POSTED BY INGRID SCHULZ
You might have guessed by now that a bit of my family\’s winters have been spent in Arizona over the past few years. We purchased a house northeast of Scottsdale three years ago, in the center of a landscape brimming with bank-owned properties.
Real estate deals then, and certainly still today – as there remain many bank-owned properties on the market – abounded, and Canadian horse owners of all ages gained snowbird status – perhaps much earlier than many of us might have dreamed possible.
In the Phoenix area it all began with a housing swell, which propelled the economy through the creation of a builder\’s boom, construction jobs and the resulting real estate market. But, even as an estimated one-third of the population were supported by this economy, it proved to be false; when the buying stopped, the jobs dried up, real estate plummeted and the Valley of the Sun ground to a halt.
In December, 2008, there were less than 2,000 real estate sales in the Phoenix area, and over 58,000 homes on the market. The glut was overwhelming and the deals were plentiful, particularly as many properties turned over to banks, their owners unable (or unwilling) to carry mortgages three times the current market value of their home.
Dean and I first visited the Cave Creek and Rio Verde areas in the winter of 2008-09, on the advice of a friend who suggested it was a horsetopia of a kind. It was.
We fell in love with the desert, the architecture and the beautiful horse ranches and facilities in the area east of Cave Creek, along Rio Verde Drive.
Here, we were surrounded by parkland on three sides, there were arenas in every direction, no wind, no relentless dust blowing up in your face, and no insects. If you ride anywhere in an outdoor arena in Canada, you are privy to what I speak of. Itwas utopia.
The hunt began. It wasn\’t a problem finding horse acreages to view. It seemed like every other one had a \”for sale\” sign propped up in front of it.
With the help of Claudia Jordan, a Rio Verde/Cave Creek real estate agent, we began searching in earnest. Claudia\’s expertise in the area helped educate us in details like flood plains and building styles.
She negotiated short sale and bank-owned situations for us. She set up a handy online portal for us, where we could log in and view homes in our area, as soon as they came on the market. The portal allowed us to view details and photos of the home, map it and view important details such as previous sales of the home and it\’s progression through the market. This was invaluable, as of course we were often shopping from our Canadian base. (As it transpired, the property we purchased was on the portal, and therefore the market, for less than 24 hours. Back then, timing was everything!)
Claudia has an excellent website, Rio Verde Lifestyle, which she maintains regularly with monthly reviews of real estate activity in the Rio Verde area, as well as horse news, and her latest listings.
Claudia traipsed with us through so many properties. I\’m not sure how we can ever repay her patience with us.
By the summer of 2009, Dean had found his dream home, and an offer was made and accepted.
Since then, and prior to, some of our friends have bought in the area. Maricopa, Surprise, Mesa, Tempe and Queen Creek are other areas we know of Canadian horsepeople residing. As this column evolves, I hope to bring you information from each of these areas in terms of their pros and cons – specifically for horsepeople.
While there aren\’t as many properties for sale any longer in the area, a Phoenix area home still appears to be a sound investment. Some real estate pundits are forecasting Phoenix real estate prices to jump up to 60% over today\’s prices by the year 2014. While this may seem a far-fetched prediction, take a gander at these new business and investment initiatives currently in the works in the Phoenix area:
• Amazon.com is building their largest U.S. distribution centre in West Phoenix.
• Intel is creating thousands of new jobs in the Chandler area.
• The Cancer Treatment Centres of America have built a facility in Goodyear, and are expanding yet with additional facilities, restaurant and hotel.
• The world\’s largest solar company, Suntech, built in Goodyear in 2010, and is poised to expand with an even larger project.
• Rioglass, the Spanish solar company is building their U.S. headquarters in Surprise.
• A 1.2 million square foot open-air mall is now scheduled to open in 2014.
• Plans are apparently in the works for a China-based company to relocate an existing business with an employee base of 10,000-20,000 to the Phoenix area.
Ponder the amount of jobs these projects alone will create, and the homes these employees will need.