2014 Hot Neighborhoods

Written by M.V. Moorhead Category: Lifestyle Issue: August 2014

PHM0814NHOODS01After two years of double-digit gains, Phoenix Metro home values have leveled off in 2014. Still a good time to buy? Experts say yes, but buyers need to be savvy. For your consideration: 10 Valley neighborhoods to watch. Bonus: Tips and insights from real estate pros at all levels of the game.

Median Metro home value (May 2014) - $195,100

Projected one-year average increase in home values. If your home appreciates
more than this percentage by May 2015,
you’re ahead of the curve. - 6.9%

Source: Zillow

 

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GOLF CANYON AT ESTRELLA
aka “Star of the South”

Why it’s hot: Tucked-away South Mountain location is ideal for outdoors enthusiasts; good home values; inevitable 202 South Mountain Freeway loop will alleviate hellish morning commute.

If Vistancia is the Scottsdale of the westside, maybe Estrella is the Scottsdale of the southside. Launched in the mid ‘80s by none other than that old reprobate Charles Keating – and acquired in 2005 by Newland Communities – the master-planned community covers more than 20,000 acres (so far) along the Sierra Estrellas in fast-growing Goodyear, and is home to some 12,000 people (so far). Like Vistancia (below), the development is divided into three broad zones: Mountain Ranch, Montecito and 55-and-up CantaMia. “Estrella” is Spanish for “star,” and this reflects the community’s greatest appeal. “I always tell people that anybody who loves the outdoors is going to love Estrella,” says Steven Raban of ZipRealty. “If you love to see the stars and hear the coyotes at night, you’re going to love it.” Goodyear is the nation’s sixth fastest-growing city, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Word on the street: The flip side of Estrella's remoteness, as Raban concedes, is the commute: “In the mornings, it can be a half-hour just between Estrella and the I-10.” Thus the community’s population includes “a high concentration of snowbirds” and other non-rush-hour residents.

Curb appeal: Along with this self-contained quality, Estrella boasts close proximity to Phoenix International Raceway and its twice-yearly NASCAR events. It may have some extra appeal for Ohioans, too, thanks to nearby Goodyear Ballpark, spring training home of both the Indians and the Reds. The Estrella Lakeside Farmers Market, featuring everything from local produce to local artwork to knife sharpening by “The Edge,” is held monthly from November to April.

Median home value (May 2014): $183,800
Projected gain in value by May 2015: 6.7%
School district: Estrella Mountain High School, part of the Buckeye Union High School District, has served the community since 2001. It offers Career and Technical courses ranging from technical theatre to culinary arts to sports medicine.

 

 

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BLACKSTONE AT VISTANCIA
aka “Westside Scottsdale”

Why it’s hot: Attractive builds and strong community spirit; good schools; Peoria’s improving cultural infrastructure.

The master-planned Vistancia community sprawls, and continues sprawling, across northwest Peoria and has three broad divisions that are progressively more swanky in aspiration – the comparatively modest, multigenerational Village, slightly tonier and age-limited Trilogy, and ritzy, gated, country-club-style Blackstone. The Village features multiple swimming pools, basketball, tennis and other activities at the Mountain Vista Club and playgrounds and picnic areas at the Foothills Center. Trilogy offers such opportunities for enjoyable post-workforce idleness as the Kiva Club, Alvea Spa and V’s Taproom, and Blackstone’s social life centers on the Blackstone Country Club – except insofar, of course, as it centers on golf: a Gary Panks-designed 18-hole course at Trilogy, and 18 holes designed by Jim Engh at Blackstone.

Word on the street: “It’s a completely self-contained community,” says realtor Doug Twietmeyer. “There’s golf, and all the social affairs... you don’t have to leave the community.”

Curb appeal: While Vistancia pushes hard on the idea that it’s a world unto itself, Arrowhead Towne Center is minutes away, along with mom-and-pop favorites like Lee Lee International Supermarket and V's Barber Shop (below). Ah-So Sushi & Steak caters both to those who like their food cooked and those who prefer it uncooked, and Wildlife World Zoo in nearby Litchfield Park presents a collection in many ways on par with Phoenix Zoo, and without the eastward trek.

Median home value (May 2014): $338,000
Projected gain in value by May 2015: 7.2%
School district: Served by Peoria Unified School District. Young “Vistancians” attend Vistancia Elementary, which gets an “A” from the Arizona Department of Education and an “A+ School of Excellence” rating from the Arizona Educational Foundation.

