September 2016 Real Estate Sales and Investment Thoughts

September 2016 Real Estate Sales and Investment Thoughts

The September 2016 Real Estate numbers are in revealing a market that “as a whole” is healthy. The big takeaway for me is the strength of new home sales which are up almost 30% from last year.
Normal resales are up 5.8% over last year while distressed single family sales (short sales, REO’s and foreclosures) dropped 23% – another very healthy economic sign!
 September 2016 Real Estate
     Another interesting stat shows condo/townhome sales prices rising 8.7% versus last year, and outpacing single family detached (up 6.7%).
The Bullet List:
  • Normal single family resales were up 5.8% compared with September 2015
  • New single family homes were up 29.7%
  • Distressed single family sales were down 23%
  • Total dollar volume increased by 15.4% for single family homes
  • Total dollar volume increased by 19.3% for condo / townhouses
  • Average price per sq. ft. for single family homes grew 6.7% to $140.29
  • Average price per sq. ft. for condo / townhouses grew 8.7% to $146.71
     A commonly asked question I’m asked over the years is, “What’s a better investment to consider buying? Single Family Detached (SFD) or Condo/Townhouse? Or, which investment will appreciate more? Gosh darn, that old crystal ball question again.
     If you only viewed this month’s sales numbers, the answer might look like condo/townhouse. But there’s a lot more to this question that needs clarifying. Over the long haul single family detached homes have increased in value more. But as an investment, one has to figure in the expense side of things. The initial cost of a single family home is higher, therefore the cost of money is higher, the out of pocket expenses such as roof, A/C, remodeling, are usually greater.
     The condo/townhome has monthly HOA fees which irritate a lot of folks, but in the long haul may well be less than total expenses for an SFD.
     First, do you know the difference between a townhome and a condo? Simply speaking think “apartment” when referring to a condo. A townhome generally will be side by side, usually with a first floor garage, and the living area above so that you won’t have folks living over or under you, which is perhaps the biggest complaint about apartment living. A townhome will often have a number of amenities that are factored into the hoa monthlies. Demand is greatest for townhomes vs condos.
     Secondly, the increasing price for condo/townhomes makes sense as many of the “new home” purchases are condo/townhomes.  As an investment, if I were only going to have a few rentals, I personally like the townhouse concept. I like that the communities are usually gated, most people (buyers and renters) want a garage, all the exterior maintenance is done by the association, and it often includes nice amenities.
*All data courtesy of the
The Importance of Schools – The Real Value

The Importance of Schools – The Real Value

     We are often asked by prospective home buyers the question, “How are the schools in this neighborhood, or district?” The perception of good or bad schools can play a significant role for a family with school aged children. The question of real estate value applies to everyone. One may not have kids, but make no mistake, a bad or good school label could affect real estate values.
     The short answer is that there is no short answer. This article is not meant to be an end all discussion of how to locate the right school for your kids, but to evoke some thought on the subject.
     If you’re considering a particular state to relocate to based on schools, you would find out that Arizona does not have a stellar education reputation. You would discover that it spends far less money per student than most states in our public schools. If you were to dig deeper, however, you would also discover that Arizona happens to be home to some of the best schools in the country – that’s right, the USA. In fact, U.S. News and World Report ranked 3 Arizona Basis Charter schools in the top ten national  ( Article) .  Basis wasfounded in Tucson in 1998 by Michael Block, Ph.D. and Olga Block, Ph.D. They decided to open a school that would educate students at an internationally competitive level. For more information on charter schools, check out:
     Upon further examination you would find that there are excellent public schools interspersed throughout our communities. I recommend folks check out which supplies an amazing amount of school information including test scores, per student financial expenditures, school report cards, and parent comments. One note of caution however, when comparing test scores, understand that MANY of our under performing schools are in areas where there is a large non-English speaking child population, but for some of those schools, there was definite and measured student score improvement as they moved up in grade levels. I would have to say those schools were a success. You may want to check out this link: regarding school test scores.
     The problem that out of area prospective buyers have is where do they begin? Well again, I’d start with: From there, you can then do further research and even visit the schools you’re considering. Engage in school chat rooms too. Talk to teachers. It takes time to research, I know. But what better investment can you think of?
The Market: Sill Strong; Still Balanced

The Market: Sill Strong; Still Balanced

Consistency in Phoenix – Who Would Guess?

Back in February of this year, we reported that our local Phoenix Metro residential real estate market, as a whole, was strong and balanced. Currently, when we remain “in balance,”  at least when looking at the Valley as a whole.  The story changes a little bit of course when you break down the market by price.  $500k and up for example is generally dreary for sellers, where as the $250k and under sellers are swimming in buyers begging for their homes. For a market that was known for radical highs and lows this past decade, our continued consistency is remarkable.


From a Realtor perspective, the market has been strongly balanced for the past 3 years with a few periodic dips and rises, but with consistent annual appreciation. This appreciation has enabled the new home market to strengthen as well giving buyers more choice in homes then we’ve had since the great recession.

The most recent market numbers:

  • Active Listings: 20,153 versus 20,024 last year – up 0.6% – and up 5.0% from 19,186 last month
  • Pending Listings: 6,065 versus 5,789 last year – up 4.8% – but down 4.2% from 6,331 last month
  • Under Contract Listings: 10,013 versus 9,003 last year – up 11.2% – but down 3.0% from 10,318 last month
  • Monthly Sales: 7,390 versus 7,003 last year – up 5.5% – but down 7.1% from 7,952 last month
  • Monthly Average Sales Price per Sq. Ft.: $141.92 versus $133.44 last year – up 6.4% – and up 2.2% from $138.81 last month
  • Monthly Median Sales Price: $230,000 versus $213,000 last year – up 8.0% – and up 1.0% from $227,800 last month

There is much chatter these days about economic changes that will be happening following the election. Some buyers and sellers have put off buying and selling until January. The best change is that as a country we can hopefully move on from the political drama that we’re seeing moment by moment. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to say that our country was strong and balanced rather than weak and divided?

