When Good Sprinklers Go Bad

broken sprinkler

broken sprinkler

broken sprinkler

Homeowners new the metro Phoenix area might not realize the importance of checking your sprinkler heads once in a while. They easily get clogged with dirt, debris, whatever and can result in this.

It’s an oddity of the Arizona lifestyle that your neighbors are often not people you talk to frequently. People come home, pull in the garage, shut the door and go inside. Life in metro Phoenix is largely lived in our backyards, not the fronts. Your neighbors may not even know this is happening at your place.

So once in a while on a weekend or whenever you have time, run the irrigation/sprinkler/bubbler system through a full cycle and see whether you’re giving your lawn a nice misting or a flood.

$8,000 Tax Credit for Buying $10,000 Home?

Question: Could a qualified person get a $8,000 tax credit to buy a $10,000 house?

Answer: In short, no. You can’t get $8,000 for buying a $10,000 house. Why?

There’s no minimum purchase, but the tax credit is written as “10% of the purchase price, up to $8,000″. Thus, if you spent $10,000 on a home, you’d get 10% of that price - or $1,000 - as a tax credit.

One other important point: there’s no such thing as a $10,000 home in metro Phoenix that one would actually want to live in. If it’s priced at $10,000 it’s either uninhabitable or located in an area where even the criminals are afraid to walk the streets at night. Phoenix is no different from any other big city in the US: the really cheap real estate is really cheap for a reason.

See this post for an example of a Phoenix-area house listed for sale at $12,500 — http://thephoenixagents.com/the-highs-and-the-lows-3/


This was originally a comment I wrote in reply to a reader who emailed me about our post explaining one aspect of the $8,000 federal tax credit for new home buyers.

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Paint Your Pool Electric Blue

Doesn’t this pool look a little TOO blue to you?

Paint your Pool Electric Blue

I just recently found out there’s such a thing as blue paint for plaster pools. It turns the pool into a shockingly bright baby blue.

In defense of this pool owner, I don’t know for a fact they painted it. It just caught my eye in the MLS because it's the same shade of shocking blue Chris and I have seen lately in a few fix and flips in the under $150,000 price point.

Honestly, we walked around and around said pools, puzzling over why they were so blue. We figured it was one more thing to verify during the Due Diligence Period, until one of us found used paint cans stacked in the backyard. Sure enough, they were labeled for use on pools and had dried paint drips in the same shocking blue hue running down the sides of the cans.

Blue pool paint. Who’d a thunk it?

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Moving Stills 81 – Hayden Ferry Lakeside

Moving Stills 81 - Hayden Ferry Lakeside

A modern-industrial looking complex located across the street from Sun Devil Stadium and on the shores of Tempe Town Lake. What do they always say? – Location Location Location!

You can read the rules for a Moving Stills post and learn how the series came to be by reading my initial post in the series - Moving Stills 1.

Your blown away by the Tempe transformation over the last decade Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

New Distressed Listings by Month – November, 2009

I’m a little later than usual with last month’s numbers.  I wish I had some big news where I could say the numbers were worth the wait, but I can’t.  It looks like we’re simply treading water.  (What’s even worse is we’ve been beaten down so badly be the news of the last couple years that I’m almost ready to call it good news when things aren’t getting worse.. Yikes!)

I added a 3-month rolling average to this month’s chart (red line), thinking it might help make trend-spotting a little easier.

(click to embiggen.)

Distressed Listings

Note:  I’m pulling all new distressed listings from the MLS, regardless of their current status (active, sold, etc.) I’m looking at Single Family Detached homes in Maricopa County, with some sort of bank involvement - Short Sales, Pre Foreclosures, Auctions, and Lender-Owned properties.  Numbers are believed to be accurate but not guaranteed.

