Tiffany Cloud's Arizona Blog

musings from 35 yr AZ resident and Realtor®

A Random Act of being Neighborly – Taking the Lead in Protecting Your Neighborhood’s Value

I read an article today that I found fascinating.  It was just a little snippet of an article, only 4 short paragraphs.  It was entitled, “Survey:  Well-Kept Yards Most Important Factor in Determining Neighborhood Safety.”  The survey conducted by relocation.com , reported by RIS Media and sponsored by Lowes, found that,  “75% of Americans believe the most important factor in determining a neighborhood’s safety is the up-keep of surrounding homes, especially the front lawns.”  The Chairman and Founder of Relocation.com was quoted as saying, “It’s interesting to see how home buyers determine neighborhood safety based on the neighborhood’s appearance and not as much based on police statistics or crime reports.” As a Realtor® who happens to have a foreclosure or two in my own neighborhood, I couldn’t help but think how the increase in distressed homes in our neighborhoods is a variable that we can’t control.  What used to be an anomaly, has become the norm.

For a couple of years the government has been trying to stop the downward spiral that is our housing market.  The government has infused billions of dollars into housing programs, kept interest rates low, shored up the banks making real estate loans and offered cash incentives for home buyers.  Yet, we still find that foreclosures top the news on a daily basis and that more and more people are either being forced out of their homes or are voluntarily walking away from homes.  The phenomenon is no longer something we hear about on the news, but one we drive through everyday on our way to work as we exit our neighborhoods…. our very own neighborhoods.

So what about our neighborhoods?  What about the value of our homes? What about those homes that sit with the lawns overgrown, leaflets stacking up at the front door, empty driveways and that eerie sense of abandonment we drive past everyday?   My Grandmother used to say that asking the right questions was often the beginning of the finding the right answer.  If my Grandmother was right ,and she almost always was; the internal questions we ask ourselves as we drive past these abandons homes could be the key to the solution.

When is the government going to fix this housing crisis so my housing value stops free-falling?

or

Is there anything I can do to stop the value of my homes decline?

 

When is someone going to start taking care of that home?

or

Is there anything I can do to take care of that home?

 

Could the answer be as simple as a random act of being neighborly?  What if you cleaned up that yard?  Maybe a neighbor seeing you work on the yard would offer to help, or maybe they might do it in a week or two?   What if neighbors took turns occasionally parking their cars on the street out in front of the home lending a ‘presence’ to the home? What if several neighbors got together and made a rotating schedule of when they would do some front yard maintenance?  [Although it irritates me to no end to have to make this side note, I must.  I am not a lawyer and I can’t give legal advise – but you do need to have a property owner’s permission before trespassing or working on another’s property and you do need to be aware of the fact that there might not be any kind of homeowner’s insurance policy on that home. Don’t give up easily though, contact some local authorities to see if there is a way you can work around such a dilemma.  Is there a neighborhood task force that the City helps underwrite and insure to clean up these properties?  If not should there be one…hint, hint, hint? Contact the bank that own the property, contact the local health department if there is garbage left, see if a local boy scout troop could do a clean-up….Let’s think outside of the box folks, this is important.  There, done – now back to the benevolent spirit of this post]

Starting with abandoned homes is a great first step, but let’s take it a step further, a BIG step further.  What about those homes in your neighborhood where there are still people living in them and you see them start to deteriorate?  Oouch, that is a lot harder.

We had a home in our neighborhood that has always been maintained start to go into dis-repair.  I knew something must be going on because for 6 years the home had always been maintained.  My gut reaction was that I needed to check in with these neighbors and see if everything was OK; but then I immediately started talking myself out of it.  They might think I am being nosy, what if they think I just want to gossip to the other neighbors? What about their privacy?  What business is it of mine?  We had only ever chatted about our kids and the weather….I took a risk and called them up and as non-threatening as I could be, asked them if there was anything I could do to help.  I let them know that my attention was not to intrude, but that if they had some kind of need that I might be able to help with, I would sure like to know about it so I could help.  They were so relieved that I had asked. I was a little shocked at how relieved they were.  What followed was an hour-long conversation and several follow-up conversations after that.   It turned out that in fact there was something I could do to help, and 4 months later that yard looks better than it has in years.  Their mailbox has been replaced, the yard looks fantastic and those neighbors of mine have some hope again and they are taking pride in their home as they once had.  It made me feel really good.  The government couldn’t help my neighbors out, but I could and in doing so, I helped my whole neighborhood out.

