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4-29-house priceAt some point while weighing the pros and cons of buying a new home in town, you begin to mentally fix on a price range. If you are able to depend on a family income that’s fairly predictable, the issue is simplified. If not (small business owners, entrepreneurs, and many sales professionals frequently find themselves in this category), finding an appropriate price range takes careful deliberation.

Sometimes the issue can be decided for you. In most cases, buying a home will involve a mortgage, so lenders get to weigh in. Since it’s a good idea to seek preapproval from a Scottsdale mortgage lender early on, you can let their professional opinion help with the price range.

Let’s say the Martins have been preapproved for a $260,000 home loan. They have $20,000 set aside for a down payment, and are certain to clear another $20,000 once they sell their current home and retire its mortgage (it’s in very good shape in a nice neighborhood, but just too small for their growing family). So it’s good news: they can buy a $300,000 home!

It’s at this point in buying a home that the Martins can also decide to make a decidedly atypical decision. That decision would be to pick a number below their peak eligibility as the top figure in “their” price range, and to shop accordingly. Most folks don’t wind up doing that.

Maxing out your budget and purchasing the most expensive home you can afford is undeniably appealing. The math might tell you that you can afford the monthly mortgage payment, even if buying your new Scottsdale home puts you at the top of your price range. It can mean you get the space and features you’ve always dreamed of. However, there are some sound reasons why buying a home at the top of your price range might not be your best choice—

1. Additional Expenses

That mortgage amount alone does not take into account the other expenses and financial obligations that come with being a homeowner. Homeowners’ insurance and neighborhood association fees can add to your regular monthly expense, as will property taxes—a considerable figure. If you are moving to a larger property, any maintenance and utility expenses that you’ve grown accustomed to might be greater. If you plan on buying the most expensive home you can, those extra bills might be budget-busters.

2. Room to Renovate

Even if you’re buying your dream home, chances are very good that you’ll want to make a few changes to the new place. From fresh coats of paint to changes of carpets, appliances, or countertops, changes are a normal phenomenon after buying a home. Even if you’re pleased with the existing aesthetics, you might need additional furniture if the move is into a bigger space. Purchasing at the top of your price range can limit your ability to make needed changes.

3. Emergency Fund Savings

An emergency fund is a stress-relieving must for homeowners. When the refrigerator fails, the furnace needs to be replaced, or a busted pipe floods the bathroom, you’ll be relieved to have the extra cash. Even true do-it-yourselfers need to call for professional help occasionally. When you purchase a more affordable home, you’ll have extra cash to set aside for emergencies.

One of the greatest benefits of buying a home in Scottsdale is the sense of stability and security it brings. Working with a group of experienced professionals is the surest way to achieve your home buying goals…as well as a sound reason to give me a call!

4-29-realtorWhen you Google “seeking the best professional,” in about a half a second you are presented with 403 million candidates (not to play favorites, SearchEngineWise, when you ask Bing the same thing, it gives you a mere 62.6 million…which might actually prove more useful, since it would only take you a little more than a year to scan each for 2 seconds).

Narrowing the quest, when you Google “seeking the best Realtor®,” it gives you just a few less than 2,000,000 likely results. Since anyone seeking the best real estate professional to buy or sell their home isn’t after one eight states away, almost everyone quickly narrows the search to ‘best Realtor in Scottsdale.’ That number varies from time to time, but almost always more than 500,000 show up (the ones at the top are paid ads).

This isn’t actually as whimsical a quest as such results suggest: it’s a quite serious undertaking. Even if you are a veteran homeowner—someone who has bought and sold homes multiple times in the past—today’s market is so vastly different from what it was even ten years ago (thank you, Internet!) that you need to connect with a Realtor in Scottsdale who will bring you success in this vast new arena. This will be someone whose marketing knowhow is as current as this morning’s Tweet—but whose depth of knowledge and experience in adroitly handling the old-fashioned local workings (and, alas, paperwork) are also encyclopedic. Today, your “best Scottsdale Realtor” will have mastered it all.

