Category Archives: Blog

Are Scottsdale Home Values Connected to Starbucks? Really?

3-18-starbucksStarbucks will boost your home’s value?

This was the “hot home-buying tip” splashed all over the airwaves at the end of last month—one that Scottsdale real estate watchers probably assumed had to be one of those weird, crazy coincidence feature stories that crop up from time to time. It was a little surprising that Zillow, the big national real estate firm, was said to be the source. It was all over the TV and radio newscasts, usually providing the cutesy end-of-broadcast segment. It hit dozens of news blogs, led by headlines like “Starbucks will boost your home’s value” (Fortune) and “Starbucks increases neighborhood, home values” (cnbc.com).

Yeah. Sure thing—just like the one about a rock on Mars that looks just like a monkey. Here in Scottsdale, we’ve seen Internet stories like this come and go before…

But then, after delving into the actual source, it turns out that this tall tale actually does have an unchallengeable basis in fact. Zillow research shows that in the 17 years leading up to 2015, homes within a quarter mile of a Starbucks location grew in value by 96%. That’s more than 30% greater than the average increase! It was enough to puzzle even the most skeptical Scottsdale homeowner.

But there is a logical reason that explains it—one that’s a little different from what the headlines might lead us to believe. It’s one that won’t make some fast food execs very happy…

First of all, Zillow did come up with the research. Why is not exactly clear (other than to grab a bunch of headlines), but their blogger Melissa Allison is the author of the ‘hot home-buying tip:’

“Buying near a Starbucks has benefits beyond easy access to your double-tall, non-fat, bone-dry cappuccino,” she wrote, followed by the head-scratching statistics. She also clarified that the effect was not common to all coffee vending shops. Homes near Dunkin’ Donuts locations appreciated only 80% during the same period. And there was a U.S. map pointing out the cities with the most pronounced ‘Starbucks effect’ (Boston and Philadelphia).

Here in town, though, regardless of how relevant it is (or isn’t) to Scottsdale home values, it was definitely one statistic worth investigating further. You just had to—in case there really was some obscure nugget of home value wisdom to be had. In fact, after reading through a half dozen commentaries, there does seem to be at least one logical explanation, and with it, as Ms. Allison promised, a home value tip:

a) The real estate executives at Starbucks are very good at picking their locations. They find areas where home values are going to rise a lot faster than elsewhere.
b) The real estate executives at Dunkin’ Donuts—not so much.
c) Don’t take headlines literally. “Markets Where Starbucks Boosts Home Values the Most” is very misleading. Where an area as a whole is hot, home values rise. Starbucks is just good at slipstreaming behind them.

Scottsdale home values rise when their owners improve the property, or when the neighborhood grows in popularity, or when the trend has all Scottsdale home values on the rise. The best ‘hot home-buying tip’ to come out of this?

Don’t start looking for a Starbucks sign; just give me a call!

Phoenix Real Estate and the Many “Months” of March

3-18-marchThis March has been such a busy one on the Phoenix real estate calendar that I thought it would be a good idea to double-check everything just to be certain I wasn’t overlooking any important happenings.

It wasn’t just that the first day of spring on the 20th is the traditional start of what’s regularly the busiest time of year for Phoenix real estate activity. This is a reliable phenomenon, further reinforced by the 61 million results you get when you Google “Spring Real Estate Selling Season.” To be accurate, the National Association of Realtors® fudges a little by calling spring and summer the hottest seasons for real estate activity—but it turns out they are pointing to the fact that many sales initiated in spring close during the summer (which is when people prefer to move).

March also has a red-letter day on the 23rd, which is when Freddie Mac, the mortgage reinsurer, is set to kick off their ‘Home Possible’ program. It’s a lowering of their down payment requirements, so mortgage lenders will have more leeway with borrowers. That should provide a further boost for Phoenix real estate activity, which has been laboring for years under tough lending requirements that discouraged some otherwise well-qualified home buyers.

Then there is March Madness, in which basketball plays havoc with more than just television schedules. You could say that it plays hob with appointment times for many Phoenix home showings, since the last five minutes of most of the games take at least half an hour.

Just in case the calendar has even more events that might affect Phoenix real estate, we thought we’d better check to be certain we haven’t overlooked any upcoming happenings.

