Wednesday, December 18, 2013

FHA Reduces Loan Limits

The maximum FHA loan amount for a single family house in Pima County is $316,000. For purchase contracts initiated after December 31, the loan limit will be reduced to $271,000.

To check loan limits in other counties, go here.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

National Recognition for All Souls Procession

We are so blessed to have this marvelous event in Tucson. HuffPo has an article and video that do a good job of explaining the magical power and spirit of the All Souls Procession.

Friday, November 8, 2013

October Residential Sales Statistics

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

We are seeing a return to a normal market. Although average sale price has increased 9.43% in the past year to $192,433, prices are stabilizing. Typically in Tucson, number of sales and sale prices decline from November through January. The hectic spring buying season will resume in February.

Number of active listings has increased 9.67% from September to 5,173 in October. Surprisingly, the number of sales increased 7.52% from September to 1,130 in October. Dividing 5,173 listings by 1,130 sales, we have a 4.58 month inventory of listings. This higher than last spring, but still an indication of a strong seller's market.

I'm glad to see the number of distressed sales is now way below 50% of the total sales. A few years ago, short sales and foreclosures were over 60% of the sales. It's also encouraging that only 8% of the sales in October were short sales, and 17% of the sales were properties that had been foreclosed. As prices rise, fewer sellers are underwater, so the need for short sales is decreasing.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sunset on the Tucson Mountains. And the Catalinas and Rincons, Too.

David Fitzsimmons is right, as usual. Any survey of the best sunsets that doesn't have Tucson at the top of the list is not a valid survey.

More than half the time, the sunset in Tucson is most stunning to the North or even to the East. Can you do that, Florida?

The ultimate sunset is a combination of pastel-colored air, fanciful clouds, light-reflecting mountains and gorgeous landscape. Not, as Monty Python would have it, "some farcical aquatic ceremony."

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Inaccurate Listing Information

When I meet with new buyers, I tell them to avoid using third party real estate advertising sites like Trulia and Zillow in their house hunt. These sites obtain their information through a listing distribution system. The sites have plenty of misinformation, which is frustrating to the buyers and can even cost the seller a sale opportunity.

For example, a large percentage of the listings shown on these sites are already under contract or have already sold. Some of the houses are not for sale and never will be. The sites will list properties for which a notice of foreclosure sale has been recorded. The house may eventually auctioned for cash, as is, on the court house steps, but it may not. A buyer who needs a mortgage and wants to see the house before buying it will not be able to buy it.

Because anyone can post to these sites, scammers will steal the photos from a legitimate listing, post it for sale or for rent at a price that's too good to be true, and get prospective buyers or renters to send personal information and deposits to the scammers.

These third party sites are unconcerned with the inaccuracy of their listings. I have a listing with one full bath and two three-quarter baths, which is a bathroom with a shower, no tub. Harmon Homes has it listed as having a full bath and two half baths, which is a powder room with no bathing facilities. I wrote to Harmon Homes and told them to correct this. Their response was that this has been a problem from the beginning, and most people don't know what a three-quarter bath is anyway.

These sites get our listing information for free, and then try to sell it back to us. Next to my listings on these sites, you will see the photos and contact information for three Tucson agents who aren't me. Buyers are encouraged to call those agents for information on my listing. If I want buyers to call me for information on my listing, I have to pay each of these websites hundreds of dollars each to have my contact information next to my listing.

The Austin Association of Realtors has decided end their cooperation in this misinformation scheme.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Lovely La Madera Home

Gorgeous home in terrific neighborhood.
Close to La Madera Park, Catalina Terrace swimming pool, Rillito River bike path, Tucson Racquet Club, St Phillips farmers' market, Trader Joe's and U of A. Four bedrooms and 1.75 baths in main house.
Updated kitchen and baths. Dual pane windows. Tile floors in traffic areas.
Glorious back porch with brick floor expands your living space to the great outdoors. Mature landscaping on drip irrigation.
Storage shed has adjacent covered hobby space.
Sweet guest house has Saltillo tile in living room, bedroom, kitchen, and 3/4 bath.
Month-to-month tenant pays $495 which includes water.

Guest house has its own laundry room, heat pump/air conditioner installed in 2010, separate electricity meter and a unique shaded patio with artsy privacy fence.