So, what’s the right way to go about finding her/him? What’s a homeowner or prospective home buyer to do when they are bound and determined to actually find the best professional in Scottsdale? There are positive steps to take:

a) Word of mouth: ask around to people whose opinions are substantial. Even if you are looking to sell and someone whose opinion you trust has experience only as a buyer, take the agent’s name. The best Realtors in Scottsdale are great on both fronts!

b) When you are out and about in the neighborhood, note the “For Sale” yard signs planted in the lawns of appealing-looking properties. Jot down the agent’s contact number.

c) Check the newspapers (and even notices posted on local store bulletin boards) for open houses…then attend them!

d) Check the Scottsdale MLS: see which agents are prominently represented in the Scottsdale listings—especially for properties in the same general price range. Look for eye-catching, well-written listings.

And finally, having compiled a list of your likely suspects, take the final and most important step of all:

e) Stop Googling—and start interviewing!

The search for the best Realtor in Scottsdale will take a bit of energy—and a bit of your time—but given the significance of the task ahead, is guaranteed to be worth your while.

Since you’ve found my Scottsdale blog, I hope you will put me on your list of best Scottsdale Realtors—please don’t hesitate to give me a call!

4-29-emptynestOne strategy for selling your Scottsdale home is to recognize the segment of the general public most likely to appreciate its inherent features, then be sure your sales approach will appeal to them. That doesn’t mean you will turn your back on all the other groups of buyers, of course—but it does mean you will make a deliberate effort to be especially sensitive to that group’s preferences, and highlight the features that are most likely to top their wish lists.

When the Target Audience is Empty-Nesters…

The majority of current Scottsdale empty-nesters belong to the baby boomer generation. They are somewhere between 50 and 68 years of age, and there are about 75 million of them in the U.S.—nearly a quarter of the population. Empty-nesters are parents who currently don’t have any of their kids living with at home. Most empty-nest buyers are looking for a permanent address to settle down in as they hit their later years. The question is, what features make a home most desirable to empty nesters?

Moderate Space

What can be slightly tricky about general rules for selling a home to this population is that although most are set on downsizing, they don’t want to feel shoehorned into their space, either. Empty-nesters are often moving out of a home that has become demonstrably too large after the kids moved out. But that can also mean that they are used to a lot of space—probably don’t want to be crammed into a tiny house that can’t accommodate children and grandchildren when they do come to visit.

It’s going to be a compromise. “Moderate space” would most likely be no more than 3 bedrooms and no fewer than 2—with two bathrooms the norm. This description offers nesters the possibility of catering to hobbies on a day-to-day basis, while still allowing some accommodations for guests. More significant properties—those with 4 or more bedrooms— are more likely to find success by marketing messaging that points toward growing families.

Easy to Maintain

As always, it’s a selling ‘must’ to ensure that your Scottsdale home is shipshape! When prospects are able to see how much care you’ve put into your property, they are that much easier to interest than when it’s clear they will be required to come up with their own extra sweat and budget dollars. When you know that part of your preparation will include replacements, it’s a good idea to emphasize ease of maintenance in your choices. Examples are gutters that are shielded, windows that tilt up for easy cleaning inside and out, etc.

Whether or not your home is likely to attract Scottsdale empty-nesters, knowing what part of the market will have the most likely prospects—and how to shape the sales messaging accordingly—is part of the no-obligation consultation I offer everyone who is deciding how they will go about selling their home.

Give me a call to schedule one this week!

Categories : Sellers
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4-29-greenhouseWhether we see it as evidence of the advance of a wider green homes movement or simply of rising environmental consciousness, Scottsdale green homes are becoming properties with a distinct marketable sales advantage. What were once viewed as altruistic gestures practiced by only the most dedicated preservationists are going mainstream—and at a rapid clip. The National Association of Realtors® recently found that 70% of those surveyed believe eco-friendly features add value to a home. In other words, the practical advantages of ‘going green’ are becoming more and more evident to prospective buyers.

For sure, one reason for the increasing popularity of green homes in Scottsdale is a growing and sincere concern about sustainability.

But there’s also another reason: a growing and equally sincere desire to save cash!

