Hot Neighborhoods

Written by Wynter Holden Category: Valley News Issue: August 2013

new builds and a 27 percent year-to-year reduction in foreclosures and short sales, is triggering the start of a seller’s market. The bust is truly over, and the market will stay strong in the long-term, says Michael J. Orr, director of the Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business. “In Greater Phoenix, the market is very unbalanced, with a low supply to meet an ordinary level of demand. This is causing multiple bids and a strong upward movement in pricing.” According to the Center’s May 2013 report, median home sales prices for Maricopa and Pinal counties hit $175,000 this spring, up from $134,000 one year ago. That’s good news for homeowners, as well as prospective buyers eager to jump into the market before prices rise further. From master-planned communities in the Southwest Valley to centrally-located starter homes, we’ve culled the herd of Valley neighborhoods, presenting a selection of real estate hotspots for every price point.

2012 median home sales price: $134,000

2013 median home sales price: $175,000

Increase in Median Home Sales Price: 30%

Number of regular single-family home resales:
April 2012: 3,295
April 2013: 5,674

Foreclosures in Maricopa County
March 2009: 10,099
March 2013: 1,689

46% That’s how much less it costs to buy a home than to rent one in the Valley, according to real estate website


phm0813 hot2 md

Coronado is like a detective novel’s femme fatale – classy and alluring, with a gritty underpinning that somehow makes it more desirable. Bungalows, brick ranches and the occasional Tudor charm homebuyers with vintage hardwood floors and single-pane windows. Artists flock to Coronado, turning garages into darkrooms or painting studios, as do urban families looking for an affordable, tight-knit community close to Downtown. Though the 20-acre district – bounded approximately by Thomas and McDowell roads, Seventh and 16th streets – includes about 5,000 homes, demand heavily outweighs the limited supply. “It’s a very competitive market,” says HomeSmart agent Don Mertes, who has lived in Coronado for 19 years. “There are a ton of full price offers and investors with cash.” The bottom line? Coronado combines urban living and vintage charm at an attractive price tag, but don’t fall in love with a property here until you own it. 

Median Home Price: $110,128
Average Home Size: 1,000 square feet
Average Lot Size: 7,000 square feet
Build Date Range: 1920s-1940s

School Districts: Phoenix Union; Phoenix, Osborn & Creighton Elementaries
North High made the cut as one of Newsweek’s Top 1,000 High Schools, thanks to a highly selective International Baccalaureate program. A more creative alternative is Arizona School for the Arts, an A-rated public charter school with a 100 percent graduation rate and half-day coursework in the visual and performing arts. Phoenix Elementary is divided into themed signature schools with attendance based on a student’s needs or interests. Their K-8 Magnet Traditional School was one of 16 schools nationwide to nab the prestigious National Excellence in Urban Education Award in 2013.

phm0813 hot3 mdMain Ingredient Ale House and Café
The polished wood floors and plaster wall treatments inside this renovated 1920s bungalow are as easy on the eyes as its popular griddled cheese sammies and oatmeal stout floats are on the taste buds. Main Ingredient’s shaded, dog-friendly patio is a draw for Coronado residents, many of whom can be found walking Fido at dusk every night. 2337 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, 602-843-6246,

Coronado Park
A gathering place for families and pet lovers, Coronado features lighted sports fields, as well as a picnic area, playground, and tennis court. Kids swim free at the adjacent pool; families can purchase season swim passes for $75. 1717 N. 12th St., Phoenix, 602-262-6412,

Sphm0813 hot4 mduTRA Midtown
Coronado residents Rebecca and Matthew Fritz opened SuTRA in 2007 as a gathering place for health-conscious urbanites. Along with introductory and advanced yoga classes, the studio offers massage, Skullpt-pilates and a MuM series of prenatal activities for expectant mothers. 2317 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, 602-253-9525,

phm0813 hot5 mdROADRUNNER PARK

Life in the vibrant, family-oriented Roadrunner Park area (around 36th Street and Cactus Road) centers around a 17-acre greenbelt that’s home to a pool and weekend farmers’ market ( Open until 11 p.m. daily, the park also sports lighted soccer, baseball and softball fields, a sand volleyball court and large lagoon. North of the park is a working class ’hood with older stucco and block ranches fronted by xeriscaped yards. Properties around Roadrunner Park can run upwards of $300,000, thanks to easy 51 Freeway access and nearby Paradise Valley’s high resale values. However, venture north of Thunderbird to Paradise Valley Oasis, and you’ll find similar three-bedroom ranches with carport/garage for half the price. The surrounding neighborhood offers an excellent price point for renters as well, with monthly fees around $1,000-$1,200 per month for a single-family home. 

