by Katie

Surprise Pointe Gets a Movie Theater!

My fellow Surprise residents, we are finally getting a movie theater!  Granted, I am a fairly new Surprise resident having moved to the city only 2 years ago.  But having lived in the Glendale/Peoria area for most of my life, I was used to having multiple theaters within a 10-minute drive.  So, when we moved to Surprise, the first thing that we noticed was the long drive to watch a movie.  That really cuts into the entertainment budget when you have to account for an extra hour (round-trip) for babysitting!  But alas, no longer will we need to fight the traffic on Bell Road east of Grand Ave. to get to the Arrowhead-area theaters.

UltraStar Cinema Theaters (out of Southern California) will be a part of a larger project known as Surprise Pointe which will be located on the southeast corner of Litchfield & Waddell.  Phase 1 - The Shoppes at Surprise Pointe breaks ground in May and will encompass 300 acres.  Not only will it include the 14 screen 2800 seat theater, but also will have other forms of entertainment such as a bowling alley and numerous restaurants and small shops.  Phase 1 should be ready by May 2008.

You may have noticed the recent signage near Litchfield Rd. and Bell Rd, however this is NOT the Surprise Pointe UltraStar Cinema.  Dickinson theaters out of Kansas City was supposed to have built that theater.  Surprise councilman Joe Johnson, whose district includes the land where the Dickinson theater should have been completed this past November 2006,  believes this signage may have been erected in reaction to the news of UltraStar's groundbreaking (stay tuned as I update this blog site with any news I get on the Dickinson theater project).

I browsed the Ultrastar Cinema Theater website and found some unique offers.  I don't know if any of these offers will be available at the Surprise location, but this is the standard at their Southern California locations.

  • Parent Movie Morning - typically a Tuesday morning 10/11 am showing. Specially tailored for moms & dads with young children (kids under 4 are FREE, but everyone 4+ $5.50).  This showing features: dimmed lights, reduced volume, stroller parking, & diaper changing facilities in the auditorium.  These are still first-run movies and are not limited to children's movies... in fact, the featured movies at the S. California locations as of today are Invisible, Fracture, Perfect Stranger, and Miss Potter.

  • Early-Bird Specials - basically it's the first matinee of every movie, everyday at a discount (discounted price varies per theater anywhere from $4.50 to $5.50, although this special is not offered at all locations.)

  • Discount Tuesdays - most movies (not including special engagements) at a discount all day/night on Tuesdays (long-time west valley residents will remember Valley West Mall's 50-cent Tuesday flicks!).  Prices are similar to the early-bird special, but also not offered at all locations.

One of the UltraStar Cinemas also offers a Reward Card - offered only at 1 of their theaters at this time... but works similarly to the AMC Moviewatcher card (earn points by watching movies and earn free popcorn, drinks, and movie admission.

Check back often as I follow up this article anytime new information is released!

To read an article about the UltraStar Cinema click here.

To read an article about the Dickinson Theater project click here.

Another Kohl's Coming to Surprise!

As the city of Surprise continues to grow, Kohl's is expanding its presence by building another store to be located on the Southeast corner of Cactus & Reems.  This store is not part of the Prasada project, but will be located kitty-corner from Prasada's northeast boundary.  Kohl's will anchor the 140,000 sq. ft. shopping center which will also be home to other small retail shops as well as restaurants, a bank, and a convenience store, none of which have been named at this time.

Come back & visit often to keep up-to-date on the building occurring in and around our community!

Click here to read the article.

Arizona Sights & Wonders: Out of Africa/Sedona Day-trip

Here's another great destination to experience with the kids!  The Out of Africa Wildlife Park is a place you will definitely want to put on your list of must-sees.  Even though you will travel north to this park, it can still feel very warm depending on the season of your visit.  Located 90 minutes north of Phoenix in Camp Verde, just south of Sedona, temperatures are approximately 5 degrees shy of Phoenix on the same day.  Although there is very little shade at this zoo, you have the opportunity to hike the "back-road" into the desert landscape, board a jeep for a 45 minute safari into the "Serengeti," or take an hour-long excursion by trolley/tram for an educational look at the "Wildlife Preserve."  For those of you curious about the feeding activity of such African predators as lions and tigers (oh my), you won't want to miss the Predator Feed occurring 3 days per week during which 800 pounds of raw food is thrown to the eagerly awaiting carnivores!

You'll want to allow at least 2 hours at this park to take in the Safari and the trolley/tram tour, but even though it seems like a short amount of time for the drive, it's a place that allows you to get closer to these wild animals than any other in the state.  And, not only will you be able to get up close but you'll have the opportunity to learn about the animals from very knowledgeable guides.

To get there: head north on I17 to the Camp Verde exit.  Turn west and go 3 miles to Verde Valley Justice Center Road.  Turn left & follow the signs!

