article help avoid leaving a key under the mat!)

I hope this gives you some ideas you can use to make your home a little bit better. Please feel free to give Cheryl or myself a call if want to discuss this topic (or any other topic) in more detail.

-Chris Butterworth

the nest - a learning thermostat for your home

the nest - a learning thermostat for your home

Have you heard about the nest thermostat?

the nest thermostat

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you tried the nest yet?

-Chris Butterworth

winter rye grass - from the archives

winter rye grass - from the archives

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

From the Archives:

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

-Chris Butterworth


Another 20% Drop in Home Prices?

Another 20% Drop in Home Prices?

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Chris Butterworth


Maricopa County Charts - September 2012

Maricopa County Charts - September 2012

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

Number of New Vacant Listings

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

Maricopa County - Vacant Listings


Average Price per Square Foot of Sold Homes

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

Maricopa County - price per square foot


Number of Homes Sold

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

Maricopa County - number sold


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

-Chris Butterworth


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

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

Good News

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

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

More Good News

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

Bad News

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

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

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

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

-Chris Butterworth