Saturday, December 15, 2012

Really Special Jefferson Park Home for Rent

Two bedroom, one bath home with Arizona Room, which can be used as a study, playroom, or extra bedroom. Living room fireplace.

Dining room, tiled floors and central air conditioning. Skylight in the kitchen. Great Catalina Mountain views from living room.
Northwest of Grant and Campbell at 1440 E Silver Street; 0.5 mile from University Medical Center. One mile from University of Arizona on the Mountain Avenue bike route.

Beautiful front and back yards with large trees for shade. Carport and storage sheds. 1,150 square feet. Water paid by owner. Pets negotiable

$1,050 per month. Rented to summer 2013.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mulie Family

Less than a minute after I went back into Desert's Edge through the back door, seven mule deer tip-toed down the hill to my fountain. Four adults and three fawns. Their coats are shinier, darker and more speckled than they were during the summer.
Every day is Thanksgiving Day at the Desert's Edge.

Fiscal Cliff for Homeowners Doing Short Sales

The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 is due to expire at the end of the year. It is one of the many issues bundled up in the infamous "Fiscal Cliff" negotiations. If the Act is not extended, homeowners who have debt forgiven in a short sale, loan modification or foreclosure will owe the IRS income tax on the forgiven debt.

Suppose a person owes $200,000 on his house, and it is sold in a short sale for $125,000. This seller will get a IRS form 1099 showing $75,000 income, and he will be expected to pay income tax on money he never had. It's pretty obvious that someone who qualified for a short sale does not have tens of thousands of dollars to give to the IRS. I fail to see how we will reduce the deficient by sending tax bills to people who don't have the ability to pay them.

Read more on To get the official IRS take, check here. And of course consult a tax expert if you are facing short sale, loan modification or foreclosure.

Mortgage Interest Deduction Threatened

The mortgage interest tax deduction is also on the chopping block. This doesn't concern me as much, even though I am a beneficiary of it. The federal government subsidizes home ownership in dozens of ways, but I don't think this should be one of them.

Suppose a person with a $150,000 mortgage at 5% interest loses his mortgage interest deduction. So what if he can't deduct $7,500 from his taxable income? If he's in the 25% tax bracket, he won't save $1,875 on his taxes. This is going to stop him from buying a house?

The current proposal the Obama administration has on the table will reduce the limit on mortgage principal eligible for a deduction to $500,000 from the current $1 million. The tax deduction will be replaced by a tax credit capped at 12% of interest paid. Mortgage interest on second homes will no longer be tax deductible.

The National Association of Realtors says the mortgage interest deduction is sacred, and changes to the tax code will cause home prices to plummet. Critics of the tax reform say people will no longer be unable to afford to pay as much for homes without the tax subsidy. This is nonsense. When a person applies for a mortgage, the mortgage broker does not count the amount the buyer will save on his taxes as income.  

Amazing West University Rental

Beautiful rental in West University, minutes to the U of A and downtown. Right around the corner from Time Market at 438 E 2nd Street.
Beautiful cactus gardens out front, big porch front and back, two bedrooms, one full bathroom. An extra room at the back of the house with French doors to the spacious backyard. Washer and dryer. The kitchen has lots of space, plus a big walk in pantry.
Fireplace, built-in bookshelves and cabinets. Large living and dining rooms in this historic West University home, built in 1910.
This house is now rented.

December Residential Sale Statistics

The Tucson Association of Realtors has released the Residential Sales Statistics for November. Average sale price increased 3.8% from October to $182,539, and increased 15.2% from a year ago. There were 994 sales, a 2.1% decline from a year ago. We are in the seasonal sales slump, and should see more motivated buyers in January.  Number of active listings declined 14.7% since November 2011 to 4,430, but has been increasing since reaching a low of 3,474 in June.

While only 8% of the active listings as of today are short sales, they accounted for 15% of the sales in November. Foreclosures account for 12% of the listings on the market today, but 25% of the sales in November were foreclosures.

