by Heidi

I'm Back!

heidi and baby oliviaYou may have noticed that I've been slack on blogging the past few months.  I do have a good excuse - i really do! 

On July 30th, we welcomed our newest member into the family.  Olivia Rain was born at home at a nice 7lbs 11oz. - whew that was a relief!  My last two girls were 8.8 and 9.2, so i was a little worried about having a 9 1/2-10lb baby!  She's been keeping me a little busy, but generally is a happy, mellow baby that actually sleeps at night!  woohoo!

We're back in the swing of things now and I'll be posting again, so you'll be seeing more of me.

Sex Offender Registry for your Neighborhood

I know that when I was looking for a new house last year, one of my main concerns was the proximity of sex offenders. Many buyers have also asked me how to check into this particular subject - even those without children.  As much of an unpleasant subject as it is, many of us start thinking about the subject when looking for a new home.

The Arizona Dept of Public Safety has a public web-site where you can enter your zip code and receive information on the sex offenders in your neighborhood, including their name, address, a photo and types of offenses, as well as which schools they live in close proximity to. 

During your 10-day inspection period of buying a new home, research into schools and sex offenders can top your list if you have school-age children.  To find information for your neighborhood, visit www.az.gov/webapp/offender/main.do

Comparing Valley Schools

School time is almost here for the Valley!  My daughters start next week, which seems so early, compared to the September start dates of my school years - we have a hard time believing that summer vacation is almost over!


If you have just moved, are planning on moving, or want more information on your local schools, you can get school ratings and information at http://www.greatschools.net/.  You can compare schools all over the nation - just put in a zip code or address to compare all schools in that area.  Comparisons can be broken down into academics and student grades, student-teacher ratios, student attendance, and even parent ratings and reviews.  The site also lists private and charter schools as well, if you're looking for an alternative to public schools.

The Low-Down on Tankless Water Heaters

tankless water heaterMy sister's water heater just died on her this week, so she's been researching the advantages and costs of transitioning to a tankless water heater.  If you've been thinking about switching to one when your water heater poops out, here's some basic info to think about.

Advantages:

1.  Tankless water heaters only heat water as you need it, rather than storing it and waiting for it to be used.  This form of heating water as needed usually saves 10-20% off your water heater portion of your bill.  Since water heaters eat up approximately 14% of your bill, this can be a good amount of savings!

2.  Besides energy savings, tankless heaters use less materials and require less energy consumption in regards to production and transportation to stores.

3.  Life expectancy is longer - tankless heaters have a life expectancy of around 20 years, compared to conventional water heater's 10-15 years.

Costs and Disadvantages:

1. The cost of a gas tankless water heater will run you 2-4x the cost of installation as a regular water heater, due to needing to retro-fit existing houses with wider gas supply lines and heavier cable or multiple circuits to draw more power.  New construction is the best time to install a tankless heater to save on retro-fit costs

2.Water usage can sometimes be limited if you're planning on running two showers at once, as well as laundry or the dishwasher.  Large full-house tankless units can pump out over 5 gallons per minute for gas, and around 3 gallons per minute for electric.  If you don't usually run more than 2 water-consuming devices at a time, you should be fine.

 All in all, if you're needing to replace your hot water heater, a tankless unit might be the way to go.  Even if you plan on moving from your home in the next few years, it's a great selling point to buyers to have a tankless water heater.  "Green" is in!

Death - The Ultimate in Recycling

Catchy, eh?

I was watching a program yesterday on the death rituals of Tibetan Buddhism and couldn't help but agree with their philosophy on the body after death.  Now, I'm not an expert in Buddhism by any means, so hopefully I understood their beliefs correctly - they believe that once the soul leaves the body, the body does not need to be maintained or housed as we do in cemetaries, as they soul has already moved on.  They actually take the body, break the spine and fold it into a much smaller, compact package, wrap it in cloth and then they take it out to the desert for other animals to feed off of.  The whole idea seems to be a circular one, in which the used-up body is given back to the earth and other animals, to further their life, after the human one has ended. 

In a way, it reminded me of a personal form of recycling.  Rather than take up land space with cemetaries and graves, or further pollution with the burning of bodies into ashes, why not recycle the body by giving it to creatures that can eat it for their sustenance?

