BlogArizona Category: La Paz County, ArizonaThis page contains all BlogArizona posts related to La Paz County, Arizona. Read a specific post by clicking on a title below, or scroll further down the page to read through all posts in this category.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Dear nice folks at Arizona Regional MLS (ARMLS®),
What happened to the zip code? It used to be prominently displayed at the very top of the MLS printout (after the city & state where it belongs!). It looked like this...
It just disappeared in the past couple of weeks, so hopefully it won't be too hard for you to find it. I know you're usually very good about informing Realtors® when you make changes to MLS. So perhaps you did send out an email informing Realtors® the zip code would be disappearing soon. Unfortunately, I didn't get the memo. So here I sit wondering, what the heck happened to the zip codes?
Please help. Thank you!
Here's a recent "Scam Alert"sent out by ARMLS®. Realtors® and anybody who owns a vacant home should beware:
So sellers - keep an eye on your vacant homes and/or ask your neighbors to watch for suspicious activity. Realtors® - check your vacant listings. And renters - verify the owner/history of the property you're renting, and check out your potential landlord!
Monday, October 19, 2009
Knowing that I'm a Realtor® and that much of my income is dependant upon the real estate market, you might be surprised as you read my opinion on extending and/or expanding the Homebuyer Tax Credit. For starters, I'll say that I believe the free market can almost always solve problems better without government involvement. Unfortunately, the real estate market has not been allowed to operate without government interference for some time. I'll even go one step further and say that government interference caused the real estate market bubble and resulting crash, and the same idiots who created the problem should not be trusted to fix it.
Politicians, who wanted to buy votes by forcing banks to give loans to people who could not afford to pay them back, are the primary cause of the real estate bubble and ultimate crash (which I believe also caused the current recession). This effort was driven by bleeding-heart liberal Democrats, but many of the so-called conservative Republicans shamefully went along with it for many years and many administrations. We all know what happens when banks are forced to lend money to people who can't afford to pay it back... eventually they don't pay it back and the banks lose money. The banks then have to make up these losses somewhere else: either by charging good customers more, or by (the new trend of) getting billions in bailout dollars from taxpayers. So either way, hard-working taxpayers lose when government forces businesses to make bad bets.
But instead of recognizing that government is the problem, our brilliant bureaucrats instantly (and without any real thought) decided that more government is the answer. So they offered $8,000 refundable tax credits (aka govt handouts) aimed at first time homebuyers who otherwise could not afford to buy a house. HELLO? These are the people whose loans are currently foreclosing at astronomical rates. Incentivizing people who can't really afford a house into buying one anyway isn't going to fix the real estate market or the banking situation. This is what caused the problem! Repeating the same mistake will only prolong the agony and further stress the financial institutions that finance these properties. Not to mention the fact that it's inherently unfair to ask some taxpayers to pay higher taxes so the government can give their money to others for a down-payment on a new house they can't really afford. And then add insult to injury by forcing those same taxpayers to bail out the banks when these loans foreclose, as if it were not foreseeable (right!).
So like cash-for-clunkers, I believe the First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit was a stupid idea, and therefore extending or expanding it will ultimately do more harm than good to the real estate market. It may cause a short-lived spike in sales like cash-for-clunkers did (at the cost of future sales, by the way). But do we really want manic ups and downs in the real estate market, or do we want a slower but sustainable growth? I think anyone who owns real estate or works in the real estate industry would agree that a slow, sustained growth is better for all of us in the long run. Some lawmakers and various Realtor® associations are pushing to increase the tax credit to $15,000 and extend it to more than just first time homebuyers, with a higher limit on the buyer's income. To me, this is just the same dumb idea with longer lines of people taking the handout, and with a much higher price tag.
So when will the real estate market start to recover if government stops interfering? It's already started to recover, in Arizona at least. Keep in mind that national statistics quoted in the news may not be applicable to Arizona's real estate market. Real estate is local. Arizona was one of the first and hardest hit areas of the country when the real estate bubble started to burst (for lack of a better term!). And I think Arizona was also one of the first to start recovering, because Arizona real estate prices were driven down faster and lower than other areas. And lower prices is what makes buyers start coming out.
Don't get me wrong, the Arizona real estate market is not all sunshine and lolli-pops. Not at all. There are still tough times ahead, but people are buying despite the fact that banks aren't really lending like they should be (I guess it's more profitable for banks not to lend, and suck up taxpayer bailouts instead!). But if the government just stays out of the way, the market will slowly recover on its own - without unnecessary, artificial government stimulation that really just wastes billions in taxpayer's money.
