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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fountain Hills: The Secret's Out

Scenic Four Peaks.  Photo from Flickr courtesy of midiman.
Arguably some of the best views in all of the Valley are offered in Fountain Hills.  If breathtaking views is part of the criteria for your second home or vacation home, Fountain Hills needs to be part of the search.  Often overlooked, and happily so if you talk to residents of Fountain Hills, it sits to the east of Scottsdale on the back side of the McDowell’s.  As you crest the hill on Shea Blvd, you’ll immediately see why locals want to keep it a secret.
Fountain Hills fountain photo from Flickr courtesy of Brent Schmidt.
The founding fathers of Fountain Hills clearly made a huge error in naming the town.  “Hills” don’t even come close to describing the picture postcard views that unveil themselves in every direction, around every curve.  We’re talking mountains here.  Peaks, complete with a dusting of snow at certain times of the year.  And, the fountain is really an enormous geyser that shoots straight into the heavens. 
This small, sleepy little town is quiet and quaint.  No big box stores or shopping malls to congest the scene.  Local shops and eateries provide refreshing charm. And from what I’ve heard, golf that is second to none.
For the home buyer, Fountain Hills offers it all – from condo’s and townhomes to lock ‘n leave patio homes.  Single family villas to sprawling estates behind gated entrances.  And, nearly all have taken advantage of the spectacular views and natural desert terrain.
A testament to the love affair locals have with Fountain Hills may be best illustrated by the number of homes for sale in town.  Inventories are at an all time low.  In going through the MLS today, there are a total of 356 listings – that’s it.  And, when you cull out the condo’s from the total number of listings on the market today, you have 219 single family homes to select from.  That’s it. Period.
And, last month, while most other cities in the valley were closing 50, 60 or even 70% of total sales in the REO/distressed segments, Fountain Hills sales was exactly the opposite.  70% were “normal” transactions.  Wow.

See for yourself - see all active single family homes currently available for sale in Fountain Hills here.
Panoramic views of Fountain Hills from Flickr coutesy of mlabowicz.
With inventories like that, it’s a seller’s market in Fountain Hills.  Those views are indeed worth the few extra minutes drive east on Shea.  If you’re tired of stucco walls and homes on top of one another, consider Fountain Hills. But hurry.  When a home hits the market, it’s likely not to last long!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Driving in Phoenix

It's not often that I pass on an e-mail, but this one I just had to share.  It reminded me of a previous blog post entitled, "The Guide for the Winter Visitor" that addressed driving on the streets of Phoenix.  Thanks to friend and my reliable fix for much need humor, Kent, here's what he had to share:
Those of you who spend much time in the saddle cruising this continent will understand that the really funny thing is that it’s all so true!
1. 'Phoenix' actually consists of Scottsdale, Chandler, Tempe,   Mesa, Gilbert, Glendale, Peoria, Tolleson, Avondale, Goodyear, Litchfield Park, Sun City, Sun City West, Sun City Grand, Sun Lakes, Surprise, Laveen, Apache Junction, Gold Canyon, and half of the Mexican border.

