Monday, December 19, 2011

Luminous Mother

At the base of Tumamoc Hill is a wonderful shrine called the Luminous Mother. Many people leave offerings and burning candles to ask for help or to honor loved ones. You can sit on a bench and reflect on your blessings. I wonder about the significance of the photos, stuffed animals, and souvenir plate from Jerusalem.

November Residential Sales Statistics

The Tucson Association of Realtors has released the Residential Sales Statistics for November.

Just when we usually go into the year-end sales slump, we saw a 3.36% increase in units sold from October to November, and a 27% increase in the number of homes sold from November 2010.

The average sale price was $158,434, and the median sale price was $122,000. Both of these figures have increased for two months in a row.

Of the 1,015 homes sold, 59% sold for under $140,000 and 78% sold for under $200,000.

Real Estate Owned (REO) or foreclosures were 39% of the sales. Fifteen percent of the sales were short sales. As long as 54% of the sales are distressed properties selling at below market value, these comparable sales will continue to drag down the values of non-distressed homes.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Worm Composting

Wednesday I am going to the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona to learn about worm composting. Until now, I have been throwing my veggies scraps on the hill behind the house for the wildlife to eat (I know, not good for the wildlife) or, even worse, sending them to the landfill in a plastic bag. This has to stop!

Melissa Mundt is the food production education coordinator at the Community Food Bank, and she is going to get me started on worm composting. She also happens to be one of my fabulous clients.

Learn more about the Community Food Bank and lots of other backyard and community food production projects in this article in the Tucson Weekly.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

248 W Calle Patio Lindo

Sahuarita is a well planned community with a town center where you will find a fishing lake, pools, basketball, fitness center, a lounge, tennis and even miniature golf.
Grocery shopping and other services are available just south of the town center. Shaded paths connect all the neighborhoods. And there's Casino del Sol, where you find not just gambling, but concerts, too. Right next to I-10, Sahuarita is about 30 minutes south of downtown Tucson.

My listing at 248 W Calle Patio Lindo is the hard-to-find four bedroom plan.

It has a family room plus living room and an upgraded kitchen with a pantry and an office nook.
A common area behind the back yard adds privacy.
This house sold for $152,000 on May 18.

Friday, October 21, 2011


I saw this centipede crossing the road by the Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill. It looks like it is going in two directions at once, but it was moving to the right.

I saw a millipede just a few minutes before that. The millipede was not as photogenic. It was more like a black worm. You had to see its legs moving like a wave to appreciate it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Does It Pay to Shop for the Lowest Interest Rate?

I just received this from Sue Pullen at Fairway Independent Mortgage:

Since Loan Officer Compensation Reform took effect recently, loan officers are no longer being paid based on the income they bring to their company. The bottom line is that lenders don't have much wiggle room -- or incentive -- to cut pricing on loans. So the biggest difference between one lender and another won't be based on price: it will be based on competence, knowledge of underwriting guidelines, efficiency, communication, and service - in short, the ability to close the loan on time and without hassle.

I agree with Sue that consumers should choose their loan officer based on the loan officer's ability to deliver a mortgage on time, at the terms they promised, with a minimum of drama. Most home buyers assume all loan officers should be able to accomplish that, so buyers focus on finding the loan officer who promises the lowest interest rate.

Time and again, I have watched loan officers promise the sun, moon and stars, but they deliver last minute surprises, delays, and most tragically, no mortgage. It is frequently too late to choose another lender by the time the buyer learns this hard lesson, and they are unable to buy the house they planned to buy.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Buildings of Tumamoc

Tumamoc Hill is west of A Mountain, where the city does the July 4 fireworks show. I walked up the hill last night around 7:30 after hearing a lecture at the gorgeous Desert Laboratory Library (above), which is located half way up the hill. It's the same as when I make the walk at 6:30 AM. Hundreds of Tucsonans are huffing and puffing or effortlessly running up and down the hill.

The three beautiful buildings at the Desert Laboratory were all built with local rock between 1900 and 1910. They are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Residential Sales Statistics for September

The Tucson Association of Realtors has released the Residential Sales Statistics for September.

