The Carefree Times blog      

Today's Forecast Sunny. Hi 75 Never Windy

Volume 1, April, 2008 Edition






Commentary and Perspective from one of America's most unique small town areas, edited by Preston Westmoreland of Russ Lyon Sotheby's International Realty.
Gordon Lightfoot tells Nancy Westmoreland the story of "Carefree Highway"
Carefree real estate rises 6.7%

Dateline Carefree-No April Fools! You might think this was the story that appeared in the April Fools Issue of our local paper, The Sonoran News, but no, that headline was even better. . ."Cave Creek woman pregnant at 87", and as always, there were locals sucked into the story who actually believed it! Equally as surprising, but true, was the statistic that in a dismal year for real estate, with prices falling almost everywhere, the median price of a Carefree home actually rose in 2007. Peter Corbett of the Arizona Republic, said on March 15 "in a year when home prices tumbled as much as 19 percent in some Valley communities, Carefree residents can rest easy that their 2007 home values actually increased 6.7 per cent from the previous year. Carefree's median price was $ 944,000, just shy of the $ 1 million mark. The only community with a higher 2007 median price was Paradise Valley at $ 1.75 million. Scottsdale's median price, meanwhile, dipped 19% to  650,000

Wildflower Display one of the best in recent years

Carefree/Cave Creek-Not only is this area generally ten degrees cooler than Phoenix, but we get double the amount of rain that Phoenix gets, which is 1,000 feet lower in elevation, and all the winter rains received are producing a bumper crop of incredible wildflowers. Yellow brittlebush has adorned the mountain slopes, moving down with warmer weather, along with lupine, Indian paintbrush, fiddle necks and other seasonals. While those are beginning to dry out now, it's a never-ending show until the hot days of summer. As we move into April, brilliant splashes of purple from hedgehog cacti are appearing, the yellows of creosotes are in full bloom. Then in May, the colorful yellow blooms of Palo Verde will be the main attraction, and finally, our state flower, the saguaro blossom blooms. Did you know that this flower is protected by law, except for one group? Native Americans, who have harvested the flowers for centuries, are allowed to get them off the majestic saguaros, to use as food. Years ago, when we produced our Stay Alive! desert survival DVD, we received permission from the Arizona agricultural department, to demonstrate how they are eaten. When ripe, the bulb of the saguaro blossom contains hundreds of tiny black seeds, in a jelly-type substance that is most compared to eating a fig. Delicious! Believe it or not, we've also tasted rattlesnake venom! In the laboratory where they milk the snakes to produce the life-saving anti-venom, a noted scientists encouraged us to take a taste. "You'll never have another chance to do this," he explained, as we looked at the yellowish substance in the test tube, resembling light motor oil. After making sure we had no open cuts in our mouths, we tasted the substance that was the consistency of karo syrup and was a little sweet and a little sour. I wouldn't want to see the stuff again! Take a desert survival quiz at:

What's in a Name?

The real story behind Gordon Lightfoot's song,

Carefree Highway

Carefree (PW)-Could there possibly be another Carefree Highway somewhere, that Gordon Lightfoot noticed and wrote a song about?  "No, it's this Carefree Highway in Arizona," he explained to us backstage after a performance one night.  The story goes that he was on the band's bus, traveling for an engagement at the Gammage Auditorium, when he saw the large marquee freeway sign along Interstate 17.  He actually had the bus driver pull over so he could get out and snap a close-up photo of the huge off-ramp sign.  When he arrived home, he had the picture blown up and placed on his living room wall.  He wrote the song while on the bus, and it became one of his biggest hits, exposing millions around the world to the Carefree Highway. "Good to see my old friend. . ."

















































Phoenix-area home sales lag 2007 numbers, but 2008 monthly stats on the rise
The Business Journal of Phoenix - by Adam Kress

Wednesday, April 9, 2008 - 10:30 AM MST 
Home sales across the Phoenix area continue to lag 2007 numbers.
According to Arizona State University's Realty Studies department, there were 4,335 recorded home resales in March, compared with 5,385 last year. The March reading was the lowest since 1996, when there were 3,270 sales.
Although numbers have been improving since the beginning of 2008 -- with 3,350 sales in January and 3,750 in February -- the year-to-date total of 11,395 is below last year's 14,190 sales.
The median home price remained stable from February at $220,000, in contrast to last year's $265,470. The lower median price is being driven by forces including the large number of vacant homes, especially in certain neighborhoods. Twenty-seven percent of March resales topped $300,000, compared with 39 percent last year. The number of homes selling for less than $200,000 has increased from last year's 16 percent to 40 percent