There are in fact a number of practical reasons why green homes save their owners money:

  • Tankless water heaters are one example of a technology that’s been around for a while, but which is now gathering popularity. The engineering is based on the fact that constantly storing and re-heating of a volume of water means wasting a lot of energy. Tankless units don’t store heated water; instead they pass it over coils that are only energized when hot water is needed. As a consequence, tankless water heaters can actually save their owners up to 50% on hot water costs!
  • As global critics increase their cries for the conservation of fresh water, the idea that green homes can make a major difference is gaining traction. The EPA’s website lists multiple ways that green homes can save the precious resource, from WaterSense-labeled faucets and toilets to high-efficiency showerheads.
  • Energy-efficient heating and cooling systems can make the most dynamic contribution to green homes. Regularly-maintained Energy Star appliances, combined with home management practices like heating and cooling only areas that are in use via programmable thermostats can make a welcome dent in the monthly bills.

Together with the ongoing wallet relief that green homes provide their owners every month, changing over to ecologically championed household appliances and practices is an increasingly practical exercise. When it comes time to sell your Scottsdale home, too, being able to provide those penny-pinched utility bills can make all the difference to cost-conscious prospects.

For more ideas on ways you can increase the value and sales appeal of your own property, I hope you won’t hesitate to give me a call!

Categories : Market Trends/Data
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4-22-buyhouseAs most Scottsdale homeowners would agree, buying a house is dissimilar from any other kind of shopping—and that’s not just because of the price tag.

When you set out to shop for most everyday items, you usually pick which store you’ll visit first, then survey what they have to offer. If the goods aren’t what you had in mind—or the price seems too high—you hit the next store. We do this without a second thought.

For more important purchases, you’re apt to do some research first. You might search on the web or read magazine reviews to see which brands have the features you want. You may check out customer comments, paying more attention to the ones which sound reliable. You compare prices and delivery specifications, then buy online or find the nearest Scottsdale store. When you have the time, this kind of spadework pays off in the quality and value gained.

Buying a Scottsdale house differs considerably. If you have any doubts about that, it’s easy to verify. Just compare the process of buying a house with how you approach any other major purchase. Think about buying a new car…


When you’re in the market for a new auto, unless your brand loyalty is unshakeable, you’re likely to visit several car dealers, check out prices and features, take a test drive (or many test drives—given today’s prices, that’s not a bad idea!); then sit down and talk turkey with the showroom salesman. If you’re a seasoned buyer, you’ll probably wind up having it out with the sales manager before the deal’s done.

When you’re buying a car—even a Rolls-Royce, which costs more than some houses—no one brings along their agent. When buying a house, you should!

It’s true that some buyers consider letting the seller’s agent put together the deal, but that’s bound to be a huge mistake. That agent is employed to represent the interests of the seller. As buyer, your interests are hardly the same. If someone were suing you, you’d never consider hiring their lawyer to represent you—but when one agent is in charge of the whole process, that’s what happens. It doesn’t make much sense, especially since having your own agent costs you no more (both agents’ commissions are paid from the seller’s proceeds).


When you buy a new car, if you insisted on having your mechanic check out the engine, the dealer would wonder what part of “new” you fail to understand. He would think you’d lost your mind. Yet buying a house without providing for your own thorough inspection would be a very risky move. Although skipping the inspection might save a little money, Scottsdale home buyers expose themselves to an array of future problems when they do so.


It’s awkward to go about financing a new car before you know what you want, which is part of the reason dealers have a financing department. When you’re buying a house, the opposite is true. Since some people have an unrealistic idea of their total financial picture (and an incomplete understanding of lending practices), it makes any buyer stronger to appear with pre-approval in hand. Sellers know you’re for real!

If buying a house in Scottsdale is on your agenda, having me in your corner will help make it one “shopping expedition” that’s both a pleasure and a success. I hope you’ll call me!

4-22-foreclosureYou would think the outside competition for Scottsdale foreclosure bargains might have up and disappeared by now…but no! As The Wall Street Journal described it last week, the shrinking number of foreclosure opportunities hasn’t driven Wall Street’s professional investors completely out of the market. But new techniques are altering their approach.