I thought that worked out pretty good, so when the opportunity arose again a month later I again forced myself to take the initiative.  In another home just outside of my neighborhood I had seen an elderly gentleman struggle in and out of his car.  His whole property was in disrepair and had been for quite some time.  While I had often muttered to myself as I drove by that I wished he would clean it up, I had never stopped to ask myself, “Can he clean it up and might he need some help?”  So, I forced myself to stop one day when I saw him outside and chatted with him for a while.  I had never met or spoken with this man before.  We had a lovely conversation and I was able to at one point say to him, “You know I have been driving past here almost everyday and have always meant to stop.  You have a really large yard and I hope you don’t mind me asking if you need help with the yard or anything else?”  He very kindly told me he was,”good” and didn’t need any help.  I left feeling glad to have made the connection with him and to let him know that a neighbor cared about him.  Do you know that he was out there working on his yard not two days later with a big smile on his face?  Possibly he just needed to know that the neighbors cared and in turn that caused him to want to care about us back by cleaning up his yard a bit.  I actually have had several really good interactions with him since then and he has spotted me at the store since then and come over to say Hi and chat.  Not only did I make a new friend, but I also think that in the future if he ever does feel he needs some help, he might just be a little more willing to accept it from me or maybe feel comfortable enough to ask.

You decide... waiting for something or offering something.

I want to be a good neighbor, I love my neighborhood.  I want my kids and my family and my neighbors to take pride in our lovely neighborhood.  What starts out as a random act of being neighborly can morph into so much more.  Let’s take pride in our neighborhoods.  The responsibility for our neighborhoods start with us not the government or the banks.  Let’s start locally by loving on our neighborhoods again …. I dare you….

Tell me after reading this post… are the hands in this picture waiting for something to be given to them or are they outstretched to lend a hand to a neighborhood or neighbor in need?  You decide.

What other ways can you think of to impact your neighborhood for the good in this depressed housing market.  Please do share.

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November 16, 2010 Posted by | Arizona Ecomony, Arizona Housing Market, Foreclosure, home buyer, home seller, Neighborhood Tours, REALTOR | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

After You Close Your Arizona Home – Updating Your Information with the DMV

According to Arizona Revised Statute 28-448 a person is required to notify the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) within 10 days (calendar days, not business days) of an address or name change.  A violation of this is considered a civil traffic violation.  At the very least a civil traffic violation could be a hassle to get removed or could cost you a lovely Saturday in traffic school or up to a $250 fine.

There are several acceptable ways to notify the DMV of your address change.  You can do it the traditional ways by driving down to your closest DMV office, calling or mailing in your current information.  The easiest way to update your current address with the Arizona DMV is to go to their website  ServiceArizona.com

Screen Shot of Landing Page for Service Arizona

In addition to keeping your Driver’s Licence up to date, you can change your voter registration, renew your vehicle tags, obtain a duplicate Drivers License to be mailed to you, select and order personalized or speciality license plates, check on a license plate credit, obtain a ‘sold notice’ for a recently sold vechile, obtain a vehicle tab replacement and more.

I know there is a lot to think of when your are in the process of moving that is why I send all my clients an email with this link and many other useful information to make getting  their new home established as easy as possible.

November 15, 2010 Posted by | Arizona Housing Market, home buyer | , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Special Warranty Deed’ When Purchasing Foreclosed Home in Arizona

When conveying title on a resale home in Arizona the seller will usually convey title with a ‘general warranty deed‘; an exception to this is when that resale home happens to be a foreclosed home.  When purchasing a foreclosed home in Arizona, the seller (bank) will offer you a ‘Special Warranty Deed’ instead of a ‘General Warranty Deed’.  So what is the difference and how does it effect the purchaser/buyer?  Tiffany Malcom, branch manager at Grand Canyon Title in Gilbert, AZ explains what you need to know about a General vs Special Warranty Deed.

grand canyon title

A general warranty deed is a promise to the buyer that the seller will warranty any prior problems with title, not just during the seller’s ownership, but back along the chain of ownership.

A special warranty deed, on the other hand, limits the seller’s promise (or warranty) to title problems that come up while the seller owned the property, but gives no warranty for problems prior to that point. They only owned the property long enough to build the homes so they aren’t willing to warrant buyers against something that happened to cloud title before they may have owned the land. Foreclosure property is another example where you often see special warranty deeds. The bank, like the builder, has no close relationship to the property and won’t bend over backwards to promise anything about the condition of title before they acquired the property through foreclosure.