Of course, I can imagine why we don't practice this here, as who would know whether the body in the desert died legitimately or not.  I"m not really writing this to discuss the realities of how it would work, but just musing on the philosphy.

However, I can appreciate the Tibetan Buddhist's belief in the circle of life and that rather than looking at human life as detached from other animals, and one that proceeds along a straight line that ends at death - why not view the human life as part of the bigger circle and that the deceased body can be given back as a benefit to other life.

Wow, pretty heavy for a Saturday morning, eh?  Just thought I'd get you thinking!

Phoenix and Seattle comparisons

Earlier this month I took a trip to Seattle with my daughters to visit a friend there, and to escape the Phoenix heat (if even for just a little bit this summer!).  It was our first visit to Washington and boy were we amazed at the differences between the Northwest and the Southwest.

First, everywhere you drive you see green!  It made me realize what an easy color green is on your eyes (I've been told that the human eye can see more shades of green than any other color) and how in the summer, the reflective quality of the desert brown can really wreak havoc on your eyes.  I think I have more wrinkles from squinting in the Arizona sun than from aging!

With all the green trees everywhere, I also noticed that the lush vegetation does a fantastic job of hiding house and building flaws.  A building or house may not be taken care of and falling apart, but they don't look as delapitated as our buildings do here, since we have nothing growing around them to hide the deterioration.  It's amazing how some vegetation can cover the building flaws!

Because of the extensive amount of rain and cooler weather, the neighborhoods in Seattle all have yards and gardens, whether the owner does anything to grow them or not.  I've noticed many houses here in the desert that just have the original dirt for the front yard, which does nothing for the house value except drag it down!  One advantage of wetter weather is that all the yards at least have grass or bushes of flowers growing in them without any effort from the owner - wouldn't that be nice!

Now I know it sounds like I'm ripping on Phoenix in this article, but don't get me wrong!  I love the desert and the open sky and that you can always plan a picnic without worrying about rain.  But I have to admit that visiting someplace wet and green during the scorching summer months was a great relief this June!

Gilbert Rated 4th in the US for low crime rates

Go Gilbert Arizona!  While reading Time magazine this week, they had a small article rating US cities which were highest and lowest in crime.  Gilbert came in 4th for crime safety according to the article.  Not suprisingly, Flint and Detroit Michigan were two of the highest cities for crime rates (1st and 4th if I remember correctly). 

It's nice to see happy little Gilbert scoring so high for low crime rates!

Dual Agency or Not?

For those of you not familiar with the term, Dual Agency refers to an Agent who is working for both the Sellers and the Buyers in the same transaction.  Recently we were speaking with a Seller who was concerned that we didn't have a Buyer ready to go in their area of town, so that their house could sell quickly.  Actually, the majority of Real Estate transactions are not because a Listing Agent happens to have a buyer just waiting for a house to go on the market.  The large percentage of sales come from other agents who have buyers looking in the area.

What our Seller didn't realize was that if we did have a buyer ready to purchase their home as soon as it went on the market, that would also mean that we would now be working in the best interest of BOTH parties - not just the Seller.  Some people are comfortable with having Dual Agency, while others might feel more comfortable knowing that their Realtor is working solely for them and does not have any invested interest in the buyer or their position. 

In any Real Estate Transaction, there is a ton of sensitive information that should not be passed to the other party - such as financial status, reasons for selling, how much each party is willing to bend during negotiations, etc.  I'm sure that most Realtors respect these boundaries and do not pass on personal information during a Dual Agency transaction.  However, if you are concerned about facts of your position being revealed, you should make certain you trust your Realtor to be professional during the process, or not request Dual Agency from your Agent.  It might make a safer position for your needs during the sale to have your Agent working only for you and not for the other party as well.

Thinking About a Greywater System?

Greywater systems are not widely used here in Phoenix, but could provide a fantastic opportunity for water re-use and conservation here in the dry Phoenix desert.  Greywater systems re-use water from your shower, laundry, sinks and dishes (pretty much everything except the toilet), rather than sending it down the sewer system.  The most common use of greywater is for landscape irrigation, which saves the cost of watering your lawn with freshwater.  It's estimated that 50-80% of your household wastewater is greywater. 