Here's a snapshot of the current Phoenix metro area real estate market, as I see it:
At the end of last year, the real estate market in the Phoenix metropolitan area started to pick up... not because of any government program, but because the free market works. When prices came down to a certain level, the investors came out to play. Some of those who were sitting on the sidelines waiting decided it was time. And people started buying again... not in huge droves like a few years back when people were fighting each other for houses. But then again, who wants that, really? (I was taught that slow and steady wins the race!).
Since then, I've seen a steady flow of buyers into the market, and many banks/real estate agents are even creating bidding wars again. Of course, these bidding wars are driven by totally fabricated demand. The bank has a real estate agent list the house for a super low price to attract multiple offers. Then instead of rejecting any of the offers, they entice all of the propsective buyers into a bidding war and tell them to make their "highest and best offer". None of the buyers know what the other bids are, so they often times end up bidding higher than they should because they get sucked into the emotion of 'wanting to win the bid' rather than rationally determining what the house is worth without that emotion present. I always tell buyers to avoid bidding situations, even in a sellers market. But especially in the current buyer's market... there are still way too many houses available for sale right now to get into a bidding war. Go find a seller who appreciates your offer more and is willing to negotiate under your terms. In a buyer's market, the buyer should feel like they're driving the terms of the deal, not the seller.
But realize that Arizona's residential real estate market still faces significant foreclosures, and this will continue for some time. Supply is good for buyers and you shouldn't let uncertainty scare you away from the market if you're buying an owner-occupied home that you plan to keep for at least 3-5 years. However, I would advise inexperienced investors to be very careful buying Arizona real estate right now, especially if you plan to do a short-term flip. There's money to be made, but you can also lose a bunch so just know what you're doing.
In my opinion, Arizona's real estate market is recovering, but is not out of the woods yet. The biggest danger to this recovery (other than government interference) is the commercial real estate market. I'm not sure why nobody is talking about it, but the commercial market could create huge problems in the coming years, especially if banking problems are not addressed. Commercial real estate market trends lag the residential market, and I don't think we've even started to see the real impact of the commercial market yet. Here's why: Many commerical real estate mortgages are 5-year or 10-year interest-only loans with balloon payments due at the end of the term. So as those commercial loans made at the height of the real estate bubble start to come due (as they currently are), the property owner (probably a small business owner) will have only a few choices. They either have to pay off the entire balance, which is unlikely for most businesses since they're probably already struggling to make ends meet. Or they'll have to re-finance the loan, which is also unlikely because 1) property values are much lower now and the property is probably not worth the loan amount anymore, and 2) lending standards are tighter and commercial loans are very hard to get. So if these loans can't be re-financed or paid off, the only other option is to sell the property before the loan is due. Many property owners will wait too long, not realizing how long it takes to sell a commercial property in today's market and will consequently face foreclosure. For this reason, I believe the commercial market could be the next big real estate crisis.
Of course, I don't have a crystal ball, and nobody really knows for sure what tomorrow will bring. Everybody with an opinion on the future of the real estate market is really just guessing :) So my advice is guess carefully, and as always, buyer beware!
Monday, July 06, 2009
Before adjourning July 1, the Arizona House defeated a bill (HB 2280) by Senator Russell Pearce that would have cracked down on pro-illegal alien “sanctuary” laws and aided in immigration enforcement by expanding the state’s trespassing law. While the Senate approved the bill 16-11, the House was five votes short of the 31 needed for passage.
Democratic politicians usually oppose illegal immigration enforcement, as they need the pro-illegal money and votes to get re-elected. But three Republicans also opposed this bill even though the State Republican Party unanimously passed a resolution supporting it and numerous law enforcement organizations endorsed it (at least those who haven’t had long-standing ties with open-borders groups and cheap-labor business lobbyists). The 3 Republicans and 12 Democrats who opposed this bill were:
What's really disturbing is that 19 members of the House (listed below) did not even vote on the bill at all. Shame on them. I was told the six Republicans listed below physically left the Capitol building so they didn’t have to go on record as opposing HB 2280 (sadly, my Representative was among them):
Is this really what we pay our elected officials to do... play both sides of the aisle and hide their true beliefs so nobody knows what they support or oppose? I know I didn't vote for that. I expect my elected representatives to help Americans, not illegal immigrants. And no, I'm not a racist although the pro-illegal immigration crowd will say anyone who wants our immigration laws enforced must be a racist (so go ahead and send the emails anyway - my delete key is ready!). I simply want our laws to be respected by all. You and I must obey the law or pay the consequences. Why are illegals getting a free pass at our expense? Our immigration laws have been ignored for long enough, and selective enforcement of some laws results in lack of respect for all laws. If all laws are not enforced, how do you know which ones they're really serious about?
