Southeast Valley

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.

Recommended blog and handyman

Psst...  I found a really outstanding blog and an excellent craftsman who does home remodeling projects in the Greater Phoenix area: The RemodGeek. I can't say enough good stuff about him, but his resume actually speaks for itself:
…spent years in construction, residential and commercial, and remodeling from foundation to punch list. I have been a Union  Carpenter, (both wood and steel stud), Remodeling Contractor, Crew Foreman, Superintendent, Project Manager, Cabinet Maker,  (both custom and production) Professional Drywaller, (from single family houses, and commercial drywall, including fire safety renovations, multi-hour drywall assemblies, elevator shafts, lead-lined radiation rooms, and fire rated partitions. If it can be covered in drywall, I have probably done it, multiple times.

I worked in the auto recycling (junkyards) and bodyshop business for 9 years. When I am not remodeling, I build websites, specialty computers, and networks for my internet clients.

Remodeling for Geeks masthead

That’s his blog masthead; it's him reflected in a shiny engine block. It's a good example of the creative level of photography the RemodGeek posts.  In the funny way of the Internet, RemodGeek and I haven’t met in person, yet. We've emailed, and his blog's in my feed reader.

No matter. The high level of quality craftsmanship he puts into his remodeling projects is crystal clear. If you need remodeling work done around the house, or just need advice on your next Do It Yourself project, check out his site.  <link :>

Note: Author was given nothing of value other than goodwill in consideration for writing & posting this piece. Whenever you're hiring people to do work on/in your home, do your homework: references, licenses, Better Business Bureau, Registrar of Contractors, etc. ThePhoenixAgents recommends vendors from time to time because we were impressed by them, not because we guarantee their work.

Housing Starts and screaming headlines

Chris often writes about how the media causes confusion among consumers by shouting over-generalized headlines. No surprise, it happened again this week.

On Tuesday The Atlantic reported “Housing Starts Rise as New Permits Fall”, sowing confusion and possibly fear in the minds of consumers. If housing starts are up, that’s good, right? But if new permits are down, that means another crash in home building is coming and that must be bad, right?

Amid that confusion, the reliably Eeyore-like Housing Doom printed an opinion piece that slammed home builders for meeting demand for new homes. They included this chart:

Housing Doom on April 2010 housing starts

Depending on where you focus on this chart, you’re feeling gloomy or possibly hopeful. Or possibly fearful that a slight uptick means a looming second crash.

But wait, what about the underlying housing report published by the government and quoted by The Atlantic? The Atlantic links to it, but inconspicuously, as if the actual data isn’t important. (I fancy myself a smart gal and gave the data a once-over, but frankly can’t understand the statistic-speak that it contains.)

Common sense tells me there’s a couple of things the news media aren’t talking about, that might be quite important here.

1. Home builders are for-profit entities. Surely they’re not building homes that no one buys.

In the Greater Phoenix area we’ve already been through the wave of home builder bankruptcies and I know from personal experience that the big builders left in town (Shea, Ryland, Beazer, Pulte comes to mind) aren’t building homes without a substantial cash down payment from the buyer. On a recent transaction I handled, Shea Homes required a $25,000 cash down payment for a $200,000 home. The way their contract is written, that chunka change was all but nonrefundable! And yes, the buyers I represented looked long and hard at resale homes in the same community before deciding they wanted to a brand new home.

2. It’s a big country. It seems likely that the new homes being built are located in growth cities, not spread out nationwide.

Surely Shea/Ryland/Pulte/Beazer are building where buyers live. They’re surely not building houses in the north suburbs of Chicago (think Skokie, Evanston, Park Ridge) or in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Why? Because there’s no more empty land there on which to build. But in the Greater Phoenix suburbs of Buckeye, Queen Creek and Surprise, there’s some cautious building going on. Because there’s land. And see item 1 above.