Of the 583 listings that sold for under $150,000 in November, 20% were short sales and 35% were foreclosures. Today, only 5% of the active listings are short sales, and 8% are foreclosures. Foreclosures generally sell for considerably under market value, but short sales tend to sell close to market value, so the predominance of distressed sales is sort of baffling.

I don't know about everyone else, but December is looking like the best month I have had since 2005.

Think Globally, Act Locally: Rain Water Harvesting in Tucson

This nicely-done video has the startling news that the volume of rain water that falls on Tucson is greater than the volume of water we currently consume from municipal suppliers. Check it out here. The project is at 813 North 9th Avenue, in the extremely groovy neighborhood of Dunbar-Spring, southwest of Stone and Speedway.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Flood Insurance Becoming More Expensive

Private insurance companies do not offer flood insurance for properties that are in the flood plain. Using tax payer funds, the National Flood Insurance Program provides subsidized flood insurance. The program borrowed $18 billion to pay claims from the Katrina hurricane, and had just $3 billion in borrowing power left prior to the Sandy super storm, which could require $6 to $12 billion in payouts.

Flood insurance premiums will increase an average of 20% in January on second homes and businesses. Houses built before there was a NFIP have rates that are half those of new construction. The discounted policies will be gradually eliminated through annual 25% premium increases.

Read more in this New York Times article.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

1307 S Harmon Lane

You've got it made in the shade on your private patio.
The lodge pole ramada with corrogated metal roof and big old mesquite tree create your serenity space.
Lots of trees in the common area near the community pool complete your desert oasis.
Just outside Starr Pass Resort, and only 10 minutes from downtown.
Close to hiking and mountain biking in Tucson Mountain Park.
Check out the interactive floor plan here. A bedroom wall was removed to make a family room with French doors, a fireplace and dining area open to the kitchen. The original living room is still in the front of the house. Potential third bedroom?
Perfect for first time buyers, investors, or your vacation hideaway.
Homeowner's association fee is $132 per month and covers common area, building exterior and front yard maintenance, roof, termite control, water, and trash collection. Sold for $100,000 March 15, 2013.

Monday, November 19, 2012

October Residential Sales Statistics

The Tucson Association of Realtors has released the Residential Sales Statistics for October. Average sale price decreased 3.4% from September to October, but is still 16% higher than a year ago. 1,074 properties were sold in October, a 9.37% increase from a year ago. As the holidays approach, I expect we will see the usual decline in sales activity until the market gets lively again in January.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Let Housing Lead the Recovery

With election day tomorrow finally putting an end to all the campaign drama, it is important to remember that the winner of the Presidential election can either help or hurt our economic recovery with their policies regarding the housing industry. Unfortunately, neither candidate has address this extremely important issue.

Our government has the power to let the housing market lead the economic recovery. Even if neither party wants to spend money to help the housing market, they could be very effective if they eliminated policies that hurt the housing market.

 Dave Liniger, Co-Founder and Chairman, RE/MAX, LLC, put it beautifully in this open letter to Obama and Romney.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Cat on a Elastomeric Roof

Our little orange tabby, Sunbeam, loves to go outside, especially when she can help her body guard, Steve, do yard work. When she doesn't want to go out, it's a cinch that there's bobcat in the yard. Sure enough, Steve went out and nearly stepped on this sleeping bobcat. The bobcat's reaction was much closer to the annoyed range of the scale than frightened. He slowly ambled away, jumped on the five-foot wall, and glared over his shoulder at Steve. He jumped down behind the wall, but soon re-appeared on the roof of the carport and resumed his cat nap. Even when I pulled a chair out into the yard to stand on it and take photos from 20 feet away, he continued his snooze. This all happened at our house near Ft Lowell and Campbell.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Cactus Ed Lives!

Below you'll find a link to a rare video of the Thoreau of the American Southwest, Edward Abbey. This doesn't have much to do with Tucson, except that Ed lived and died in the Tucson Mountains, as I hope I will.