 

 

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Ask a Pro
Sharon Terhune
Title Agent

What, in a sentence or two, does a title company do?
We’re the neutral third party that facilitates the transfer of property ownership in a real estate transaction.

What should a homebuyer look for in a title company?
Homebuyers should work with a direct title insurance underwriter that has national presence and financial stability.

How/where does one train for title work?
There is no actual training program or course of study to prepare for working at a title company. Most people learn by in-house, on-the-job training.

What’s the most exciting thing about title work? Is there anything exciting about title work?
While there can be challenges from time to time working in the title business, the most exciting and rewarding aspect of our work is having the opportunity to be a part of one of the largest investments in a person’s lifetime: the “American dream” of homeownership.

Terhune is vice president and area sales director at Fidelity National Title, fntarizona.com, 602-980-3571

 

 

GOLD CANYON
aka “The Far East”

Why it’s hot: Peace, quiet and epic desert beauty, where you can “get away from it all” and still be within 15 minutes of a Postino. Bonus: SR-60 expansion takes the sting out of that back-breaking commute.

When comedians come to a city to perform, they’ll often ask around for a remote or otherwise unhip nearby town or suburb that they can mock to the delight of the locals. For many years, comics playing the Valley have often been told to make fun of Apache Junction. But a number of years ago, land annexed from the Pinal County side of Apache Junction was turned into a whole new, even more far-flung town, the one neighborhood on our list that’s outside Maricopa County: Gold Canyon. And sitting as it does on the edge of the primal beauty of the Superstition Wilderness, yet still with access to a couple of top-notch golf courses, museums and a major annual festival, not to mention a straight shot down the 60 to Mesa, Tempe and civilized points west, it’s fair to say that Gold Canyon is no joke.

Word on the street: “It’s sort of a bedroom community,” says Patti Haugland, a realtor with Stone Path Real Estate. “There’s not a lot of commercial activity there. There’s a couple of supermarkets, few restaurants. But there’s hiking and biking trails, nature, there are lots of animals. And the views of the Superstitions… I think that’s the big plus.”

Curb appeal: Golf nuts will love the stark design of Dinosaur Mountain and Gold Canyon; the town is also home to the annual Canyon Arts Festival, and it’s the closest community to the Arizona Renaissance Festival. Huzzah!

Median home value (May 2014): $258,600
Projected gain in value by May 2015: 6.0%
School district: As students in the Apache Junction Unified School District, enrollees are likely to find themselves among the Bobcats of Peralta Trail Elementary, then perhaps to grow into a Cougar at Cactus Canyon Junior High, then leave the feline category altogether and become a Prospector at Apache Junction High School.

Photos by Mirelle Inglefield; A Ragnar Qvale-designed Sands West home; Halo-Halo Kitchen

 

 

SANDS WEST
aka “Tiki Town”'

Why it’s hot: Great starter home and rental-investment opportunities; unique mid-century home designs.

“The glamour and romance of a fabled tropical isle… spice Arizona living today!” So reads an original sales brochure for Sands West, a circa 1960 neighborhood just east of 35th Avenue between Northern and Belmont. The pitch was probably fueled by a touch of nationwide island fever – our 50th state had just been admitted to the Union in 1959. Drive through the area today, and you may be at a loss to detect much island influence in the architecture – many of the signature outrigger-style roof beams have been sawed off – but it’s a quintessential mid-century modern Phoenician neighborhood, and little changed since architect Ragnar C. Qvale and homebuilder E.T Wright designed it. June Cleaver could still be in the kitchen, fixing an after-school snack for Wally and the Beaver.

Word on the street: It may be a smart investment, says realtor Russell Shaw, familiar from TV. “When everything went crazy high and then dropped to where you could buy a four-bedroom house in Maricopa for $60,000, these [central Phoenix] neighborhoods went up and down a little, but basically ended up where they were supposed to be.”

Curb appeal: Minutes to the south on 35th Avenue is The Golden Greek, a popular Hellenic hole in the wall, while nearby Halo-Halo Kitchen serves Filipino goodies and Romanelli’s Italian Deli offers everything from spaghetti to sfogliatelle. Just east of I-17 on Northern are Akai Hana Sushi & Grill for Japanese and Los Compadres for good, cheap neighborhood Mexican fare.  

Median home value (May 2014): $130,200
Projected gain in value by May 2015: 10.4%
School district: None other than Alice Cooper went to Cortez High School, which serves the Sands West zip, and current Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton is likewise a Cortez alumnus. The area is also in the Washington Elementary School District, encompassing such institutes as dress-coded Abraham Lincoln Traditional School.