2. The morning rush hour is from 4:00 am to noon.  The evening rush hour is from noon to 9:00 PM.  Friday's rush hour starts on Thursday morning.
3. The minimum acceptable speed on most freeways is 85 mph.  On Loop 101, your speed is expected to match the highway number.  Anything less is considered 'Wussy.’
4. Forget the traffic rules you learned elsewhere.  For example, cars/trucks with the loudest mufflers go first at a four-way stop; the trucks with the biggest tires go second. However, in the East Valley, SUV-driving, cell phone-talking moms ALWAYS have the right of way.
5. If you actually stop at a yellow light, you will be rear-ended.
6. Never honk at anyone. Ever. Seriously. It's an offense that can get you shot.
7. Road construction is permanent in Phoenix.  Detour barrels are moved around for your entertainment during the night to make the next day's driving a bit more exciting. 
8. Watch carefully for road hazards such as drunks, dogs, barrels, cones, cats, mattresses, shredded tires, rabbits, vultures, javelinas, roadrunners, and the coyotes feeding on any of these items.
9. Maricopa Freeway, Papago Freeway and the 'I-10' are the same road.  SR202 is the same road as The Red Mountain FWY.  Dunlap and Olive are the same street too.  Northern and Shea are the same street.  Also, Glendale Ave. becomes Lincoln Drive.  Jefferson becomes Washington, but they are not the same street.
‘I-17’ is also called The Black Canyon Freeway as well as The Veterans’ Memorial Highway.  The Superstition is also known as US 60.  The 101, 202, and 303 remain a large mystery to most of us.  It is not yet determined if there is a Red Mountain and a San Tan or just a Red/Tan Mountain.  The SR51 has recently been renamed the Piestewa Freeway because Squaw Peak Parkway was too easy to pronounce.
SR101 is also the Pima FWY except west of ‘I-17,’ which is also The Black Canyon FWY, and The Veterans’ Memorial HWY.  Lastly, Thunderbird Rd. becomes Cactus Rd.---but, Cactus Rd. doesn't become Thunderbird Rd. because it dead-ends at a mountain.
10. If someone actually has their turn signal on, it has been 'accidentally activated.'
11. If you are in the left lane and only driving 70 in a 55-65 mph zone, you are considered a road hazard and will be 'flipped off' accordingly.  If you return the flip, you'll be shot.
12. For summer driving, it is advisable to wear potholders on your hands.
13. Please note that there are many, MANY more issues to the phenomenon of driving in Phoenix---like the 4-cars-through-a-red-light rule---but these will at least get you acquainted with our unique life on the road.
Actually, you should be fine if you just focus.  Put the phone down, the make up away, the beer in the cup holder and the cigarettes in your pocket. 

And, if you need a map, I'm happy to provide a Phoenix/Valley map to any one who asks.  Good luck out there and drive safe!

Photo from Flickr courtesy of Jimmy_Joe.

Monday, October 24, 2011

New Meaning to a Frightful Halloween

Wonder whatever happened the Halloween’s you cherished as a kid? Until my latest discovery, they sure have been a far cry from the good old days I remember from my past.  I may have found America’s favorite spot for Halloween.  And, a scary one, to say the least.

As a kid, Halloween was one of the best days all year - second only to Christmas.  I remember planning my costume for months, picking out the best neighborhoods with the greatest propensity for the best candy.  As soon as school got out, my friends and I would converge and we’d spend hours getting into our costumes and plan the nights’ festivities. 

Some of the greatest memories of my past Halloweens were those homes that went all out with decorations.  Some homes set up little spook houses you’d have to meander through to get the prized candy.  The ones with the fishing line tied to the ceiling that would brush up against your cheek as you walked by.  Maybe it was a bowl of slim with eyeballs in it that you’d have to put your hand in before any treats.  I remember a scarecrow sitting on a bench that would literally come to life and lurch towards you as you’d approach the doorstep.  Ah, those were the days. 

One thing I have noticed is Halloween in Arizona is different.  People get into here much more so than other places I’ve lived.  But, it’s still a far cry from my youth.  I may have had a dozen (at most) little guys come to my door this past year in Scottsdale
Having temps well north of  -2° outside surely may make Arizona evenings more conducive for a memorable Halloween.  Take a look at one Arizona spot that really gets into the spirit.  Haunted spirits, too.

Prescott, Arizona is known for a lot of things.  There’s always some sort of an event going on or an exhibit on display down at the Square, but at Halloween time, one particular street in town may make the top 10 list in all of America

Take a glimpse at
Mt. Vernon Avenue
.  Halloween on Mt. Vernon has been a tradition going back many years.  Maybe the old, turn-of-the-century historic homes with paranormal sightings and haunted out buildings has something to do with it. 

I was talking with a Mt. Vernon homeowner the other day – Ralph - and he warned me about what happens on Mt. Vernon each and every Halloween.  And trust me, it scared the **** out of me.

Hundreds – make that thousands - of ghosts, goblins, Barbie’s and Harry Potter’s converge on this quaint little street in quintessential Americana.

I had heard Mt. Vernon was the place to be, but he helped clear any cob webs from my thoughts.  He said every year is grander than the last and shared his experience of last year, 2010.