Once again media heavyweights, you’ve screamed a headline and sown confusion. Well done. Maybe you should stick to reporting on celebrity divorces and arrests. That requires no thought at all. Tags:

REOs Rule, But Not Everywhere

Image ID 1150734 by svilen001 Image courtesy of Stock Exchange user svilen001

Just a little blurb from one of our favorite title/escrow officers, Maggie Clark of Equity Title. This gives a good picture of just how much the REO (“real estate owned”, i.e. bank owned foreclosure) properties are driving the market lately.

Southwest Valley - REO active listings represent 16% of the total listings, and 50% of the sales for the last month.

Peoria and Glendale - REO active listings represent 17% of the total listings, and 54% of the sales for the last month.

Scottsdale - REO active listing represent 6% of the total listings, 29% of the sales for the last month.

We still get calls on a regular basis from buyers seeking second homes and winter vacation homes. They often ask for Scottsdale, and expect prices to have nose-dived there just like everywhere else. Not the case! Scottsdale hasn’t been hit with the tsunami of foreclosure much of the rest of the Valley of Sun has. Not as many bank owned homes on the market at bargain bazaar pricing equals prices have not nose-dived. Not in Scottsdale anyway.

You want bargain basement, clearance sale pricing? Go to the older neighborhoods in Phoenix, and to the West side neighborhoods of Peoria, Goodyear, Avondale, Tolleson, Maryvale, Buckeye, Peoria, etc. The far Southeast has seen plummeting prices too: think Queen Creek, Florence and Apache Junction.

Builders Resurface

Builders are back!

New home builders in the metro Phoenix area can arguably be blamed for some of the mess we're all in. Many people do argue that, in fact: builders overbuilt, didn't stop building spec homes quickly enough when buyer demand flagged in 2006 and allowed investor owners whose tenants dragged down property values. Blame builders if you like but in today's New Normal, they're back.

We have been working with about a 1/2 dozen first time buyers lately. Two in the last 2 weeks have opted to buy from a new home builder. Our folks chose Pulte and Shea, two of the biggies with lots of gold stars on the national customer service satisfaction rankings. One buyer will be in Northwest Peoria, the other in Tartesso, waaaay out beyond the White Tank Mountains and beyond Verrado (about 12 miles east of the Palo Verde nucelar power plant).

Spoke recently with our broker, who's reporting the same is happening with her first time buyers in the far Southeast Valley, in Queen Creek and other SE bedroom communities like Florence and Casa Grande.

Builders are offering incentives of 3% to $8,000 or more to use lender and title people. They're throwing in upgrades for free, and some are eveing offering Rent-To-Own programs. Any readers heard of super enticing builder incentives? Anyone considering buying a new build? Or not? We'd love to hear your comments.

Getting Smart About Short Sales

Are home buyers getting smart about short sales in metro Phoenix? The tale of this particular home seems to indicate yes. Read on….

smart about shorts, EF

Cute home, no? Three bedroom, two bath, 1500 square feet. Nice neighborhood, good schools, newer homes. In winter 2005 it sold for $242,000.

This house was listed as a short sale for just over 7 months. In August 2008 the asking price started at $173,000. By February 2009 the price dropped to $119,000. It sat there for about 6 weeks, until the bank finally took the home back at foreclosure auction in mid-April 2009.

For 6 weeks nobody wanted the home for $119,000 if it was a short sale.

May 4, 2009: the home is listed as a bank-owned property. Asking price, $101,500.  The bank got so many offers they took it off the market on May 5. On May 8, the bank picked a winning bid. The winning bidder took possession on May 23, 2009.

Final sold price: $133,200. That’s 12% higher than the short sale asking price.

At least in this case, a buyer was willing to pay a 12% premium to take possession of a bank owned home right away rather than sit out the frustrating months-long wait for a short sale.

If you’re reading this and smugly thinking “That’s stupid! Pay 12% more? They shoulda bought it as a short sale,” then chances are you’ve never tried to buy a short sale. Read some of the posts in our Short Sale category and you’ll see why they’re rarely short and rarely sales.