Give us your comment: Email us your thoughts on the area and real estate trends to:
Canadian investors snapping up Valley homes
Catherine Reagor
The Arizona Republic
Apr. 9, 2008 12:00 AM
Canadian investor Trevor Matheson has taken an interest in metro Phoenix's real-estate market. So much so that he plans to buy six homes in the area over the next year.
"There are definitely deals to be found in Phoenix," said Matheson, who plans to hold onto the properties for at least three to five years.
Matheson is among a growing group of investors from north of the border converging on the Valley's real-estate market to take advantage of falling home prices and a weak dollar.
Last year, 752 Canadian buyers purchased Valley homes, according to the real-estate data firm Information Market. That's almost double the number in 2006 and even in the boom years of 2004-05. Though Canadians account for only small part of the Valley's total housing market, their interest is growing, and that's giving home sales a boost. Through mid-March of this year, 381 buyers from Canada invested in metro Phoenix homes.
Valley real-estate agents, who have seen home sales fall dramatically during the past few years, are abuzz about all the calls and visits they are getting from Canadian clients.
"I am working with five different Canadian buyers now," said Diane Watson of the Scottsdale office of Realty Executives. "Many Canadians are seeing the weak dollar and what a great long-term investment Arizona real estate is going to be."
Short-sale bargains
Matheson purchased his first Valley home in January. Watson found him a house in north Phoenix's Kierland area that sold for $785,000 in 2006. The owners were facing foreclosure, and Matheson got it through a short sale for $470,000. Short sales let sellers avoid foreclosure, but a lender has to first agree to the price, which is less than what is owed on the home.
Matheson is looking to sell six homes in Edmonton, Alberta, to buy homes here. He is selling at the peak of the market in Edmonton, where the oil industry is big and the economy is booming as a result of record-high gas prices.
Canadian buyers are helping the Valley's sagging housing market, said Amy Swaney, vice president of Artisan Lending of Phoenix.
But they aren't typically getting financing through local lenders because U.S. lenders have pulled back on all types of investment loans as part of the mortgage meltdown.
Matheson is using a Canadian line of credit to buy his Valley properties to protect himself against fluctuations between the U.S. dollar and the Canadian dollar, known as the loonie. The loonie was worth about 70 cents to the dollar five years ago, but it's now almost equal.
Lowballing is risky
Last month, Canadian attorney Jeffrey Slopen took advantage of the low value of the dollar to pay $14 million in cash for a Paradise Valley estate. It's the priciest Arizona home sale to date.
But some potential investors are losing out by lowballing the market.
Watson was recently working with a Canadian couple who were interested in a home that had been foreclosed on in north Scottsdale, where comparables sales were in the mid-$500,000s.
"This home was well-maintained and was listed in the mid $400,000s - a great buy," Watson said. "My advice was to come in with at least a $375,000 offer. However, they decided to offer $250,000."
She said the couple had heard property was selling for 50 cents on the dollar in metro Phoenix. So no matter what, they weren't going to offer more than 50 percent of the asking price, she said, and the bank turned the offer down.
"The buyers wound up getting back on a plane to Canada without having purchased anything," Watson said. "They could have had a great buy if they had just been realistic about the market."




















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Home sales up but still sputtering
Catherine Reagor
The Arizona Republic
Apr. 9, 2008 06:09 PM
Existing-home sales across metropolitan Phoenix climbed last month from February's level, but it was still the slowest March for resales since 1996.
Last month, 4,335 existing homes changed hands across the Valley, compared with 3,750 in February, reports the Realty Studies center at Arizona State University Polytechnic. But March is usually a robust month for sales because it kicks off the spring home-buying season. In March 2007, when the housing market had already started to slow significantly, 5,385 resales closed Valley-wide.
The median existing-home price in the Valley was flat in March at $220,000. "During the last year, the housing market has been confronting issues derived from the hypermarket of previous years, such as the subprime meltdown and overly ambitious investors," said Jay Butler, director of Realty Studies.
"Unfortunately, there is increasing data, such as job losses and layoffs, that the economy is now weakening and will add further stress for the housing markets."
If home sales climb again this month from March's level, and home prices don't fall again, it could signal the housing market has hit bottom.
Real Estate Stat Box
Maricopa County Active Listings: 54,691
Maricopa County Actives Last wk 55,665
Carefree Active Homes                    149
Carefree Homes Under Contract         10   
Cave Creek Active Homes                579
Cave Creek Homes Under Contract     45
Scottsdale Zip Code 85262 Actives     992
Scottsdale Zip 85262 Under Contract  55
Paradise Valley Active Listings        473
Paradise Valley  Under Contract        26
Paradise Valley Homes over $ 10 mil    15
Most Expensive P.V. Home listed  $20 mil




Real Estate Hot Tips

by Preston Westmoreland

Short Sale Surprises-Some Pitfalls to avoid.

"Cars are backed up and down the street, what's going on?" said my wife Nancy the other day. She was sitting on open house in Carefree and noticed the traffic jam of cars slowly going by a home.  "No wonder," I explained," the house there had just been reduced $780,000.  The home had been listed for $ 1.6 million and suddenly dropped to $ 819,000. After going inside myself, I noticed black mold issues, ceilings falling down, there had been floods going through the house, yet on the outside, this home has remarkable curb appeal.  As we go to press, the home still sits there, offered on short sale, going for less than is owed to the bank.  Things aren't always what they seem.

Another home has been listed in short sale on the market out here for $ 1 million dollars.  But the bank really wants a bit more.  Unwary consumers who are attracted to the short sale and foreclosure mania sweeping the country, need to look into these issues before they make an offer.  How can a listed price for a home be less than they know it will sell for?  Look at the little print you'll see in listings. . ."offers subject to bank approval." That gets them off the hook! 

As we approach our first 100 degree temperatures here in the desert and enter the dog days of summer, there are some incredible bargains to be had.  I would look especially for homes with lots of land. Carefree is more than half built out, Cave Creek is bordered by public lands, recreation areas and national forests.  Land is king and there's less of it up there than ever. 

We've been out here almost 25 years and have our airplane, a Piper Saratoga named "Christine" in a hangar at the popular Carefree Skyranch.  If you're a pilot and have heard the shocking news that Scottsdale Airport now has a 20 year wait for hangars, feel free to contact us. There is a 20-year wait but we have an inside track on homes that are available right now, on the runway. We're a stone's throw from the legendary Boulders Resort Check out our website for more information at:


































































































Who is this guy writing the blog?