These days, title insurance is the buyer’s best friend. Title insurance insures the buyer against past ownership problems, old liens, boundary issues, and so on. There may be exceptions in the title insurance policy, and owners should know what their exceptions are. For example, without a survey, a title company won’t insure against problems that a survey would have made known — encroachments, for example. That’s an exception and they won’t pay for problems that would have shown up with a survey. But unless there’s a specific exception, any other past title problems are covered.

For any other questions you might have on Title Insurance or Escrow procedures feel free to contact Tiffany Malcom @(480) 831-6066.

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April 3, 2009 Posted by | Arizona, Arizona Housing Market | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What kind of value does ‘Expertise’ Add? Can I measure it?

I have a confession to make.  It is sometimes a struggle for me to put into words the value that being a local full-time REALTOR can add to a transaction.

I can describe the process I go through with a seller for marketing their home, the method in which I communicate with them and others, and my business practices.  I can analyze statistics, market share, days on market, average sales price list to sales price from public data to make sure we are competitive.  I quite enjoy educating my clients in the mechanisms, steps we go through once an offer has been made on a home, accepted  and escrow is opened .  The items above are easy to put in an outline and describe to my clients in a clearly quantitative way.  You can measure these things and ‘see’ them quite clearly.

If the public has so much information available to them and discount brokers and limited service real estate companies will put your home on the MLS for you….why do you need a avail yourself of a local full-time real estate agent professional to sell your home or represent you as a buyer’s agent?

The answer is:Expertise”, and expertise is not as easily defined, measured or visible to the non-practiced or unknowing eye.

Expertise in Timing

One of the families in my neighborhood had their home for sale with another agent for about 9 months.  (I only sell about 1/4 of the homes in my neighborhood as I have made an active decision not to market to my neighbors in any way.  I want to be a neighbor and friend; not the pushy salesman that happens to live in the neighborhood that my neighbors run from every time they see).  This particular seller had decided to take their home off the market for awhile and do some re-modeling otime is moneyf the Kitchen and Master Bath (which they asked me to come over and consult with them and I happily did).  While the home was off the market with their real estate agent,who happened to live in a different town, they had put a “For Sale By Owner” sign up on their home.  In the middle of November 2008 I ran into the wife and asked her how the work was coming on the kitchen.  While we were chatting she told me they were planning on taking their For Sale By Owner Sign down since the holidays were coming and ‘people don’t really buy’ and the market is ‘so slow’ during November and December.  I immediately started shaking my head “No” as I explained to her that while that may be true for the market in general, in the Mesa Groves area that we lived in, we actually get a burst of activity during the holidays and sell quite a lot of homes.  The timing for our area of Mesa was different then the market in general.  That neighbor showed the home in December of 2008 to someone that purchased it.

Expertise in Local Research

Do you know what Zillow is reporting as their own reliability for valuing homes in Arizona,  right now?  Zillow reports only 23% accuracy within a 5% sales price for the Phoenix Metro Area (see chart below).  That means that the other 67% of homes they have estimates sell for a sales price AT LEAST 5% different then what they estimate the home is worth. Only 65% sell within 20% of their estimate!  A starting point? – possibly, but by no means an expert authority on what a home is worth.

zestimate accuracy phoenix 3_24_09

Do you know what the average ‘list to sales price’ is for the home you are making an offer on is?  What is the average Days on Market (DOM) for your neighborhood in the last 6 months?  How does your subdivision compare with the area or city average?  How many of the closed sales in your neighborhood, area of town, or city were foreclosed homes versus non bank-owned homes (or traditional sales)?  Does any of that matter?  Possibly, possibly not.  However, to find what is pertinent, I often have done much more research then is visible to my clients.  Any of the clients I have worked with will tell you that my primary weapon in negotiating besides a level head is knowing more than the other party.  I will attempt to analyze your position from every possible angle in order to be prepared ahead of time with market knowledge.

Where do I get my information from?  I use information from the MLS, the county assessor’s office, research outlets that I subscribe to, other agents, as well as my own knowledge of the market from experience.   I believe in the value in having your homework done when it comes to trends and facts.  My clients benefit from this involved local research and can’t learn this expertise themselves on the internet.