In using greywater for landscape irrigation, ADEQ (Arizona Department of Environmental Quality) regulations require that the greywater be filtered and disinfected before being sent to a sub-surface irrigation system.  It's not a good idea to take your washing machine hose and just drain it on your lawn or in your bushes.  Surface greywater can tend to pool up, and if it hasn't been filtered, may contain bacteria that you don't necessarily want sitting on top of your lawn and plants.

On the other hand, greywater can be more beneficial to your plants than freshwater because it may contain nitrogen or phosphorus, which will help your plants grow stronger and healthier than with freshwater alone. 

Greywater systems can be expensive to have installed, but it's worth doing some research into them if you're looking for more ways to make your home environmentally friendly.

Whole Foods coming to Chandler and Scottsdale

If you haven't been to Whole Foods in Phoenix or Tempe yet, you're in for a treat!  Whole Foods is expanding into two new locations this year - one in Chandler on the corner of Ray Rd and the 101/Price Freeway, and the other in Scottsdale at Scottsdale Rd and Mayo.  Word has it that both locations will be double the size of their Tempe and Phoenix stores, which means lots more selection and items to choose from.

I've been watching the construction on the Chandler Whole Foods, and it's coming along quick!  If you're looking for a smaller natural food store, there's also Sprouts on the corner of Ray and Dobson (only 1 mile from the in-progress Whole Foods).  The Chandler location supposedly will also feature a few drive-thru restaurants (wouldn't that be great if we had some drive-thru's that were healthy?!?!) as well as a handful of shops in the same complex. 

I'm glad to see more and more natural and organic food stores popping up in Phoenix.  It seems the healthy life-style of Northern California is filtering our way.  Of course, I enjoy my greasy fast-food now and then, but it's fantastic to have the CHOICE of foods available and close to home.

Water Play in the East Valley

Now that summer is here and school is just about out, are you wondering what in the heck your kids are going to do all summer long?  Water always keeps them entertained and wears them out.  My favorite place is the Kiwanis Wave Pool in Tempe - it's heated, it's indoors (so you don't bake in the sun and heat while watching your kids play), it's not expensive and it's tons of fun!  I know that I burn easily and also get headaches from sitting in the sun, so an indoor pool is about the only way I'll agree to take my kids swimming in the summer.

If you haven't been yet, the Kiwanis Wave Pool features 3' waves every few minutes, plus two waterslides and tubes and rafts for rent.  The shallow end is perfect for little ones who want to get their feet wet but aren't good enough swimmers to head out into the waves.  They also have concessions to keep your tummy from rumbling while you're there. 

The pool is located at 6111 S All-America Way, which is south of Baseline and West of Mill Ave in Tempe.  Summer hours start May 28th and run from 1230-430pm each day.  Adults are $6 while kids 3-17 are $3.  However, it's 1/2 price between 230-430! 

 See you there!�

School Safety

With the latest shooting at Virginia Tech, it got me to thinking about how schools have really had to alter their responsibilities, compared to the previous decades that we all went to school.  It's amazing how small-time bullying (from the "good old days") has escalated in recent years into shooting deaths.  I don't know if there's a way to stop this momentum, but I"m hopeful that schools will take a good look at ways to reduce the chances of guns at school, as well as protecting their students if there is such an occurence.


My girls attend a public elementary school in Chandler.  For the last 7 years, they've been in a very small Montessori School, which really gave us no reason for worrying about their safety.  However, now that they are in the public forum of schools, I've discovered that their school actually does have some good procedures in place if there is a concern for the children's safety.  If someone on the school campus begins wreaking havoc, an alarm across the whole school goes out, so that every room and every teacher can hear it.  The teachers then lock the doors and cover all the windows with black-outs, so that no-one can see in.  The children are not allowed out until a second signal notifies them that it's safe to leave their classrooms.


When my girls first told me of this set-up, it struck a note of fear in my heart, for I had never before considered that they would need to practice for such an event.  However, once that subsided, I realized that bringing the possibility to the attention of the children and running drills with them on what to do, is the best policy the school can have.  Keeping them in the dark (innocent as we all want to keep our children!), is not the way to ensure their safety.


I am hopeful that all schools in the Valley have similar procedures in place.  Check with your children's school and ask them what they are doing to ensure your children are as safe as possible should the unimaginable event happen to take place here.