 

 

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KYRENE CORRIDOR
aka “Where Chandler Meets Tempe”

Why it’s hot: Stable investment with high listing success rates; convenient, quasi-urban location; large homes and an excellent school district make it ideal for families.

Coined in the early ‘90s by community publication the Warner Wrangler News – now just the Wrangler News – “Kyrene Corridor” refers to the one neighborhood on our list that spreads across two cities: an affluent-ish piece of south Tempe and a prosperous-ish chunk of Chandler that were thought to have more in common with each other than with the rest of their respective cities. Shopping and dining choices, both chain and mom-and-pop, are abundant in the Corridor, and cultural venues like Chandler Center for the Arts also fall within its boundaries. But for younger families in Warner Ranch, Ray Ranch, The Lakes and other such communities, the area’s major selling point has long been the Kyrene School District.

Word on the street: “When I first came to town, 20 years ago, I spent six months wandering around asking what the best planned communities were to live in,” recalls realtor Jeff Lucas of The Lucas Group. “And I kept hearing Warner Ranch.” The master-planned community, he notes, was built around “An elementary school in the middle, two city parks – city parks, that’s important, it means that the HOA isn’t supporting them – and a high school.”

Curb appeal: Breakfast and lunch at Café Cornucopia and dinner at Marcello’s Pasta Grill are only a few of the dining options, and the KC is also the home of the only Arizona location (to date) of Fractured Prune Doughnuts, which doesn’t really need anything other than the name “Fractured Prune” to demand our attention. Changing Hands Bookstore is a fun browse, and the Chandler Ostrich Festival isn’t far.

Median home value (May 2014): $392,500
Projected gain in value by May 2015: 6.1%
School district: Well over a century old, the Kyrene School District can boast of many achievements – and so it does, on the “Points of Pride” section of its website. Just for example, out of 34 National Merit Scholar finalists from Tempe Union High School District, 28 were Kyrene Elementary students.

 

 

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CACTUS CORRIDOR
aka “Phoenixdale”

Why it’s hot: Generational turnover: original 70s residents moving out, families moving in; big, sprawling, near-acre lots offer a refreshing change from modern sardine-can subdivisions. Bonus: Scottsdale address, Phoenix property taxes.  

It’s possible, of course, that some people might get a few years of Old West living under their belts and decide it was time to hang up their spurs. “People are tired of living in Cave Creek, in the high Sonoran Desert,” realtor Jeff Lucas says. “They’re tired of schlepping the kids to the dentist and to dance class, and they want a good restaurant five minutes away. And they’re moving back to the north central Valley.” An example of a neighborhood which might be on the receiving end of this phenomenon is the “Cactus Corridor,” situated east of the Paradise Valley Mall, roughly between Thunderbird and Shea to the north and south, and Tatum and Scottsdale Road to the east and west. Thanks to the vagaries of postal zoning, many neighborhoods have a Scottsdale mailing address with Phoenix’s more favorable property tax rates.

Word on the street: “It’s one of the most popular zip codes [85254],” says realtor Frances Rimsza. “People like that. It seems to hold its value really well. The prices just go up in there. You have everyone redoing houses there, investors buying, trying to scoop ‘em up when they haven’t been rehabbed yet.”

Curb appeal: In addition to this Arizona version of 90210 on a (comparative) budget, the Cactus Corridor, notes Rimsza, “is close to everything.” Shopping, dining and movies at PV Mall, Desert Ridge, Kierland Commons or Scottsdale Road and the 101 are minutes away. Rusconi’s American Kitchen and the Salty Sow have your trendy-gastropub needs covered.

Median home value (May 2014): $408,900
Projected gain in value by May 2015: 6.4%
School district: Cactus Corridor is served by Scottsdale Unified School District, founded in 1896 by Major Winfield Scott, who also gave his name to the town. It’s an “A” rated district by the Arizona Department of Education, with 31 schools serving all of Scottsdale as well as bits of Tempe and, as in this case, Phoenix.

 

Ask a Pro
Jerilyn Babicky
Home Appraiser

Who does an appraiser work for, the homebuyer or the seller?
In a typical transaction where a lender is involved, neither the homebuyer or the seller are the appraiser’s client. The client, as defined by the current Uniform Standards of Appraisal Practice, is the party or parties who engage an appraiser in a specific assignment. If a lender orders an appraisal, then they are the client. This is true even if a third party pays for the appraisal.
 