Expertise on the Contract

2006 –2008 I spent 80 hours in ‘official’ continuing education classes.  I spent many more hours in ‘non-credit’ continuing education.  A majority of that education is contract specific information.   Add to this that I have been using the contract full-time, that I consult with other agents using the contract and you might guess I am pretty-well versed on what the standard AAR contract is about.  If you are represented by yourself or an Uncle that works full-time for at another job and ‘dallies’ with real estate part-time on the weekends are you going to have any expertise available to you when it comes to the nuts and bolts of the contract?  Will you fully understand what you are signing?  Will you recognize if the other party is trying to pull a fast one on you?  There is a lot of money involved here, are you willing to ‘hope’ you have it right?

Expertise in Negotiating with Relevant Parties

Some of my clients are amazingly skilled at negotiating.  While I absolutely love negotiating and get a ‘rush’ from the banter and  back and forth of it all, I in no way have a “corner on the market”, so to say.  While my clients are not experts on the contract we use and limited by that knowledge, some do quite well with the larger ideas and ‘net proceeds’ aspects of a contract.  However, there is a lot more to negotiating then just finalizing the contract. On a listing, I start negotiating with the buyer’s agent from the very first phone call.  I know what makes my house unique from others in the neighborhood because I have done my research.  Every conversation I have with an agent, I am always pushing my client’s agenda and making my client’s case.  This is important because those agents make recommendations to their client in writing up the offer to purchase.  Often times, I have negotiated more money for you before the deal has even come across my fax machine.  Valuable?  Absolutely!  Can I measure this and communicate this to you in a quantitative way….not so much – but the value is there nonetheless.

What about negotiating to keep the deal alive?  I know the specific questions and dialogue to have with the other agent, the lender, and escrow agents during a transaction to identify possible problems and negotiate through them before they become deal killers.  Having a business practice of consistently checking in with all parties involved during the transaction allows me to monitor and negotiate as needed.

What about negotiating the repairs during the inspection period?  Negotiating with banks on foreclosed homes and short sales (could be another several blog post all to themselves)?  There is a lot of value on expert negotiating in a transaction that I bring my clients.

Expertise in remaining a Detached Consultant

A home purchase  or sale of a home can be, and often times does provide emotional turmoil at some point during the transaction.  Very rarely are there zero ‘snags’ or obstacles that need to be navigated through.  Often times, these can be trying for the buyer or seller who have an emotional stake in the outcome.  Most often I have dealt with the particular obstacle, or a variation thereof, and can keep a level perspective.  I want to provide the facts and alternatives to you in an unbiased way to assist you in accomplishing your goal.

Expertise in having access to Other Experts

The most common question I get as an agent is, “How is the market?”.  The second most common question I get is, “Do you know someone that I can call about …..(fill in the blank)?”  Clients and former clients know that I have had experience with all sorts of tradesman from housecleaning, handyman, roof repair, home inspectors as well as trade specific experts like lenders, escrow companies, real estate attorneys, property managers, etc….

Not only do I know of all sorts of people I can pass along for your own independent evaluation, but what about people I consult with during the transaction on your behalf that you might not even be aware of?  For example, my managing broker, Trudy Moore, is only a phone call away.  She is the managing broker for the largest real estate broker in the Southwest United States and is privy to all sorts of information that a smaller or independent broker might not have access to.  In addition, my broker has real estate attorneys on retainer and access to the AZ Department of Real Estate legal hotline.

I also have access to the research department at my local preferred title company that can often pull tax information, deed information, lien information, parcel history etc that is not easy stuff to get a hold of.  Often times I will have them pull information for me in my research and you might not ever know about it.

One of my clients works for Southwest Gas and has helped me get meters turned on at the last minute for inspections that otherwise would have caused days of delay.  I have several clients that are custom home builders that I have some times called to consult with on a specific issue.    I don’t overuse my connections with people, but I tend to become friends with my clients and we often have a reciprocal on-going relationship that last years after the transaction has ended.  Sometimes I am able add value to my service because of these relationships.

While I hope to knock your socks off with my marketing plan, tools and cutting-edge use of technology, and those things are easily measurable; it is much harder to define the ‘expertise value’ that I bring to a transaction.  This blog post is already well past the “ideal length” and I must let you get on with your day; but I hope I gave you some things to consider.  Please don’t hesitate to call or email with any questions, comments or concerns; and as always, thanks for reading.