When you are ready to leave, you'll want to head into Sedona and take in the beautiful scenery.  Maybe you'll even have time to check out Chapel of the Holy Cross which is another picturesque sight in Arizona you'll want to see at least once.  Just north of Sedona is Slide Rock State Park.  This will really cool you off after a hot tour of the zoo.  Pair the Out of Africa trip for the morning with Slide Rock swimming/wading in the afternoon for a cool end to the day or if you prefer shop at the outlet mall or at Tlaquepaque (pronounced Tuh-LOK-uh-POK-ee)! 

You won't be disappointed!�

Surprise, AZ Among Top 100 Relocation Cities!

According to a national relocation website, Surprise, AZ has been named one of the top 100 cities in America to move to.  Some of the determining factors included: neighborhoods, beauty of the area, schools, economic development, crime rates, employment, and home construction.  This year's nominations included more than 2000 cities & towns, and although Surprise has been nominated every year since 1998, this is the first year it was chosen.  Surprise is one of only 4 other Arizona cities to make the list:  Kingman, Lake Havasu City, and Sierra Vista.  Surprise was one of the top 10 choices, and those in the top 10 were ranked in alphabetical order. 

So, who nominates these communities?  You... or anyone who takes the questionnaire on the website.  Questionnaires from individuals nominating Surprise included comments such as: good property values, good place to raise young children, and an up-and-coming area outside metro Phoenix. 

As a Surprise resident, I too recommend Surprise as a great place to live!  Even though our city lacks some of the things that you would expect in a flourishing community - movie theaters, warehouse stores, a mall - all of these things are at least in the planning stage at this point.  Watch for my posts for more information on these and other construction projects in and around Surprise!  Even though most valley residents have lost some equity in our homes recently, the infrastructure going on in Surprise right now will be a huge asset when the real estate market takes a turn for the better!

If you'd like to read the full article click here

Glendale Hotels On the Clock as Big Games Approach

In a post I wrote a few months back, I commented on the lack of hotels/entertainment the West Valley has in order to support the upcoming Superbowl XLII & Fiesta Bowl attendees.  Now it's nearly May, and it looks like Glendale finally might have some places for the visitors to lay their head at night.  According to a recent article, Steve Ellman  announced on Monday, April 23rd, that a 9 acre parcel in Westgate has been sold to the developers of the Hampton Inn and Suites.  Although the 9 acre parcel will eventually be home to a total of 2 or 3 hotels, only 1 (a 149 room hotel) will be ready in time for the big game.  Also in planning and construction stages are 3 other hotels near Westgate including a John Q. Hammond Renaissance Hotel (expected to open early fall 2007), a Springhill Suites as well as a Residence Inn (both expected to open sometime between July & September 2007) in the Zanjero developement near Cabelas.  Obviously many visitors will have to find other hotels in the area in which to stay, but hopefully the four mentioned in this post will be up and running smoothly prior to the arrival of our guests.  Who knows... maybe the Cardinals will surprise us this year, and make it to the big game!  Maybe that would help ease the burden on the hotels. 

If you are planning a trip to/around Glendale, AZ for this game or any other reason, here are a few others (already completed) to check out:

Enjoy your visit and be sure to check out my series of posts on Arizona Sights & Wonders for a list of places to see while you're here!

Arizona Sights & Wonders: Canyon Lake Day-trip

As a near-native - I've lived here since I was 5 years old - I've taken for granted many of the sights and wonders that Arizona has to offer.  I can't count the number of times I've been to the Grand Canyon, and have also visited many, many other fantastic places in the state.  A very good friend of mine whose family moved here from Seattle has lived here for about 6 years, and has not had the time or knowledge to venture out to experience Arizona.  So, this series of blogs will be for her... and the many other non-native Phoenicians out there who would like a "place to start" from the point of view of someone who has been there.

Some of these trips are ones that a mom could tackle on a day during summer vacation.  Others are ones that will require more planning... maybe even an overnight stay.  So, as I write these posts, I'll be sure to label the trip a day-trip or a weekend trip.  Of course, some of the weekend trips you might want to take more time to enjoy.

Last week, I visited Canyon Lake with my church as part of a get-together.  It has been many years since I was first there!  Even though the weather was chilly, many children swam and splashed around at the lake's edge while the adults played horseshoes, volleyball, and some tried fishing or hiking.  I was amazed at the beauty of the lake.  It's called Canyon Lake for good reason: a canyon literally shoots up as a magnificent back-drop to the main part of the lake that is visible to those who choose to stay ashore.  But, for those who decide to venture further back, the canyon walls surround you, and the view is truly one to be experienced first-hand.