We found out we can relax.

True, this March is Optimism Month, which is certainly thematically in tune with the positive spring real estate outlook (speaking of ‘in tune,’ March is also Music in Our Schools Month and Play the Recorder Month).

It’s International Ideas Month, which, for anyone who’s been following the headlines, is certainly arriving in the nick of time. For those who are, internationally speaking, prone to sticking to their old ideas, March is also International Listening Awareness Month. It’s Mirth Month as well as Humorists are Artists Month. It’s also Noodle Month (does this have a connection with Mirth Month?), Peanut Month, and National Nutrition Month.

In addition to minding nutrition, this is a month for safety: it’s National Collision Awareness Month, as well as National Cheerleading Safety Month. It turns out, there are another couple of dozen other Months that are taking place right now, but most have little to do with buying and selling homes.

What seems better connected to Phoenix real estate is the fact that this is also Umbrella Month, although it’s too early to know the precipitation total for the whole month. It hasn’t prevented many showings or open houses, for sure.

In any case, if you are thinking of taking advantage of the Spring Selling Season, it’s also a terrific month to give me a call!

Relocating from Scottsdale is at Hand, Identifying the ‘Where’

3-11-relocationOnce you’re mentally prepared for the relocating experience (to self: “it’s definitely the right move”), where is the first order of business. Perhaps you’ve outgrown your Scottsdale home anyway—the family simply needs more space. Perhaps relocating is necessary for work reasons; or now that the kids have moved out, you’re ready to downsize. No matter what the reason for relocating from Scottsdale, thoroughly evaluating the possible destination communities before deciding to buy couldn’t be more important.

While your real estate agent can be an invaluable resource in guiding you to the right home within your target area, the original question—designating the search perimeter—is pretty much in your wheelhouse. If you are not already committed to an area because friends or family make it an easy decision, one way to think about narrowing your choices is to recognize and prioritize the elements most important in your day to day living:

If you have kids, the quality of the school districts will play a major role in relocating. The web offers a number of rating and comparison sites (to find them, just search for ‘school district ratings’). How you winnow the field will be different depending on the age of your children and your own priorities. Once you’ve narrowed the field, you can get an inside look at where your kids might be studying if you include tours of potential schools in your house hunting forays. See if you can seek out parents of current students to get their take on the school’s performance: it’s the bottom line.

It may not be a major concern in all neighborhoods here in Scottsdale, but remember that safety is paramount—so you want to choose a community that is comfortable for you. Again, the web makes this research much easier than in years past. Many police department websites include crime maps where you can find both nonviolent and violent crime statistics organized by zip code. Before relocating—in fact, even before you begin your property search—make sure the target areas are safe!

You might not be a resident of the new community just yet, but you can act like one during your research phase. Hang out at a local park; take a stroll through the neighborhood. Have a family dinner at a nice restaurant, and breakfast at the local diner (be sure to pick up any flyers that are laid out on the counter). Look for community events, like fairs or festivals. These simple experiences will give you a sense of the community—one that should make your move less intimidating. Just a little time spent in the neighborhood can help you decide whether the area feels right to you.

Population densities and traffic profiles can differ widely from what you are used to here in Scottsdale. Some are pedestrian-friendly, others in a nearly permanent state of gridlock. Picture your daily commute, whether you’re heading to work, taking the kids to school, or both. How close are grocery stores, restaurants, and retailers? Are doctors’ offices, salons, and other services handy—or a painful 25 minutes away? Looking beyond the house and at the community as a whole can make relocating the success you hope it will be.

If you have to leave Scottsdale, the most fundamental stress-reducer is the one that comes first: the expert handling of the sale of your Scottsdale home. Do give me a call: after all, that’s where I come in!

Selling Your Phoenix House Means Raising its Emotional IQ

3-11-emotionaliqWhen it comes to selling your Phoenix house, the first attributes that will bring in prospective buyers will be found in your listing description: size, location, and all the details that either match prospects’ wish lists (or don’t). Price is in there, too. Next comes curb appeal, which can turn on or turn off prospective buyers. Although it is often the second “at bat” you get when you are selling your Phoenix house, it’s not usually decisive. The third attribute can be just that—a bunch of factors that can hook your ultimate buyers.

