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Sept. 10, 2018

Is Phoenix the next 'millennial magnet?' Report predicts more tech job growth


A London-based real estate investment company has named Phoenix a city to watch as one of the fastest growing markets in the nation.

“TH Real Estate believes that Phoenix is well-positioned to capitalize on its favorable growth prospects,” said Dan Manware, a researcher with the U.S. division of TH Real Estate, which issued the report. “We expect this metro to have continued momentum as its growth metrics such as population, employment, and share of millennials screen high among others in the nation. Phoenix’s robust growth has impacted every real estate property sector, resulting in compelling investment opportunities across the metro.”

The firm describes Phoenix as the “next millennial magnet.”

The city benefits from “tech spillover” from more expensive states like California and has established itself as a “major market for back-office positions, especially in finance, business services and technology due to its low cost of doing business,” analysts wrote in the report.

The region is home to operations for several Silicon Valley heavyweights including PayPal and Yelp as well as startups including San Francisco-based fintech firm Upgrade, which recently announced new hiring for its downtown Phoenix offices.

The city’s proximity to California, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Nevada positions it well for distribution companies, especially those in e-commerce. The Business Journal has reported previously on how the region, especially the West Valley, has become a distribution hub for the Southwest. Goodyear, west of Phoenix, in particular is home to several warehouse and distribution facilities along Interstate 10 and Loop 303 frontage in the city.

Analysts in the report project hiring will accelerate in tech-related jobs as more companies from Silicon Valley open sales and support offices in Phoenix. 

Sept. 7, 2018

What is a Final Walk Through?

This is part 3 of 3 of our videos regarding the inspection process when purchasing a home.   This last video briefly explains the verification of repairs and the final closing process.  

Sept. 6, 2018

What is a "BINSR"?

Here is part 2 of our inspection process video series.   This video discusses the completion of the inspection period and how the BINSR is submitted.  

Sept. 6, 2018

John McCain's real-estate legacy in metro Phoenix and beyond

Sen. John McCain was a trailblazer in many ways, including where he lived in metro Phoenix and his vision for the Valley’s growth.

The six-term U.S. senator and longtime Arizona leader moved from the suburbs to central Phoenix in the 1980s, opposite what most other Valley residents were doing then.

Then, during the housing boom, he and wife Cindy downsized to a new condominium in a tower near the Arizona Biltmore before that trend for empty nesters took off in Phoenix.

And right after he was diagnosed with brain cancer last summer, McCain put his efforts into an ambitious plan to turn the dry Salt River bed that crisscrosses the Valley into something like San Antonio’s Riverwalk.

From Tempe to Phoenix

In the early 1980s, McCain needed an East Valley address to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives being vacated by Rep. John Rhodes. The couple bought a home in south Tempe’s Lakes community, a development built around a man-made lake in the 1970s.

When McCain ran for the Senate, he no longer needed to be in the Tempe district. Instead of moving to Paradise Valley or Scottsdale, the McCains opted to move into Cindy’s family home in north-central Phoenix.

As urban flight to the suburbs was well underway in the Valley, the McCains made central Phoenix their home. Their house, situated right on Central Avenue, didn’t have high fences and was easily visible and inviting from the street.

The McCains raised their family in the heart of Phoenix, and the couple opened their north-central Phoenix home to many for charity and community events.

“The McCains definitely drew people to north-central Phoenix and helped the area during a time when many folks were moving away from it,” said Bobby Lieb, a veteran real-estate agent with HomeSmart Elite and longtime resident of north-central Phoenix. “They held many fundraisers for groups there, too.”


In 2007, right before McCain made his second presidential run, the couple listed their north-central home for sale and moved into a new condo at 24th Street and Camelback Road.

The couple downsized while many others were still opting for bigger homes. The McCains’ 14,500-square-foot north-central Phoenix home drew a lot of attention, not surprisingly. As the economy was crashing, it sold for $3.2 million.

The home has been expanded, renovated and resold a couple of times since then.

The McCains were also a draw for other homebuyers in their Biltmore-area condo tower, said real-estate agents.

Besides the McCains’ Creekside ranch in Cornville, Arizona, the couple had condos in La Jolla, California, Coronado, California and Arlington, Virginia, according to his campaign disclosures during the 2008 presidential race. 