Yikes! Average sale price was $150,699, down 17% from September last year. Median sale price was $117,500, down 19.4% from a year ago.

The reason for this is clear. Foreclosures and short sales still dominate the market. Of the 1,166 sales in Tucson in September, 534 were foreclosures and 162 were short sales. In other words, 60% of the sales were distressed properties.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Way Out West, When the Cactus is in Bloom

Usually saguaros do their blooming before the summer monsoons. I was surprised to find this lone giant flowering on Tumamoc Hill last week. Climate change seems to have everyone confused.

Today I noticed two more saguaros: one had recently bloomed, and the other will in a few days. What's up with that? All the other bare-headed saguaros wonder what these renegades are up to.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Happy Fall Equinox

I have been in Tucson 21 years, and somehow I had never managed to see the petroglyphs near Picture Rocks Road.
Friday was the Autumn Equinox, and it was a very special day to make my first visit.
Archaeologists believe this spiral was made by Hohokam people about 1,000 years ago.

Only a few years ago, someone noticed that this spiral is a calendar marker. Around noon on the Summer Solstice, sunlight slips through the crack in the rock above the spiral, and a dagger of light points to the spiral. This marker doesn't work for the Equinox, so the Hohokam cleverly chipped away at a ledge to the upper right of the spiral to enable a dagger of light to point to the center of the spiral on the first day of spring and fall.
I got to see this at 11:07 AM on September 22.
Isn't that wonderful?

I also had an opportunity to walk a modern labyrinth at the Picture Rocks Redemptorist Retreat Center.
Do you know the difference between a labyrinth and a maze? Neither did I. A labyrinth has only one route. You can't get lost. A maze has dead ends.

The Tohono O'odham Man in the Maze represents Man's journey through life, from his start at the top of the labyrinth, sometimes getting close to death at the center, but then temporarily moving away from death. This labyrinth has one short dead end, below the center, where Man can look back on his life just before death.

I had a tile made for the foyer of Desert's Edge showing the Woman in the Maze. Notice she is wearing a dress. I was pleased to discover that my labyrinth does have that one dead end for reflection, just before the end.

600 E River Rd., Apt X

My newest listing is a terrific townhouse off River Road west of First Avenue. Here you'll find quality masonry construction in the toes of the Catalina Foothills.
Beehive fireplace has the southwestern ambiance you want. Plantation shutters add style. Wood floor in living room.
Carpet in bedrooms. Private little walled retreat off master bedroom. Two walk-in closets. Mountain view from the pool & spa. Ramada, gas grill & grassy lawn in the common area.
Convenient location between Tucson Mall and St Philip's Plaza. Close to miles of serenity along the beautiful Rillito River hiking and biking path.

Sold December 27, 2012 for $81,000.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Learning about Tumamoc Hill

I have been hiking up Tumamoc Hill for the past few months, and I love it! It's a 710 feet elevation change, and 1.5 miles each way. It's not the prettiest hike in Tucson, but it's a paved road with lots of people around to help if something untoward happens during the hike. Almost every day, I see something interesting. I am going to post some of my finds here.

Check out the Tumamoc blog. On the May 19, 2011 entry, you will see one of my fabulous clients, Moses Thompson, with his students from Manzo Elementary.

On October 12, I plan to go to the lecture at Tumamoc on Human Adaptions to Desert Ecosystems at 6 PM.

Monday, September 19, 2011

1540 S Desert Crest Drive

This terrific house is in the same subdivision as my beloved home, Desert's Edge. Both houses back up to the 65 acres of beautiful desert owned by the homeowner's association, of which I am president.
The big difference between my house and my newest listing is the renovation fun hasn't yet begun for the next owner of 1540 S Desert Crest Drive. This solid masonry home has three bedrooms and two baths, plus a carport, fireplace and large lot. No weird additions have been stuck onto it.
This location can't be beat. Adjacent to Starr Pass Resort in the fabulous Tucson Mountains, this is where the deer and the javelina play. Bobcats, coyotes and all sorts of reptiles and birds including road runners will be frequent visitors. The hiking and biking opportunities are terrific. Yet you're only 10 minutes from downtown.
Call me to learn about loan programs that will enable you to finance your renovation costs.
I sold this home for $60,000 on November 2, 2011. It's my second sale this year in Tucson Park West 3, and my fifth in this fabulous subdivision since I bought Desert's Edge in 2005.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Tucson Association of Realtors has released the Residential Sales Statistics for August.