See interactive floor plan here. This fabulous property sold for $237,000 on January 17, 2014.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Living in a World with Limited Water

My fabulous client and birding pal, Alison Jones, connects the dots between water shortages and meat production with her guest commentary in the Arizona Daily Star. I added a few remarks, knowing that some carnivores will be offended by the idea that their diet is harmful to themselves,  the animals they consume, and the lovely planet we are destroying.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Keeping Cool

Steve and I have been escaping the heat and revealing in the glorious conifer forest at the top of Mount Lemmon, only an hour from Tucson. The 26 mile road up the mountain climbs 6,800 feet. You'll see changes in vegetation similar to what you'd see in a drive from Mexico to Canada. It never ceases to amaze and delight me, especially when the temperature is 30 to 40 degrees cooler than it is in Tucson.
We encountered a lightning storm on the Marshall Gulch Trail, and got a little rain. Imagine our shock as we drove down the mountain and saw what appeared to be snow. It was two inches of hail in August. Do we live in a magical place or what?
Back in the desert, the wildlife in my backyard have their own ways of keeping cool.
This Mourning Dove isn't injured. After airing both of his wing pits, he flew away.
This Harris Antelope Squirrel also looks injured. He reminded me of a Rocky the Flying Squirrel. He is on my patio, engaging in heat dumping. He is actually able to transfer excess heat from his body to the patio.

Another variation on the heat dumping concept.

August Residential Sales Statistics

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

Average sale price was $191,283 in August, a 27% increase since we hit bottom at $150,699 in September 2011. In Tucson, sale prices and number of sales typically peak in the summer, and decline in the fall. August's average sale price was 3% lower than July's, so that may indicate we will experience the usual autumn slowing of market activity. There were 1,205 sales last month, and we can probably expect fewer sales each month from now through February, when buyers recover from their holiday distractions.

We had 4,249 active listings last month, an 8% increase from July, and a 19% increase since August last year. If the number of active listings continues to increase, it might result in a reduction of sale prices. However, most of the action is in the $120,000 to $250,000 range. With 1,695 active listings divided by 590 listings sold, we have a 2.87 month supply of listings in that range. Anything below a six month inventory is a seller's market, so we have a strong seller's market for that price range. In the $50,000 to $100,000 range, we have a 465 listings divided by 194 sales for a 2.4 month inventory. For the most part, the houses under $100,000 need quite a bit of repair.

Overall, we have a 4,249 listing divided by 1,205 sales for a 3.53 month supply of listings. So the increased inventory may continue to put downward pressure on houses priced above $300,000, but in the entry level and investor market, the competition is still strong for well-maintained houses. 

Except for slight dips in the past two winters, median sale price has steadily increased from $117,500 in September 2011 to $160,500 last month. Half the properties sell for less than the median price, and half sell for more.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Renovated Townhome in Prestigious Fairfield La Cholla Hills

High on a ridge over looking Omni Tucson National Golf Resort is your home sweet home. This is your front row seat with unobstructed views of Tucson's world-famous sunsets.
Fairfield's premium community for residents 55 and older offers two pools, two spas, tennis courts, shuffle board courts and a recreation center with kitchen.
This splendid two bedroom, two bath home has fresh NEW white paint throughout. Plush NEW carpet in living room and bedrooms.
Lovely NEW kitchen and master bathroom cabinets. NEW glass top stove, dishwasher and microwave. Washer and dryer included in kitchen laundry closet. Master bedroom has a walk-in closet.
One car garage. Beautiful masonry construction in an impeccably maintained neighborhood that shines with pride of ownership. One mile to Foothills Mall; four miles to Interstate 10. See interactive floor plan here. We had two offers and this property sold for full price, $160,000 on October 25, 2013.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Bass Whisperer, Ed Friedland

Check out this marvelous history of reggae music by my fabulous client, Ed Friedland. I helped Ed and his wife Dawn buy and sell their house in Tucson. Unfortunately for Ed and Dawn's Tucson friends and admirers, these groovy people moved to Austin for the cooler climate. That hasn't quite worked out the way they expected, but Ed is touring with Clay McClinton and still writing the last word on bass playing as a monthly columnist and gear reviewer for Bass Player magazine. He has also written 21 bass playing instruction books for Hal Leonard.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Godspeed, Chief Chuck

I'm so glad that my fabulous client Chuck George has finally decided to focus on getting his doctorate. As chief meteorologist at KOLD, he enriched Tucson with his lively approach to teaching us about the weather. He was always generous with his time and made innumerable public appearances at community events. He will be a extraordinary professor, and we all hope he chooses to stay here in the city that loves him.

Friday, August 9, 2013

What's Blue and White and Read All Over?