There are many things to do at Canyon Lake, and it might be wise to plan your trip according to the activities you plan to experience.  For example, if you want to fish, you better research when and where the lake is stocked so that you don't go home empty-handed.  If you plan to rent a boat (several types are available to choose from) you might want to reserve one ahead of time so you guarantee that one will be there for you.  There is also the famous Dolly Steamboat which hosts hundreds... maybe thousands... of passengers each month on dinner cruises (which often sell out) and the like.  You will want to research everything that the lake area has to offer before you go, because it's definitely a day-trip for those who live in the west or northwest valley.  By a day-trip, I mean it will take approximately 1 1/2 hours to get there (depending on traffic and freeway closures) :), and depending on the activities you want to experience, you'll want enough time to take advantage of those!

To get there: head East on I10 and exit to the 60.  Take the 60 to the Idaho Rd. exit.  Turn north on Idaho Rd. and follow it to Highway 88 (commonly referred to as the Apache Trail).  Head northwest on the Apache Trail until you see Canyon Lake.  Drive very carefully as the road winds through the mountains with some perilous drops.  You will eventually come to a one-lane bridge... I imagine this is a bottle-neck when very many people plan a day at the lake... and you're there!  You'll need to get a parking pass which costs approximately $6.  Enjoy your day!

Click here to research activities at Canyon Lake.

Loop 303: Road Construction AHEAD!

Get ready folks!  Those of you who travel the 303 will have some bumpy roads & detours to manipulate in the near future.  The Maricopa County Department of Transportation will be installing traffic lights at the intersection of Waddell & Loop 303.  For those of us who travel this strip very often, this intersection can be deadly, especially for anyone trying to cross the 303.  Unfortunately, I see this as only a band-aid solution.  Something is definitely needed to increase the safety of all drivers, however, I wish short-term solutions would be coupled with something more long-term. 

The current improvement calls not only for traffic lights, but left turn lanes as well in all 4 directions.  These improvements will begin shortly and will call for the following closures:

  • Waddell Rd. will be closed from Cotton Lane to Sarival through May 4th... Loop 303 will remain open during this time

  • Loop 303 will be closed between Cactus Rd. & Greenway from May 7th - May 25th, but Waddell will be open

For more information on these closures, you can call the MCDOT hotline at 480-350-9288

Click here to see the article

$10 One-way Airfare!

It's true!  It looks like Skybus is trying to break their way into the airline business with a ridiculous fare of $10 one-way.  I just saw it on the news, and had to check it out myself.  Now, Skybus does not fly to many locations... only 9 total:  LA - Burbank, CA; San Francisco - Oakland, CA; Seattle/Vancouver - Bellingham, WA; Boston area - Portsmouth, NH; Richmond, VA; Greensboro, NC; Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Kansas City, MO; and Columbus, OH which is their headquarters.  But they expect to add additional locations soon.  Every one of their flights has a minimum of 10 seats that cost only $10.  So, if you live or have relatives in/around Columbus, OH they might be able to travel to Burbank, CA for less than a tank of gas.  There is a little hitch, right now, all of the airports they send their planes to, only return to Columbus, OH... they do not fly between such as Burbank to Ft. Lauderdale.  If you happen to need to travel to Columbus, OH, you might want to try out to see if you can get one of the $10 seats.  I checked each of the airports they fly to, and found over 600 flights with a $10 fare.  Once the limited number of seats are gone on your desired flight, you will have to pay a higher price, or look for a different flight.  The highest fare I found was $125, and the typical fare were $30-$75.   

The Skybus philosophy is to get people safely and efficiently from where they are to where they want to go.  In order to make this happen, Skybus travels to airports that do not have congestion problems which causes flights to be delayed.  Because of this, Phoenix is not one of the airports they serve, but if you can catch a ride to the LA Burbank airport, you might be able to find a cheap fare.  You must be able to access the internet, because you will choose your flight, pay your fare, and get your boarding pass online.  However, you are also able to get your boarding pass at a special kiosk at the airport.  With Skybus you pay only for what you want... sandwich and a coke, early boarding, blanket or pillow (which you keep), luggage (the first 2 pieces are $5, after that, $50 each piece).  The fleet is brand new with leather seating for everyone (no first or business class available).  Planes seat approximately 156 and have wider aisles to help passengers board & deplane faster!

Click here to read the Skybus flight rules.

Who's Zestimating the value of your home?

After reports were disclosed that the state board of appraisal was ordering Zillow to cease publishing their online home values, state representative Michele Reagan wrote an amendment, specifically senate bill 1291, which states that Zillow’s service is an opinion of value, not an appraisal. Because it is considered an opinion, state lawmakers expect to see ZERO cases brought before judges regarding the stated value of a home by Zillow.  (Click here to read this article).

With the immense availability of information on the internet, I appreciate being able to look up information on my own. In the case of home values, however, I would caution you to use sites such as Zillow as a starting place. Don’t look up the value of your home and expect it to be the “going price.” My home’s Zestimate exceeds $413,000 even though area sales show the value at $310,000. Zillow does not seem able to take into account recent sales in the area (aka. market value).