Let's hope the 10.5% decline in average sale price from July to August is a blip that will be corrected this month. Now at $155,000, the average sale price hasn't been this low since 2001.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

FHA Loan Limits Will Decrease

FHA’s lending limit for Pima County is currently $316,250. Effective October 1, 2011, the new limit will be $271,050.

This is another way our government is making housing unaffordable. People getting a mortgage for more than $271,500 will need to make at least a 5% down payment, instead of the 3.5% down payment they can make with an FHA loan.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

From a Loan Officer Extraordinaire

I work with many Realtors as a Loan Officer and Donna is one of my premiere referrals oulets. She takes great care to make sure her buyers know everything about the house they're buying. Recently, I've had occasion to refer sellers to her also. And NOT SURPRISINGLY, she was as great with Sellers as Buyers.... And she can handle a short sale from either position with great success. Glad you're there, Donna, you get 5 *****s in my Book!! Thanks,

Catherine Ellinwood
Fairway Independent Mortgage
Cell: 520-954-1907

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Success with a Difficult Sale

I recently sold my home and was so fortunate to have Donna as my realtor. She worked harder than any other realtor I know, and I am certain that had it not be for her dedication, determination, and persistence my home would have not been sold. Donna has several years of experience with all types of listings and is very familiar with the Tucson market. I would highly recommend her to anyone who is looking at buying or selling their home. She has what it takes and will be sure to get the job done!

Natalia Reding

Why Do Banks Seem to Prefer Foreclosures to Short Sales?

When a seller owes more to his mortgage company than his house is worth, he needs his mortgagor's approval to sell the house, because the mortgagor will not be repaid what the seller owes it from the proceeds of the sale. This is called a short sale, but there is nothing short about it.

Mortgagors are very reluctant to accept a short sale, and the request for short sale approval drags on for several months. The seller and his real estate agent must repeatedly submit the same documents because the mortgagor loses them or the documents become outdated while the seller waits for short sale approval.

Often, after keeping a seller and a prospective buyer waiting for a response to a perfectly reasonable short sale offer for several months, the mortgagor will decide to foreclose on the property. Then the investor in the mortgage, usually Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or HUD, lists the property for sale with a different real estate agent at a much lower price than what a buyer had offered as a short sale.

It would seem that the mortgagor would lose money by doing this, wouldn't it? Yet the banks are enjoying record profits. How do they do it?

The secret may be that the lender forecloses so they can get paid for their loss by mortgage insurance. Borrowers sometimes pay for this insurance, but sometimes the lenders pay for it themselves. Because they won't get the mortgage insurance pay out if they agree to a short sale, the lender considers the costs of foreclosure--attorney's fees, property tax, insurance, homeowner association fees, utilities, repairs, real estate commissions--and if they will net more by foreclosing, collecting the mortgage insurance, and selling the house quickly at some below market price, they will.

Lenders don't seem to have made the connection between selling foreclosed prices at low prices, and the depression of prices of nearby houses that weren't underwater until the foreclosed house sold in the neighborhood. This is the real mystery to me. It's been four years since the real estate market imploded, and the banks still don't see that their actions are preventing a housing recovery.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Residential Sales Statistics

The Tucson Association of Realtors has published the Residential Sales Statistics for July.

Average sale price is $167,172, up 3.57% from June, but down 9.86% from July last year. Median sale price is $125,000, down 0.79% from June and down 16.67% from last July.