So what does this have to do with real estate? PEOPLE DON'T WANT TO LIVE IN SANCTUARY CITIES. Eliminating sanctuary city policies will not only aid law enforcement and make our cities safer, but this bill will also alleviate some of our financial problems. Sanctuary cities are plagued with increased costs and decreased quality of education, healthcare, law enforcement and all other social services. Sound familiar?
Our current budget mess reminds us that Arizona can't even afford the services it's currently providing. So do we raise taxes, reduce services & quality of services provided to legal residents, or eliminate services for those who are here illegally mooching off the rest of us? Seems kind of like a no-brainer to me, especially considering that many legal Arizona residents are currently unemployed and in need of assistance. But then I'm just a lowly taxpayer so I don't have all that special "State Representative" knowledge that's required to make such important decisions with other people's money.
The defeat of this bill means that sanctuary policies, like those in Mesa and other Valley cities, will continue to:
When public assistance agencies are prevented from inquiring about an applicant's immigration status, benefits are distributed to ineligible illegal aliens. Sanctuary policies directly violate Federal law and make it easier for illegal aliens, including criminal aliens, to live undetected in Arizona. How many citizens, including police officers, have to die or be maimed before we decide to enforce our immigration laws?
ATTENTION STATE LAWMAKERS: If you oppose a bill, at least have the backbone to stand up and say so. Otherwise, don't ask for my vote next time you run for re-election... because I will show up to vote against you (and I'll encourage everyone I know to do the same). And by the way, illegal immigrants don't vote, but angry American citizens do.
If your AZ Representative is listed above, be sure to email them and let them know how you feel about their vote (or lack thereof) on this issue. Just click the email address of your Representative to send a pre-written letter, or edit the email to say whatever you'd like. Click here to look up your Representative.
Sunday, July 05, 2009
I'm really sick of looking at this really old post about the Federal Reserve and interest rates so I'm posting an update! At the end of June, the Federal Reserve met and decided to keep the federal funds rate the same at 0 - 0.25%. The federal funds rate is the rate banks charge each other. This was really no big surprise, as most economists expected the Fed to leave the rate alone. It hasn't changed since December 2008 and isn't likely to increase anytime soon. The Fed says that the pace of economic contraction is slowing and there's evidence of household spending stabilizing, but inflation does not seem to be a worry to the Fed right now.
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
I found this beehive while doing a home inspection in Phoenix yesterday. If you ever see a beehive like this, stay away from it and call a professional to have it removed.
Friday, June 20, 2008
A couple years ago, the real estate market was so crazy that many buyers were waiving their right to a home inspection just so the seller would accept their offer. But those days are over and in the current buyer's market, the inspection period is once again being used as a time to negotiate price. Although each contract is different, most Arizona home buyers have a 10-day inspection period. During this inspection period, buyers can generally cancel the contract based on their inspections and receive a refund of their earnest money.
As a result, the inspection period is a very nerve-racking time for many real estate agents and sellers. While most experienced Realtors® want their buyers to have a thorough home inspection, some real estate agents are scared to death that an experienced home inspector like myself will 'blow the deal' and cost them a commission.
But in my experience, most buyers don't want to cancel their contract when the inspection reveals problems. Some buyers do, but usually the buyers will ask for major problems to be repaired, or for monetary compensation in lieu of repairs. Sometimes, sellers will be offended or will refuse to negotiate based on the inspection and it does blow the deal. But usually, the buyers and sellers come to a reasonable compromise and the deal closes.
I'm often asked by sellers and real estate agents if there's anything they can do to 'prepare' for the inspection. Here are some things that can be done to make the home inspector's job easier:
SELLERS & SELLER'S AGENTS:
1. Make sure ALL utilities are on prior to the inspection. Most sellers keep the utilities on while their home is for sale, at least the electricity anyway. But sometimes the gas or other utilities will be off if the home was vacant for an extended period of time. Foreclosures and bank owned properties usually do not have the utilities on. If the gas is turned off, the inspector cannot operate gas appliances such as the heater, water heater, stove, etc. There are still many items that can be inspected, but you will not get the best inspection possible if any of the utilities are off. If the water is off, I will not be able to properly evaluate the plumbing or anything else which uses water. If the electricity is off, I cannot inspect anything that requires power.