Call it your home’s “emotional IQ.” Everything else is important, but emotion plays a powerful role in selling your Phoenix house. That’s because home is, well, home—where people hang their hats, raise their kids, and spend their precious downtime. When potential buyers come to your house, they may think they are checking out four walls and a roof, but they are much more likely to be seeking a place that tugs at their emotions.

All very well and good, but how do you up your home’s emotional IQ (and snag the sale in the process)? Look objectively at your home, then think about the emotional plays that will get them where it count—through their senses. Give your home a quick sensory scan, looking for things that cue all five:

Sight.

Is your home clean? Is it decorated and staged (but not so much that potential buyers can’t imagine themselves in it)? Make sure your home is as spotless as possible, and warm but not personal. When room entrances are arranged to feel open, they look welcoming: a strong way to please the eye.

Sound.

Does your home sound like a home? There’s nothing less emotionally pleasing than doing a walkthrough of a perfectly empty shell of a house. Attractive floor coverings (rugs and throws) can eliminate the unbroken echo of footsteps—and make your home feel more inviting; less clinical. And don’t forget a drop or two of 3-in-1 oil or WD40 for squeaking doors!

Smell.

The nose is a powerful emotive factor. Aromas can evoke nostalgia, bringing on the feeling of well-being that comes with familiarity—but it can also sound alarm bells. Make sure the air doesn’t carry strong chemical or perfume smells. Better to throw a few cookies into the oven before walkthroughs arrive. It makes it easy for potential buyers to imagine themselves living, working, eating, and enjoying time in your home.

Touch.

Look for surfaces potential buyers may touch, and make them clean and inviting. Importantly, door latches and light switches should feel sound and serviceable.

Taste.

No—nobody can really taste a home, but selling your house may come down to leaving your personal taste at the door. It’s risky to forget to focus on the most tasteful place of all—the kitchen. The old real estate agent trope that gorgeous kitchens sell houses is more true than not, so if yours is hopeless, you may judicious to spend your upgrade dollars in a modern, open kitchen space.

How does your home’s emotional IQ add up? If you’re lacking in just one area, congratulations. You know what to fix, and a few subtle tweaks will help a lot. If you’re lacking in many areas, give me a call! I may be able to recommend some quick fixes, or point to a home staging professional. Don’t forget: Whether buying or selling your house, things can get emotional. Take a deep breath, remember the real purpose of a home, and be ready to move!

Advances in Senior Housing Meet Demographic Shift

3-11-seniorlivingAs the demand for age-restricted senior housing continues to grow nationwide, it’s certain to influence more than just the new home builders whose bread and butter depends on paying attention to such trends. It’s also likely to influence the character of neighborhoods as a whole, Scottsdale’s included.

The numbers tell a story that’s been written about for years. As Scottsdale’s baby boom generation joins their cohort’s arrival into retirement age over the coming decades, they will become part of the wealthiest generation of senior home buyers in history. Senior housing developers are very well aware of that fact, but its full impact has only really begun to be felt recently. One evidence: the National Association of Homebuilders reports that starts of age-restricted homes nearly doubled between 2012 and 2013.

Part of the reason may be cultural—but it’s also possible that improvements in health and longevity could be involved. Today’s older generation views senior housing through a different lens than did their forebears, which means that new senior housing communities are taking on a look that’s considerably different from retirement neighborhoods of the past. There are multiple influences that are shaping the new senior housing mold. Among them—

  • Many senior citizens continue to hold jobs. Earlier forecasts of dire results from predicted shortfalls in retirement savings don’t seem to be working out that way, since a great number of seniors are showing marked determination to put off full retirement indefinitely—regardless of financial need. Delaware’s Benchmark Builders reports that more than half of the residents in their age-restricted communities still work at least part-time, a trend being echoed throughout the nation. Developers are moving senior housing out of the Sun Belt and closer to urban areas to facilitate easy commuting (some are even incorporating office facilities as part of resident amenities!).
  • A number of housing projects are being designed to provide a patchwork of age-specific sections. While grandparents may enjoy living on a street or block devoted to neighbors in their age bracket, in the best of all worlds, they also would choose to be close to children and grandchildren. Some new housing developments are setting aside sections for young families close to senior housing blocks.
  • Options for active older home buyers are crucial. In 1960, activity choices in many retirement communities began and ended with shuffleboard. Increasingly, senior housing projects are aimed at buyers who have no intention of pursuing a sedentary lifestyle. They look for active environments, with walking trails and easy access to amenities beyond the community. Indoor walking tracks, lap pools, hiking and biking trails and exercise equipment are becoming must-have features.

Today’s typical senior as part of a financially powerful demographic, is changing the look of retirement neighborhoods. But independent thinking has long been a notable characteristic of the boomer generation—so it also follows that not every Scottsdale senior will make that lifestyle choice.

Senior or not, I’m always standing by to further your next residential move!

St Patrick’s Day: Perfect Day for Selling a Phoenix Home?

3-11-stpatsMany people don’t fully understand why it is that St. Patrick’s is the perfect day for selling a Phoenix home, or for buying one. But if ever there were a right time to explain it, this is it. There is one drawback to any such explanation, though: namely, that it makes so little sense.

That does not seem to make much difference to a lot of real estate industry marketing supply companies. I can bear witness to that fact, in the form of the postcards and various art pieces that are pitched to Realtors en masse ahead of every St. Pat’s. As you might guess, they are green (usually very green), and almost without exception bear some rendition of a four leaf clover. Also rainbows, pots of gold, wee leprechauns wearing green top hats with buckles on them, and sometimes horseshoes (to indicate the Luck O’ the Irish, of course).

What could this have to do with selling a Phoenix home, or buying one? That’s very hard to pin down. There is the simple good will postcard, that says, “Happy St. Patrick’s Day” with no further connection. That’s a nice thought, certainly, and not risky. Who wouldn’t want to have a happy St. Patrick’s Day? There is one with a good-looking home at the end of a rainbow, with a wee little leprechaun holding a “Welcome Home!” sign—certainly a strong connection between selling a Phoenix home and the celebration.

One of the best ones is the poster that features two shades of green, a cartoon three-leaf clover (mistake there, if you ask me) upon which is printed in Celtic-looking letters, “You don’t need to have the ‘Luck of the Irish’ to sell your home.” You have to like that one, because it doesn’t discriminate against people who aren’t Irish (the closer you get to St. Patrick’s Day, the more you run the risk of seeming to snub the non-Irish among us).

There is one postcard with a lady bug crawling over clover leaves emblazoned with a sentimental poem, but the emotionality of the poetry is tempered by the heading, “For all Your Real Estate needs just give me a call!” Balance is important on St. Patrick’s Day…but it’s not clear that the card with the green beer mugs got that message (which is “Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Remember, parade watching is like real estate. Location, location, location.”).

One that also tips the scales in the direction of crass commercialism is the picture of the big pot o’ gold brimming with gold coins. It says, “It takes more than Luck to sell your home.” I’m not sure what the St. Pat’s message is for that one—that selling your Phoenix home requires you to go out, find a leprechaun or rainbow, and wangle a pot o’ gold? It’s simply not the case.

If you ask me, an experienced Realtor with a great marketing plan and a reasonable price will do the trick better than pots o’ gold or four-leaf clovers. Still, that can’t keep me from wishing you a terrific St. Patrick’s Day, as too!

Buying a House in Phoenix May Require a Momentum Shift

3-4-buyahouseIt can feel a little like a trip to the shore in springtime, before the summer sun has warmed the water. The water might be okay—but it also might be bone-chilling! Most Phoenix residents will choose caution, and stick their toe in, first…

Deciding whether to buy a house when you have been renting for a while means taking a much more significant plunge. And there’s no way to test the waters, either: you’re either going to buy a Phoenix house or, you aren’t. It’s in or out. And it’s also a deeply personal decision.

Momentum can be a deciding factor. Many people defer buying a home because it comprises such a major change. Especially if they are satisfied with their current rental—and even more if buying a house would make them homeowners for the first time —it would seem to require a major event to get them motivated.

There actually has been something like a major event, but it’s a slow-moving one that doesn’t rate banner headlines in the newspapers. It’s not an earthquake, or fire, or outbreak of war or pestilence. It’s simply a finding by the Federal Reserve. They published it in their triennial Survey of Consumer Finances. It states:

“In the past 15 years, the net worth of the typical homeowner has ranged between 31 and 46 times that of the net worth of the typical renter.”

It’s a simple fact that homeowner equity is a substantial component of homeowner wealth. And you can’t build equity without…well, buying a house!

Many thoughtful would-be Phoenix homeowners have hesitated during the last few years as the logical result of the tumble of residential real estate. If you didn’t have to sell your home, that part of the financial turmoil may have caused scare headlines, but was an otherwise abstract event. But if you had to move and sell, it could have been painfully real (unless you immediately bought another house at an equally depressed price level).

The real estate recovery that is still under way is a less jarring, slow-moving event—much less of a headline-maker. But the financial reality the Fed points to is surprisingly relevant. It was conducted in 2013, after the housing industry meltdown. Homeowner wealth registered a full 36 times the net worth of renters. Evidently, the financial wisdom of buying a house seems to remain a constant, no matter what!

Buying a house in Phoenix is a traditional way of building a solid financial picture, but it’s also a source of pride and family cohesiveness. If you have been thinking about wading into homeownership this spring, I hope you won’t hesitate to give me a call. I have all the information you’ll need to decide if the water feels fine to you!

Foreign Property Offers can Attract Scottsdale Investors

3-4-foreignIn today’s globalized economy, purchasing a foreign property has become an option for Scottsdale buyers who in earlier times would never have even considered it. As an investment, a vacation or retirement property, or as an accommodation for children studying abroad, there are many reasons why you might decide to look into purchasing a property outside of the Scottsdale market. Here are some general tips for how to go about making a real estate purchase overseas:

1. Research the Foreign Market

Research the local real estate market carefully. Its cycles and trends are likely to be markedly different from ours here in Scottsdale. Don’t assume that because real estate prices are on the rise here, the same is true in any given foreign market. You should also step back to make a realistic appraisal of the overall stability of the country’s economy—it will affect your investment.

2. Check the Laws Regarding Foreign Ownership

Many countries place ownership restrictions on foreigners. It’s a favorite ploy of fraudsters to “sell” foreign property in markets were non-citizens are not legally allowed to own…and it’s only one good reason why you will be wise to—

3. Retain an Independent Local Lawyer

You will want to consult a lawyer when purchasing any foreign property. That lawyer should be representing you and you alone. Make sure you can communicate clearly and easily with your lawyer, and that your queries are answered in a timely manner. If you find yourself having major difficulty in selecting the lawyer, that may indicate more serious issues to come.

4. Visit the Property

You or a trusted representative should visit the property before buying. This may sound like a no-brainer, but persuasive pitches and affordable prices can be powerful inducements. Photos, videos, and other marketing materials are designed to present the property (or even a nearby property!) in the best possible light. At a minimum, have a friend or family member look over and photograph the actual site. You need to be firm in your insistence that the property lives up to your expectations.

5. Plan for Changes in the Exchange Rate

Unless you are purchasing the foreign property outright, you may be contracting to make payments over decades—years during which exchange rates might shift significantly—impacting the actual total purchase price. Too, if you are paying for the property outright in cash, there can be a delay between when you agree to the purchase price and when the funds are transferred.

6. Translate all Documentation

Once you have signed the foreign property transfer documents, you will be legally obligated to abide by all its terms, so before signing any documents, make sure that they have been accurately translated. Even relatively small differences in wording can create problems.

Purchasing a foreign property can be a legitimate way to diversify your real estate holdings. Approach the foreign market carefully, do your research, and have the right local representation. But before you make a final decision, think about giving me a call to see how today’s comparable Scottsdale properties compare!

Phoenix Listed Homes Get Organized via New Mobile Apps

3-4-appA 2013 National Association of Realtors (NAR) and Google survey found that 68% of people looking to buy a home found themselves using one or another of today’s popular mobile apps at some time during their odyssey. 2013 was ancient history in terms of the ascendance of mobile devices, so you’d have to guess that today’s percentage must be well north of that. It’s not surprising, since Google Maps (or one of the navigation programs built into many new autos) is becoming so indispensable for locating unfamiliar addresses.

Most of the time, I accompany clients on tours of the listed homes in Phoenix they’re interested in checking out; but there are other occasions when they do some investigating on their own. With the sheer number of apps designed to aid in such endeavors, it’s good to know which apps actually help (those that won’t just take up space on your smart phone).

Need to know more specifics about the Phoenix neighborhoods you’re considering? Although it’s primarily thought of as a traveler’s aid, the AroundMe app can be a handy house hunter’s timesaver. You can canvass the immediate area to see how close you are to banks, gas stations, restaurants, hospitals, movie theaters, bistros, and much more. This is a great app to use when you’re trying to narrow down your choices between multiple locations. AroundMe is free and available for iPad, iPhone, Android, and Windows devices.

You want to comprehensively check out the Phoenix listed homes that fall within your search parameters—but as the number of possibilities expands, that can become a mind-numbing exercise. Unless you have encyclopedic recall, after visiting many listed homes it becomes more and more likely that you will forget what it was that you liked or disliked about each one, or even to mix up the details of one with another’s. Enter House Hunter, an app that lets you keep score of each home as you view it. The app comes with a standard list of features that you can customize. As you view each home, check off and rate each feature—you’ll wind up with an overall score for comparison. House Hunter costs $3.99 for iOS devices.

Even before any serious house hunting begins, it’s a good idea to get pre-approved for a mortgage. Once you know the loan amount you will qualify for, the Mortgage Calculator app from Quicken Loans helps you approximate—on the spot—the monthly payments for listed homes. Simply enter the insurance payment and property tax information along with the interest rate to give you a good approximation of the monthly amount different homes will cost. The Mortgage Calculator is free for both iOS and Android devices.

Between your real estate agent and your smartphone, today’s house hunters can capture and digest more information about the listed homes in Phoenix than was common just a few short years ago. More apps seem to be appearing almost every week, so if you decide to give me a call to begin investigating today’s market, I’ll let you know if any of the newest ones are getting rave reviews!

3 Key Ways You Can Help Your Scottsdale Real Estate Agent

3-4-agentIn the weeks before you decide which of our local real estate agents will represent you and your home once it goes on the market, you’re probably looking for a Scottsdale Realtor® with the qualities that make a great sales person: knowledgeability, directness, personality, trustworthiness. Likeability is always helpful, but it’s only one among many qualifications. This is a business decision, and an important one for you and your family.

Then, the instant you make your selection, the landscape changes completely! You are no longer on your own: you and your Scottsdale real estate agent are members of a team that’s ready to get to work on the project. You both want your home on and off the market as quickly as possible, so the smoother the workflow with your real estate agent goes, the better.

Your real estate agent will already be hard at work assembling the marketing program that will attract prospects from near and far, but you can be helpful even with that effort. It’s the first of three key ideas that are often pointed to as key contributions owners can make:

Help your agent with unique selling points

What makes your home different from all the others that will be listed for sale? Every property has unique selling points that don’t fit into the standard check boxes, so let your agent know. Qualified agents are already thoroughly familiar with Scottsdale’s broad attractions, but you’ve experienced specific advantages to living in this home, in this neighborhood. Each selling point is another facet that could fire a buyer’s imagination. Having a rich store of real life anecdotes to draw upon will strengthen your agent’s ability to put your home in the limelight.

Keep it cozy without clutter

Most times, an owner is still living at home, so your Scottsdale real estate agent will be working with what you have available when it comes to furniture and home décor. It’s a strongpoint when prospective buyers are able to project themselves into being the comfortable homeowners. If they’re prevented from envisioning your home as their own, they’ll be out the door and onto the next! Clearing away personal items helps with that—and keeping the clutter level low increases the sense of spaciousness. If buyers see an overstuffed closet, they’ll sense a house that lacks storage space. If kitchen counters are cluttered, they’ll think the space is too small.

Be flexible with your schedule

Your real estate agent lists your house, makes sure to market it in all the many venues available, arranges open houses and showings, and spreads the word throughout the industry. During this part of the process, you help greatly by being as flexible as possible when it comes to showings. Sometimes potential buyers may seem to be placing insensitive scheduling burdens on the team—but as any serious-minded house hunter can tell you, they have their own scheduling issues, too!

Selling a home is a team effort, for sure; one you can decide to launch with a simple phone call to me at my office!