This is fascinating. 6.5% percent of the 35,205 page views for my blog are in Germany! 1% are in Latvia, and 0.4% are in Ukraine. There is someone in Poland looking at my blog right now. People have checked in from Russia, France, United Kingdom, Canada, Netherlands, India, Hungary, Italy, Indonesia, China and South Korea. Hello Europe and Asia! You made my day.

Snow Cones = Raspados = Cimarronas = Female Mountain Goats

I adore Big Jim Griffith. Tucson would be a poorer place without our national award-winning folklorist and founder of Tucson Meet Yourself.

The End of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as We Know Them

President Obama and the U.S. House and Senate are finally in agreement about one thing: the Federal government needs to get out of the mortgage business. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are quasi-governmental agencies that buy bundled mortgages from mortgage lenders. This not only frees up the mortgage lenders' funds so they can continue to make mortgages, but as we saw in the housing market collapse, it freed the mortgage lenders of responsibility for the bad loans they made. The tax payers were left holding the enormous bag full of stinking, unethical mortgages.

Now mortgage lending practices have tightened up because Fannie and Freddie will not buy any mortgage with a whiff of impropriety. In fact, Fannie and Freddie now make mortgage lenders buy back mortgages, even mortgages that are not delinquent, if Fannie or Freddie suspects the mortgages were made fraudulently. So the mortgages lenders now walk on eggshells, ever learning new lending requirements. Even the most respectable borrowers have a hard time getting a mortgage.

The Senate plans to reduce government's role in the mortgage industry, and no surprise, the House wants to go much further to almost eliminate it. USA Today reports that interest rates will be higher on mortgages without government backing. On a typical $200,000 mortgage with 20% down, a borrower would pay an extra $75 per month under the Senate plan, or an extra $135 per month under the House plan.

Ironically, now that Fannie and Freddie's lending criteria are really strict, both agencies are extremely profitable. They have already repaid $132 billion to the U.S. Treasury, which is more than two-thirds of what they received in the bailout.   

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Another Great Tucson Mountain Home

Don't miss this terrific home in an outstanding neighborhood, just a few blocks from my beloved home at Desert's Edge. Only 10 minutes to downtown and 15 minutes to University of Arizona, yet close to hiking, mountain biking and golf.

This slump block home was built in 1979 for energy efficiency and beauty. The most surprising feature is the great room, built years before having the kitchen open to the dining and living areas became popular. This is the same floor plan as my house, and it is just delightful.

You'll enjoy fires in the beehive fireplace, and a panoramic view of three mountain ranges from your north-facing porch. The kitchen cabinets have just been painted. The slide-in stove is brand new. Nice Anderson sliding door to the back porch.

Popcorn removed from the great room ceiling. Fresh neutral colors throughout. The homeowner association dues really are only $42.95/year. This covers the insurance and taxes on the 63 acres of common area, accessible at the south end of Shannon Road.

As usual with my Tucson Mountain listings, I must point out your view of the magnificent Tumamoc Hill.  Every morning and evening hundreds of people make the 1.5 mile walk to the top, and get a workout from the 700 foot elevation change. The rewards are the view of the Tucson Valley, and the abundant wildlife you find in this desert research station owned by the University of Arizona.  To the right of Tumamoc is A Mountain. Owning this home means you can watch the firework displays put on by the City of Tucson, the Catalina Foothills resorts and Starr Pass Resort from the comfort of your back porch.
The houses north of this home are lower than yours, so your back yard views of the Catalina Mountains to the northeast, the Rincon Mountains to the east, and the Tucson Mountains to the north and northwest are unobstructed. I don't know of another neighborhood with these views for this price so close to downtown. That's why I wouldn't live anywhere else but Tucson Park West 3.
Three bedrooms, two baths, two car garage. We had four offers in four days and sold for $150,000 cash on August 22, 2013. The seller didn't have to make any repairs or pay the buyer's closing costs. Finally we have precedent in my beloved neighborhood for sale prices above $100 per square foot. Tucson Park West 3 is still a bargain.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Is Tucson a Buyers', Sellers' or Balanced Market?

I just saw this question on Trulia. Whether a real estate market favors buyers, sellers or is a balanced market is not a matter of opinion.

Just the facts, Ma'am.

When there is a six month supply of listings, the market is balanced. When the supply of listings is more than six months, it is a buyers' market. When it is less than six months, it is a sellers' market.

In June we had 1,399 residential sales in the Tucson Multiple Listing Service. Sales = buyers = demand = high.

In June we had 3,953 listings. Listings = sellers = supply = low.