Here's the back ground, written by Ned Judge, the co-producer of an eight minute film essay about Ed's curmudgeonly perspective on the "improvements" to Arches National Park, the subject of Ed's book Desert Solitaire.

Essay by Edward Abbey "I Loved it...I Loved it All"

An eight minute film essay that I co-produced and directed with Ed Abbey in 1985. At the time I was working for a network magazine show. The executive producer took me to lunch one day. He told me that he was having trouble with his son who was 18. The son thought his dad was a corporate whore. He had told his father if he had any balls at all he’d put Ed Abbey on his show. That’s why the EP was talking to me. Would I see if it was possible? I had an acquaintance who knew Ed and he passed the request along. Ed responded that he’d give it a try. He signed the contract and wrote a script. We met in Moab and went out to Arches National Park to shoot some practice sessions with a home video camera. We would review them at the motel in the evening. After a day or two, Ed was feeling pretty comfortable on camera so we scheduled the shoot. We were all happy with the way it went. But then we ran head-on into network reality. Roger Mudd, the show’s host, was extremely negative about putting an “eco-terrorist” on the show. The executive producer caved (his son was right about him apparently). So this Abbey essay was put on the shelf and never aired. Abbey died 3 years later in March 1989.

And here's an endearing video of my hero, Cactus Ed. Steve got to meet him at readings. As a member of Earth First! he was even invited to Ed's memorial service. Unfortunately, I arrived home in Tucson in 1990, a year too late to meet this wonderful philosopher, anarchist and defender of wilderness.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

September Residential Sale Statistics

The Tucson Association of Realtors has released the Residential Sales Statistics for September. Average sale price was $182,041, up 1% from a month ago and up 21% after bottoming out exactly a year ago.

The report says days-on-market dropped from 65 in August to 45 in September. Next month we'll see if that is an aberration. There sure have been a lot of bidding wars lately, so it seems possible.

The 938 closed sales indicated a 20% decline in units sold in one month. Again, that looks like a fluke. However, we do typically see a less dramatic decline in sales from September through December. Sale activity has historically accelerated after the holidays.

Short sales and foreclosures are still 41% of the sales.

In September 2011, 38% of the sales were cash. Cash buyers are frequently investors. Last month, 30% of the sales were cash. This is probably because the prices of houses are going up, and the opportunities to fix and flip for profit are getting scarce.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Mountain Horny Toad

Steve and I saw four or five horny toads while we were hiking the Carrie Nation Trail in Madera Canyon. Notice how this fellow's salmon and olive camouflage is just right for his environment. Quite different from his desert cousin, whose photo can be seen on the July 23, 2012 blog post.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Price Reduced on a Lovely Home

Lovely family home in a desirable neighborhood. Well maintained and nicely upgraded. Gorgeous, soaring open-beam ceilings.
Two-sided fireplace is open to living room and family room.
Dining ell has a view to the back yard through the bay window.
Solid masonry construction with high block wall for privacy. Light and bright kitchen with oak cabinets, cheery blue counters and desk.
Big closets and sweet built-in storage. Dual cooling. Raised planter bed, mister on the spacious covered patio, plus ramada and storage shed.
Laundry room inside next to roomy storage room/workshop. Three blocks to Mesa Village Park, and about the same distance to Park Place Mall. See interactive floor plan here.

Sold for $138,000 on December 14, 2012. What a deal. All the foreclosures and short sales in the neighborhood dragged the appraisal down way below what this house is worth. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Life Imitates Kitsch

Space Shuttle Endeavor

Like mating dragonflies, space shuttle Endeavor sailed over Tucson riding a 747 this morning on its way to its final resting place in Los Angeles. The fly over honored our former Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, and her astronaut husband, Mark Kelly, who was commander on the Endeavor's last mission in May 2011.