My home inspection company always asks the client or Realtor® who makes the inspection appointment to verify that all utilities are on, but sometimes the gas or water company doesn't have it on when they say they will. If I'm unable to inspect something due to the utilities being off and I need to come back to the property, I have to charge the client a re-inspection fee (currently $100, and likely to increase soon due to gas prices). Even when it's not the buyer's fault, the buyer is the one who usually ends up paying it. A good buyer's agent will insist that the sellers reimburse the buyer for this re-inspection fee since it's usually the seller's responsibility to have the utilities on for the inspection (I believe the standard AAR contract requires this). But this is a cost that can be avoided altogether with some prior planning.
2. Unlock gates and remove locks from electrical boxes, sprinkler timers, pool equipment or fences, etc. Basically, unlock everything that's locked so the inspector can access it.
3. Secure your pets if necessary. I love animals and I frequently have animal friends accompany me through the house as I do my inspection. One time, I even had about a half-dozen weiner dogs follow me through a two-story house I was inspecting (have you ever seen a weiner dog try to run up stairs!) I realize I'm in their territory and I try to introduce myself to the pets in a non-threatening way. I don't mind being followed and I even enjoy interacting with the animals. But if you have a large or aggressive pet that needs supervision or restraint, please do so! In the thousands of home inspections I've performed, I've never been attacked by a pet - but I've had a few big dogs I wasn't sure about that were definitely a distraction. Also, if you have a pet that likes to sneak outside when the door is opened, please make me aware so I can watch out for him/her!
4. Move ALL items that may limit the home inspector's access. And please don't stuff everything in the garage or in closets, because I have to inspect in those areas too! Home Inspectors are not going to move personal items to inspect behind or underneath them. If access or visibility is obstructed, that area will not be inspected. This isn't because we're being lazy, but moving things really isn't a home inspector's job. In fact, the state standards specifically say home inspectors are not required to move personal items, furniture, equipment, etc. And it's really best for the homeowner that we don't move their stuff. Most homeowners wouldn't want us to, and we don't want to take a chance of breaking something (which sometimes happens when you start moving stuff).
5. Replace bad light bulbs. This makes my job easier and I won't call a light fixture bad when it's really just the bulb. I have a tool I can screw into the light bulb socket to test the light if it won't come on, but it will only fit regular light bulb sockets.
6. Don't try to hide stuff with last minute paint or repairs! This never works and will likely call more attention to the area. For example, painting the ceiling to cover a water stain doesn't keep me from knowing about a roof leak. I'll still see the evidence on the roof and in the attic. Likewise, fresh caulking in the shower may cause me to look more closely at that area.
BUYERS & BUYER'S AGENTS:
1. Buyers should be present at the inspection. The scariest way for a buyer to learn the results of their home inspection is by reading the report. If a buyer is at the inspection, they can ask questions about the problems that are found and the repairs that are necessary. They can ask questions like "is that common for a house this age?". As a home inspector, it's my job to make sure my clients learn as much information as possible from my inspection. I report on everything I see, but I'm not doing my clients any favors if I scare them unnecessarily. Sometimes, a big list of defects in the home inspection report can scare an unprepared buyer out of one deal, only to find the next house they put under contract has most of the same problems (because the problems are common for the age/type of house). So I make sure my clients understand as much as possible about the problems I find, and those problems are put in perspective. A client who comes to my inspection leaves with an understanding of what problems I found, and a good idea which ones are major expenses. When clients are not at the inspection, I often get frantic phone calls from buyers who are worried about something that's really no big deal. But when they read the report without the ability to be there, see it and ask questions, it's much more scary.
Many buyers are out-of-state and cannot attend the inspection. But if at all possible, the buyers should attend the inspection. A normal inspection takes several hours, and I know it's boring to sit around that long while the inspector inspects! So ideally, the client and agent should show up during the last half hour of the inspection (ask what time that will be when you make your appointment). That way, the inspector can give the client and agent a summary of what was found and address their questions.
2. Verify that all utilities are on.
3. Understand what a home inspection is, and what it is not. A pre-purchase home inspection is an opportunity for the buyers to learn more about the home's condition before they own it. Most buyers schedule their home inspection while they can still back out of the deal or negotiate repairs/money.
While sellers may agree to make some repairs, buyers need to understand that a home inspection report is not intended to be a repair list for the seller (except perhaps on new homes/warranty inspections). Even on brand new homes, I will usually find dozens of problems. So a home inspection report with only fifteen deficiencies is a pretty clean house. But when a first time buyer who's never had a home inspection and thinks they're buying the perfect house gets a report with fifteen deficiencies, they can be scared to death. Or they may expect the seller to repair every single item, which almost never happens in a re-sale situation. Unreasonable expectations from one party can blow a deal.