Your trying hard to be patient Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

The Highs and The Lows #3

Wherein I periodically post 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 (AZ Regional Multiple Listing Service)

  • located in the general metro Phoenix region (Wickenburg, Florence, Coolidge, etc are excluded but Surprise, Buckeye, Queen Creek, etc are included)

$12,500 – The Value’s in the Land

12,500 REO Dec 10 2009

Once again, a crispy fried special for the guy or gal itching to prove their handyman skills. Seems there’s a lot of those lately. Hmmmm. Former owner rage?

From the MLS description:

Property has been damaged by fire and is sold AS IS. Seller will not make any repairs. PLEASE DO NOT ENTER THE PROPERTY DUE TO SAFETY ISSUES.

The poor house might be hexed. It’s been foreclosed on 3 times since 1992. First, HUD took it back in 1992 and sold it in 1993. A mere two years later it was foreclosed on again, and resold to a new owner. That owner was foreclosed on this past summer and the bank relisted it as a foreclosure/REO property for sale for $31,000 in September. The fire must have happened sometime in September or October, after which the price was dropped to the current $12,500.

$6,500,000 – View in Exclusive Silverleaf Community

6,900,00 REO Dec 10 2009

13,700 square feet of Italianate luxury. Marble, travertine, barrel vaulted ceilings, etc., ad naseum. Wretched excess at it’s finest. Consumerist Keeping Up with the Joneses to the max.

The land (2.48 acres) was purchased in 2004 for just over a million dollars. The owner tried to sell it as “land + house plans” from December 2006 through May 2007 for $2,600,000. Sometime between May 2007 and May 2009 somebody built the existing home and tried to sell it for $8,900,000.

Mind you, they tried to sell it with no interior photos other than this

6,500,000 REO Dec 10 2009 Seriously? You want me to shell out nearly $9 million dollars and you’re going to show me only this?

The seller finally dropped their price to $6,950,000 before the bank repossessed it in October 2009.  I bet you could get the house from the bank for about $5.5M. ‘Course, it probably needs about a million bucks in finishing and furnishing. Feeling flush? Call me!

View previous Highs and Lows posts

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Of Malls and Cramdowns, A (sort-of) Op-Ed

This is from Rob Chrisman’s daily mortgage-related email which I subscribe to…

According to the Wall Street Journal [General Growth Properties, which owns 200 malls nationwide] filed a [Chapter 11] plan in bankruptcy court [recently] to restructure $9.7 billion in mortgage loans… “The pact allows mortgage holders to report the loans as performing on their books at the end of the year rather than distressed at a time when delinquency rates on commercial mortgages are rising.” Wouldn’t it be nice if residential mortgage servicers could do the same?

You have to pay to access the online WSJ article, so see the Boston Globe online:

General Growth Properties’ lenders have agreed to modify loan terms

The mortgage lenders took cramdowns: with the stroke of a bankruptcy judge’s pen, GGP now owes less than $9.7 billion in mortgages on their malls, because those buildings are no longer worth $9.7B.

Cramdowns are allowed in commercial mortgages, and from what I hear they’re also OK for second and vacation homes and for boats and RVs.

This is going to be a political statement and we shy away from them purposely here at The Phoenix Agents, but I still don’t understand why a homeowner’s primary residence is the only big-ticket mortgage that can’t be crammed down.

You know, I take it back. Actually I do understand why: homeowners are not sending high-paid, pro-cramdown lobbyists to Washington to counter the high-paid anti-cramdown lobbyists sent there by the banks.

Floor Tile. Do It Yourself?

Well… maybe…


Ok, you’re convincing me. Looks good so far. What else ya got?


Alright. So far, so good. Looks like a pretty successful Do It Yourself project. Those Home Depot classes must be really great.




Seriously? Lemme look closer at that one…

CIMG1215 detail

Ow! Where’s my eye bleach??


The Moral of the Story – Yeah, so if you’ve never laid floor tile, maybe that shouldn’t be your first attempt at Do It Yourself. Sometimes experts are worth their fees.

Maybe you should try painting instead.

Personality goes a long way

A conversation between Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega, from the movie Pulp Fiction:

Jules: Pigs are filthy animals.  I don’t eat filthy animals.