Local Scottsdale foreclosure investors have had to worry about a previous incursion by big national private equity investment firms. In the aftermath of the real estate bust, sales of distressed properties assumed an ever-larger proportion of real estate activity. National firms seized on the growing supply of cheap foreclosed homes as a ‘sure-thing’ trade for investment firms backed by money from private equity companies who wanted ‘in’ on real estate.

Wall Street knew full well that depressed real estate prices were a temporary phenomenon. They would swoop down, buy foreclosures en masse, rent them out, and wait for the bounce-back. Scottsdale foreclosure investors suddenly had to worry about bargain-hunting by the national firms, instead of just the usual local competitors. It took agility and cash to compete with some very deep pockets. Even where they weren’t active, their impact was felt.

But by last summer, the New York Times was headlining “Investors Who Bought Foreclosed Homes in Bulk Look to Sell.” Where, at the height of the foreclosure onslaught, a full 50% of home purchases was made up of foreclosures and short sales, by this February, the percentage had retreated to barely 11%. Companies like Waypoint Real Estate Group began quietly shopping for buyers as they took their profits and tiptoed away…

So could Scottsdale foreclosure investors breathe a sigh of relief, knowing the big boys had carted off their wheel barrows full of cash? You’d think so, but not so fast! The WSJ article describes a new phenomenon from outside. “Racing to Buy Homes Sight Unseen” was the headline. Enter the speed-based investors!

Just as trading firms had developed systems that made equity trading a competition between banks of computers trip-wired to trade at the speed of light, a milder phenomenon is emerging in foreclosure investing. According to the Journal, one example is the investment trust executive who no longer goes to public auctions to find buys. It described a recent morning in which it took him seven minutes to bid on a Georgia home “he had never seen.” He uses a quantitative data analysis program as a way to accelerate searches for the “dwindling supply of available homes that can be transformed into rental properties.” In other words, some of the big buyers are finding ways to stay in the market.

But Scottsdale foreclosure investors don’t really need to throw up their hands. Although the data analysis programs are getting better, local knowledge and on-site evaluations should continue to give sharp Scottsdale investors the kind of fine edge that national data maps and renovation cost generalizations can never quite match. It’s like the difference between a perfectly-engineered robotic customer service system…and a knowledgeable human: no contest.

Scottsdale foreclosures may be less omnipresent, but without question they continue to represent great investment potential—and not just for the national investment firms. If you’ve ever thought you would like to hear more about today’s opportunities, call me for an on-the-ground analysis!

Categories : Investment
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4-22-fsboLet’s start out by agreeing that a “For Sale by Owner” sign on a Scottsdale fence does have a certain appeal. It summons up mental images of a simple, direct relationship: no middle men, just straight talk and fair dealing with the One in Charge! And in fact, in many walks of life, dealing directly with the owner can be a plus. When you’re recommending a retail outlet to friends, telling them that you know the owner strengthens your endorsement.

So when you cruise by a sign announcing a Scottsdale For Sale by Owner property—a “FSBO”—you wouldn’t be alone if you were tempted to walk up and knock on the door. Buying a home directly from its owner should be a way to purchase a house at the lowest possible price, what with no real estate professionals getting involved!

That’s the fantasy, and although those assumptions are theoretically possible, in reality, homes being put up for sale by their owners represent a temptation that many experienced home buyers avoid. They have more than one reason.

1. Owners Often Ask for Too Much Money

The principal reason that For Sale by Owner sign went up in the first place is probably because the landowner wants to avoid paying real estate sales fees. They usually run about 6%, with half going to the seller’s broker, half to the buyer’s broker. Unfortunately, For Sale by Owner homes quite often carry higher prices because the owners don’t know how to determine fair market value—or are convinced any property of theirs is a special exception. In fact, some Scottsdale For Sale by Owner signs go up precisely because the owner didn’t like what a professional broker’s comparable market analysis revealed.

2. Pertinent Information May Go Missing

Disclosure laws are not getting any less cumbersome, but owners who aren’t familiar with their strict requirements can innocently (or less innocently) fail to toe the line. When significant unseen damage or relevant history is not disclosed, the buyer can wind up footing the bill long afterward. Buyers have some legal recourse, but that results in an expensive, drawn out process.