I am disappointed that there was no advance publicity about this once-in-a-lifetime event. Hence, all I got was this sorry photo with my phone.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tarantula: Five on the Left and Three on the Right

I encountered this unusual tarantula while hiking in Madera Canyon over the weekend. It was about the size of my hand and fingers. It seems to have lost its right front leg and pedipalp, but it can still get around okay. When it moults, it will grow new appendages. It may have even eaten its appendages if a predator didn't make off with them.

I was not concerned that I could get hurt by making this video, but I should have been. Tarantulas can throw hairs at their attackers, and the hairs can create an irritating rash. They can even cause permanent eye damage.

By the way, Madera Canyon is only an hour south of Tucson in the Santa Rita Mountains. It is 3,000 feet higher and at least 20 degrees cooler than Tucson. Birds I saw there: Broad-Billed, Rufous and Black-Chinned Hummingbirds, Acorn Woodpeckers, Green-Backed and Black-Backed Lesser Goldfinches, Mexican Jays and a Bullock's Oriole.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Like the Views from Desert's Edge? Buy My Neighbor's House

I have spent many hours watching and listening to the wildlife in the back yard of my home, Desert's Edge. Many of the photos in the Urban Wildlife section of my blog were taken there. If you would like to share my extreme good luck in owning a home on the edge of the desert, here's your big chance. My neighbors have hired me to sell their wonderful home.
Let's start with the back yard, which is adjacent to 65 acres of common area owned by the home owner's association. Before you say "Yuck! Homeowner's association!" let me tell you that the dues are $41.50 per YEAR, which mainly pays the taxes and insurance on the common area.
The owners have created a wildlife viewing paradise, with a porch that extends 55 feet, all the way across the back of the house. They built this porch strong enough to support a deck, from which you would be able to see the city lights, and four mountain ranges. On the roof is the solar water heater panel.

The inside of the home is also a delight. Bright and well-maintained, it has four bedrooms and three bathrooms.
The floor plan is here.
The kitchen and living room floors are polished saltillo, and the rest of the floors were recently tiled with a decorative saltillo-look-alike ceramic. Close to Tumamoc Hill and only 10 minutes to downtown.
Solid masonry construction and all work done by professionals with building permits. If you know another neighborhood where you can own this kind of view for this kind of price, please let me know about it, because I've never seen it.
Sold for $145,000 in December 2012.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Two Turtle Doves

Yesterday morning I was delighted to find a Ringed Turtle Dove strolling around my back yard. The doves we usually see in Tucson are Mourning Doves and White Winged Doves. Both of our common doves have black cheek stripes and blue eye rings and are darker gray than the Ringed Turtle Dove. The black collar and lack of cheek stripes are the most diagnostic features of the Ringed Turtle Dove.

This is only the second time I have seen a Turtle Dove. They were domesticated in Los Angeles from an African dove species. The ones we see are escaped or released pets or their descendants.
The really weird thing is that my fabulous client, David Kuster, emailed me a photo he took of a Ringed Turtle Dove in his yard just a hour after I took my photo! David's dove has a darker neck ring. Maybe it's more mature than mine? Anyway, I thought that was remarkable because David had never before emailed me a photo of anything.

Update: Just got this from another fabulous client, Jonathan Horst.

Hope you're getting rain tonight; sprinkling here.

I think the bird you saw is a Eurasian Collared Dove - their range is spreading pretty quickly and they're getting more common each year in Tucson (the first I saw was four years ago; now they're all over my back yard). Might be a Ringed Turtle Dove, but that'd be a super-rarity. And apparently they're generally difficult to tell apart (song is easiest) though this page is helpful :
I could be wrong though, maybe it's a Turtle Dove...if so, rare bird indeed.
Jonathan's an ecologist, so he knows what he's talking about.