What concerns me regarding Zillow, are the various industries which use the value of homes to determine the rates you receive… you might ask your insurance agent exactly how they verify or determine the value of your home when you request home-owners insurance. A recent inquiry of insurance on my own home made me aware that Zillow’s opinions, might be regarded by others as a true representation of value. In another case, a homeowner shared with me that when they were approved for a cash-out refinance, the lender required only a “drive-by” appraisal. Who’s to say that their drive-by was not assisted by Zillow? This grossly, over-valued estimate by the lender became a horror story when the homeowners were forced to move and were unable to sell the home to cover the newly mortgaged amount.

So, home-owners beware. You are the one who will be paying the premium for whatever value is placed on your home. Make sure that the value is an accurate representation. You never want to owe more than your home is worth, and you don’t want to pay for more insurance than you need

2130 E. Taylor Street, 85006

I have a new listing in downtown Phoenix.  It's a 4 bedroom, 2bath, 1603 sq. ft. home just minutes from I17, I10, Loop 202, the 51, the Greyhound depot, the future light rail, and Sky Harbor, in addition to numerous entertainment venues & shopping.  This home is listed at $240,000.  If you know of anyone looking for a home in this area or an investment property, please forward them this information, or have them give me a call - 623-824-1222. 

Click here to view a flyer.

Click here to view a digital tour.

BEWARE the latest SCAM

Yesterday, as my husband was going through the mail, his heart skipped a beat as he revealed a US Bank check drawn in the amount of $2,800+ dollars.  Looking at all the fine print on the face and back of the check, we saw no credit terms or disclaimers that would cause us to think this was anything but legitimate.  On the front of the check it had all the microprint security warnings stating that if there was no watermark (which there was) then the check was not real.  So, he begins reading the letter that arrived with the check.  The letter was on letterhead from Anchor Management Company, with an address in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.  The letter said that this was the last attempt to advise us of reward money we had won in the amount of $55,000+ dollars.  The check was provided to us to "cover the cost of transaction fees" which were necessary to wire the money to us.  A phone number was listed at the bottom of the letter to call so they could instruct us on how to pay the transaction fee, and then find out how to receive our prize money.

I'm a bit of a natural skeptic, so I told my husband that this is the newest scam to hit since the emails from poor children in Africa whose parents had died leaving a great fortune to them if they could only find an American willing to help them get the money at the bank or wire the money to them with a promise of a large cut of the inheritance.  The scary thing about this latest scam is that the check had the name US Bank on it which I recognized as the bank located in my local grocery store.  The familiarity of it made it seem all the more real!  Since it was too late to go to the bank, I decided I'd look up the name of the company on the internet.  I did find an Anchor Management, LLC, but they weren't located in Canada.  I googled the address listed as the business address (223 3rd Avenue North Saskatoon, SK,  S7K OJ5) and came up with nothing except the address was 1 digit off from the city Commissioner's Office (223 3rd Ave...).  At this point, I was pretty sure that the whole thing was a hoax.  I looked again at the check, and noticed that the check had been issued by a different company.  In other words, the US Bank logo on the check was just the design and worth nothing more than the musical notes pattern I have on my personal checks.

Along with my skepticism comes natural curiosity too!  So, after taking my kids to school this morning, I stopped by my local grocery store and asked the US Bank branch manager to verify the legitimacy of this check.  This check was indeed a farce! 

I'm glad that I am naturally curious and already had some foreknowledge of the crazy scams people come up with.  I only hope that this message will reach enough people before they make the mistake of cashing the check.  Don't get the idea that you'll cash the check and be happy with that amount and not go for the full prize waiting to be transferred to you.  What will happen is the check will be cashed, you'll receive the money, you'll either contact the number on the letter and wire them the money in order to receive the larger prize amount (in my case $55,000+) and owe the bank the money because it was no good (and you won't receive your prize money... it was a scam to get the $2800), or you'll think you'll outsmart them by never calling them and spend that money.  If you do the latter, the bank will still come after you when the check comes back as unpaid, and you will be forced to return the money you got.

Please DON'T FALL for this latest scam.  I'm sure many people will because it looks so legitimate and the familiarity causes many to drop their guard.  Having that check in hand ready to cash - especially when things seem tight and this money would help tide things over, or even cover the dream vacation you were considering - seems like a perfect solution.  But, in the end it's NOT REAL and you will end up in an even tighter spot than you were in before and owe the bank at the same time!

If you find yourself a victim of this kind of fraud, there isn't much you can do except learn from it and do your best to thoroughly investigate any unexpected checks that arrive in the mail.  You will want to let your banking institution know what happened, especially if you gave out your account number thinking it was necessary in order to receive your prize.  You'll also want to place a fraud-watch on your accounts with the credit bureaus so they can monitor them for any susupicious activity.  

Hopefully, you found this article helpful PRIOR to receiving any mail like this.�

Limited-Service Realty Companies vs. Full-Service Realty Companies

When I think full-service vs. limited-service, I automatically think of food: McDonald’s vs. Red Robin, Taco Bell vs. Macayo’s, Long John Silver’s vs Papadeaux’s. Limited-service would be the fast-food restaurants. I order my food in the drive-thru or at the counter a la carte, or I can choose a value-meal, and pay upfront. I can take it home (saving the price of the drinks!) or to a table, get my own refills, clean up after myself, and walk away without owing any tip. I paid for my food which included a slight cost for restaurant maintenance, employees, etc. Fast-food is great when I’m desperate to eat something or when I need something (somewhat) cheap to feed the kids between activities. It’s not a place I would choose to invite someone in order to impress them.

When I think of full-service, I think of a “sit-down and let us serve you” restaurant. I expect great service. I want someone to make suggestions based on their expertise of the food. I want to be served my meal on a clean, well-kept table. I expect fine quality food. I want someone to check on me throughout the meal to make sure that I am enjoying myself and that I’m satisfied with my food. And, I expect to pay a minimum of 15% to the person who serves me. But, I don’t expect to tell my server to give any certain amount of his/her tip to the host/hostess who seated me (that is his/her separate agreement). Okay, so how does food-service compare with realty?

When you choose to list your home with a limited-service company, you can order the value-plan (much like a value-meal) which packages some services you want and pay an upfront fee (which can be varying amounts depending on how many services you request). You can also add some items a la carte that require an additional fee (such as signs, brochures/information sheets, photos, virtual tour, internet listing, MLS listing, open houses, and additional time beyond the allowance of the value-plan). The upfront fee is what is advertised on their websites and commercials as the “save the commission” and “sell your home for only X amount of dollars.” What many people do not realize is that the amount you pay for limited-service is generally not refundable even if your home doesn’t sell within the time-frame allowed. What happens then? Some people will decide that paying again for the limited service is still cheaper than hiring a full-service agent, and others will question why they didn’t just hire the full-service agent in the first place. Another misconception is that you save the ENTIRE commission. When these services place your home on the MLS, they will require you to offer a commission to the agent who finds a buyer for your property, usually 2%-3%. So, if you are paying the agent who finds you a performing buyer (one who actually completes the sale) $5000 (2%) on a $250,000 home, and paying the listing service $800.00, how hard do you think the listing service will work to sell your home? They have already been paid for their service, and it’s non-refundable whether you sell or not. If you are lucky enough to sell your home to a buyer who does not have an agent you might get away with selling your home for only the $800 you paid the service.  But, chances are a different agent will bring in the buyer.

When you choose to list your home with a full-service agent, such as one of us at The Butterworth Group at Dan Schwartz Realty, Inc., you will receive the same services listed above (especially tailored to your needs and the sales-expertise of your agent), personal advice & consultation as often as you would like, as well as the knowledge of someone who works and knows the real-estate business on a daily basis. And, we do all of this with no upfront cost/payment, but with the highest integrity and quality because we want to sell your home. You don’t pay for your service until your home is sold. And you don’t even pay us 15%, as you would for service in a restaurant. You’re right in thinking that the prices are not the same. The price of a home does not compare to the price of food in a restaurant, however neither is the time, effort, and money that goes into offering a home for sale. If your home doesn’t sell during our contracted time and you decide to find another agent or to go it alone, you owe us NOTHING! You don’t owe us the money it costs to install a post to advertise your home to passers-by, you don’t owe us any money for printing or supplies, you don’t owe us for the time we’ve spent at your home for Open Houses, you owe us nothing for consultation, nothing for the completion of paperwork, or for the webspace to advertise your virtual tour, etc. Honestly, what do you have to lose by trying us FIRST?


Just when you think you know the lingo, they decide to change it! However, in this case, I think it’s a good thing. Most people recognize the acronym FSBO as being short for “For Sale By Owner.” In the real estate industry, this phrase has been used for a very long time to differentiate between owners who choose to sell their real estate without representation by a real estate agent, and those who do have representation. However, this phrase really isn’t being used appropriately as EVERY home, building, or land parcel is being sold by its owner whether or not they choose to employ the services of an agent.
In September 2006, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) announced a change to the term FSBO. Rather than call properties being sold without the services of a real estate agent, “For Sale By Owner,” they will be called “For Sale By Unrepresented Sellers,” (FSBUS, for short). The term “unrepresented seller” means exactly what it says: The owner is choosing to sell the property without being represented by the service of a real estate agent. It may take a while for this term to have the recognition that FSBO has, but it is the term that will be used on contracts, so everyone should be familiar with it.
Click here to read the article

Mesa Waterpark @ Riverview

Although Surprise was expecting to be the site for a revolutionary water park, in the end, Mesa has convinced the builder that their offer was a better fit. Currently, there are 3 water parks in the metropolitan Phoenix area (not including those which require a hotel-stay)... Waterworld Safari in North Phoenix, Big Surf in Tempe, and Golfland Sunsplash in Mesa. I don't know all of the details regarding the two cities' offers, however, I can look at a map and determine for myself that a water park somewhere in the far West Valley (Surprise, Waddell, Glendale, Litchfield Park, Goodyear, Buckeye) would have given many current West Valley residents a much closer alternative than the 3 listed above, not to mention the not-too-distant-future residents who will be looking for relief from the sun.

Honestly, if it was just me, lounging by my own pool would satisfy me on hot, summer days. But, I have children. 4 of them! And, occasionally they prefer something out of the ordinary. I remember being a kid and going to Big Surf for a special day with my family, or heading to Waterworld with my teenage friends. It would have been nice to have a water park a little more local than 45 minutes away. With the Cabela's store now open in Glendale, I would have figured that the water park would profit from those shoppers/visitors as well. The new water park sounds intriguing with its projected offering of snorkeling, white water rafting, and surfing, in addition to other sporting activities.

The $250 million dollar resort/water park is being built by Waveyard Development LLC, out of Scottsdale. When the entire project & surrounding development comes to fruition, it will likely be over $500 million.

A November referendum could have an impact on this park as the developers have asked for residents' input to make sure they are "on board with the deal," prior to any construction. Additionally, a deal with the city (likely to include incentives) must be satisfied to determine how to best convert a municipal golf course and softball fields into a private, world-class amusement park. At this point, I don't know what private means... whether a membership, reservations at the resort, or simply an admission ticket will be required.

We'll have to follow up with the referendum and the city deal to know whether or not this waterpark will, in fact, be constructed in Mesa, but that's how it looks at this time.

Click here to read the article

Prasada Part 2

Okay Surprise folks, as I said in my last posting on Prasada, we are beginning to hear which tenants will be moving in when Prasada begins catering to the community. Catholic Healthcare West, which owns St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, Chandler Regional Hospital, and Mercy Gilbert Medical Center, will be building an outpatient facility (including urgent care, imaging, & physician services), with a hospital likely to follow. The facility will be occupying 45 acres within the Prasada project. The largest auto-mall is also supposed to have a place in Prasada with Ford, Sands Kia, Sands Chevrolet, Corwin Pontiac/GMC, and Performance Jeep/Dodge all signed on for a piece of the 180 acre site with hopes that all 38 nationally known auto-makers being included in the final project. The 303 Autoshow at Prasada will open by the end of 2008.

This mammoth project can be expected to pump tax funds back into the Surprise economy, but how much and how soon? Currently, the city earns $26-$28 million per year in sales tax. By 2015, $32 million in additional tax revenue can be expected from Prasada-related business alone! But, we don't have to wait that long because another $39 million in construction taxes are expected. The Dysart Unified School District can also expect additional tax funds... $16 million in property taxes by 2015, growing to $26 million by 2025.

As far as the residential project, expect a neighborhood boasting trail systems, streetscapes, family-oriented communities, & open spaces.

Click here to read the full article

Prasada: Arizona's Largest Mall

Prasada, an upcoming retail development which is THREE times the size of any mall project in the state is coming to Surprise. Westcor will be developing the new project projected to have 1,200 acres of retail space which will include an auto mall, shopping center, and big box retailers. The entire project, a total of 4,200 acres, will eventually include residential & retail space. A proposal to construct a hospital, medical offices, townhomes & condominiums is also possible. Although no tenants have been announced, Dillards & Harkins Theatres have expressed an interest, and additional announcements regarding tenants are expected over the next few weeks. A project of this size could generate as many as 20,000 new jobs in the city of Surprise.

We won't benefit from these retailers until 2008 at the earliest, but we will have something to look forward to as we cope with the impending infrastructure preparation. This will include 20 miles of road, waterlines, & other utility requirements that must be in place prior to the construction phase. Ground-breaking could occur as early as March if negotiations go as planned.

Stay tuned as I continue to keep my eye on this project!

Read the article here.

"My House Is Listed, but No One's Looking!"

Does this quote put your thoughts into words? There are several possible factors that can affect the amount of activity your property receives.
  1. The first and most important thing is the list price. If your home is over-priced for the neighborhood, you may not receive many (if any) viewings. Make sure you have asked your realtor for a current market analysis, and that he/she explains what it means & how he/she would price it. There are many variables that should be considered when determining a sale price (i.e. are you on a premium lot with a view, or do you back up to a busy street; do you have standard/dated items in your home or did you upgrade/replace items recently; do you need to sell quickly (1-3 months) or do you have time to wait (4+ months)?
  2. The next thing you want to be concerned with is the number of homes for sale in your neighborhood. If you list your home at a time when it is 1 out of 25 homes for sale, and only 2 homes sell in an average month, then you need to realize that the inventory is high and demand is low. If the amount of homes for sale doesn't increase, you can expect your home to sell in the next 12-13 months. If this is not satisfactory, then you need to decide whether you would rather sell at a reduced price or stay until the numbers are in your favor. If your home shows well, and is priced competitively, your home will sell sooner.
  3. If price & inventory don't seem to be the issue, perhaps it's the advertisement. First & foremost, your home should be placed on the MLS (multiple listing service). With the ability to reach tens of thousands of agents who are actively looking for homes for their clients, there's no mistaking the value of your home's placement on the MLS. On the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service, each realtor is given a maximum 6-photo layout per listing. I can tell you that on the 35 custom searches I have on my MLS account, nearly 25% of the listings come up with 3 or less pictures. Especially in the (buyer's) market we have now, pictures are very important! Surely there must be 6 things that can be pictured to show off the best points of the home. With many homes fitting the criteria of my clients, I have to pick the ones I think fit their needs the best. If the listings with pictures seem to fit their needs, I may not even consider showing them the ones without, until we've exhausted the list and haven't found the right home. You could be losing potential buyers simply because there weren't any/enough pictures to best advertise your home properly. There are many other forms of advertisement that realtors choose based on their success (newspaper, 800 numbers, websites, radio, etc.) and used in addition to the MLS listing, but the majority of homes sell due to their MLS listing.
  4. If the above items have already been addressed appropriately, perhaps it is the ease of showing. If you deny the use of a lockbox, some realtors may be driven away from showing your home. The lockbox allows realtors to use a digital key to access a house-key to your home in order to open and show your home to potential buyers at their convenience. This lockbox & the digital key used to access it both record the showing. The owner of the lockbox (the listing agent) is able to determine - via the internet - who has shown the home. The digital key owner (the buyer's agent) plugs his/her key into a source which uploads the showing information as well. If you are concerned about safety & strangers in your home, having a lockbox is the best choice. With the information recorded there is no risk of human error. If you choose not to have a lockbox on your home, the realtor MUST contact the listing agent (who may or may not be available) to request a showing. If he/she has a housekey, but is not available to show the home when requested, you've just lost another opportunity to sell your home. If you have not given a housekey to your realtor, and you must open the home for the visiting realtor in order for the showing to take place, but you are at the grocery store or running an errand, you may have just lost another opportunity to sell your home.

While any single item or combination thereof, can severely impact the number of showings your particular home is experiencing, you must be in contact with your realtor and share your concerns. In a buyer's market, you can't expect your home to sell to the first person who walks through the door. Buyers have the advantage... thus the term "Buyer's Market." They want to be sure that they are getting the best home for the best price in the best area. This can only be achieved by researching what's available. When determining which realtor will best market your home, ask questions to find out what will be done to promote the sale of your home. Don't be afraid to ask to see samples of listings (including pictures), flyers, etc. If you know what to expect, you won't be disappointed.

If you have not found a realtor you trust, I would encourage you to research the Butterworth Group realtors. Any one of us will strive to exceed your expectations! As a group, we are better able to serve our clients using our collective knowledge of the entire valley. You are sure to be satisfied with our service!

Flu Season Is Still Upon Us!

Here we are on February 14th, the season of romance, and many are still suffering from symptoms related to the flu! It seems that this flu season came in fairly quietly, but is refusing to make its exit in the same manner.

As a former teacher, I enjoy going back into the classroom from time to time to substitute. This week I have been flooded with calls due to teachers out with the flu, or having to stay home with their own children who have it. I was able to fit a day of substituting into my schedule this week, and out of the 30 children who are in that class, 6 were absent. Of course, children may have a lot of reasons other than the flu for missing class, however, this was a 1st grade class (generally they're still excited about school at that age) prior to the holiday (had it been afterwards, they may have been sick :( from all the candy).

My thoughts were confirmed when I received a call last night requesting to show one of my listings. My client who owns this home was sick with the flu! and I'm fairly sure it was contracted from exposure to a contagious student.

So, what can we do to minimize our exposure to the germs that might land us in bed for a few days with a fever, body-aches, and other issues that come with the flu? The Mayo Clinic has several tips for keeping yourself flu-free:

  1. Get the flu shot - if you missed getting it back in Oct./Nov., it is still possible to get one. Call your doctor, your insurance company, or the Maricopa County Health Department to find out where you might be able to go to receive one.
  2. WASH your hands - this seems like an easy thing to do - and it is - but most of us fail to realize how many germs our hands are exposed to during the course of a day. Door handles, cart handles, telephones, pens/pencils, chairs... we all handle these items without even considering where the hands have been that used these items prior to our own use. The polite cough used to be covered by a hand, but this spreads the germs to everyone and everything that person touches. If you feel a cough or sneeze coming on, rather than your hand, try coughing/sneezing into your shoulder. Use a sanitizing wipe to clean door handles and telephones receivers at home to help minimize the spread of germs.
  3. Eat right & Get good sleep! - Getting the right vitamins/nutrients from food helps our bodies maintain its health, and staying on a schedule that permits our bodies to get ample rest also helps our immune system remain intact. The amount of sleep is different per individual, however. Most adults can manage their health on 7-8 hours of sleep at night, but contrary to what teenagers think... Mayo reports that older children & teens need 9-10 hours of sleep at night.
  4. Regular exercise - Even though exercising won't fend off every infection, it can reduce the severity of the symptoms you do have and help you recover more quickly.
  5. Limit air travel - the inadvertent reduction in air-travel during the fall of 2001 (due to 9/11) showed a significant drop in reported flu cases. But, I would add that anytime you are in a confined space (elevator, classroom, board meeting, waiting room, restaurant, your own home, etc.) for any length of time you are being exposed to whatever germs have been breathed into the air or left on objects by hands, and are circulating waiting for another person to pick up. It has been said that the air in most homes is much more polluted than the air outside. Since we have been enjoying warmer temperatures lately, it might be a good idea to open up your windows (safety first) and let the fresh air in! If you can't do that, try running the fan on your central air unit without turning on the heat or air-conditioner.
  6. Avoid crowds - This is easier said than done, but you can be sensitive to those around you by staying away from others when you are under-the-weather. If you aren't able to remain secluded, remember the other tips... wash your hands, get plenty of sleep, get some fresh air & exercise, and eat the right foods.

I hope you have found these tips helpful/useful. If you are sick in bed right now, don't forget to wipe down your computer keyboard & mouse. I hope you feel better!

Click here to read the flu prevention tips from Mayo.

East-West Roadways for Surprise Area

I was really excited when I saw a headline to this effect on recently. Those of us living in Surprise all share the same few roads to commute into town. Our direct-route choices are limited to Bell Road on the north end, Grand Avenue (aka US 60) which links to the south as well as Olive Avenue & Northern Avenue also on the south. Many of us have even increased our daily mileage - in an effort to minimize our time/frustration with traffic - by taking advantage of the 303 to link with Happy Valley and then either heading north to Hwy 74 to intersect with I17 or heading south toward 83d Ave. & Union Hills to merge onto the 101. When I read about two new east-west roadways, I immediately began reading to find out where these desperately-needed roadways were going to lead.

My curiosity got the best of me even though I know any potential roadway between Bell & Olive has 2 obstacles to overcome: the New River wash and Sun City's circular neighborhood roads. As I began reading, I realized that these new roadways are expected to begin - roughly - at Grand Avenue and continue west to 299th Avenue in Buckeye. These roadways are expected to align with Patton Road & Jomax Road.

I was completely wrong about where these new roads would be located. These roads are being planned to relieve congestion of the future - a forecasted population explosion expected from the 5,500 acre project planned for the former Daimler Chrysler Proving Grounds. 2 builders paid $312 million for this parcel which officials report as one of the largest land deals in the history of Arizona. Once complete, this project provides for 30,000 homes, a mall, as well as other projects. If these new residents choose to head into town, their choices are limited to the roads we aleady have. None of our current roads will handle another 30,000 commuters.

I am glad that this study is being done and preparations are being made, but we need 303 widened and completed from I10 all the way to I17. Grand Avenue needs to be made into a freeway, and, we need another 4 to 6 lane roadway heading east from the 303 to 101 & I17.

The Maricopa Association of Governments is studying an additional north-south highway which will link I10 - at approximately 347th Avenue, west of the Sun Valley Parkway - with both US60 and eventually Highway 74 (aka Carefree Highway).

The goal of the study is to gain public input regarding roadway type, alignment, number of lanes & right-of-way requirements for the two roadways aligned with Patton & Jomax heading west from Grand Ave. If you are interested in attending this meeting and/or giving your input regarding these new roadways, the information is as follows: February 28th, 2007, 5-7pm, @ Nadaburg Elem. School - 21419 W Dove Valley Rd.

Read the article here.

Bell Mar Neighborhood Shopping Plaza

On Friday, The Peoria Republic reported the ground-breaking for another new shopping/entertainment/professional office-space development. Bell Mar Neighborhood Shopping Plaza will be located at the intersection of Bell Road & Avenue of the Arts which also serves as the Eastern main entrance to Surprise (the 5th fastest-growing city in the US) via Bell Road. This 72,000 sq, ft, mixed-use center is expected to bring a ritzier shopping experience to the city with boutiques such as a golf-pro shop & jewelry store, as well as a cafe' & bistro. Full-service restaurants such as a Houston's or PF Chang's are also slated for inclusion in this plaza. This shopping plaza should open in early 2008.

Click here to read the article