Phoenix is a Big Grid

Here’s a bit of handy introduction-to-the-Valley sort of info about Phoenix’s street system.

phx is a grid map (click to enlarge/”back” to return)

Thoughtfully, our Phoenician forebears laid out our fair city on a big grid. Nearly every street is straight and major streets are 1 mile apart. Numbered streets go north & south, named streets go east-west.

lost already?
try Chris' much more concise post about driving about Phoenix,
or a humorous take on driving in Greater Phoenix

Obviously the big yellow lines are freeways (check out our funky freeway names). The smaller yellow lines on the map above are the major streets crossing Phoenix. Where the major streets cross each other you can count on a huge intersection (4 to 10 lanes wide!) and probably strip mall shopping.

Check out a few of the bigger shopping areas by seeing the Google maps Street View of these intersections: Tatum and Shea, Camelback & 20th Street35th Avenue and Glendale.

North-South Streets Are Numbered

All the north-south streets start out on the grid counting from Central Avenue, which is “0”. Heading east from Central Avenue, you’ll cross 1st Street, 2nd Street, 3rd Street, and so on.

Heading west from Central, you’ll cross over 1st Avenue, 2nd Avenue (you get the picture by now). The I-17 freeway interrupts at about 27th Avenue, and then you’re off again, hitting major streets at 1-mile intervals.

“The Sevens” (7th Street and 7th Avenue) are major traffic arteries for mid-town Phoenicians. During rush hour, they become reversible travel lanes, lovingly called “suicide lanes” by long-time residents. Don’t want to risk the suicide lanes? Check out this post where I blogged about my bus ride up and down the 7th Street route.

East-West Streets Are Named

The major east-west streets are all 1 mile apart and have names instead of numbers. At first the city planners used President’s names for the E-W streets. After they ran out of Presidents, city planners used names of prominent Phoenicians and notable farms, ranches or landmarks.

Indian School Road is named for The Phoenix Indian School, an actual school for the city’s Indian children which opened in the 1890’s.  Thankfully, Phoenicians figured out segregation and forced Anglo-ization of Indian children was a pretty awful policy and the school was closed (but not until 1988).

Bethany Home Road is named for the the old Bethany Home, a mental institution. Etc. (I’m almost afraid to do any more research into Phoenix street names, for fear of finding more politically incorrect and/or shameful origins of street names.)

In high school Driver’s Ed class I remember being made to memorize the names of the streets from Baseline Road on the south end of town to Beardsley Road which was, at that point in time, the northernmost edge of metro Phoenix. We also had to memorize the north-south range number assigned to each street.

McDowell Road is 1600 North, Thomas is 2900 North, Indian School is 4100 North, Camelback is 5000 North, etc. At the time I thought it was the stupidest thing I’d ever done. Now? With 20+ years of driving around Phoenix under my belt, I realize that anybody can be their own GPS system if they memorize the East-West range markers. Check them out here, on local artist Brad Hall’s awesome website about historic Phoenix.

How to Work the Grid

Let’s say you have to get to 2917 E. Camelback Road in Phoenix. It’s on the east side of town because of the E so you’ll be dealing with Streets, not Avenues. You know Camelback is 5000 North. And the 2917 tells you it’s at 29th Street. So it’s 2900 east and 5000 north. Essentially, if you know which are the major streets, you can vector your way from anywhere to 2917 E Camelback Road.

Every Rule Has Exceptions

Outside the boundaries of Phoenix proper, the rules for street names and number ranges change. Other Valley towns made their own street names, grids and rules. And sometimes within Phoenix boundaries, the street name changes mid-town just to keep you on your toes. Dunlap becomes Olive. Glendale Avenue becomes Lincoln Drive.

Cave Creek Road and Grand Avenue cut through Phoenix crosswise, on angles going northeast-southwest, or northwest-southeast. Again, I’m pretty certain someone thought this would just keep things interesting. Where Cave Creek and Grand cross ‘normal’ streets that go N-S or E-W you get a 5-point intersection. And more, bigger shopping strip malls.

