Everywhere I read about going green, and you know, it makes sense to me! We have replaced many lights in our house with the small swirly bulbs that conserve a lot of energy; we have bought new appliances that use less energy such as our new Trom large capacity side loading washer and dryer. We have just converted our dryer from electric to gas. My plan was to buy a new 6000+ pound SUV to get the big Realtor’s tax write-off, and instead, now, I am thinking of purchasing a larger sedan than I presently have-which is BMW 318I-with a larger sedan that will offer the comfort my clients should get, but will be more energy conservative than a large SUV. We need to save the environment! Every night I give my 10 year old daughter an extra project to do with Mom. Now she is reading the juvenile version of the book “An Inconvenient Truth” by Al Gore to me; then we will watch the same entitled movie together. We also have been watching “Planet Earth” narrated by Sigourney Weaver on the Discovery Channel; the HD channel has incredible sound and viewing! It reminds us that our planet is precious and we have to do what we can to alleviate global warming; to protect endangered species and to conserve.
Up until this year it was next to impossible to find a home at the charming Fort Lowell community at Hill Farm. If one became available it sold within days through word -of -mouth. Now that has changed since it is a Buyer’s market. There are 3 very nice homes listed in the mid $300s. Two are two bedroom homes and one has two bedrooms and a den; all have two car garages and nice yards. Hill Farm has such rare features as a lake, an original Joesler- built farmhouse that has been converted to a Clubhouse with accommodations for overnight guests. Adjacent to the Club House is a pool and a spa. Unlike many neighborhoods, this one is very green; there are grass yards and older trees. It is located in a quiet area of historical Fort Lowell with easy access to Downtown and the Foothills. This community is a very rare gem!
Sabino Canyon’s tram will reopen so it can take visitors to the top. Last year’s heavy rain in late July caused rockslides that blocked the tram path after Stop 4, which is half way up the almost 4 mile road that offers splendid views of the lush canyon and Santa Catalina mountains. The federal government has approved $1.2 million for the repair which is hoped to be completed by this Winter. “The Arizona Daily Star” stated local popular personalities–Mel Zuckerman, of the famous Canyon Ranch Spa (which is located a few miles from Sabino Canyon) and Jim Click ,who owns many Tucson car dealerships, will mount a major capital campaign for Sabino Canyon improvements. It is great news that this Southwest treasure will be restored. Sabino Canyon is Tucson’s # 1 tourist attraction and is located in the Northeast in the Coronado National Forest.
There has been a lot of talk about more affordable housing in Vail, which is located 45 minutes Southeast of the Foothills. Since I had clients who were interested in finding a community that offered less of a commute than the Foothills or Oro Valley to Raytheon, we decided to explore Vail. Vail is only 20 minutes away from Raytheon. What we found was a sleepy town with no infrastructure. If you need groceries, medical facilities, a vet, restaurants, etc., you must travel at least 8 miles to Rita Ranch, or further into Tucson. There is one restaurant at Rancho Del Lago Golf Course (which just opened and serves good food–we stopped there for lunch), one gas station with small convenience store attached, one coffee shop and very little else. My real estate company, Long Realty, ( which is the largest in Southern Arizona), wisely opened an office in the only small plaza in Vail. There will be a grocery store in Vail in about a year, but they have not broken ground yet. Other shopping and more amenities will gradually be built over the next 10 year period. Our first visit was to the resale houses at Rancho Del Lago Golf Course. We found they were reasonably priced (in the $300,000s) and were represented by such reputable builders as Pepper-Viner( a local builder) and Lennair -US Homes (a national builder). The problem with buying one of these homes is that they are likely to depreciate more since on every street there are many “For Sale” signs. This very strong buyers’ market happened because many investors thought Vail would offer great appreciation since most of the desirable areas of Tucson are built up. The lack of infrastructure and that neighboring Tucson is experiencing a buyers’ market with greater selection of homes than the past few years, has hurt Vail. It never took off the way it was predicted. As disappointing as the lack of infrastructure was to my clients, they still wanted to explore new construction right down the street. We visited the national builder, Pulte, at Rincon Trails II, who was offering many incentives on new homes. You had to feel bad for the first owners that did not get the upgrades such as granite as a standard feature. We were amazed that Pulte had some unappealing exterior color schemes–some houses were a putrid green. My clients did not think they would want a home built next to a putrid green house. It made the houses that were mostly from the high $300,000s and up, look cheap, even though the interiors of the houses were quite upscale and appealing. I have been in Pulte models all over the country, and never seen such poor taste in an exterior color–what were they thinking? This journey to Vail made me realize, however, that although Vail does not suit people who want to be close to amenities, it did have a sleepy charm to it, and if you like country living, Vail may be right for you. Just make sure you get a very good deal since prices appear to be on the downswing.
I am amazed at the decline in prices at Heritage Highlands, which is an upscale active adult community located in Dove Mountain, not far where Tiger Williams played golf at The Gallery this past week. There are 96 houses listed for sale from $240,000 – $739,900. These homes are almost new and built by US Homes/Lennar. Many have golf course and mountain views and the community offers golf, pool, tennis, a fitness center, a club house with a restaurant. This is a community that is truly active: you will notice many people that are young and socializing or participating in their favorite activity. Six months ago you could not find a home here for less than $300,000 and prices were appreciating. Now there is a definite decline in prices. Of course, many people put their houses on the market since there was a national golf tournament with famous Tiger Woods playing. It seems the additional reason for the high inventory of homes and price decline is that there were many investors buying in here and now that they have found that the market has become a buyers’ market, they want to unload their houses. It makes for a great time for buyers to purchase with quite a good selection and probably the lowest price you will ever see here. There is a low HOA fee of only $144 a month. Dove Mountain which is the master community that Heritage Highlands is located in, has just finished a new shopping center on the corner of Tangerine and Dove Mountain which has a new grocery store and other shops to add to the convenience of living in this master planned community.
I was amazed to find spectacular large semi-custom homes with extraordinary views of the Pusch Ridge at this new development. They are priced from the mid $600s; homes comparable in the Foothills would be over a million. They have one great homesite left where they are taking back-up offers; the Buyer is having a hard time selling his house and therefore has less than a month left to sell it when it will be available to the next buyer. This one is priced at $745,000 and has the most fantastic views.
I was previewing homes for a client in LaPaloma yesterday and was totally amazed by the variety of gorgeous homes with incredible mountain views that were available for sale. LaPaloma is in the heart of the foothills, on a world class golf course and adjacent to the upscale Westin LaPaloma resort in the heart of the Foothills. There was even one patio home priced at $399,900 with amazing mountain views; it was only 1,434 sq feet but had a two car garage. Others I previewed were priced in the $400 and $500 thousands. I have never seen such variety and reasonably priced homes on the market there in the past three years. This gated community is one of the most-sought after communities for empty nesters and second home owners; the schools are amongst the best in Arizona so there are some families living there as well.
For loan closings in 2007, the mortgage insurance premium will be tax deductible if the household adjusted gross income is 100K or less. The deductibility decreases by 10% for every 1K in annual income that exceeds 100K. This means that household incomes greater than 109K receive zero PMI deductibility. Congress is supposed to evaluate the law at the end of the year for a possible extension. This will compete with the popular way to avoid mortgage insurance by piggy-backing with a double loan–one with 80% loan -to -value and a second loan to cover the remaining 20%. This also means the second mortgage will usually will be at a higher rate. If you qualify for this program, have your lender check both ways to see which one gives you a lower monthly payment.
The prime Foothills zip codes of 85718 and 85750 with homes priced 325K-500K appreciated 8% last year. However, there were 59% less number of sales and the average days on the market increased from 34 days to 43 days. Also average list price to final sales price became 97.50% versus 99.09% in 2005. I predict that the appreciation will continue in 2007 and the number of sales will increase as Sellers have become more realistic in the pricing of their houses for sale and buyers are feeling a sense of market stabilization. Last year many Buyers feared if they purchased a home at that time, the properties could later depreciate; this feeling is much dissipated this year. In January, showings on listings have increased from last Fall and open houses are much better attended. As interest rates go up, buyers also feel urgency not to wait any longer to purchase for fear the interest rates will continue to go up.
While the number of sales decreased by 30%, the Foothills houses priced between $500,000 and 1 million continued to appreciate. The 2006 cost per square foot in the 85750 zip code showed a 6% increase and the 85718 zip code showed a 8% increase over 2005. The other surprising statistics were that it only took an average of 52 days in 2006 versus 44 days in 2005 to sell a house in the 85750 zip code, and it only took an average of 49 days in 2006 versus 45 days in 2005 to sell a house in the 85718 zip code; revealing almost no change. If your looking at making the best investment decision, purchasing in the Foothills proves to be the best place to invest in Pima County.