The tradition of Halloween on Mt. Vernon goes back years.  The historic mansions and bungalows have long been favored as “the” street for any holiday and Halloween is no exception.  The city closes the street off to traffic and people from all over – literally – spend the evening along Mt. Vernon.  Years ago, the city would help subsidize the residents of
Mt. Vernon Avenue
with treats, but that is no longer the case.  Homeowner’s enthusiastically support the tradition on their own and do so with open arms.

Mt. Vernon homeowner’s go all out with decorations and treats.  So much so, I've seen tour buses driving past as their passengers gawked at the homes.  You'd think you were in Beverly Hills or something.  Nope, this is Prescott's Mt. Vernon Avenue.  Giant spiders reach out with their hairy arms as you approach the sidewalk, witches invite you to bob for apples in huge pots with steam bubbling up from the ground.  Ghosts play Ring-a-around the Rosy and eerie music is piped from a head stone.  Pickett fences are dressed in cob webs, or scarecrows, or skulls.  Orange lights twinkle in the bushes.  Ghosts sway from the trees.  Each home is an experience and no two are alike.  And even better, the candy is said to be biggest and the best in all of Arizona.  We’re not talking the bite-size morsels you get in a 2 pound bag, either. 

Last year, Ralph posted a sign at the front door of his historic Craftsman bungalow saying they would accept callers from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm.  It said that he and his wife were enjoying a family dinner together prior.  The hands swept to 7 o’clock, the door hardly could shut.

His advise to me:  “Shop at Costco, don’t skimp and plan on spending about $500”.  I laughed.  I thought he must take stand-up comedy lessons from the same place Kyle surely goes.  Guess not.

Ralph went on to say, last year, between the posted hours, he and his wife greeted 3,462 trick or treaters.  Some people had more than he did as they weren’t adhering to restricted hours.  Ralph spent over $500 at Costco and still ran out of treats before lights were out at 9.  "We counted 'em," he said.

Talk about a frightening Halloween!  That’s down right S-C-A-R-Y!

Imagine, over 3,000 sweets.  Even at a quarter a piece, that’s $865, and he didn’t have enough candy because he ran out.  It’s hard to fathom that much candy.  That’s a small loan for many folks!  Maybe the local dentists should step up and help out this year!

So, if you’re walking the streets of Mt. Vernon this Halloween, do me a favor.  Tell who ever greets you at their door how much you appreciate all they do to make Mt. Vernon such a special and memorable place.  They’re the ones keeping the spirit(s) alive and we need to applaud them for their generosity.

Monday, October 3, 2011

September’s Priciest Home

10777 E. Distant Hills Drive, Scottsdale

Although the luxury market continues to be sluggish throughout the Phoenix and Scottsdale area, Stephen D. Tuttle did what he could to spur the real estate market on.  He put his name on the title to 10777 E. Distant Hills Drive.  The residence located in North Scottsdale’s Desert Mountain estate is September’s priciest home sale with a sales price of $4,200,000.
Perched high on the Lost Star hillside, this custom built estate boasts 5 bedrooms, 6 ½ baths on nearly an acre of picturesque Sonoran desert.  The main home offers 7,330 square feet and is dressed in rich woods, iron detailing, and natural stone.  The separate guest house accommodates a richly appointed living room with an additional guest suite.
I'm sure any caterer will appreciate this kitchen.

The open floor plan of this Desert Mountain beauty was designed to maximize the desert vistas, enormous windows to the absolutely stunning views beyond.  The home features a great room concept ideal for entertaining, a climate controlled wine room, game room, mosaic lined pool, 7 car garage, and even an elevator.  It was built in 2010 by luxury home builder, Paul Lovato for Lance and Lori Mortensen but reportedly, they never lived there – rather, “had a change of plans”.
Just imagine soaking in that hot tub!
Views of the Desert Mountain golf course from Tuttle's new home.

Here’s the details on Tuttle’s new digs:

Listed December 20, 2010.  Closed September 15, 2011.
Total days on the market was 250 days.
Original list price was $4,975,000.  Final sales price was $4,200,000.
Sales price per square foot: $572.91