1,124 properties sold in July, a healthy 41.92% increase from last July, when the Federal housing credit giveaway program had just expired, and many buyers cancelled their purchase contracts because they couldn't get the free money.

Of the 1,124 July sales, 844, or 75%, were under $200,000.

Foreclosures accounted for 46% of the sales, and short sales were 10% of the sales.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Is FHA Getting Out of the Condo Business?

New FHA guidelines will make it much more difficult for condominium associations to be certified for FHA financing. Without the certification, owners of condominiums will be unable to sell to buyers using FHA financing.

Prior to 2010, once a condo project was FHA-certified, the certification was good forever. Now any project that was certified prior to 2008 must apply for certification under the new, stricter rules, and must re-apply ever two years.

Until February 2010, a lender could get a "spot certification" of one unit in a non-FHA-certified project so a borrower could use an FHA loan to buy a condo. Not anymore.

According to this article in Inman News, the condo association must ensure that no more than 50% of the units can be occupied by renters. How is the condo association supposed to know this? Knock on every one's door every month, and ask who is living there?

Additionally, no more than 15% of the condo owners can be over 30 days late on their assessments. Obviously, the delinquency rate of the owners is always in flux, and it is particularly high when many of the units have been foreclosed and are owned by banks.

The biggest barrier to getting FHA certification is that the condo manager or board member filing the application is personally responsible for the accuracy of the application. The penalty for an inaccurate application is up to $1,000,000 and 30 years in prison! Who wants to take that kind of risk, when it's impossible to know that the information is accurate?

What does this mean for Tucson? If you check this list of FHA-certified condos in Tucson, only four projects have been certified since 2008. They are: Sunset Foothills Condominiums, The Villas at Hacienda del Sol, Pinnacle Canyon Condominiums, and Tierra Catalina Condominiums. All are north of River Road, in the foothills. Condo owners in these projects are probably not relying on FHA financing to get their condos sold.

The rest of the condos? Not certified. Not eligible for FHA financing. Without the FHA options, buyers will need a larger down payment and higher credit score. This reduces the pool of buyers. Few eligible buyers means lower sale prices for condos.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

219 E 13th St

Do you love history? Oak floors and claw foot tubs?
High ceilings and big sunny windows?
A fireplace and spacious formal dining? An urban lifestyle? This is the home for you.
Living just half a block from Amory Park, you won't miss any of the fun as downtown Tucson revitalizes herself. The Children's Museum, Temple of Music and Art, 17th Street Market & La Placita Village (Tucson Meet Yourself! Folk Festival! Outdoor Movies!). Many hip new restaurants are nearby. One block to the planned 4th Avenue Trolley to University of Arizona.
Have you seen the fabulous griffin on Scott Avenue? She's only two blocks from this sweet home.

Three bedrooms and two baths in the main part of the house.
The kitchen has been updated with stainless steel appliances and tile counters, but still retains its antique character.
If you need a home office to impress your sophisticated clients, you'll love the two room suite with private entrance, storage and bathroom.
Maybe you would like some rental income? The previous office tenant paid $420 per month for five years, but left when her lease expired in December 2011. Or you could use the suite as a master bedroom or guest quarters. The floor plan is here. This is the vintage home of your dreams. This home sold for $267,000 on March 1, 2012.

Friday, June 24, 2011

May Residential Sales Statistics

The Tucson Association of Realtors has released the Residential Sales Statistics for May.

Average sale price was $168,453. Median sale price was $127,000. There were 1,257 sales in May, only slightly below the 1,270 sales a year ago. Fortunately, number of listings is down to 5,795, down 14% from last May.

3.8% Sales Tax on All Real Estate Sales!

Have you received a chain email like this:


Please, settle down and don't shout! The purveyors of this email can only wish the health care bill were this evil. According to and, this tax only applies to people with income exceeding $200,000 per year. If the seller has lived in the house for two of the last five years, the first $250,000 in capital gains for a single person and $500,000 in capital gains for a married couple is tax free. Only the capital gains in excess of those amounts will be taxed at 3.8%.