Selling your Rental House

There aren't too many houses more difficult to list and show for sale than a rental house.  Usually the tenants are still living there, which requires that Agents schedule appointment times with them rather than being able to drop by whenever works for their buying client.  Sometimes the tenants are moving out, which may alleviate the appointment scheduling, but usually leaves a BIG mess in the house, as tenants are not usually as concerned with cleaning up after themselves, as they are just getting into their new place.  Since renters are not as likely to take care of the property, most rentals I see are fixer-uppers in need of repair and landscaping work, as well as a heavy-duty clean-up crew. And sometimes, you get an even bigger surprise.

I was showing a client of mine some houses this past weekend, one of them being a rental.  We arranged an appointment with the gal living there.  Her roommates were moving out, so there were boxes and garbage throughout the whole house.  We basically had to weave our way through their mess to get from room to room and some rooms we couldn't even see the floor for all the boxes and garbage.  But our added bonus was their cats.  Well, to put it more distinctly, their cats feces.  Oh, the smell in the house was overwhelming!  Obviously the cats had been peeing in the house for quite some time and the renters must have just been used to it.  We took a look in a loft that was added onto the house and found that the cats had been using the space as their catbox!  Ewwwww!  It does make it a little difficult to envision all the wonderful uses of a loft space in a house, when it's covered in cat droppings that haven't been cleaned up in who knows how long!

My suggestion for sellers who are listing their rental house:  Do NOT list your house for sale until your renters are moved out and you've had the entire house cleaned, as well as the yard landscaped.  Yes, it means a little extra time and money, but it will be well worth it.  You'll be able to ask a much higher price for a house that is ready to move in, than to deeply discount a trashed rental due to all the mess and smell and garbage left-over from the renters.

Here Come the Chihuahuas!

Now THIS sounds like a fun event!  For Chandler's Cinco De Mayo Celebration (on May 5th of course), they'll be hosting Chihuahua races at the downtown Public Library.  I've been to the Weiner Dog Races at Phoenix Greyhound Raceway and boy were those good for a laugh!  All those little dogs running their short legs as fast as they can.  Of course, they are not bred to be racing dogs, so you get the joy and laughs of watching them run off the course, get to the finish line and then turn around and run all the way back, sniffing around instead of running, and basically being disoriented enough that who knows which weiner dog will win!  It's a great event to bring the family to.

As for the Chihuahua races, they run from 6-7pm (although the whole event runs from noon-8pm) and concludes with a crowning of the Queen and King Chihuahua from 7-8pm.  If you've got a little racer you want to sign up, they'll be registering 150 dogs for the races at 1pm with a $10 entrance fee. 

I've got a little Chihuahua/Min-Pin mix that I'd love to register to race, but I think she'd probably rather focus on picking fights with the other Chihuahuas than actually racing.  But then again, watching a gaggle of small dogs with big attitudes decide who's the Alpha Dog might be amusing too (with no actual fighting of course!).

Got Dead Plants? - Chandler Bulk Pick-Up Can Help!

I spent the majority of this past weekend cleaning out all the plants and bushes in my yard that died this winter in the frost.  Boy, there were more than I thought and I did suffer a few scrapes from those dead branches giving me some trouble!  I got them all into piles and bags and then thought - now what?

In north Tempe (where I've lived for the last 30 years) you can put your yard waste and bulk items out once a month for free pick-up.  Now that I'm in Chandler, I've realized it's a different story.  You still can have your yard waste picked up, but only twice a year for free and you have to call to schedule.  Well, okay it's a little more work, but I can handle it!

I suppose it makes for much cleaner streets in Chandler, as in north Tempe, it seemed there was a constant scene of furniture, tree trimmings and basically junk out in front of the houses at any given time.  Given that it was a high-rental neighborhood, there was always a pile of someone's belongings that they didn't want to take with them when they moved. 

I suppose Chandler's route just makes me do my big projects all at once instead of in smaller increments.

If you live in Chandler and you've got dead branches or plants you're looking to remove, call the Chandler Recycling-Solid Waste Collection Center at 480-782-3510 to schedule your pick-up.  It's really not that hard, as I've found out!

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.

More First-Time Home Owner Mortgage Assistance!

Boy, sometimes it pays to be a first-time homeowner!  Here are two more programs that you can take advantage of to get yourself into your first home.  One of our lenders has given me the information to pass onto you, so if you're interested, please contact any of us at the Butterworth Group and we can connect you with our fantastic lenders who can get the process rolling for you!