3. It’s Just Not Convenient to You!

Sellers who eschew the services of the real estate professionals have accepted a lot of responsibilities that come with trying to sell a Scottsdale property. Of course, they have to keep on top of their regular responsibilities at the same time. That can make things inconvenient for prospective buyers. When both parties use real estate agents, visits are scheduled in a professional (i.e., predictable) manner. When owners become sellers, though, visiting hours tend to reflect the owner’s lifestyle needs. When buyers can’t visit during business hours or when the owner has a family obligation, it can add extra strain. Likewise, when the scheduling of inspections is difficult or any of the strict paperwork deadlines aren’t met…it’s one reason that explains the NAR’s finding that the percentage of For Sale by Owner offerings have collapsed from 19% to 9% since 1991.

With so many disadvantages, it makes sense for buyers to focus on homes sold by agents instead of owners. With transparently justifiable prices, better information and procedural clarity all helping you land the best buy, it should be easy to cruise by those FSBO signs…and give me a call instead!

4-22-realestatedownsizeYou would think that smaller homes would be skyrocketing in popularity right about now. Statistics show that the average number of people in American households is shrinking. Practicality would seem to dictate that a trend toward downsizing should be underway, with significant implications for Scottsdale real estate.

It’s no exaggeration to say that for as long as many Americans can remember, bigger has always been better. In terms of sheer floor space, the average American home increased from 1,900 square feet in 1993 to 2,400 two decades later. The reasons may have been both practical and psychological: for those who grew up in cramped quarters, space was the missing element—so elbow room and privacy became the essence of a desirable home. This was evident in Scottsdale real estate ads, where spaciousness was emphasized wherever possible, from the photographs to listing copy.

In fact, it seems that the baby boomer generation hasn’t given up their fondness for abundant living space—at least not in droves. At least not yet.

A recent AARP real estate survey found that 84% of the boomers expressed unflinching preference for continuing to live in their current digs for as long as possible. That might make sense, at least according to the arithmetic you can deduce from a 2013 Census survey. It found that a large-scale move toward downsizing doesn’t usually begin in earnest until the Head of Household reaches age 75. The most senior members of the boomer generation were born after 1945—so that won’t happen for a while.

Still, there are stirrings to suggest that some have started to rethink ‘Bigger is Better.’ Instead of defining themselves by real estate square footage, they’re beginning to prospect for smaller solutions. It’s entirely possible that Downsizer Nation might be just around the corner!

The logic is certainly there. Many downsizers do so in answer to what emerges as a more or less unavoidable lifestyle decision. Empty-nesters no longer have children at home, and begin to find themselves cleaning, fixing, heating and cooling substantially empty space. Some may hanker to start some serious globe-trotting—meaning they’ll spend less time at home (ergo, even emptier space). Still others find their lives are more outdoor-focused than before.

The reality of the time, energy, and money that goes into maintaining a 5-bedroom home with multiple levels can begin to trump its “EREF” (Elbow Room Enjoyment Factor). There’s the cleaning, keeping interiors and furniture fresh, maintaining windows, furnaces, fans. Then there are the outdoor areas to consider. Mowing, raking, shoveling…for some, the enjoyment of that part of the outdoors can gradually generate more tedium than enjoyment. It can push some residents into new appreciation for a Scottsdale real estate solution that simply requires less to do.

Whether your family is expanding—or beginning to seriously contemplate the reverse—I hope you will give me a call. I’ll be able to show you many appealing properties from the current crop of Scottsdale real estate offerings!

Categories : Homeowners
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4-15-salesResidential sales in Scottsdale —in fact, all real estate dealings anywhere—remain the most local of commercial transactions. If your house is in San Francisco, a price spike in suburban Newark is probably of little interest, unless you plan on moving anytime soon. Even so, the new projection for overall U.S. residential sales had to perk up area homeowners’ interest.

The “best home sales market in eight years” was the forecast—along with “mortgage originations that will likely rise” and “larger gains in newly built home sales.” Scottsdale residential sales may make up but a tiny fraction of the data contained in CoreLogic’s analyses and data announcements, but any Scottsdale homeowners looking for a strong spring market couldn’t help but be buoyed by last week’s prognostications.

The basis for the surprisingly robust residential sales prediction was supported by a number of other data sources which have gradually confirmed solidification of the overall economic picture. With many economists agreeing that the U.S. economy “is poised to grow by close to 3%” this year, a heightened level of housing demand is bound to result. If that mark is achieved, it would be for only the second year in a decade. Gains in employment (in the 3-to-3½ million person range) are also expected.

The improving economic projection for 2015 was ascribed to three forces. The halving of energy prices which began last summer was deemed “unlikely to jump back up this year.” Anyone who’s been enjoying the freefall in prices at Scottsdale pumps will appreciate the immediate impact that has on family wallets.

The second positive force is psychological, and very real. The rise “in consumer and business manager confidence” in the recovery has been widely noted: the Conference Board (“up 4.9 points”); U.F.’s Confidence Index (“the highest reading in 10 years”); Small Business Optimism Index (“3rd highest reading since 2007”).

CoreLogic’s third factor was one that hasn’t been much talked about until now: governmental. Apparently, tax receipts have been stronger than expected, freeing state and local governments to spend more. That’s an unexpected economic stimulus—and of a kind that should be more welcome than some of the previous “let’s just create more money” variety.

CoreLogic puts residential sales growth in the area of 5%. Will our Scottsdale numbers match those projections? One reason to think so is the Scottsdale mortgage rate phenomenon. Rates remain tantalizingly low—but apt to begin creeping upward. That’s the kind of spur to home buyers that is apt to work as effectively as merchants’ “limited time sale” technique: tick! tick! tick!

If you have been delaying wading into the Scottsdale residential sales arena until the time is right, 2015 certainly looks like that time has arrived. I’m standing by to help you take advantage of the many opportunities this spring market is offering. Why not give me a call?

Categories : Market Trends/Data
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4-15-creditIt may not be the first factor you look at when you begin planning to buy a Scottsdale house, but unless you are in the rare position of being able to make an all-cash purchase, sooner or later your credit score will become a prominent factor. That’s why this month’s get-together in Washington held some information that could ultimately become pretty important for both Scottsdale home buyers and sellers.

The meeting was held at the National Association of Realtors headquarters, with participants that included HUD Secretary Julian Castro, credit score industry representatives from FICO and Vantage Score, and other experts in research, government, and real estate. This might seem to be the kind of gathering (“Symposium,” in this case) that is usually more productive of eyes glazing over than much else, but for Scottsdale home buyers and sellers, this one was different.

The subject was “Credit Access”—how companies determine the credit scores that guide lenders’ decisions on who will and won’t be offered home loans. The consensus was (and is) that current credit score formulas could stand some improvement. Secretary Castro’s Keynote set the table. He said that there is a recognized need to find new ways to construct credit scores that are more sensitive to “getting at” the bottom line responsibility potential borrowers have shown in their lives; credit scores that will predict how they will pay down their mortgages. “There’s been a disconnect there,” he said.

Given that this is the single reason that credit scores exist at all, that seems like quite a statement to make, particularly with the credit scoring companies right there in the room. No eye-glazing going on, I suspect.

Now it’s true that FICO and Vantage Score have already been fine-tuning some of their methods. Local buyers may have already have seen their Scottsdale credit scores improving when non-recurring problems (like tardy medical bill payments) were de-emphasized. But on a wider scale, there was considerable discussion about the need to adapt to lifestyle shifts that are taking place. The way Americans live their lives—particularly the way they use technology—has changed, and will continue changing. Blanket shifts in lifestyles make some behaviors different predictive value than they used to have: for instance, many millennial and minority consumers “don’t use credit in the same way households did in the past.”

A representative from Moody’s Analytics pointed out that most conventional loans are currently made to borrowers with credit scores about 740—which is 20 points higher than was the case during the housing boom. In today’s tougher economy, that makes it likely that some Scottsdale credit scores would benefit if HUD is able to follow through on its efforts “to improve credit access to Americans” without adding to lender risk.

It’s in everyone’s interest that credit ratings be accurate predictors of repayment patterns. With interest rates continuing to be at bargain basement levels, it couldn’t be more important, because it also continues to be a fantastic time to be in Scottsdale’s real estate market—and to give me a call!