3,953 listings divided by 1,399 sales = 2.83 month inventory of listings. Definitely a strong sellers' market.

A little history lesson puts this in perspective. June 2005 saw the most sales ever in Tucson. 3,969 listings divided by 1,890 sales = 2.10 month inventory. Notice that the number of listings for sale now is LOWER than it was in June 2005. Amazing.

In April 2007, banks were dumping foreclosed properties with bogus mortgages on the market as fast as they could. An extremely short-sighted and destructive policy, but apparently no one manned the brakes of that train wreck. We had 10,387 listings and 1,318 sales. A 7.88 month inventory.

The banks were frantically foreclosing, collecting their mortgage insurance on the loss, and then practically giving away the foreclosed houses, dragging down the value of the neighboring houses in the process. The artificially depressed property values caused more people to be under water on their mortgages, even people who put 20% down and made every payment on time. These conscientious, responsible homeowners were and continue to be the housing bubble train wreck victims to this day.

Even with all these fire sale foreclosures, average price in Tucson peaked at $293,443 in June 2007. The real estate bubble burst in July 2007, starting with the collapse of Tucson's own huge national mortgage lender, First Magnus Financial.

In January 2009, we only had 615 sales, the lowest in the past ten years. There were 7,964 listings. A 13 month inventory.

It surprised no one except the banks when prices continued to slide until September 2011, when we hit bottom with an average sale price of $150,699. 

Tucson's average sale price in June 2013 was $196,376, an incredible 30% increase in the past 21 months.  You can see for yourself at the Tucson Association of Realtors website: Residential Sale Statistics for June 2013. Prices continue to rise. A new, but familiar, kind of madness ensues.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Odyssey Storytelling

My fabulous client Kat Sinclair will be telling a story of disobedience at Odyssey Storytelling on Friday, July 12, 2013. Dr Sinclair describes herself as researcher, statistician and activist. I met her through a wonderful group of people who are very involved with helping people deal with Arizona's anti-immigrant policies. The stories she has told me and the kindness she has offered to people stuns me. This will sell out.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

5726 E Hawthorne Street

Lovely home with green features in a very desirable neighborhood.
Pride of ownership shines throughout. Sunny living room, currently used as dining room, has tiled floors.
Gorgeous updated kitchen with new Profile GE gas stove and microwave. Stunning black granite counters.
The den next to the kitchen could be office, dining, guest room or, if you add a closet, a third bedroom. The floor plan is here. Good room flow. Cheerful laundry room. Grey water from washer; harvested rainwater help your plants thrive. Low E double pane windows. Very rare in Central Tucson: two garages. One has alley access through a gate in the block wall around the spacious back yard. Shady eucalyptus and bountiful grapefruit trees.
Ramada for dining al fresco.
A really special, well-loved home. You snooze, you lose.
This home sold for $138,000 on July 30, 2013.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dog Parks

Speaking of dogs scaring and endangering the wildlife (see Bighorn Sheep post below), did you know dogs are not allowed in Tucson Mountain Park, not even on a leash? I will need to tell the woman I see with her two dogs every single time I hike in TMP. Her dogs love to get into the water trough that is provided for the wildlife. I imagine the scent of the dogs may deter the intended users from enjoying the amazing flow of water on top of a hill.

There are several dog parks in Pima County and the City of Tucson where dogs can socialize and play off leash. Please use them.

The Bighorns are Coming!

The Catalina Mountains north of Tucson still had a bighorn sheep population when I moved here in 1990, but by the end of the decade, all the sheep were gone, victims of housing development and dogs illegally brought on the trails by their human companions.

Now plans are afoot to bring back the sheep. This article states the sheep might survive this time because the Bullock and Aspen Fires in 2002 and 2003 (can it really be ten years ago already?) cleared the underbrush that restricted the sheep's movement, and provided cover for the mountain lions that ate them.

We will still have the problem of hikers thinking the "no dog" signs don't really apply to their dogs. We will also have the problem of people building houses where the sheep live.

It's interesting that one of the supporters of the reintroduction is the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society, which seems to exist to provide opportunities for hunters to kill bighorn sheep. What's wrong with taking only pictures, leaving only footprints? It works for most of us.

I sure would love to see a bighorn in the Catalinas. I wish them Godspeed.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"Put Other REALTORS in Tucson Out of Business"

An unnamed Tucson real estate agent was given foreclosure listings by Armando Granillo, a Fannie Mae foreclosure specialist in Irvine, California. In February, Granillo met in Tempe with the Tucson agent, identified as A.M., expecting to receive a cash kick back from A. M. in exchange for more foreclosure listings. This is illegal, but not uncommon at Fannie Mae, according to a fired whistle-blower.