"My Community" is a 100% financing option available for first time home buyers.  It allows for marginal credit but will require full disclosure of income.  The unique aspect of the program is the debt to income ratio they require is extremely favorable and they will allow the seller to pay all costs.

The "Home in 5" Mortgage assistance program is a unique product that is available through one of our lender's affiliates (our lender can refer you to who you can speak with about it).  This program will provide the buyer a 5% down payment at no cost or repayment if they qualify.  It allows for marginal credit, fairly high debt to income ratios, and a very favorable interest rate.  The catches with this one are that the home cannot be more than $311K and the borrowers annual income must be less than $65K. 

If you're interested, please contact us with your questions!

Extra Pool Safety

Summer is upon us (well, I suppose it's still spring until June 21 in the rest of the country, but not here!) - which means all the kiddies are going to want to start swimming in the pools soon!  We've all heard about pool safety more times than we can count, and yet as soon as it gets warm, the news is already airing stories of drownings and near-drownings. 

If you haven't seen it yet, there's a relatively new product out for extra pool safety.  It's a mesh net that covers your pool to keep kids that might have crawled or fallen in from going underwater and drowning.  I would assume these pool nets are meant to be in addition to your self-closing, locking gate, of course!  They attach to the edges of your pool and provide a sturdy "net" over the water surface that will not dip down if a child climbs on it, and are made to be a bit uncomfortable to crawl on, so that children won't be lured to play on them. 

I think it's a great idea if you have young toddlers in the house.  My theory with child safety around pools is it's better to spend the money and have some peace of mind, than to later wish you had.  Unforeseen accidents can happen to all of us and with the short amount of time it takes for a child to drown, the extra safety is probably well worth it.

First Time HomeBuyer Assistance

Are you still renting??  Dreaming of owning your own home but not sure of the process or how to come up with the cash for down payments and closing costs?  Want to own your own home but afraid to take the leap?

There are several First-Time HomeBuyer programs out there to take advantage of, some of which will grant you funds to help cover the initial costs of buying your first home.  One program is the American Dream Downpayment Initiative, signed in 2003, which allocates grants to first time home buyers for through 2007.  With this grant, you can buy a home or condo, and receive up to $10,000 or 6% of the cost of your home, to help cover your down payment and closing costs.  What could be better?

If you're still waffling about getting out of the renting rut, give any one of us a call and we can walk you through the process, as well as provide you with lender contacts, so that you can easily be on your way to owning your own home.  Our lenders will work to get you the best mortgage and first time home buyer programs, and we at the Butterworth Group can take you through the process of buying your first home with ease.

The market is slow right now, so it's a great time to buy and in a few years, your investment will be worth a good deal more than you'll be paying for it today (that's the Real Estate forecast!).  Give any of us a call and we'll get you on your way to owning your very own home!

No Parking at Orpheum Lofts

I read an article in the New Times recently about the lack of parking at the new Orpheum Lofts located in downtown Phoenix.  According to the article, residents were promised parking and/or valet service along with their condos.  They were using a nearby parking lot, which has now been sold and is going to be developed into another condo complex (which DOES have it's own parking), and current owners of Orpheum Lofts are going to have to pay an extra $30,000 to reserve themselves a parking space in the new lot!

Wow.  Now in reading the article, it occured to me that it seems a bit irresponsible to advertise high-priced condos with promised parking, without having actually confirmed or reserved land for that purpose (or if they did, they changed their mind later).  Then later, selling the lot to another developer, who in turn is selling the residents parking spaces when they have no choice.  Since the streets at First Ave and Adams are metered, the residents of the Lofts seem to have no other alternatives for parking near their homes. 

Well, maybe they can go without a car in downtown Phoenix, right?  Well, maybe for a couple of blocks, but Phoenix is such a sprawled-out city, that most residents would find it inconvenient if not impossible to live without a vehicle.  Yes, it would be great if everything was within walking distance or we had fantastic public transportation to reduce the need for a vehicle, but we don't. 

It's sad to see the residents of the Orpheum Lofts being forced into such a position, and the developer having a nice clause in their contract that will most likely absolve them of any responsibility for the false advertising.  Once again, it seems the corporations have decided to not keep their buyers best interest at heart and go for the gold of more money in their pockets for a little parking space.