In short, buyers and sellers need to be prepared, and know in advance what to expect from the home inspection. From my experience, fear of the unknown is the primary reason most deals fall out of escrow after the inspection. But even when the home has problems, a home inspection should remove both the fear and the unknown, giving the buyers confidence in their purchase rather than scaring them away. Now don't get me wrong, if the house has several expensive, unexpected problems, there's no amount of preparation that can overcome that. But knowledge is power, and the home inspection goes much smoother when all parties are prepared and know what to expect.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
I recently received an email with this question about disclosure of sex offenders when selling a home in Arizona:
First, I have to say that I'm not an attorney so I can only address this question in the general sense and from a Realtor's perspective. So do not consider my answer as legal advice, and ALWAYS consult an attorney for questions about your own specific situation.
Second, don't believe everything you read in the mainstream media! Of course, you can't believe everything you read on the internet either. But I do know bloggers who are much more thorough about checking facts than some of the major media outlets.
Arizona legislators are constantly updating our laws, and real estate disclosure is a hot topic. However, I don't think a change to the law is the source of confusion in this case. From my experience, I'd say all of the sources quoted are technically correct. I think this is the USA Today article that was referenced in the question, here's the AZ real estate attorney who was mentioned, and here's the Arizona Association of Realtors (AAR) Residential Seller Advisory form.
The AAR Residential Seller Advisory does indeed state, "By law, sellers are not obligated to disclose that the property is or has been... located in the vicinity of a sex offender." But if you keep reading, it goes on to say, "However, the law does not protect a seller who makes an intentional misrepresentation." And then the top of the next page says, "Sellers are required by law to disclose all known material (important) facts about the Property to the Buyer".
So what is considered to be "material" or "important"? Generally, anything that may affect a buyer's decision to buy is definitely material and should be disclosed. To be safe, I tell sellers that EVERYTHING is material to the buyer. At least, a seller has to assume that everything is material because they don't know what's material to the buyer. Every buyer is different... what seems minor and unimportant to the seller may very well be minor and unimportant to one buyer. However, that same item may be extremely important, and thus material, to another buyer. If it ends up in front of a judge, I would guess that anything and everything the buyers find out later, that the seller knew and didn't disclose, will be considered material!
The AAR Residential Seller Advisory reinforces this idea with it's heading, "When in doubt, disclose!". If the sellers know there's a sex offender living down the street and the buyers ask, I would tell the seller to disclose it, in writing, to protect both the sellers and the buyers. Even if the buyers don't ask, I would still tell the sellers to disclose it, in writing. It doesn't matter if the buyers are older or don't have kids. You cannot assume they don't care about a sex offender living nearby. They may have grandchildren who visit and play outside, or friends that come over and bring their kids. My point is, you shouldn't try to get inside the buyer's head and figure out what is, or is not material. Only the buyer can decide that. Just disclose it and let the buyers make that call... whether it's a maintenance problem, or something you know about the neighbors, homeowners association, schools, etc. Disclose whatever you know.
I know many people are reading this thinking, "Disclose it, even if it they don't ask? That would probably kill the deal." Well, it's better to kill the deal now than end up in court later. And actually, being honest from the beginning by making full disclosure reduces the risk of a last minute deal-breaker, 29 days into the transaction. As a seller, if the deal isn't going to close, don't you want to know right away instead of AFTER your house has been off the market for a month?
Full disclosure isn't just for sellers either. It's a two-way street. Buyers should also disclose anything that might be material to the sellers, like if they know something which may affect their ability to qualify for a mortgage. The "golden rule" can (and should) be applied to real estate transactions, just like anything else in life. Every transaction is smoother, less stressful and turns out better in the end if both parties are honest and upfront with each other from the beginning.
But buyers, don't be naive! You should NOT rely on the sellers to disclose all material facts about the property you're buying. Even if the sellers are honest people, they may not know all the material facts. So buyers must also do their "due diligence" by investigating everything that's important to them. The AZ Department of Real Estate advises buyers to read and investigate the items on this checklist for Arizona home buyers. While the law may require certain disclosures, "Buyer Beware" is a reality!
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Okay, these may not be the type of 'Arizona snowbirds' you were expecting... But early this morning, we found an Easter surprise in our swimming pool. These two ducks decided to use our pool as a free hotel. They spent a couple hours drinking, bathing and resting in our pool before continuing on their journey. I'm no bird expert, but we figure they probably needed a place to stop and rest as they were migrating home (heading back north after flying south for the winter?). My kids were hoping they were an Easter present. My cats were hoping they were dinner. And although they were kind of fun to have as guests for a couple of hours, I'm just glad they're gone!
Happy Easter to you and yours!
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