What should a customer look for in a good appraiser?
Make sure that they are licensed in the state where the appraisal is taking place. You can check with the national registry (asc.gov). You can ask if they have experience in the area where the property is located.

What is the difference between an appraiser and an inspector?
Appraisers are paid by the lender to help them make sound decisions by providing an opinion of market value. The appraiser’s focus is on establishing a value for the property. A big part of their job is comparing the seller’s asking price to the price of similar homes that have sold in the neighborhood. Inspectors render reports about the physical condition of the property. They crawl through attics and into crawl spaces to make sure there are no hidden problems that could become unpleasant surprises after the sale. Home inspectors examine all accessible areas. They evaluate both safety and the need for maintenance.
 
Is there a subjective, aesthetic aspect to an appraiser’s work?
Appraisers are required to be objective and impartial in their analyses and opinions. Appraisers try to look at the property like a typical buyer would look at the property.

Contact Babicky at Cornerstone Appraisal, 602-404-0796

 

 

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PORTLAND PLACE
aka “Downsizing on Central”

Why it’s hot: Located smack-dab in the middle of a resurgent Downtown; gloriously walkable and bikeable; the perfect antidote for acute suburban malaise.   

Less high-profile, perhaps, than the Willo or Encanto historical districts, the Roosevelt neighborhood offers the same classic charm with an arguably better location. Running west from Central Avenue to 7th Avenue between Portland and Fillmore, the area offers the century-old, idyllic atmosphere of an original, upscale Phoenix ‘hood. Rows of palm trees line the streets like ceremonial guardsmen, standing watch over craftsman-style bungalows and modern, pied-à-terre-type townhomes like Portland Place. Yet just east of Central, you’re in hip Downtown. “On the one side of us are little homes and streets where you can walk, jog, whatever,” says Portland Place resident Kristy Ingebo. “On the other is the Japanese Friendship Garden, and just down the road is the theatre district, or Pita Jungle.” Besides the downtown scene, a nearby light rail stop can take you from one end of the Valley to the other.

Word on the Street: “Since 1987, we’ve lived in the suburbs, at 36th Street and Shea,” says Ingebo, who in earlier chapters of her life resided in downtown Boston and near downtown San Francisco. “We had a large backyard, and we had horses, but now we don’t [need those] anymore.”

Curb Appeal: The attractions in the environs of Portland Place are almost too numerous to mention – the Herberger Theater Center, Symphony Hall, Phoenix Convention Center, U.S. Airways Center, Chase Field, Burton Barr Library. You can catch a Hollywood movie at AMC Arizona Center, or an arthouse movie at Filmbar, or you can grab a bite at The Local or a drink at Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour.  And all without having to find a parking place.

Median home value (May 2014): $291,400
Projected gain in value by May 2015: 0.2%
School district: Located within Phoenix Unified School District #1, the ZIP is home to Ionic-columned Kenilworth Elementary, which was built in 1920 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places; and Lowell Elementary, which puts a weighted import on math, science and technology.

 

 

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Ask a Pro
Sue Lindmeier
Mortgage Broker

What does a mortgage broker do?
A mortgage broker will look at a homebuyer’s situation and determine the best course of financing for them. There are many, many programs open to them, and it takes an experienced mortgage broker to know what’s best.

What are some signs you have a bad mortgage broker on your hands?
If a mortgage broker doesn’t inquire about every aspect of your financial situation, doesn’t pull up your credit, doesn’t go over every option for financing a loan, that could be a problem. There are still minefields. You must get a Good Faith Estimate [GFE] in lending that tells you all the closing costs. If you don’t, that’s a red flag. And in this market experience is really important, because here there have been so many changes in recent years.

What do some of these changes entail for the homebuyer?
The debt ratios that the buyer is allowed are much lower. A borrower’s total debt cannot exceed 43 percent of their gross income. That’s with some exceptions, but in most cases, it’s ironclad. Back in – I don’t what you’d call them, but I call them The Roaring ‘90s – back in The Roaring ‘90s, we were doing 50 and 60 percent of income.

And that wasn’t wise?
That’s correct. Hence the changes.

Contact Lindmeier at The Pam Baker Group, at Onq Financial Inc. pamelabaker.onqscottsdale.com or 480-444-7128

 

 

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RANCHO PALOMA LOOP
aka “South Cave Creek”

Why it’s hot: Cave Creek cachet without the seven-figure price tag; saguaro companionship.