I sent photos to the Rare Bird Alert at the Tucson Audubon Society.  I received this very informative email from Andrew Core:

Thanks for the pictures. Ringed Turtle-Doves are occasionally released into the wild and have on a few occasions bred in Arizona, but they don't show any signs of becoming established; their numbers are continually replenished by more releases.
However, the two pictures show what I think is the closely related Eurasian Collared-Dove. Only a view of the underside of the tail would be conclusive, but Eurasian Collared-Doves are generally darker and a little larger than Ringed. Eurasian Collared-Doves have a very interesting history in the United States. You can read more about them here:

Okay, so not as rare as I thought, but Turtle Doves just the same.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

July Residential Sales Statistics

The Tucson Association of Realtors has published the residential sales statistics for July. The news remains encouraging for sellers, and may motivate some buyers to get off the fence.

Average sale price was $181,978, which is a 4.11% increase in only one month, and a 5.1% increase from a year ago. Even more shocking, the average sale price was 21% higher than when it hit bottom in September 2011. Average sale price is now slightly higher than it was in January 2004, just before the bubble started to inflate. Historically, prices peak in July, and if past trends are any indication of future performance, prices will now go into a slide until next February. Probably nothing dramatic or destabilizing, just the normal annual cycle.

The median sale price, the price at which half the sales were higher and half were lower, remained steady at $140,000 for the third month in a row.

Number of units sold (demand) typically peaks in June, and this year was no different. With 1,137 units sold in July, we saw a decrease of 10.4% from June, but demand was still 1.16% higher than a year ago.

Active listings (supply) was virtually the same in July (3,477) compared to June (3,474), but was down 36% from last July. The limited choice of houses for sale has created bidding wars that will continue to prop up sale prices in the under $150,000 market.

We now have a three month supply of listings. This time last year, we had a 4.81 month supply.

Foreclosures accounted for 26% of the sales in July, and 17% of the sales were short sales.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Odyssey Storytelling

This very cool group just received a rave review from the Tucson Weekly.

I am especially proud that one of the producers of the event is my client Adam Hostetter.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Male Quailathon

Seven male and one female Gambel's Quail warm up for a little-known Olympic event: Rhythmic Drinking.

I had to wonder how this one female (second from right) got on the team. Is she these guys' sister? Mother? Wife?

That's a Mourning Dove waiting for his tardy team mates in the lower bowl. He ended up forfeiting because Team Dove was a no show.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

At Our Border

Tucson and the State of Arizona have been in the news in recent years for reasons that give the world an inaccurate impression of us. Those of us who live here, especially in Southern Arizona, know that most people are kind and accepting. We are dismayed by the hatred, violence and bigotry that grab the headlines.

I recently had the honor of helping an amazing group of people, Casa Mariposa, buy a home where they will provide hospitality to people who have been released from detention. I was introduced to this group by one of my fabulous clients, Hannah Hafter. You can see her in this PBS video at 13:00.

While the focus of the video is the alleged abuses of immigrants, the bright spot is the generous people who are helping people who weren't lucky enough to be born on this side of the border.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Another Out-of-State Client Planning to Retire Here in Paradise

You're easily the best real estate agent I've ever worked with, so I know people like you aren't easy to find (not just saying that; it's very true).

-Jane Marcellus, PhD

Monday, July 23, 2012

Horny Toad

I walked up Tumamoc Hill this morning and was rewarded with the sighting of this Desert Horned Lizard. At least I think that's his species. Check out that spiky collar! I think he'd be a scratchy snack for a coyote or bobcat.

He was very patient and brave, allowing me to inch closer and closer until my camera was less than a foot from him. I sat down, and we probably would have stared at each other all morning, but I offered him some of my water. That was too much interaction for him, and he trundled away.

I have been told that Tumamoc means Horny Toad in Tohono O'odham.

Every day I find another reason to be grateful that I live in Tucson.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

M*A*S*H Bash at Pima Air and Space Museum

Last night, my fabulous company, Tierra Antigua Realty, had our annual agent appreciation party at the Pima Air and Space Museum. The theme was M*A*S*H. Here you see Hawkeye (Steve) and Klinger (our sales manager Mr. Kelly Hand) with Colonel Lil Rayburn, Head Nurse of the Eighth Army (me), in a little number she picked up while on R&R in Tokyo.
This is a Super Guppy Cargo Transport, used from 1965 to 1995. I thought it was a blimp.