This information is copyrighted by Tiffany Cloud 2009

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March 24, 2009 Posted by | Arizona, Arizona Housing Market, East Valley Real Estate, REALTOR | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why 7.1% Unemployment in Arizona is ‘Good’

Bureau of Labor Statistics
Image via Wikipedia

Of the states hardest hit by the housing bubble, Arizona’s unemployment rate is by far the lowest.  Historically Arizona has always benefited from a lower than average unemployment rate compared to the rest of the country.  When looking at the last 10 years statistics we had several years of 3-4% unemployment and average about 5%.  Yes, we are currently at a a decade high of 7.1% but that is still below the National average of 7.6% (Jan 2009), even though Arizona had the largest drop in home values in the nation for 2008 at 34%.  Think about it, with THE LARGEST DECLINE of home values in the nation wouldn’t one expect our unemployment rate to be much higher?

Let’s compare Jan 2009 Unemployment Rates in AZ to a few of the other states hit hard by the housing bubble:

Current Unemployment Rate

Difference from National Average

Highest Monthly Unemployment Rate from 1985-2008

Arizona

7.1% – .06% 7.7%

California

10.1 + 2.5% 9.9%

Florida

8.6% + 1.0% 8.9%

Nevada

9.4% + 1.8% 8.4%

– data Bureau of Labor Statistics

Do I suspect that the  Arizona unemployment rate might go higher?  Sure, most likely; but let’s keep the rate in perspective with the rest of the nation, the other ‘bubble states’ and the fact that we are #1 for housing decline in the nation.  Unemployment is bad.  7.1% in this economy??….I can live with that.

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March 12, 2009 Posted by | Arizona, Arizona Ecomony, Arizona Housing Market | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mesa’s Historic ‘Citrus Corridor’ Explained

You might hear it referred to as “Mesa Groves”, “Citrus Sub-Area”. “Citrus Corridor” or just “The Groves”, they all refer to a protected sub-area in North-East Mesa, Arizona where estate size housing lots abound in and around 80-year old Citrus Groves.

There are many unique things that set this area apart from any other area in Mesa or the Valley. According to the City of Mesa’s Citrus Sub-Area Plan, the purpose of the sub-area is, “to provide estate-type residential uses and characteristics associated with large lot residential development.” Citrus Lined Streets croppedApproximately 89% percent of the roughly 3 square miles is zoned R-35, low-density single-family housing, with schools and parks making up another 5%. In addition to miles of large estate size lots, a double row of citrus trees line most of the arterial streets and are incorporated into many of the sub-divisions and private lots. Consequently, The Citrus Groves Corridor has it’s own microclimate which can be 10-15 degrees cooler at night than the adjacent desert areas.

In order to protect and maintain the history of what remains of the once 1,000 + acre groves, developers are strongly encouraged to follow guidelines set forth in the Mesa Citrus Sub Area Plan.

Below are a sample of a few of the Guidelines of this Area Plan that promote a rural experience:

  • All Garages Should be side or real entrySomerset Estates sinage
  • All walls should be of solid masonry construction using natural stone, stone veneer, brick or decorative block in keeping with the rural theme.
  • Minimum lot size should be no less than 30,000 square feet.
  • Citrus Trees should be maintained with flood irrigation when possible.
  • In the Citrus Sub-Area, all new residential development should promote and encourage custom home development on R1-35 zoned lots.

You are going to see a lot of mature citrus, grass and beautiful custom homes in this area.  While there is still evidence of a dessert, it is greatly muted by an abundance of green. From November to March is not citrus groves mesa with tractor small uncommon to see an occasional John Deere tractor loaded with a trailer full of citrus driving down the street. People drive from all over the Valley to the few local citrus stands and stores that still remain in the area. In fact, Winter Visitors love to ship the fresh citrus to family and friends back east and beyond during the winter months. Several city parks, award-winning schools, a few churches and a couple of antique stores are also a part of this unique citrus sub-area. It is not a surprise, that The Phoenix Business Journal 2008 Book of List, states that Mesa’s wealthiest zip code, 85215, is a part of this unique area.  The Groves are bordered by Loop 202 freeway on the North with easy access to Scottsdale and Tempe and less than 15 miles from Sky Harbor International Airport and Arizona State University.

3-11-2009 citrus preservatio area

As of March 4, 2009, ¾ acre lot homes in The Mesa Groves are listed from $339,900 to $3,150,000. The average list price per square foot is $263 and the average listing has 5688 sq/ft. If you would like more information on homes in this unique area, please give me a call 888.668.4629 or email me Tiffany@CloudHomes.com

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March 11, 2009 Posted by | East Valley Real Estate, Neighborhood Tours, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment