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Old 05-12-2021, 07:42 AM
 
11 posts, read 1,381 times
Reputation: 15

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We’re a semi-retired couple - wife is younger, still working and hoping to find local employment with one of the big employers after we move back, if not before. She used to work for Honeywell and sees openings there, Intel, NG, etc. If she changes jobs before we move, we’ll focus our home search with commute in mind. If not, best we can do is try to not go too far out, cross our fingers on the commute.

I should say that while my background is in public & media relations, since our first home I’ve always done a lot of work myself. On this last one, the house from Hell, I’ve done everything - hung new drywall, re-plumbed, added sheathing, Tyvek & siding (old masonite board had to go), so while I’m not a pro, I’ve worked alongside them & so might be more focused on the guts of a home than many buyers.

I sure have no problem spotting the lipstick on a pig, if you know what I mean.

Honestly, I’m too old for this s**t, so we’re focused on finding a home that needs next to nothing. If we did do the fixer-upper thing again, I’d have to budget at least $150k, find a crew and just sit it out for a change.

We’ve been working with a Realtor for a few months, just doing all we can to get up to speed on the market - what homes are really going for, what areas command more money (and why). After having made one trip just to get to know our Realtor and having toured homes from Verrado to Queen Creek, we know where the airports are, have seen all the rehab activity in Ahwatukee (flippers? Sky Harbor making people leave??). Know about the pending water problem out west, too.

Yep, things have certainly changed since we lived in the east valley 15 years ago!

Anyway, we learned a lot on that trip, but probably left with more questions than we got answers.

With a budget of $650k-$800k we have options, but have a pretty long list of wants, so most of what’s out there now doesn’t make the cut. Fortunately, the way we’re most likely to do the move, I can come down and camp out somewhere for 30-60 days until I find the right home. I may be doing this right when it hits 120, which if nothing else will let me know how well the a/c system’s performing on any prospective new home.

We’re most focused on above 3,200 sq. ft., 4 good-sized bedrooms (or 3 with loft), 3-car garage. We’re looking at both 1 & 2 story, but also those with true basements, which we do see listed, though rare.

A “true” basement to me is one with water/sewer and no lift pump. We do have concerns about basements dug in the area, given we’ve not seen any listed as unfinished, so foundation inspection’s impossible. We don’t know if the same soil structure that makes digging so expensive actually results in more stable foundations than what we deal with in the midwest.

In case someone wonders why we might want a basement, let’s just say the weight of her exercise equipment, the size of my record collection (several thousand albums), the desire to set up a true music room for my hifi system, makes having a very large, open space right on a slab attractive. It’s how we’re using the walkout basement on our current home and it works well for us. A basement’s not a requirement though, just an obvious way to keep doing what we’re doing now.

Pool costs - I’m not worried about the chemical & cleaning costs. I think I’ve got a handle on that. What I’d like to know is how long the major mechanicals last & a low-high cost for replacement, including if we go SW.

I also can’t get a handle on the costs for pool electric which I understand is going to vary widely depending on size, water features, etc. Let’s just say a dead calm rectangle isn’t what we’re looking for. It’ll need a pump system for smaller water features that create some movement and noise. It’ll have a small spa. The ideal pool won’t be large (only the two of us), but will be built to current standards, with adequate recirculation/filtration.

Total electric bill - I break out the pool electric costs b/c if we decide the cost of buying a home with a pool, plus powering and maintaining it isn’t all that cost effective, we’ll pivot to looking for a home that has a backyard we still would want to actually use - lots of shade, fruit trees perhaps. Actual grass. Decent cooking island. Perhaps enough space if we ever did want to do the pool, there would be a place for it. Something where you can see a bit into the distance. No patio home. No 2-story patio home on the other side of the wall either.

If it weren’t for the commute (and the cost), we’d head up north a bit and enjoy a little room, sky, topographic relief.

Anyway, it’s important to us to know when it hits 120, assuming we do get a home built in the last 5-10 years that’s done right, whether we’re going to see $200, $500, 1,000 or higher bills.

We’re clueless on whether any of the leased solar systems provide enough KW to more than offset their cost. Honestly, we don’t even have a handle on how many KW we should be looking for, so even if it’s an owned system that’s relatively new, we don’t have any way of evaluating what it’ll really do for us. Some of the systems seem so small, as if they’re more for show. Others take up entire roofs and again, we don’t know if that’s more a sign of older tech, or of systems that really are designed to handle the home’s total power need.

Home age is clearly another factor when it comes to energy efficiency, but again, we don’t have enough information to know when certain newer building practices came into play, nor how to spot them on a home.

Clearly homes built before 2001 go for less money, but how much of that is location, layout & how much is horrible insulation, no radiant barrier roofing, single pane aluminum frame windows, massive old heat pumps that never performed well even when new I haven’t a clue. I see some difference in the soffits of the newer homes, and some kinds of small panels on the roofs that might be some kind of limited venting system that I can envision being more to keep pressure balanced than to provide airflow, but again, I just don’t know what to look for.

I do understand when I get to the point of making an offer, doing what I've done in the past - asking for utility bills - might answer my questions, but I really want to have some handle on cost before I get to that point. I really do want to factor as much of my anticipated cost of ownership into my decision to even make an offer. To me, not factoring in as much of the total cost of ownership as I can would make about as much sense as looking at homes with a hard cutoff based on their list price when you know in this market, offering list probably isn’t going to cut it.

Some may say my Realtor should know all of this and believe me, I have been asking. But even if she had all the answers, I’d feel compelled to try and learn all I can independently of her. So if you’ve got a bit of knowledge that speaks to any of what I’ve mentioned - or get the gist of what I’m trying to learn and know something I should consider that I haven’t mentioned, please let me know. I do know I’m asking a lot in this one message, but please understand, this is my way of trying to do right by my wife.

Moving’s never easy, but when you’re pushing 70, well, yeah, this one’s gonna be different.
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Old 05-12-2021, 12:31 PM
 
Location: Scottsdale, AZ
2,124 posts, read 4,507,083 times
Reputation: 3191
You have asked a lot of good questions. Focusing your location on commute is an good strategy as commutes here can be very long. You would not wish to move to Surprise if you were working in Chandler.

Based on your post I would recommend looking into some of the new home communities in the east and west valleys'. So as an example if your wife was able to secure employment in Chandler, then Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa are all good candidates.

If the commute was to the north, then Peoria, some areas of N. Phoenix and even Surprise are good areas.

You should have no trouble finding a home in your budget in these areas.

Solar has always, and will for the foreseeable future be a marginal investment. Not a bad strategy, just not a slam dunk. If you were to go the solar lease route, you must negotiate. I has seen both favorable and unfavorable leases. Many of these solar companies are better at selling than at providing service. Read and compare the terms carefully.

In general your utility bills (without solar) should never approach $1000. Maybe $400 in the summer months $200 in the winter. Newer homes should be more energy efficient that older homes.

Basement homes are uncommon here, they are not cost effective to build. Put the idea of grass out of your mind. It is too expensive and requires too much maintenance. I know, I had grass for years until I wised up. Get artificial turf if you want green.
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Old 05-12-2021, 12:56 PM
Status: "is it 110 degrees yet?" (set 1 day ago)
 
Location: northwest valley, az
3,160 posts, read 1,947,125 times
Reputation: 4326
considering that almost every decent house in the valley either sells within a day or 2 of listing, most even faster, keep that in mind if you are focused on buying a house in the next few months; there is no more "window shopping", or, "let me sleep on it", you'll probably pay over listing price in most cases, and, if you see something you like, grab it NOW..
Also, Cash offers seem to be the only way to get a decent place now, so keep that in mind..
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Old 05-12-2021, 03:49 PM
 
11 posts, read 1,381 times
Reputation: 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by AZJoeD View Post
You have asked a lot of good questions. Focusing your location on commute is an good strategy as commutes here can be very long. You would not wish to move to Surprise if you were working in Chandler.

Based on your post I would recommend looking into some of the new home communities in the east and west valleys'. So as an example if your wife was able to secure employment in Chandler, then Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa are all good candidates.

If the commute was to the north, then Peoria, some areas of N. Phoenix and even Surprise are good areas.

You should have no trouble finding a home in your budget in these areas.

Solar has always, and will for the foreseeable future be a marginal investment. Not a bad strategy, just not a slam dunk. If you were to go the solar lease route, you must negotiate. I has seen both favorable and unfavorable leases. Many of these solar companies are better at selling than at providing service. Read and compare the terms carefully.

In general your utility bills (without solar) should never approach $1000. Maybe $400 in the summer months $200 in the winter. Newer homes should be more energy efficient that older homes.

Basement homes are uncommon here, they are not cost effective to build. Put the idea of grass out of your mind. It is too expensive and requires too much maintenance. I know, I had grass for years until I wised up. Get artificial turf if you want green.
Thanks. We lived in Gilbert, just south of Gilbert Road & Baseline for about seven years before we moved back to the midwest so my wife could be near family. Looking at quite a bit more home this time around though. Our recent visit suggests with the loop expansion to handle traffic farther south, the commute might actually be a little easier, but we agree with your observation about employer proximity. We're just not aware of any major employers up north, so haven't focused much on homes up there, although we have looked around a bit.

My questions on solar leases really go more to homes where a lease agreement is already in place. I've no knowledge that would help me determine if an existing lease is "good," or what kind of roof repair headache I'd be in for it I told the company no thanks, yank the panels.

I understand basements are rare, but they do exist. I've not toured any, just reviewed listings. Interestingly, while digging's not cheap, on a sq. ft. basis, basement homes do seem less expensive than a similar sized 2-story. Perhaps they're not a big draw for most buyers. Really it's functionality and the possibility of being more energy efficient that makes them of interest to me.

Landscaping, to me, should be low maintenance and relatively climate appropriate (citrus trees an exception). I don't golf, nor envision getting any pleasure out of doing whatever qualifies as cleaning an maintenance of artificial turf, so just not a positive for me.
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Old 05-12-2021, 04:08 PM
 
11 posts, read 1,381 times
Reputation: 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by wase4711 View Post
considering that almost every decent house in the valley either sells within a day or 2 of listing, most even faster, keep that in mind if you are focused on buying a house in the next few months; there is no more "window shopping", or, "let me sleep on it", you'll probably pay over listing price in most cases, and, if you see something you like, grab it NOW..
Also, Cash offers seem to be the only way to get a decent place now, so keep that in mind..
I've been reviewing and tracking listings for about two months. Lately I've been reviewing sales history on homes I've been tracking, so have a pretty good idea of the difference between list and sold price, as well as time on market.

It's getting easier by the day for me to spot the houses that will sell relatively quickly and, yeah, many of those would be contenders for us. There's some break point though that seems based on age, but I seriously doubt I'm going to find a late 90's home that's been totally gutted, properly insulated, had its roof totally re-worked with radiant barrier sheathing, new low-e windows, a/c lines tested for the higher pressure refrigerants and the rest of the system replaced, etc . . . You get the idea. The mythical older home brought up to today's standards, not the one where the kitchen & bathrooms have been re-done.

As for "cash talks," sure. But I'd do that only on a distressed home I planned on totally gutting. I'll likely do what others have suggested - make sure I've got the cash on hand to deal with any difference between appraised price and what I offer, make it clear the offer's not contingent on it appraising for the full asking price, making sure the seller understands we're pre-approved - the whole nine yards.

Honestly, I've seen several homes that, if I were there and found they were as advertised, if I were able to get all the info I'm looking for, I'd be able to make an offer pretty quickly. But I'm in a different situation than most buyers, in that I don't have a deadline. No kids I need to get into school, for instance. There's being able to move quickly and then there's making mistakes because you're in a rush.
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Old 05-12-2021, 04:15 PM
 
Location: Sonoran Desert
34,453 posts, read 44,299,095 times
Reputation: 23489
Figure your energy costs at $5000 per year and you will be OK. It'll be twice as much or more in summer as in winter. Pools will not contribute significantly to that. It's the AC. There are plans that can save some bucks if you are willing to keep down your demand during the peak heat of the day - pretty easy really.

Pool equipment lasts at least ten years. Code requires a pricey energy efficient pump replacement that can run well over a grand. Cartridge filters are the easiest to live with. DE filters are to be avoided. Sand does a nice job but you waste water backwashing it.

AC units are junk now and 10-12 years is the life expectancy of most of them. You will have two or more in a house the size you are looking at.

Solar is a losing investment thanks to the utilities. People whose deals were grandfathered have it good, but new installs are just not going to pay off very quickly.

Tile roofs last about 20 years before you have to have the underlayment replaced. It is very expensive - maybe as much as $20K on your home size. Ask about it.

I second the comments above on grass. Unless you are some turf engineer, it will look lousy most of the summer. If you have a dog, every pee will be a brown spot. Winter lawns overseeded look great and are easy to grow, so you do have that option if you have a lawn. Fake grass is flaming hot in the sun and will burn dogs' feet. On the other hand, desert landscaping is inherently messy since it has leaves and flowers and pods coming and dropping all year long. Many, many people hire a landscaping company to come out and tend to their places. Costs are relatively cheap.

Last edited by Ponderosa; 05-12-2021 at 04:24 PM..
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Old 05-12-2021, 04:41 PM
 
11 posts, read 1,381 times
Reputation: 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ponderosa View Post
Figure your energy costs at $5000 per year and you will be OK. It'll be twice as much or more in summer as in winter. Pools will not contribute significantly to that. It's the AC. There are plans that can save some bucks if you are willing to keep down your demand during the peak heat of the day - pretty easy really.