The museum volunteers took us on a tram tour of the planes; then we walked around on our own.
I can't explain this. Each plane has a sign in front of it with a QR code. I could have learned a lot more if the QR code reader on my phone had cooperated.
The usual astounding Tucson sunset.

Update, August 28, 2012. I could see that Super Guppy Cargo Transport from the top of Tumamoc Hill at dawn a few days ago. It looked like a shiny salmon-colored whale, beached in the Sonoran Desert, waiting for the ocean to return. It's just a matter of Time.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Red Spotted Toad

My water fountain has attracted a most amazing desert creature. I heard the trill of the Red Spotted Toad before I saw him. He was sitting on the edge of my fountain, calling for a mate. Amazingly enough, another toad answered the call from a few houses away. Where does he go during the day? Where has he been until now? How did he get across the desert to my fountain? Will wonders never cease?
The video is dark, but the audio sounds like the New England woods, not the Sonoran Desert.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

June Residential Sales Statistics

The Tucson Association of Realtors has published the Residential Sales Statistics for June. Dividing the 3,474 sellers by the 1,269 buyers, we have only a 2.74 month supply of listings. Supply and demand favors the sellers by far. The average sale price was $174,793, a 16% increase since last September. The median sale price was $140,000, up 19% since last the market hit bottom last fall.

Foreclosures accounted for 27% of the sales, and only 14% of the sales were short sales. Bidding wars are common, and bargains are rare.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Another Foreclosure Casualty: Desert Tortoise

I was showing a vacant foreclosed house in South Tucson a few weeks ago when my client noticed a tiny little desert tortoise on the concrete patio. The yard was surrounded by chain link fence, and any part that wasn't covered with the house, shed or patio had been paved. Every square inch. The former owners of this house really didn't want to do any yard work. This left no food and no burrowing opportunity for the poor tortoise.

It takes at least a month after a house is foreclosed before it goes on the market, so this tortoise had been abandoned and trapped with no food or water for at least that long, probably longer. I live in the desert, and thought I would be doing this captive tortoise a favor if I released her in my yard. That was when I was as ignorant as the people who had imprisoned and abandoned her.

I had proclaimed her a female because she had a flat belly, and I knew males have a concave belly. I took her home and released her in the shady north side of my house. She went down a pack rat hole as far as she could. I could still see the back fourth of her. I did some internet research and found that captive tortoises eat shredded carrots, kale and spinach, among other things, but those were the veggies I happened to have, so I put them outside the hole with a flower pot saucer of water buried below grade. Then I left.

I couldn't stop thinking about her, though. I named her Ophelia, after my favorite song by The Band. I checked to see whether she had eaten anything, and it didn't seem she had. The veggies were drying within minutes in the 0% humidity. I pulled her out of her hole and put her in the water dish. She seemed to drink. Then I put her in front of the food. She ate some of the carrots, so I went away again.

Next time I checked, she was back in the hole. I pulled her out again, and excavated the hole. As I was doing this, I realized I was lucky not to encounter a scorpion, snake or rat. I let her go back in.

Next time I checked, she was so far in the hole, I needed a flashlight to see her. I knew I was bothering her, so I left more food and decided she was on her own.

By now, I had checked the Arizona Game and Fish site and realized I was in way over my head. For one, it is illegal to release a captive tortoise. I know of two couples who adopted tortoises (Panzer and Helmut) legally from the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum, and it isn't simple. The caretakers needed to acknowledge that they are making a 100 year commitment to the care of their tortoise. Then they had to provide an enclosure with walls a foot below grade so the tortoise can't dig his way out. A burrow must be built. Preferably there should be separate burrows designed for staying cool in summer and warm during the winter hibernation. A patch of grass must be provided, along with a crop of native flowers, a wading and drinking dish, and daily vegetable diet supplements. This is much more responsibility than I wanted to take on.