Vincent: Yeah, but bacon tastes good.  Pork chops taste good.

Jules:  Hey, sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I’d never know ‘cause I wouldn’t eat the filthy mother-fu**ers.  Pigs sleep and root in sh**.  That’s a filthy animal.  I ain’t eating nothin that ain’t got sense enough to disregard his own feces.

Vincent:  How ‘bout a dog?  Dog eats his own feces.

Jules: I don’t eat dog either.

Vincent:  Yeah, but do you consider a dog to be a filthy animal?

Jules: I wouldn’t go so far as to call a dog filthy, but they definitely dirty.  But, dog’s got personality; personality goes a long way.

Vincent:  Ah, so by that rationale, if a pig had a better personality, he would cease to be a filthy animal.  Is that true?

Jules:  Well, we’d have to be talking one charming mother fu**ing pig.  I mean he’d have to be ten times more charmin’ than that Arnold on Green Acres, you know what I’m sayin’?

We had a neighborhood-wide garage sale last month, where the HOA provided advertising and signage.  We participated, and had a garage-full of stuff to sell.  One of the things I had set out for sale was a computer monitor.  I had it tagged at $40, and was expecting to sell it for $30.

Personality Minus.  The very first guy to stop by our house was a jerk (or at the very least, not friendly).  He showed up an hour before the sale started; I had just started setting things up & was pulling tables out of the garage.  This guy didn’t say much of a hello, and proceeded to wander through my garage while I was setting up.  He picked through our stuff (even the stuff I wasn’t selling) with an attitude and body language that said he was slumming and didn’t like other people’s junk.  He made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

Eventually he offered me $20 for the monitor. I declined, thinking to myself that I wouldn’t sell it to him for $40!  He then offered $25, and then $30, telling me I had to be willing to negotiate or I wouldn’t sell anything today.  I said flatly, “The sale hasn’t even started yet.  If you want it for $40 you can have it.”  He huffed at me and walked away.

Personality Plus.  A couple hours later a woman asked about the same monitor.  She had been in our driveway for 20 minutes already, chatting us up about the sale, the neighborhood, the weather, the holidays.  She was genuinely friendly, and we enjoyed her company.  Finally she got to the monitor, and asked if I would take $25 for it.  My response - “you can have it for $20.”

Personality counts when negotiating your home, too.  That buyer or seller you’re negotiating with is a person, and people pay attention to how they’re treated.

Another example?  I wrote A Tale of Two Buyers almost 3 years ago.  The story holds true today.

Your was always the “but he’s got a great personality” guy Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

FHA and Fix 'n Flip Do Not Mix

This is a phrase you're seeing a lot lately in the MLS listings on entry-level housing in metro Phoenix:

This is a property acquired at trustee sale in the past 30 days and will not qualify for FHA due to the cure period requirements. Will qualify for VA or conventional.

Well, actually what you typically see is something a lot more cryptic, like "This is an acquired property" which kills me because, well... aren't they all? Digressions aside...

These homes are called Fix and Flips.* And my point is that the fact they are Fix and Flips usually goes in the private, Realtors-only Remarks data field. Consumers can't see that data field. And many buyers need to know, because FHA mortgage rules do not allow buyers to purchase homes that the seller has not owned for at least 90 days.

If you're using an FHA mortgage, there's no point looking at a house the owner just bought 25 days ago, because he can't sell it to you. By the time he can sell it to you, it will likely be gone, sold to someone else.

As a buyer, how do you know if you're looking at a fix and flip? Usually you can't tell.**

The Internet is chock-full of information but you still need a professional to help filter the good from the useless. Contact a Realtor, begin creating a relationship now, so that when you're ready to actually buy you've got someone you know and trust who's already on board with your purchase plans.

*Sadly, what I often end up calling these homes is "an essentially crappy house with a thick coat of fresh paint and some new light fixtures."

**The tax records are publicly available and sometimes a good clue to how long the seller has owned the home. But the tax records are anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months behind the pace of home sales.

Thanksgiving Help

Butterball Turkey-Talk Line: 800-288-8372

A team of home economists is there to answer bird -related questions from November 3 to December 25. Or text the word "Turkey" to 36888 to receive weekly tips and thawing reminders.

The Crisco Pie Hotline: 877-367-7438

Get advice from two National Pie Championship winners, among other pie pros through December.

The Official Black Friday Site: The official page for ads, coupons, and all things Black Friday.

PS – need a holiday chuckle? If you’ve never seen this clip of the TV show The West Wing with President Bartlett calling the Butterball Turkey Talk Line, you’re missing out. Really funny. In a dry way.

Beige Paint Sells Houses

I’ve written before about “real estate beige”, and Chris Butterworth has written about getting a crisp, clean line between two colors of paint.

This is a textbook example of real estate beige.

Real estate beige, textbook example

This is exactly the tonal difference you’re aiming for when repainting beige to sell your home. And believe me, nothing impresses buyers more than a neat coat of beige paint on the walls and crisp, shiny white trim. Don’t believe me? BigMedia printed the evidence of this recently…

HomeGain Top 10 Home Improvements and ROI

(click chart to embiggen; click browser's Back to return)

Painting the interior returns 250% on your investment. Holy Off-White Latex Liquid, Batman!

It’s the same reason car dealers detail every car they sell. We’re all suckers for clean & neat. Sellers, take note. Grab your paint brushes and bring home the bacon.

Realtors Make a Ton of Money!

Yeah, not really. Or at least not usually. And the potential for making a bundle is accompanied by the risk of making zippo.

I've written before about the public's misconception that all Realtors make a ton of money for very little work. Our broker Jay Thompson, the Phoenix Real Estate Guy, wrote about Realtor income earlier this week.

I recently received an email about this topic and thought it would be interesting reading.

I am about to work for a Realtor, who states he deals with short sales on a regular basis. I'm supposed to call and pitch the homeowners and explain everything and set up a meeting with them and the Realtor.

I'm receiving no salary, just $50.00 per sale. I feel like I'll be doing all the leg work and he's making all the money. Roughly how much money does a Realtor make on short sales? 3-5%? So if he sells a $200,000 property he makes $10,000; is this correct? And I make $50.00. Please let me know, thanks.

Here's my reply...

A lot of salespeople who do cold calling use appointment setters. To get one home sold, the Realtor might need to make 100 or more cold calls.

Now, this is only my opinion ...   but this job seems to be about making appointments. Maybe the pay should be based on how many appointments you make? Because whether the house sells is completely out of your control. On the other hand, jobs are thin on the ground these days so maybe beggars shouldn't be choosers?

As for doing all the legwork, read a couple of our posts about short sales and you'll see that meeting with the homeowner is merely the tip of the iceberg.

On the other, other hand, it sounds like you might be thinking that becoming a Realtor is a better gig? Maybe...

Sellers and Realtors negotiate commissions; there's no set number. Ten thousand on a $200,000 sale is 5%. Not unusual in metro Phoenix. But the seller's Realtor splits it with the buyer's Realtor and then with his/her broker (i.e. boss). Be aware that in short sales the seller's bank often forces a reduction in the commission.

Also, experts say that nationally 95% to 97% of homes listed as short sales don't actually sell.

Don't forget the fees to become & stay a Realtor. I recall writing a check for about $1500 when I signed up at my first brokerage. I routinely write off about $20,000 to $30,000 in business expenses every year. I don't even fudge on my taxes which means I actually spend that much.

The public's perception that Realtors make "a lot of money for very little work" couldn't be further from the truth. My partner Chris has a lot of thoughts on this point as well, which basically boil down to: if a salesperson is lucky enough to make a lot of money, it's because he was willing to walk away from vacation days, sick days and 401k's and risk making nothing for months on end.

I don't mean to be a downer, but if you're thinking about taking a leap into real estate you should know what you'll land in. Whatever you end up doing, I wish you the best of luck!

Moving Stills 79 – Peoria Sunrise Mountain Library

Peoria Sunrise Mountain Library

The Sunrise Mountain branch of the Peoria Public Library, located on Lake Pleasant Parkway and 97th Ave in Peoria.

You can read the rules for a Moving Stills post and learn how the series came to be by reading my initial post in the series - Moving Stills 1.

Your loves the library (and its fast internet connection!) Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

Special Needs?

Sometimes as a buyer it’s really crucial to tell your Realtor about your special housing needs. Here are my 2 favorite examples of former buyer clients with whom I’ve worked, and their special needs:

  • buyers who were hyooge scuba divers and HAD to have a separate bedroom with a walk-in closet for their gear that couldn't withstand the heat of a garage in Phoenix, in the summertime

  • buyer who HAD to have a sink in the laundry room of specific dimensions for the family dog's private bath area

  • or my own special need – I must have a walk-in, standup shower stall in at least one bathroom because my cats’ litter boxes go in there (belieeeeeve me, you do not want unhappy cats who have to pee)

Disgruntled Employee of the Month (photo credit, I Can Has Cheezburger.com, date unknown)

If you’re home shopping now, you should stop for a minute to think about those special needs you might have. They’re yours, and so you probably don’t think they’re ‘special’.  If it’s something you have to briefly explain to visitors to your home, you should give your Realtor a head’s up. She’ll thank you for it, and your home shopping will go quicker and easier.

ThePhoenixAgents.com gets a facelift!

Our first post was 3 years ago this month, and we’ve noticed the inevitable sagging here and there as we've aged.

If you read our blog in your internet browser, you’ve probably watched the changes over the last week or so – columns moving around, new information being added (and then removed, and then added again!)

If you read our blog in a feedreader, would you mind doing us the favor of clicking through to see it in person?  We’d love to hear your feedback, especially regarding anything that isn’t working right.

Simple.  Easy.  Intuitive.  (at least that’s what we were going for.)

We took an informal survey amongst ourselves and a few close friends, asking “What do you notice when you open our blog?”  The results were not pretty – top 3 answers were:

1. It looks like the internet threw-up on your sidebar!

2. It’s too confusing.  I usually get overwhelmed and close my browser right away.

3. You have a blog?

We tried to make more information available to you in an easier-to-digest format.  How’d we do?

ps – Part II of this re-design will be the announcement of our new Market Opinion service (The Phoenix Agents’ Viewpoint) – live as of today for current subscribers and open to new subscribers later this week!  Stay tuned…

Your hopes his programmer’s headache will go away one day Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

Home Buyer Tax Credit Law Passed

President Obama signed the Home Buyer tax credit legislation, per the reporting of the United Press International. It's called the Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009. The San Francisco Chronicle has an excellent bullet-point breakdown of the fine print of the new law. This is a partial summary...

  • Up to $,8000 federal tax credit available to home buyers who haven't owned in the past 3 years

  • Up to $6,500 federal tax credit available to to people who currently own a home which they've lived in for 5 of the past 8 years, and who purchase a new one to live in

  • As far as applying for the credit, I'm pretty sure it'll just be a line item on your typical federal tax return when you file in April 2010 for tax year 2009

The wonderings:

  • I wonder if the $6,500 was a nod to the homeowners who keep shouting "I was responsible, I put 20% down, I didn't spend all my home equity frivolous things, I paid my mortgage on time.... I did the right thing and where's my bailout?!?!?" (actually this is courtesy of partner Chris Butterworth)

  • I wonder how much impact the new $6,500 credit will have on the 'move up market' of folks who sell their starter home and move up to the newer, bigger, nicer house in the suburbs (so to speak)

  • I wonder if 'home owner' equals someone who owns and lives in their home as of the date the bill became law (i.e. November 6) or as of December 31, 2009?