Real-estate legacy

One of McCain’s most lasting mark on the Valley’s growth will be his efforts to develop the Rio Salado.

After decades of efforts to transform 45 miles of the riverbed from Mesa to Buckeye, McCain ramped up the movement last year.

"Frankly, after a while, you start thinking about your legacy. It (the Rio Salado) may not be completed in my time, but I believe that someday it will be," McCain told Arizona State University students in August 2017, shortly after he was diagnosed with brain cancer.

He said the Rio Salado development could rival or even surpass the famous San Antonio Riverwalk and could be one of the most significant environmental and economic additions in Phoenix history.

It may take decades, but if the project comes to fruition, McCain's impact on Arizona real estate could continue for generations to come. 

Sept. 5, 2018

What is a home inspection?

This brief video explains what the home inspection is, how it's conducted and when its completed when purchasing a home.   

May 30, 2018

Cameron Diaz's House from The Holiday Just Hit the Market for Nearly $12 Million: See Inside

Turn The Holiday into your permanent home — no online swap or bad breakups required.

The house that served as the exterior of Cameron Diaz’s California mansion in the popular film can be yours: It’s now on the market for $11.8 million with realtors Brent Change and Linda Change of Compass.


Although it was technically home to Diaz’s high-powered character, Amanda, it was Kate Winslet’s Iris who spent the most on-screen time at the 7-bed, 6-bath estate. The exterior and backyard were the only two spaces to be featured in the movie (the stunning interiors were likely sets crafted by design queen Nancy Meyers), but there are plenty of camera-ready features this “landmark two story” has to offer.

Don Lewis
Don Lewis

Potential buyers enter the property, which was designed by architect Wallace Neff, through a set of gates that open into the façade’s court. The centerpiece of the striking welcome is a center fountain, surrounded by plants. The rest of the grounds are no less extravagant, and include a formal rose garden, an inner courtyard, a spa, a pool, a tennis court and a BBQ area.

Don Lewis
Don Lewis

In the living room, original details like coved ceilings, iron sconces and an oversize fireplace welcome guests. A stunning library with a carved wood ceiling is another standout, but a second family room that opens out to the pool is equally impressive.

Don Lewis
Don Lewis

The kitchen boasts hand-painted tile, a generous sized island and an adjacent breakfast area. A basement media room and formal dining room also come with the San Marino property.

Though the star-studded cast — which extends to the main ladies’ love interests, played by Jack Black and Jude Law — won’t likely be hanging around, the new owners will feel almost as famous after scooping up this Hollywood retreat.

May 9, 2018

Are you ready to buy a home?

Owning your own home gives you assurance that your monthly housing costs will never go up, (assuming you get a fixed-rate mortgage). Landlords can jack up your rent when you are least expecting it.

But home ownership also comes with added responsibility. When something breaks in your rental unit, it's a quick call to the landlord to get it fixed. Homeowners are on the hook for both making and financing any repairs.

It's a big financial leap to becoming a homeowner. Experts recommend asking yourself these questions before you start out house hunt:

Do you know how much you can afford?

Take the time to calculate how much home you can afford to buy.

This isn't the time to ballpark numbers. Overcommitting to a mortgage payment can leave you house poor, meaning there's very little money left over at the end of the month for other things.

Add up all your spending, including current rent, food, transportation and discretionary expenses like travel, eating out and entertainment Don't forget to include debts like student loans and car payments.

Once you know how much you have coming in and going out each month, determine a number you can afford to spend on housing.

Generally, personal finance experts recommend aiming to spend around 28% of your monthly income on housing.

Getting pre-approved for a loan will also help give you a sense of your housing budget. But note that just because a bank agreed to give you a loan, doesn't mean you have to spend that much.

"In my experience, [lenders] are always trying to get [buyers] to buy a home for more than they can afford or are comfortable with," said Francine Duke, a certified financial planner in the Chicago area and former mortgage underwriter.

Do you have a down payment?

You don't need a 20% down payment to get a loan. But putting more down can work in your favor. It can help you get better lending rates, beat out the competition in hot housing markets and will lower the amount of interest you pay over the life of a loan.

You can get a mortgage with as little as a 3.5% down, but anything less than 20% means paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), which will increase your monthly payment.

Working to save for a large down payment shows financial responsibility and gets you used to living on a strict budget.

"When you really work to save enough to get 15%-20%, it shows you have a meaningful commitment," said Bill Van Sant, certified financial planner and senior vice president at Univest Wealth Management.

Will you have money left over after closing?

Your bank account shouldn't be zero after closing.

You should still have an emergency savings fund that will cover around three to six months of living expenses on hand.

In addition to the emergency fund, Van Sant recommends having six to nine months of mortgage expenses available.

"First-time homebuyers are typically looking at older homes because of their lower price point, and they require more work. You need that 'hanging around' money, in case the A/C or heater goes."

Is your credit in good shape?

You want to get your credit score as high as possible when shopping for a mortgage. The higher the score, the better the lending terms and rates.

A credit score of 750 and up is generally considered excellent and will make you the most attractive borrower.

Have you paid down other debts?

Your debt-to-income ratio plays a major role in the health of your finances.

You can calculate your debt-to-income ratio by adding up all your monthly debt payments and dividing it by your gross monthly income.

The general rule of thumb is your debt should not exceed 43% of your available credit to take out a mortgage.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

If you don't plan on staying in an area for more than a couple of years, buying a house might not make financial sense.

The huge upfront investment including the price of the home, plus the added costs like taxes, closing costs and escrow fees, might take a while to pay off.

"Make sure you have roots there and will be staying," said Van Sant. "Some Millennials have no problem not being tied down to an area and jump around the country ... buying might not be the best bet if you don't plan on sticking around."

May 8, 2018

Zipforms to Docusign

A quick how-to to send documents from Zipforms to Docusign.  Some tips and tricks to make sure the client receives and signs easily without errors.   



May 3, 2018

5 ways to afford your first home

Buying a home is a major financial undertaking, so much so that a growing number of Americans are struggling to meet that milestone. For one thing, the homeownership rate among Millennials has dropped in recent years, due in part to a limited inventory of starter homes, and also to student debt payments monopolizing so much of younger workers' income.

Gen Xers are having a hard time buying homes as well. Between credit card debt and child care expenses, many workers in their 30s and 40s don't have the funds on hand to take that leap.

The problem, of course, is that those who put off homeownership lose out on key tax breaks for as long as they continue to rent.

If you're looking to become a homeowner, but you're finding it difficult to meet that goal, here are a few tips to make the prospect of buying more affordable.

1. Rework your budget

You might think you don't have much leeway when it comes to saving money each month, but if you're willing to take a long, hard look at your budget, you'll probably come to find that there are some expenses you can manage to cut, whether it's the cable plan you can afford to downgrade or those daily lunches you know you can prepare yourself. Reworking your budget is apt to get you closer to your goal of buying a home, so comb through your expenses line by line and figure out which are less important to you. Then, pledge to reduce or eliminate those spending categories and bank the difference.

2. Get a side hustle

Many people think of side hustles as a way to drum up a little extra spending money. But if you're willing to put in the time, that second gig could help you save some serious cash. Among the estimated 44 million U.S. adults who currently have a side hustle, 36% earn over $500 a month from that extra work. And that could help you reach your homeownership goal way faster than by just cutting corners here and there.

3. Consider the suburbs

It's often the case that you'll get more for your money in the suburbs than in a city. If you're struggling to come up with a down payment that'll buy you more than a shoebox in your local metro area, consider expanding your search perimeter to its surrounding towns. Many suburbs offer convenient public transportation options that allow you to commute to work while enjoying the benefits of cheaper housing and bigger living spaces than what you'd find in a city.

4. Boost your credit score

Though having a strong credit score won't help you come up with a down payment, it will help you qualify for the best possible mortgage rate available, thus making the prospect of homeownership more affordable on the whole. Therefore, if your score isn't stellar, it pays to take steps to raise it as quickly as possible.

You can accomplish this in a number of ways. First, make a point to pay all of your bills on time. Secondly, aim to pay down a chunk of whatever outstanding balances you're carrying. This will alter your credit utilization ratio, which is a major component of determining your score. Finally, review your credit report thoroughly for errors. One in five credit reports contains a mistake; correcting yours could send your score into more favorable territory.

5. Tap your IRA

Though this should only be used as a last resort, if you're really having a hard time saving for a home but are tired of throwing out money on rent, you have the option to remove up to $10,000 from an existing IRA in order to purchase your first home. Normally, withdrawing funds prior to age 59 and 1/2 would subject you to a 10% penalty, but the IRS allows this exception for first-time homebuyers.

But again, this option is far from ideal, because any time you remove money from an IRA, that's less income you'll have available in retirement. Furthermore, it's not just that principal amount you're losing out on during your golden years, but the growth it could've achieved over time.

Still, if you're desperate, you might choose to take an early withdrawal and make that homeownership dream come true. As a compromise, you might decide that whatever tax savings you glean from owning will go directly into your retirement plan to compensate for the sum you withdrew.

April 16, 2018

Metro Phoenix home prices are rising fastest in more affordable neighborhoods, data shows

It's been a long, hard road to recovery for metro Phoenix's boom-and-bust-battered housing market.

But some Valley neighborhoods are there — back to 2006 price levels, and higher. And other neighborhoods are very close. 

As expected, millennial first-time homebuyers are propelling the recovery. 

Metro Phoenix home prices are rising the fastest in many of its most affordable, centrally located neighborhoods, from downtown Phoenix to central Mesa, where young buyers want to live and can afford houses.

2017 was a good year for the housing recovery in the Phoenix area. Almost one-third of the Valley’s ZIP codes posted double-digit-percentage increases in prices last year, according to The Arizona Republic/azcentral Street Scout Home Values report.

Street Scout is azcentral's neighborhood and housing site that provides property valuations, home sales data, real estate news and listings. 

But there is concern buyer demand for affordable homes is beginning to outpace the supply. And there's always worry in Arizona about the possibility of another housing bust when prices climb for a few years. 

Recession rebound

In nearly 30 Phoenix-area neighborhoods, prices have rebounded to 2006 levels or even higher, data from The Information Market shows.

Most of those areas still have median home prices below $300,000.

“Last year was a strong one for the Valley’s housing market, particularly the more affordable neighborhoods closer in,” said Tina Tamboer, senior housing analyst with the Cromford Report. “Only 2004, '05 and 2011 were better years for home sales, and those weren’t normal years.”

The housing boom inflated home prices and sales between 2004 and 2006, and then investors drove up sales as foreclosures climbed and prices plummeted from 2010 to 2012. 

Home prices have doubled in many Phoenix-area neighborhoods since the bottom of the market. Besides the 30 ZIP codes where home prices have bounced back from the crash, values in another 40 neighborhoods are within 10 percent of recovering.

Fastest-growing home prices

Aysia Williams and Benjamin Hughes rented in downtown Phoenix’s historic Woodland district for about a year before deciding to buy their first home.

“We fell in love with the area, but saw prices and rents climbing fast,” Williams said. “We knew we wanted to buy, but there was a lot of competition for the houses we liked.”

Woodland is part of the 85007 ZIP code,one of central Phoenix's more affordable neighborhoods. The area, which has also attracted many investors, saw its overall median home price climb 10 percent to more than $192,000 in 2017. Sales in the area jumped nearly 20 percent last year.

Home prices in their neighborhood on the western side of downtown have rebounded from the crash and are almost 2 percent higher than they were in 2006.

“Aysia and Benjamin were so lucky and bought from their wonderful neighbor, who didn’t want to sell to an investor,” said Sherry Rampy, a downtown Phoenix real estate agent with HomeSmart.

The couple’s house, for which they paid less than $250,000 a few months ago, wasn’t even listed for sale.

“People talk about the gentrification of central Phoenix pricing too many first-time buyers out," Rampy said. “But more high-end home sales in the area help other more affordable areas like Woodland and Coronado improve, too.”

'First-time homebuyer market is exploding'

Stephanie Silva and Billy Horner moved to Chandler from Chicago for the warmth last March.

“We wanted to rent first to see if we liked the area and a 'shovel-free life,' " said Silva, who works in Tempe. Horner works in downtown Chandler.

The couple recently bought a home for under $275,000 in the central Mesa ZIP 85210, almost halfway between their jobs. Prices in the still-affordable neighborhood climbed 9 percent, and sales rose 38 percent last year. 

Home values just rebounded back to 2006 levels in their neighborhood, where the median price is about $215,000. 

“We are on a quiet, cozy block in a home with a pool and a yard,” Silva said. “So far, it is everything these Midwest transplants could ask for.”

The couple’s real-estate agents Matthew and Tia Coatesof Chandler-based Revelation Real Estate said if more people don’t decide to sell in the popular, affordable neighborhoods closer in, then it will soon get even tougher for first-time buyers.

“The first-time homebuyer market is exploding. So many people are done with renting and dealing with landlords,” Matthew Coates said. “But we are seeing a deficit of homes available.”

The number of Valley homes for sale priced under $350,000 is down almost 20 percent from last year, according to the Cromford Report.

Some potential buyers are giving up

Nils and Heather Hofmann began looking for a home midway between their jobs in Deer Valley and Chandler more than a year ago. Their budget was $300,000.

The couple, who was renting in north-central Phoenix, put their home search on hold last fall after seeing dozens of houses. The ones they liked usually sold before they could get an offer in.

“I think we must have seen more than 80 houses,” Heather Hofmann said. “We wanted to buy where we were renting, but prices were too high.”

The couple decided to stop looking for a while late last summer because it became too frustrating. But then they found out Heather was pregnant, resumed their search and upped their price to $400,000.

The Hofmanns bought a home last month in north Phoenix’s Desert Ridge neighborhood, close to several freeways for their commute.

The median home price in the Desert Ridge area is about $485,000, up 5 percent from 2016.

David Meek of Keller Williams Arizona Realty said the Hofmanns saw the house they bought on the day it was listed and made the first offer. A couple of offers quickly followed theirs, but they got the house.

“Several of my first-time and move-up buyers have quit or paused their home search due to lack of acceptable inventory,” said Meek, who is about to put his own north Phoenix house on the market for $250,000 to move a bigger one farther north for his growing family.

His client, Bonnie Jordan, who rents in the upscale Kierland community and works in north Scottsdale, doesn’t want to move too much farther out to buy her first home. Rising prices have made her decide to put her home-buying search on hold.

“I have been looking for a home to buy for the past few years. Whenever we found one for around $200,000, the investors swooped in first,” she said. “I don’t want to move far out west and take my son away from his school. I am done looking for a while.”

Looking farther out

Valley real-estate agent Diane Brennan of Coldwell Banker is working with a first-time buyer who is looking to the West Valley suburb Buckeye because that's the only place he can afford to purchase.

Before the housing market crash, the "drive until you qualify" mentality was how many buyers were able to afford their first houses in the Valley. The farther out they went, the lower the prices on the houses.

The metro Phoenix suburbs farthest out were hardest hit by the crash and have been the slowest to recover. 

But both sales and prices are again climbing in those areas, including the West Valley suburbs of Goodyear, Surprise and Buckeye and southeast Valley areas of Queen Creek and Maricopa.

The median home price in the Buckeye ZIP code 85326 is up almost 10 percent from last year to $192,000. But the area's home values are still about 19 percent off the 2006 peak.

Will this be the year?

Metro Phoenix home prices continue to climb in most neighborhoods.

The median Valley home price is now about $253,000, up from $235,000 a year ago.

Some homeowners and national market watchers see price increases in the Valley and are concerned about another bubble.

“The housing market is very solid now. The deals are gone, but that’s not a bad thing,” said veteran real-estate agent Joseph Callaway, who with his wife, JoAnn, are the team known as  "Those Callaways." “But there’s nothing that shows we are heading for another crash."

Metro Phoenix’s December 2017 median price of $250,000 is still below the high of $260,000 from 2006.

Housing market watchers say 2018 could be better than 2017 for prices and sales.

Whether this is the year the area’s median market reaches that 2006 level depends on whether first-time buyers can find homes they can afford.

“Either low inventory numbers for homes for sale will restrict sales because buyers can’t find houses in their price range or Millennials, the driving force behind our market, will be able to and decide to buy," said Tom Ruff, housing analyst with The Information Market, owned by the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service.

"That, coupled with an improving economy, will lead to increased sales in 2018," he said.