I thought it was cruel to keep a tortoise by itself, but learned that the Desert Museum only allows one tortoise per household because tortoises are loners, fighters, and breeders. There are already 300 to 400 captive tortoises needing adoption in Arizona, so more tortoise are not needed.

Unfortunately, I talked to many people who knew of people who had breeding tortoises. They blithely allow the tortoises to roam around their yard breeding and eating what they can find. The people throw some low-nutrition lettuce to the tortoises when they think of it, and give the baby tortoises away to friends. Ophelia was probably the result of one of these thoughtless breeders.

I hadn't seen Ophelia for a few days and was feeling guilty. I could no longer see her by shining a flash light down her hole. I didn't know if she or the rabbits were eating some of the food I provided, but for the most part, it just seemed to dry up and get wasted.

The Saturday before last, we had a glorious thunder storm in the Tucson Mountains. I thought Ophelia might come back from wherever she had gone and seek refuge in the pack rat hole. Much to my surprise, I found her emerging from the partially collapsed hole, covered with mud. Apparently she had been hiding in there the whole time.

I realized I had to give her up. I wasn't planning on making a 100 year commitment when I "rescued" her. I called the Desert Museum to ask about bringing her to them. I got no answer on Sunday. I called again on Monday, and got call back from a volunteer. She said the Desert Museum, the only official tortoise adoption program in Tucson, probably couldn't take her because they have so many tortoises already. She assumed I had removed this tortoise from the desert, and said I should take it back where I found it. I said returning it to an abandoned house wasn't an option. She said she might be able to get a tortoise program in Phoenix to take her. Oh my gosh, what have I gotten myself into? But Ophelia was my responsibility now.

Fortunately for Ophelia and me, the Desert Museum was sympathetic to my misguided actions, and agreed to take her. Steve and I took her to the Desert Museum and gave her to Renee, the herpetologist. When I told Renee over the phone that Ophelia's shell was four inches long, Renee said she was a baby. However, when she saw Ophelia, and counted the growth rings on the hexagons on Ophelia's shell, she said Ophelia was eight to ten years old, but severely malnourished. I had noticed that the hexagons on Ophelia's shell were raised, not flat like the photos of desert tortoises I had seen. She said those bumps are called pyramiding, and they are the result of a poor diet. How sad! It's also possible she is a he, because the males don't get their concave bellies until they are about eight to ten inches long.

I hope Ophelia is learning to eat alfalfa and other healthy foods. The Desert Museum will keep her until she is large enough that she won't easily get stepped on. Then they will try to find her a home with responsible caretakers. I will call in a few months to see how she is doing.

Tea Bag Wisdom

The fortune on my tea bag: "You will feel fulfilled when you do the impossible for someone else."

Closing a short sale or helping a buyer purchase a foreclosed house comes to mind.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Happy Golfer Buys His Desert Retreat

This is an unqualified endorsement of Donna Moulton. There are few times in a life when one encounters a person who is a credit to their profession and Ms. Moulton is among that small group. As an out of state buyer, I was lucky to find Donna through a friend of a friend. I bought the condo I was hoping to find with a minimum of hassle. She is very smart, thorough, proactive, consistently efficient and extremely personable. I never felt she was pushing me into a sale, and several times, she discouraged me from further investigating a listing. (I believe it was because sheunderstood my preferences.) On a few occasions she made sure I wasprotected with written counter offers when the seller gave verbal assurances. Since she’s been at it for many years, she works very well with title company officers, HOA contacts, fellow realtors and the like. She’s terrific.
-Andy Araneo

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hail, Hail, The Monsoon is Here!

I was lucky to be in the Tucson Mountains yesterday for the first hail storm of the season. Lots of wind, an inch of rain, thunder, lightning, and bouncing hail the size of peas. The temperature dropped from 105 to 85 in minutes. It was spectacular, of course. Twenty minutes later, it was over, the sun came out and a rainbow crossed the sky.

Most of Tucson saw little to no rain. Is this an amazing place or what?