Which leads me to the single most useful description I’ve ever devised for explaining metro Phoenix to folks from other towns: Phoenix is one immense suburb liberally studded with strip malls and numbered in a regular, predictable pattern.

We also have about 300 days of sunshine per year, no natural disasters, lots of outdoor recreational spots, and a generally pretty darn friendly population. Nearly everybody living here is from somewhere else. Personally I think that makes folks friendlier.

If you’re new to metro Phoenix, welcome! Hope this and other posts about getting around Phoenix are useful. If you’re ready to become a Phoenix area homeowner, contact us. If you’re thinking about moving here but not quite ready to call a Realtor, browse around. You might especially like our Moving page.
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Friday Fun

Uber blogger Theresa Boardman does a Fridays are for Fun series. Since I'm totally exhausted this week, I'm shamelessly copying her style.

Henceforth (or at least until I forget I made this mini-resolution), Fridays are for Fun here at the North Phoenix Agent blog.

As a Realtor, I drive a lot. I mean A LOT. This? Warmed the cockles of my heart.

[caption id="attachment_1889" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Woot Woot!"]Woot Woot![/caption]

I filled the tank of my Jeep Wrangle for just over $31. I can't remember the last time I did that. When gas prices peaked at near $4 a gallon, I was plunking down a cool $80 to fill the tank. It's not like I could put clients into a gas-efficient subcompact either. So I grin and bear it. But when I filled up this afternoon I did a little jig of joy.

Have a great weekend y'all!

Chandler and "Dangerous Schools"

The Chandler Unified School District is voting this week on a proposal to notify and allow parents of students who attend "dangerous schools" to transfer out.  They consider a "dangerous school" to be one in which four or more firearms are found in a year, or four gun-related incidents have occurred.  If passed, parents of children in these schools will be notified and allowed to switch their children to another school.

Now, I agree with the idea of allowing parents to opt out of sending their child to a potentially dangerous school.  It doesn't seem fair to keep kids in a school based solely on their geographic location and school boundaries.  I most certainly would not want to knowingly send my daughters to a school that has a history of violence (although being the conscientious parent I am, I would have done thorough research on the school before sending my children there anyway).  However, it seems a bit like solving the symptom and not the original problem.  If a school is labeled as dangerous and parents are notified, what happens when a good majority of the kids (many of them being the "dangerous" ones who brought firearms to school) are transferred to other schools.  Won't that just shift the problem of gun-toting to a school that may have in the past not had any firearm issues?  Those kids are still going to be bringing guns to school, no matter which one they attend.

Or you could allow the non-gun-toting kids to transfer out but not the gun-carrying ones.  That would leave you with a small-attended school filled with only the kids who enjoy bringing guns to school and flashing them around, or even worse, shooting them off.  Now, who is going to want to teach at this school?  I certainly wouldn't put my life in that kind of danger for the joy of teaching!

I agree with the motive of the Chandler School District to provide a safer learning environment for all children, however, I think that focusing on solving the societal issue of kids and guns might be a more productive place to start.  Yes, it is a big issue but you can only treat the symptoms for so long and eventually you have to address the original issue in order to change it.

Small Private Tempe School Goes Synthetic

It's hard to imagine a school without a grassy play area for the kids. But the grass comes with a price... Green, winter rye grass tends to always be wet. Dormant bermuda grass gets dust and "hay" everywhere. Rain, though infrequent in our city, makes mud. Springtime brings new bermuda growth, and lots of allergies! ran a story today about Chrysalis Academy, a small private school in Tempe specializing in teaching children with autism, who recently replaced their natural grass with a lush, green synthetic lawn. The most common feedback from the children, teachers, and parents alike has been "I love it!"

Kudos to Chrysalis Academy for being proactive. And Kudos to those whose generous donations made it possible.

Read the article here.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I know the folks at Chrysalis Academy and have nothing but good words to say and admiration for what they do.