Sales of vacation homes and investment properties are not exempt from this tax.

Most of us can't even dream about $250,000 in capital gains on the sale of our homes. This bill will generate so little tax revenue, and it has predictably created so much rumor fodder, I don't see why it was ever tacked on to the health care bill.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Vote for Tucson, The Best Town Ever!

Tucson is one of the top ten finalists in Outside Magazine's Best Town Ever contest. Voting for Outside Magazine’s “Best Town Ever” ends Sunday, June 26th at 9:00 p.m. Arizona time. The Old Pueblo needs your vote every day until then! Tucson is slowly gaining ground on Chattanooga, TN but we are running out of time and will not catch them unless you participate directly.

Today, Chattanooga is leading the pack with 6,019 votes. Tucson is in second place at 4,790 votes. This is probably because most people in Tucson are outside enjoying Tucson's fabulosity instead of sitting in front of their computers, but come on, take a minute and vote for Tucson!

Please cast your vote every day at You will need to ‘like’ their page before you’re able to vote. You can vote until Sunday, June 26th at 9:00 p.m. MST.

Friday, June 17, 2011

This is So Wrong

Something is seriously wrong with Arizona when wonderful people like Laura, Jennifer and Jackson have to leave, but Senate President Russell Pearce, Sheriff Joe Araipo and the Wasilla Hillbillies get to stay.

I wish Baja Arizona actually had a chance of seceding from Maricopa County and rejoining the United States.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"C'est la Vie," Say the Old Folks

We bought a souped-up Hyundai, it was a cherry red GLE. Drove it down to Bisbee to celebrate the anniversary.

Steve and I met 20 years ago this month, and we decided that milestone deserves a celebration. We stayed at the beautiful vacation home of our friend Cynthia. She bought her sweet vintage home high on the hill overlooking Old Bisbee 33 years ago, before anyone knew that Bisbee would become such an artsy community. She was in Bisbee when Bisbee wasn't cool.

We had three days of being tourists. We checked out the Shady Dell airstream trailer court and diner,
and took the Copper Queen Mine tour.
We looked in galleries, were awed by the stained glass at St Patrick's and admired the art deco Cochise County Superior Court Building. Ate no fewer than three delicious meals at High Desert Market and Cafe on Tombstone Canyon, and had some good Mexican chow at Santiago's in Brewery Gulch. Cynthia proudly gave us a tour of the impressive Copper Queen Hospital where she works.

Believe it or not, list prices of small historic homes are higher in Bisbee than they are in Tucson. However, the amazing 10,615 square foot, 11 bedroom, 9 bathroom Loma Linda mansion in Warren can be had for only $672,000. Designed by the architect Henry Trost, it was built for a mine executive in 1907, and was known as a rock star party house in the 70s. Many of the homes in Bisbee were demolished when the Lavender Pit opened, and Loma Linda lost its extensive orchards. You will have to overlook the towering mine tailings that now come almost up to the back porch, but it's a steal, marked down from its 2007 list price of $2,000,000.
C'est la vie, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell.

It's a Good Time to Invest in Tucson

Inman News ranks Tucson as the fourth best place in the country to buy investment property now.

"The analysis considered markets with high affordability, low and dropping prices, a high market share of foreclosure sales, high population growth, an improving unemployment rate that is close to or better than the national average, high projected return on investment (ROI) over the next decade, and a low total cost of ownership-to-rent ratio."

While Tucson is great for long-term investors, the short term investors are also doing well by paying cash for foreclosed and distressed properties that don't qualify for traditional mortgage financing. The investors make the needed repairs, which may be as minor as replacing broken windows or replacing heating and cooling systems, and then selling the property for twice or more what they paid.

Not all these investors are actually paying cash. They may purchase the house with "hard money", meaning they get a loan at high interest rate from a private lender who, unlike the traditional sources of low cost mortgages, doesn't care about the condition of the property. The investor doesn't plan to keep the house more than a few months, so he isn't very concerned about the high interest rate he is paying.

