Southwest 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.

Move in ready Goodyear rental

update November 11, 2010: this home is rented. If you would like help finding other rental homes in the Greater Phoenix area, please contact us.

We’ve got a great rental property available in Goodyear, just about 1 mile south of the I-10 off the Estrella Parkway exit. Single-story home built in 2007. Four bedrooms and 3 bathrooms; just over 1800 square feet. One bed & bath is split from the rest of the house and would make a great teen’s room, nanny’s room, study/office or the like.

Lovely neighborhood with tot lots and a park, and the local elementary school is not too far away to walk.

$1,075 per month and only $800 moves you in.

Recent bad credit will not be held against applicants.  Owner prefers no pets, no smoking allowed.

Know anyone looking for a super Westside rental? Send them our way. Call or text Heather at 602-999-8831, or email me at Heather@ThePhoenixAgents.com

eidenbenz - jefferson RENTAL - photos - EF

eidenbenz - jefferson RENTAL - photos - KITFURN (furniture not included, just here3 to show scale of room)

eidenbenz - jefferson RENTAL - photos - BA1 master bath

eidenbenz - jefferson RENTAL - photos - SIDEDET front & back professionally landscaped, easy-care desert design

eidenbenz - jefferson RENTAL - photos - FANDET1 upgraded ceiling fans, light fixtures throughout the home

Fabulous, but too far out. . .

Recently a client and I exchanged emails about her housing options that reminded me of one of most enduring metro Phoenix’s real estate truisms:  fabulous is often also too far out (geographically speaking).


Since metro Phoenix has always had room to grow, geographically, it generally follows that the newer, fancier, nicer houses that many 20-something, 30-something and 40-something buyers want are miles out of town.


We had a saying during the boom years of 2004-2006 that buyers "drive until they qualify" meaning they drive out from center city until they hit a pocket where the builders have put up houses that those buyers can afford.


But really it's also true that buyers drive until they find the finishes & fixtures they desire at a price they can pay.


.


So what we often find is this . . . .



5 miles (7-12 minutes) from downtown Phoenix your budget of $150,000 buys this:


160k buys this 5miles from Phx downtown


160k buys this 5miles from Phx downtown, KIT





  • about 1,200 to 1,400 square foot


  • 2 or 3 bedrooms ; 2 bathrooms


  • 1/4 acre lot, with no pool


  • built in 1950s


  • No HOA; you could add on another bedroom fairly easily


  • linoleum floors & laminate counters


  • overall, looks like it was remodeled on the cheap in late 1980s


10 to 12 miles (20-25 minutes) from downtown Phoenix that same $150,000 buys this:


150k buys this 12miles from Phx downtown, EF





  • 1,500 to 1,800 square feet


  • often with a pool ; usually about the same 1/4 acre lot as above


  • Built in the 1970s or 1980s


  • Probably no HOA


You can choose between an older kitchen in a fairly nice neighborhood. . .


150k buys this 12miles from Phx downtown, old KIT, nice NEIGH


. . . or you can choose a completely remodeled kitchen in a neighborhood most buyers would consider a step down from the neighborhood above.


150k buys this 12miles from Phx downtown, new KIT, lesser NEIGH



20-25 miles (45-60 minutes!) from downtown Phoenix $150,000 buys this. . .


150k buys this 20miles from Phx downtown, EF


150k buys this 20miles from Phx downtown, KIT


150k buys this 20miles from Phx downtown, BA





  • 1700-1900 square feet


  • rarely with a pool ; usually a small 1/10th of an acre (5,550 square feet)


  • Brand new build house or about 3-5 years old


  • HOA controls much of what you can do to the outside of the house


What’s more important to you - ?


Granite countertops and new cabinets or a quick 5 minute commute to downtown Phoenix?


5-year old house with generally poor insulation or a well-insulated 40 to 60 year old house that probably needs a new roof in the coming 5 years?


A little elbow room in your backyard or trying to plant a hedge to hide the 2-story house looming over your tiny backyard?



Long time readers know or will guess that I’d choose the teensy 1950s house over the new build in Surprise or Avondale every time. And that’s not just because I don’t have children. I’d raise kids in that teensy house in a heartbeat. They'll have more quality time with Mommy & Daddy because my commute to work is only about 8 minutes.

What about you?

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 : http://www.lemurzone.com/rfg/>

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.

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

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.



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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.

Real Estate Glossary, Starter Home

This isn’t an official definition. I’m not sure there is one. It’s just what I use as shorthand for a certain type of property.





  • 3-4 bedrooms


  • 2 bathrooms


  • about 1200 to 1600 square feet


  • small yard




  • usually located about 20-30 miles from anything you can reasonably call ‘downtown’


  • almost always in a master planned community, i.e. there is a Homeowners’ Association which charges fees and makes rules for the community


Like I said, not an official definition, and you’ll see there are a lot of qualifiers in my list (sometimes, usually, often). Take it for what it’s worth.


What about pricing? This isn't a scientific survey, but lately we at The Phoenix Agents have been helping folks buy these houses for between $60,000 and $150,000 in various parts of the Northwest, North and Southwest Valley. The lower the price, the harder it is to find a house that's inhabitable which the investor buyers haven't already made multiple cash offers on.


Homes that fit this description often make great purchases for first time buyers, and often fit the bill for investors too.

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!