A.M. had reported the kick back scheme to the FBI, and was wired when he met with Granillo, who told A. M. he would give A. M. so many foreclosure listings, that together they would "put other Realtors in Tucson out of business". Granillo acknowledged that the kick backs were illegal, but "a natural part of business". Check it out here.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Tucson's Where the Biking is Great

Bikescore proclaims Tucson the seventh most bikeable U. S. city with over 500,000 people. We're tied with Seattle. Portlandia is first. How can a city be bikeable if you have to be chugging up and down hills in the rain most of the time? For a pleasant bike experience, Tucsonia has to be at the top of the list.

Here's a map of the Tucson Metro area showing the bike routes with limited or no traffic by infernal combustion engines.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tucson is Hip

Thus saith the San Francisco Chronicle. Of course, this is not news to us, but it's gratifying when a visitor recognizes our fabulosity and reports it without a trace of snark. The writer really did track down some of our unique culture: Dunbar Spring, Hotel Congress, the thrift stores, BICAS, Antigone Books, Barrio Anita, the Ansel Adams collection. Makes me smile to think of all the other special places, people and events that are found no where else but here in the Baked Apple.

1840 W Calle Tranquila

Wonderful neighborhood of well-maintained masonry homes. Fantastic location less than two miles from downtown, a bit further to UofA, a few blocks to Pima CC, and three miles to Gates Pass Road into Saguaro National Monument.

Sliders from living room and hall open to huge porch with Catalina Mountain view. Ceramic tile throughout.
Remodeled eat-in kitchen with cool mosaic backsplash.

Master bedroom features walk-in closet, corner window and a door to the porch. Abundant storage in the carport. Two bedrooms, one bath. Air conditioning. Sold for $120,000 on June 20, 2013. I represented the buyers and the seller. That's the happy new homeowners on the swing in the photo above.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

2101 N Treat Ave

 Enchanting. As soon as you enter this special home, you will be under its spell.

You will be surrounded by warmth and calmness.

When you learn that a series of spiritual and physical healers have lived here for decades, you will start to understand the serenity you feel.

A beehive fireplace anchors the 23' x 21.5' living room. Revitalized Saltillo tile on most floors. The southwest suite has a den, bedroom with fir floors and a bathroom with tiles by Andrew Rush.

The north bedroom has brick floors and gorgeous hand painted cabinets.

The guest house is one of the best I have seen.

Ceramic floors and skylights in living room, kitchen, bedroom and bath. Mature trees on 0.26 acre lot.

This property is extraordinary.

The floor plan is here. We offered this wonderful property for $350,000, but then the owner decided to keep it as a rental.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Oh, the Humanity!

Check out this video showing the population growth in Tucson from the dusty cow town of 1870 to the building of University of Arizona, the U.S.C.G.S Magnetic Observatory (Morris K Udall Park), Hughes Aircraft (Raytheon) and Davis Monthan Air Force Base to the sprawl to the east, south, north and west.

Reminds me of those propaganda films they used to show us in elementary school in the '60s. The Red Menace spreading like blood over Southeast Asia. For you young 'uns, the Red Menace was Communism, which scared us into the Vietnam War and the arms race with Russia. Makes me kind of nostalgic for the days when all we had to worry about was enemies who put their insignia on their planes, had identifiable leadership and locations, and for the most part stayed over on the other side of the world.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

69 N Desert Stream Drive

I just adore a Tucson Mountain view. My new listing has the purple mountain majesty plus eight acres of protected wash behind it.
Imagine relaxing in your spa on your huge covered porch enjoying a stunning view of the sun setting over the Tucson Mountains. Nothing between you and the lush desert wash but the view fence.

Yes, and the house is extraordinary, too.

The great room deserves its name: high ceilings, spacious kitchen with breakfast bar overlooking the dining and living areas with a gas fireplace. Ceramic tile throughout. Whole house humidifier and water softener. Orange, lemon and apricot trees.
Four bedrooms and two baths. Luxurious master suite with walk in closet and oval tub. Split floor plan for peace and quiet. Tasteful designer colors. Simply exquisite. The floor plan is here. Also see
Sold for list price, $229,000, on June 28, 2013. We had two offers, so with the buyers competing with each other, the seller didn't have to pay the buyer's closing costs. This was my first time working for a relocation company. The relo company's in-house agent wanted to list the house for $219,000 and sell for $214,000.