There are those who prefer Old West to New West. For desert dwellers who nurture the dream of a well-heeled cowboy lifestyle, Cave Creek, with its dark, craggy mountain walls and its archetypical saguaro-studded beauty, may be the ultimate home on the range. “It’s for people who really like the western style,” realtor Frances Rimsza says. For people who really, really like the Western style, and have $7.5 million to spend, there are options like a 10,000-square-foot mansion on a private 54-acre mountain. Others can find deals in the town’s less-ritzy south side, where the generously-spaced subdivisions preserve that ineffable Cave Creek-feel. Though quiet and remote, the town of Cave Creek isn’t without a pulse – it’s got “all sorts of great little restaurants, and all sorts of artsy stuff that happens there on weekends,” realtor Doug Twietmeyer says.

Word on the street: It was the combination of desert remoteness and eccentric town life that first attracted resident Judy Peters, when she moved into Cave Creek’s Dove Valley Ranch development in the late ‘90s. Peters selected her lot on the basis of an earlier resident, a saguaro she dubbed Cassy, who still stands watch over her house.“It’s built up a lot since then,” concedes Peters. “But at night we can still sit out on the patio and look up at the night sky, and the moonlight shines on Cassy. It’s paradise.”

Selling points: Thirty years ago, you needed a four-wheel drive vehicle to get around Cave Creek; today, a Miata and a taste for haute cuisine will do. The once-grim dining scene in Cave Creek/Carefree is now one of the Valley’s best, with Le Sans Souci, Binkley’s and Cartwright’s Sonoran Ranch House all in the same two-block area.

Home value range (May 2014): $465K-$600K
Projected gain in value by May 2015: 6.3%
School district: Cave Creek Unified School District serves the town with five elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. All are “A” rated by the Arizona Department of Education. Horseshoe Trails Elementary offers a TRRFCC horsemanship program.

 

 

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Ask a Pro
John Branham
Inspector

What should a customer look for in a good inspector?
Field experience in the industry is key. Good inspectors also belong to a reputable organization like ASHI, NAHI, InterNachi, etc. to name a few. That being said, organizations do not equate with competency; however, membership to these organizations is optional and they all require inspectors to get at least 20 hours or more of continuing education on a yearly basis to stay on top of the industry as it changes.
 
What are some signs you’ve got a bad inspector on your hands?
That’s a question for real estate agents. I’ve listened to many agents on the subject and they all have a similar answer: alarming or alarmist-type language and behavior. Statements like “This is a fire hazard,” and “This house failed miserably,” or “Holy moly, what were they thinking?” Statements of this type, along with animated behavior, tend to scare buyers and to get inspectors kicked off the site by the agents.
 
What’s the difference between an inspector and an appraiser?
In short, an inspector checks out your home, and an appraiser checks out your home’s value. An inspector is for your benefit as a buyer in learning what condition a home is in. Contrary to popular belief, a home cannot pass, or fail, a home inspection. It is similar to getting a physical at the doctor. If your doctor says you failed your physical, you might want to check your pulse.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever found while inspecting?
When opening an attic hatch, I came face to face with a skeleton! Halloween storage area, to clarify. But seriously, the strangest thing I found was also in an attic; somebody thought it was a good idea to cut a section of three consecutive trusses to allow for easy access to the center of the attic, where I found a mattress, cooler and a TV. I can think of much cooler places to hang out in the heat of summer. However, this did explain the big deflection in the roof.

Contact Branham’s Enlightening Home Inspections, Inc. at branham-inc.com or 602-791-7192.

 

 

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SAN SOUCI
aka “The New Windsor”

Why it’s hot: Heir apparent to the Windsor as north-central’s trendiest “moving up” neighborhood; walking distance to the Vig, the Whining Pig and other hip 16th Street locales.

Peggy Lee declared herself “San Souci” – French for “carefree” – in a terrific insinuating song of the same name, and added “they got no room here for someone like me.” Apparently Peggy never looked between 18th and 24th streets, and Bethany Home and Missouri. She might have found just the place. Tucked neatly into the eastern crook of the 51 freeway, but insulated from on-ramp traffic by a few well-placed dead-end streets, and located tantalizingly close to the Biltmore, San Souci’s quiet blocks offer both modest-size family homes and larger, sprawling manses just around the corner from the heart of the Camelback Corridor. Like one of our 2013 “hot” neighborhoods, Windsor Square at Camelback and Central, it’s a rising enclave of young families located near a trendy urban district that includes Richardson’s, The Vig and Urban Taco. “The biggest draw is the trendy places down there,” realtor Darlene Schmitt says. “It’s held its value really well.”

Word on the street: “It’s for people who like to walk,” continues Schmitt. “We’ve placed some Canadian buyers down there. A lot of my clients like walking around down there, because it’s very open. Sometimes they come from climates where that’s an anomaly.”

Curb appeal: Shopping at Biltmore Fashion Center and Town & Country and movies at the Esplanade aren’t just close – as Schmitt notes, in the cooler weather they’re practically in walking distance. Take the convenient pedestrian walkway over the freeway to Luci’s, The Garage, The Whining Pig, et al.

Home value range (May 2014): $360k-$800K
Projected gain in value by May 2015: 6.1%
School district: The area is serviced by the highly-rated Madison School District. Madison Superintendent Tim Ham was selected “Arizona Superintendent of the Year” by the Arizona School Boards Association last year.

 

 

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Ask a Pro
Diane Brennan
Realtor

Why did you leave a successful career in radio and become a real estate agent?
My family has always been in real estate, and I had always been an investor. I liked my realtor and thought she had a really cool job. I didn’t know that realtors are seen as just above or just below used car dealers. It was time [2010] to get out of media, as wages were plummeting. I started at the worst time [for real estate] but because I have dual citizenship, I had some Canadian clients. We did deals for $30,000, $50,000. I’m a Scottsdale specialist, but starting out, you’re not picky. I’m still grateful for any deal, anywhere in the Valley.

Why do media people often choose real estate as a new career? You, Diana Sullivan from CBS5, Preston Westmoreland from KTAR... and more, probably.
They want to leverage their contacts, and their listeners. Plus, real estate is incredibly lucrative, and you don’t have to go to school for two years. [It's] not an easy test, but you can cram for it in a few weeks. I do think it needs to be more difficult. I think we have that element that gives us the reputation of used car salesmen…And people still want a good-quality professional, and they want the best price.

Why would you advise against buying or selling a house without a realtor?
Because you don’t know the ins and outs. The realtor is there to protect you. You don’t know what inspections to get, or what the best price is. Going on Zillow is a complete waste of time. Even Zillow admits that they’re not that accurate with the metro Phoenix area. The listings are as much as six months off, and the estimates don’t take upgrades into account. They’re just based on average sales in the area. They don’t know you have granite countertops.

So, is it fair to say you love it?
I love it. I really enjoy helping people get into homes, especially people who have suffered through a short sale or a foreclosure and think they can’t get into another home.

Catch Brennan on KTAR’s That Real Estate Show, 3 p.m. Saturdays

 

 

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SCARLETT CANYON
aka “Downtown of the North”

Why it’s hot: Complements spacious desert living with convenient freeway access; great  “frolfing” scene

It may be possible to get most of the best of both worlds – the desert beauty of Cave Creek plus the quick and easy access to the urban amenities of the Valley. Supplying this rare combination is Scarlett Canyon, tucked comfortably into the curving arm of the Pima Freeway in North Phoenix. “I chose it because of the proximity to all the highways,” says realtor Doug Twietmeyer, who lives in the development. The 101, the Black Canyon Freeway, the 51, and Cave Creek Road are all easy makes. Yet the area still feels more like living in the desert than the city, according to residents. “The gem,” Twietmeyer says, “is that we’re located in the middle of Scarlett Canyon Park.” This desert trail, maintained by Phoenix Parks and Rec, is regarded as a well-kept secret among area hiking enthusiasts for its pretty scenery (frequented by coyotes and other agreeable Sonoran fauna), and its terrain, which allows for either a challenging trudge or a relaxed ramble.

Word on the street: “You walk out the door, and you’re hiking and mountain biking,” Twietmeyer says. “And there’s frolfing.” Beg pardon? Frolfing: as in, a combination of Frisbee and golf, aka Frisbee golf, or disk golf. Anyway, it’s the sport where you try to throw a Frisbee into a series of baskets, and the trail adjacent to Scarlett Canyon offers a frolf course.

Curb appeal: Access to the best amenities the North Valley has to offer, from the Musical Instrument Museum and nearby Desert Ridge Marketplace, to the Mayo Clinic and Deer Valley Municipal Airport. It's the nerve center of the North Valley. La Bocca Wine Bar and Urban Kitchen is also nearby at CityNorth.

Median home value (May 2014): $225,200
Projected gain in value by May 2015: 7.6%
School district: Eagle Ridge Elementary, Mountain Trail Middle School and North Canyon High School are all in 85024, the Scarlett Canyon zip. All are in the Paradise Valley Unified School District, the seventh-largest district in the state