How to Flip a Fixer-Upper into Your Dream Home

How to Flip a Fixer-Upper into Your Dream Home

Recently clients of ours went searching for their forever home.  We saw many potentials over the course of their search and they were really torn between buying a home that was move-in-ready or buying one that needed their TLC.

Ultimately, they chose a home in an area they loved, with great bones, much more elbow room, but that did in fact need their tender loving care.  They were kind enough to allow us to take some before and afters (and a few in-betweens) so our readers could see the transformation!  (Please excuse the poor quality of my camera phone!)

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A few tips for those thinking about doing something similar

Consider Hiring a Designer

While it might seem like an unnecessary cost to some, there are many advantages in hiring a designer for your flip.

For one thing, a designer is going to handle all of the logistics.  They have lists of reliable contractors of all types that they will pull together which will set your mind at ease about finding quality and honest workman not to mention the hassle of scheduling.

The truth is that a designer is going to help you see things you couldn’t see yourself, to help give you vision.  I would bring the designer in before you even write an offer!


Count the Cost!

You need to know the bottom line.  That’s another plug for hiring a designer because they are going to be able to nail down bids from all the different types of contractors left or right in a timely fashion.

Don’t forget to have a good contingency fund between 5-10 grand depending on what the home is worth and what you want to do.  I’ve never heard of a flip that didn’t come with a few surprises.  If your smart with these steps, you can not only be living in your dream home, but build some instant equity as well!


Count the Emotional Cost too!

The popular flipping shows out there squeeze months of stress into 22 minutes of tv time.  While it can be rewarding, fun, and even lucrative, flipping your next purchase adds stress and anxiety to a process that is already stressful as is.  Don’t do it unless you understand the toll!

Getting Your Best Price – Staging and Photos are Key!

Getting Your Best Price – Staging and Photos are Key!

Two weeks ago I showed a town home in the terrific Bella Vista Town home community at Thunderbird and 94th St in Scottsdale. This lovely gated community has a great central location to the 101, Kierland Commons, Scottsdale Quarter, McCormick Ranch, great schools, recreation and more. My clients really liked Bella Vista, and loved this unit.

What was not to love? It was beautifully staged with the owner’s personal furnishings, was very tastefully upgraded, and showed to perfection. There were only two issues. It was a two story residence – my clients preferred one level, and it backed to 94th Street, a busier road, but not terrible. My clients overlooked both of those issues.

But as it turned out, there was a third, and bigger problem – it sold right away.

Then, a few days later, a new listing came up in the community right after that, so my clients wanted to see it. On paper, this new listing looked like it could be the one – it was a lower level unit, my client’s stated preference, and it didn’t back to 94th St. Plus it was slightly less in price.

We had to wait until Saturday to see the home as the tenants were moving out and it was being cleaned. Though the home was what I call renter-deposit clean, we prefer deep cleanings to get in show-ready condition. If nothing else, we want the buyers to remark, “Boy, this house is clean!” My clients were only in the home for a few minutes before wanting to move on. Though nice, it had zero appeal.

This home would benefit with the use of professional staging. It will cost $3000 – $4000 to stage it, but could well be worth it. This is a community of primarily first and second homeowners, so these potential buyers want to “feel” what it will be like living there. Proper staging of a home can help accomplish that and help get the best price. As part of our marketing presentation we hire a professional staging consultant, at our expense, to go room to room and outside to provide the seller with their professional recommendations. Most of the time, subtraction of some personal items and the rearranging of furnishings is all that is needed for a great look.

Great photography is the final key to getting great buyer exposure. The best home staging can be lost with poor photography. Conversely, poorly staged homes can get a boost with great photography. We don’t leave this to chance. As part of our marketing, we hire (again, at our expense) a professional photographer who knows the right lighting, the best angles, and who will take their time to deliver a great look. With over 90% of buyers viewing prospective homes on the internet, it makes sense (and dollars) to “do it right.”

Latest City Price Check

Latest City Price Check

The West Valley Rules the Appreciation Market

The highest priced communities in the Valley are NOT the highest appreciating ones, whereas the highest appreciating communities ARE the lowest priced per square foot.

Paradise Valley is again the most expensive community in the Valley with an average sales price per square foot of $339, which is a 5.5% drop from last year.  Carefree ($241 psf) and Scottsdale ($231 psf) take up the #2 and #3 slots.

There were only 2 other communities (Rio Verde and Gold Canyon), besides Paradise Valley, in which prices dropped from a year ago. All others gain in value.

Noticeably, the biggest price gainers are mostly West Valley. Youngtown (18.7%), and Wittman (16.8%) led the way. Eleven cities out of the 41 listed were priced below $100 per square foot.

The primary function of this table is to show the least and most affordable areas in the Phoenix metropolitan area together with longer term pricing trends.

Annual averages are based on a relatively large number of sales. Therefore, they are not as subject to rapid change as monthly averages. The downside is that they do not necessarily represent the current market very accurately, since they include sales from up to a year ago. Pricing may have moved a great deal since then.

We echo our oft repeated caveat: All real estate is local. Check with us about your specific neighborhood and residence when needing to know your value.

(Thanks to Michael Orr and the Cromford Report)