Saturday, June 6, 2009

Screech Owl

I was standing in the back door way at Desert's Edge a few mornings ago, looking in the desert for the javelina family that wandered through the back yard while we were having dinner on the porch the night before. No sign of the javelina, but I looked up to the rafters of the porch and saw a sleeping screech owl. How exciting! I had planned to eat breakfast on the porch, but I decided to eat inside, leaving the door open. The owl gradually realized I was there taking pictures, and flew away. But I had a good fifteen minutes to check him or her out.

I wonder if that is what I heard up in the attic about 3 AM? There was something up there that sounded BIG, tearing and scratching. I looked all around the eaves, and the largest hole is about an inch wide tear in the screen on the bird board. Hmmm.

Then, a while later, I was sitting at the kitchen counter with the door open and a cactus wren hopped in and perched under the backgammon table. I thought about chasing it out, but decided that might scare it off further into the house, so we just kept eyeing each other until it hopped back out the door.

What a wonderful place.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Night Blooming Cereus

We had a record bloom of the night blooming cereus that sprawls all over Steve's wood pile. May 27, five blooms caught our interest. We could see that the big night would be May 28, so we put post it notes all over the house to remind ourselves not to miss it. We were really excited to count 55, 56 or 57 blooms that night! Wow! We counted over and over, and got a different number each time, so we aren't sure exactly how many flowers we had, but it was very impressive. The old cactus still wasn't done showing off, and May 29 we had five more blooms and then on May 30 there were two.

Last year I wondered whether the full moon had anything to do with the timing of the bloom, but I guess it doesn't. The moon was just a beautiful new sliver this time.

May Residential Sales Statistics

The Tucson Association of Realtors has released the Residential Sales Statistics for May. It's all good news. The average sale price was $204,125 and the median sale price was $170,000. These were 6.14% and 3.72% increases since the previous month. The number of units sold was up 6.93% and the number of listings was down 5.57% since April. With 6,505 listings divided by 987 sales, we have a 6.6 month supply of houses. A six month supply is considered a balanced market, with no advantage to the buyer or seller. This is a huge improvement from the dismal 13 month supply we had in December.

The under $300,000 market continues to be strong. I have seen bidding wars and quick sales. Many buyers are realizing that these low interest rates can't last forever. The $8,000 tax credit for people who haven't owned a home in the last three years will expire December 1 this year. Now's the time to make a move, before -- dare we say it? -- the inventory dips below a six month supply.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

3453 N Richland Drive

This incredibly affordable townhouse is located in the desirable Richland Heights neighborhood, northeast of Campbell and Ft Lowell. It has eco-friendly bamboo floors through out. The central air conditioner was new in 2005. Also has evaporative cooling for maximum energy savings.

The living room is spacious and has a high vaulting ceiling with clerestory windows. The corner fireplace provides a cozy touch. Sliding doors lead from the living room and master bedroom to the private walled patio. A generous dining area is between the living room and kitchen.

The two bedrooms and two baths are augmented by a den, which could easily be converted to a third bedroom by reworking the hall closet so it faces the bedroom. Check out the floor plan to see how it could be done.

The pool, spa and ramada offer a great oasis for relaxing and entertaining.

The Homeowners Association fee covers common area maintenance and insurance, garbage collection, water, personal and common area structural insurance, and building exterior and front yard maintenance.

This townhouse sold for $120,700 on July 21, 2009. What a shame the price was dragged down so low by foreclosures, the $180 per month HOA fee, and the need for maintenance in the complex. The maintenance will not be started until the HOA finishes collecting a $100 per month special assessment from each homeowner at the end of 2010.

$8,000 NOT Available for Closing Costs, Either

More chaos from Housing and Urban Development. The $8,000 tax credit for home buyers who haven't owned a home in the last three years can not be used for closing costs in Arizona. Only 14 states have set up the non-profit organizations that are needed to make short term loans to home buyers. The home buyers will pay back the loan when they file an amended tax return. Arizona is not one of the 14 states to create this non-profit organization.

The only thing a home buyer in Arizona can do to get some of the $8,000 prior to buying his home is to reduce his income tax with holding. To find out how to do that, check here.

To qualify for the $8,000 tax refund, the home purchase must be completed before November 31, 2009.

This is free money! If you qualify, now's the time to buy a house.

$8,000 NOT Available for Down Payment (But It Can Be Used for Closing Costs)

Doesn't inspire much confidence in our government when they keep announcing stuff and then retracting their announcements, does it?

This is from the National Association of Realtors:

HUD: Tax Credit Can Be Used on Closing Costs

FHA-approved lenders received the go-ahead to develop bridge-loan products that enable first-time buyers to use the benefits of the federal tax credit upfront, according to eagerly awaited guidance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on so-called home buyer tax credit loans that was released today.

Under the guidance, FHA-approved lenders can develop bridge loans that home buyers can use to help cover their closing costs, buy down their interest rate, or put down more than the minimum 3.5 percent.

The loans can't be used for the borrower's minimum investment of 3.5 percent of the sale price, senior HUD officials told reporters on a conference call Friday morning.

Thus, buyers applying for FHA-backed financing with an FHA-approved lender that offers a bridge-loan program can get a bridge loan to bring down the upfront costs of buying a home significantly but would still have to come up with the minimum contribution of the 3.5 percent downpayment.

The first-time homebuyer tax credit was enacted last year--and improved upon earlier this year--to help encourage households to enter the housing market while interest rates are low and affordability is high. The credit is worth up to $8,000 (10% of the purchase price, so as long as you pay over $80,000 for your house, you get the whole $8,000) and is available to households that haven't owned a home in at least three years. The credit does not have to be repaid, and is fully reimbursable, so households can get their credit returned to them in the form of a payment. This means if you don't owe $8,000 in federal taxes, you get the difference between $8,000 and your federal tax obligation as a cash refund!

Learn more about the credit, including how to apply for it this year even if you've already filed your taxes, at