Friday, May 27, 2011

This Beats All

As if the return of the bobcat yesterday wasn't enough excitement at Casa de Estavan y Donna, we had a visitor today that left us with our jaws hanging. Around dusk, Steve was moving hoses around, without his sidekick Sunbeam because of yesterday's bobcat appearance, when he came running in the house to get me.

He was excited but happy, so I knew the bobcat wasn't devouring something, but still I was apprehensive. He told me it was okay, and led me to the driveway where a GILA MONSTER was flicking its black forked tongue and booking for the South 40. What a beauty! How the heck did it end up in Central Tucson? Is it someone's escaped pet?

Another reason to be grateful for our life in the Baked Apple.

Buying (and Therefore, Selling) a House May Become More Difficult

Republicans have a draft bill in the House that will raise the minimum down payment on FHA loans from 3.5% to 5%. Under the bill, the maximum FHA loan amount will drop way down to 125% of the median sale price in the county. I don't know what the median sale price in Pima County is, but the median sale price in April in the Tucson Multiple Listing Service, which includes all but the most rural parts of the county, was $132,000. In March it was $125,000. When FHA sets a loan limit based on median sale price, the loan limit sticks for quite a while, and does not adjust to market changes on a regular basis.

A housing expert says there is no evidence that an additional 1.5% down payment requirement will significantly decrease the default rate among FHA buyers. It could, however, decrease the pool of FHA buyers by 40%.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tucson Residential Sales Statistics

The Tucson Association of Realtors has release the Residential Sale Statistics for April.

The average sale price continues its bumpy trend. From December 2010 to January 2011, it went down 10%. Average sale price was up 9% in February, down 10% in March, up 6% in April to $173,981.

With 6,269 listings divided by 1,152 sales in April, we have a 5.44 month supply of listings. A six month supply is considered a balanced market, with no advantage to buyer or seller. So by this measure, this could be a seller's market for the first time in years.

But who are the sellers who are in charge of this market? Banks, mostly. When I search the Multiple Listing Service for sales in April, I find 1,235. I don't know why it's more than is reported by the Tucson Association of Realtors. Of those sales, 502 were Real Estate Owned, or REO, meaning they are owned by a bank that foreclosed on the previous owner. Short sales, where the seller owes more than the house is worth, and needs his lender's approval to sell the house, accounted for 110 sales. So REOs and short sales accounted for 50% of the sales last month.

We used to call a sale where the seller had equity and we didn't have to deal with an uncooperative bank a normal sale. The new normal is REOs and short sales.

Forty-two percent of the sales were under $120,000 and 74% of the sales were under $200,000.

Moving for the Last Time

The Arizona Daily Star doesn't seem to have caught on, but Realty Executives Phoenix filed chapter 11 (reorganization) bankruptcy a few weeks ago, taking the three branch offices in Tucson down with it. A new Realty Executives franchise is forming in Tucson, but I need a company with more stability. I just went through this last year with the previous Realty Executives franchise. As W once said, "Fool me once... shame on... you... fool me twice... uh... Ya can't get fooled again!"

My clients and I need a real estate company that has a local presence strong enough to stay in business. But I do not think the main purpose of a real estate company is to generate corporate profits. So the logical fit for me is Tierra Antigua Realty. Started by real estate agents 10 years ago, it has grown to be the second largest real estate company in Tucson, with over 800 agents. Its sales are 10% of the Tucson market. I have been warmly welcomed, and I am impressed with the focus on agent and client satisfaction.

I was with Long Realty for eight years, Realty Executives for eight years (with an unplanned three-month detour to Keller Williams), and I am planning to stay at Tierra Antigua for at least the next eight years. Maybe after 24 years in real estate, I'll be ready to move on to the next adventure. But today, I am open for business and feeling optimistic about the future.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Dove on the Kitchen Window

As I came home last night, I caught the changing of the guard over the two mourning dove eggs on my kitchen window. The male dove sits on the nest during the day, and the female takes the night shift. The female perches in a nearby tree during the day, and has performed the broken wing ploy to distract me from the nest.