Pool equipment lasts at least ten years. Code requires a pricey energy efficient pump replacement that can run well over a grand. Cartridge filters are the easiest to live with. DE filters are to be avoided. Sand does a nice job but you waste water backwashing it.

AC units are junk now and 10-12 years is the life expectancy of most of them. You will have two or more in a house the size you are looking at.

Solar is a losing investment thanks to the utilities. People whose deals were grandfathered have it good, but new installs are just not going to pay off very quickly.

Tile roofs last about 20 years before you have to have the underlayment replaced. It is very expensive - maybe as much as $20K on your home size. Ask about it.

I second the comments above on grass. Unless you are some turf engineer, it will look lousy most of the summer. If you have a dog, every pee will be a brown spot. Winter lawns overseeded look great and are easy to grow, so you do have that option if you have a lawn. Fake grass is flaming hot in the sun and will burn dogs' feet.
Thanks, that's exactly the kind of info. I'm looking for.

Hadn't a clue about the changing solar market. I'd heard in some regions the utilities did a pretty good job of making it a losing proposition, but had no info. about AZ. Seems like I'll be wanting to learn more about older lease agreements that may be transferrable.

Surprised that pools aren't a major drain, pardon the pun. I suppose my pump knowledge is old school. Would have figured them all to be energy hogs, but based on what you're saying, you're paying up front these days for something that doesn't pull juice like the old ones.

$20k every 10 years or so on a roof does make getting the age of the current one on any home we're looking at a good thing to do. Here it may be $14k just to replace asphalt shingles, but if you do a good shingle, you should be good for over 15 and may well get hit by a hailstorm during that time and get it handled through insurance.

I've lived in Tucson too & really do prefer xeriscape. My comment about grass is less about actually having grass than about avoiding artificial turf, although the heat issue is news to me and I thank you for that. Some things in an AZ backyard do turn me off more. Yards and yards of pea gravel, outdone only by bare dirt. That said, if the right home is one that hasn't had the backyard done, I've got the imagination and budget to resolve that.

No dogs. No cats either. I was involved in rescue for a time in Gilbert and that resulted in our having a feline family for about 20 years. Somehow I've managed to outlive them all and much as we miss them, we'll not be doing that again.
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Old 05-12-2021, 04:46 PM
Status: "Transplanted Californian in Alabama" (set 13 hours ago)
 
Location: Alabama
657 posts, read 1,429,868 times
Reputation: 527
Quote:
Originally Posted by AZJoeD View Post
Basement homes are uncommon here, they are not cost effective to build.
Good ole "caliche"! Saw a lot of it on the trails in the 85028 with my dogs. Do people actually drill through that stuff when building or renovating, though? I know they didn't back when Phoenix was being developed, and in more recent decades.

I'd be curious what your experience is with that, and the stats on it if you know of any.
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Old Yesterday, 06:22 AM
 
11 posts, read 1,381 times
Reputation: 15
Default Ponderosa, more info, if you have time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OldJiminMissouri View Post
Thanks, that's exactly the kind of info. I'm looking for.

Hadn't a clue about the changing solar market. I'd heard in some regions the utilities did a pretty good job of making it a losing proposition, but had no info. about AZ. Seems like I'll be wanting to learn more about older lease agreements that may be transferrable.

Surprised that pools aren't a major drain, pardon the pun. I suppose my pump knowledge is old school. Would have figured them all to be energy hogs, but based on what you're saying, you're paying up front these days for something that doesn't pull juice like the old ones.

$20k every 10 years or so on a roof does make getting the age of the current one on any home we're looking at a good thing to do. Here it may be $14k just to replace asphalt shingles, but if you do a good shingle, you should be good for over 15 and may well get hit by a hailstorm during that time and get it handled through insurance.

I've lived in Tucson too & really do prefer xeriscape. My comment about grass is less about actually having grass than about avoiding artificial turf, although the heat issue is news to me and I thank you for that. Some things in an AZ backyard do turn me off more. Yards and yards of pea gravel, outdone only by bare dirt. That said, if the right home is one that hasn't had the backyard done, I've got the imagination and budget to resolve that.

No dogs. No cats either. I was involved in rescue for a time in Gilbert and that resulted in our having a feline family for about 20 years. Somehow I've managed to outlive them all and much as we miss them, we'll not be doing that again.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ponderosa View Post
Figure your energy costs at $5000 per year and you will be OK. It'll be twice as much or more in summer as in winter. Pools will not contribute significantly to that. It's the AC. There are plans that can save some bucks if you are willing to keep down your demand during the peak heat of the day - pretty easy really.

Pool equipment lasts at least ten years. Code requires a pricey energy efficient pump replacement that can run well over a grand. Cartridge filters are the easiest to live with. DE filters are to be avoided. Sand does a nice job but you waste water backwashing it.

AC units are junk now and 10-12 years is the life expectancy of most of them. You will have two or more in a house the size you are looking at.

Solar is a losing investment thanks to the utilities. People whose deals were grandfathered have it good, but new installs are just not going to pay off very quickly.

Tile roofs last about 20 years before you have to have the underlayment replaced. It is very expensive - maybe as much as $20K on your home size. Ask about it.

I second the comments above on grass. Unless you are some turf engineer, it will look lousy most of the summer. If you have a dog, every pee will be a brown spot. Winter lawns overseeded look great and are easy to grow, so you do have that option if you have a lawn. Fake grass is flaming hot in the sun and will burn dogs' feet. On the other hand, desert landscaping is inherently messy since it has leaves and flowers and pods coming and dropping all year long. Many, many people hire a landscaping company to come out and tend to their places. Costs are relatively cheap.
Ponderosa, reading back through your reply I was wondering if you'd give me your thoughts on a few things. What factors are most relevant to the massive price difference in homes older than, say 10 years? Based on your observations, roof, pool pump would seem to be on the list, but also perhaps other, newer building techniques/materials? Even in flips, are older layouts just out of favor?

Also quite interested in what's going on with the Ahwatukee area, given the large number of construction dumpsters we saw out there. If original build quality & Sky Harbor aren't issues there, some of the homes at least seem worth a second look.

You mentioned building codes requiring more efficient pool pumps. Is that the norm now regardless of city (would prefer to avoid old tech whenever possible)?

I'd love to have an idea of builders to avoid, but understand there are reasons Realtors might not want to go there. I've seen the results of bad pours, not prestressed. Toured one home under construction, spotted bad wood, split headers, base plate seal gaps & was told it hadn't been inspected by their guy yet. Sure, but if your framers are THAT bad I'm supposed to assume your inspector's going to come in behind and demand it all get fixed? Maybe. Maybe not. Thanks again for taking the time to help get me up to speed.
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Old Yesterday, 07:41 AM
 
Location: Sonoran Desert
34,453 posts, read 44,299,095 times
Reputation: 23489
Quote:
Originally Posted by OldJiminMissouri View Post
Ponderosa, reading back through your reply I was wondering if you'd give me your thoughts on a few things. What factors are most relevant to the massive price difference in homes older than, say 10 years? Based on your observations, roof, pool pump would seem to be on the list, but also perhaps other, newer building techniques/materials? Even in flips, are older layouts just out of favor?

Also quite interested in what's going on with the Ahwatukee area, given the large number of construction dumpsters we saw out there. If original build quality & Sky Harbor aren't issues there, some of the homes at least seem worth a second look.

You mentioned building codes requiring more efficient pool pumps. Is that the norm now regardless of city (would prefer to avoid old tech whenever possible)?

I'd love to have an idea of builders to avoid, but understand there are reasons Realtors might not want to go there. I've seen the results of bad pours, not prestressed. Toured one home under construction, spotted bad wood, split headers, base plate seal gaps & was told it hadn't been inspected by their guy yet. Sure, but if your framers are THAT bad I'm supposed to assume your inspector's going to come in behind and demand it all get fixed? Maybe. Maybe not. Thanks again for taking the time to help get me up to speed.
I'm not the best one on the forum to talk about why real estate prices are what they are. Someone in the business will chime in hopefully. My take on the price difference you are seeing is you are not comparing apples to apples. Homes in the same neighborhoods go for roughly the same price in my experience. In fact, and older home can cost more because they have mature landscaping, probably a pool, and sometimes bigger lots. It's location, location, location. There is, however, a strong trendiness desire in this area. If a home is not the latest in style and colors buyers might pass it by. In some cases neighborhoods decline rapidly as people flee further and further out in search of the latest in home trends. The houses they leave behind turn into rentals dragging down the appeal and value. Even a ten year old development can go "ghetto" here.

Your comments on build quality are pretty much standard fare in home building now here and else where as well. Like you I do everything myself including building my own home in the mountains of Arizona back in the day. If you go watch your new home being built you might go into shock. Wood is in short supply now and they might have tossed a stud last year, but this year it gets put up. Labor too is in very short supply and builders use whoever they can get - they sub it out to avoid our e-verify law. But unless something is structural it all gets covered by the drywall and forgotten. Best not to look.
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