Median Home Price: $170,000
Average Home Size: 1,400 square feet
Average Lot Size: 7,500 square feet
Build Date Range: 1970s-1980s

School District: Paradise Valley Unified
While Paradise Valley Oasis is technically in North Phoenix, student residents attend Paradise Valley High, which earned a bronze medal in U.S. News & World Report’s Top High Schools list. Another option is the K-12 Tesseract School, lauded by parents for its low teacher-student ratio and integration of technology via provided laptops.   

One of the earliest master plans developed in the Southeast Valley, Power Ranch – located around Power and Germann roads – paved the way for increased retail and commercial development in East Mesa/Gilbert. With dozens of individual neighborhoods, the development is a massive enclave of desert-styled ranch homes surrounded by mature trees and family-friendly playgrounds, ramadas, sport courts and barbecue grills. This is classic suburbia, on steroids. In the past year, five well-known builders including Richmond American and DR Horton have broken ground on new Power Ranch homes, which range from small starters to move-ups around $300K. New development coupled with a strong resale market has revitalized Power Ranch as a frontrunner in East Valley master plans. 

Info: 480-988-0960,
Starting Home Price: $133,000
Average Home Size: 2,300 square feet
Average Lot Size: 7,000 square feet
Build Date Range: 2000s

School District: Higley Unified
Power Ranch Elementary School breeds overachievers, from the teacher who raised $5,300 in grant money for her classroom to championship color guard and percussion teams. Older students attend Higley High or Williams Field High School, the latter of which touts AIMS scores well above the state average, including 92 percent on reading.

One of Phoenix’s older urban villages, Alhambra – located near I-17 and Glendale Avenue – runs the gamut from pristine historic properties down to shabby fixer-uppers. The light rail cuts through the heart of the district; a popular Park & Ride is at 19th Avenue and Camelback. This central area near Washington Park is where locals will find affordable rentals, townhouses and starter homes. In the blocks between I-17 and 15th Avenue, from Camelback up to Northern, are clusters of older brick homes and bungalows interspersed with vacant lots and new fill-ins. Make no mistake, this is a transitional neighborhood. However, the high likelihood that your neighbor is a candidate for Hoarders is balanced by a solid inventory under $140,000 and proximity to the trendy Melrose antique district.

Median Home Price: $102,700
Average Home Size: 1,200 square feet
Average Lot Size: 8,000 square feet
Build Date Range: 1950s

School Districts: Phoenix Union, Washington Elementary
Washington Elementary is a fast-growing district, with more than 100 teachers expected to be hired for 2013-2014. AIMS test scores hover around the state average at Washington High School, but a strong Advanced Placement curriculum and afterschool service program give top-ranked students an edge. Hoops are the big draw of Westwind Preparatory Academy on Northern; scholarships are plentiful for stars of the top-ranked Warriors b-ball team.

Five workable floor plans and low new build prices have made this William Lyon Homes community in Queen Creek a solid choice for new families. Homes are spacious and open, built with a Mediterranean sensibility in mind. Much of the site is still in the early phases of construction. However, amenities already in place include a shaded playground, basketball and sand volleyball courts, and a soccer field. Demand for The Villas is increasing, with the community nabbing April’s No. 2 spot for new construction closings in RL Brown’s Phoenix Housing Market Letter. Prices have crept up since Hastings Farms’ inception, with a small bump in early June propelling the lowest priced base model into the $160,000 range.

Info: 20957 E. Pecan Lane, Queen Creek, 480-888-8023,
Home Price Range: $160,000s-$200,000s
Home Size Range: 1,284-2,296 square feet
Average Lot Size: 4,950 square feet
Build Date Range: 2012-current

School District: Queen Creek Unified
Strong athletic programs and new leadership make Queen Creek High one to watch for 2013-2014, while the American Leadership Academy program at the elementary and high school levels bolsters civic pride. Patriot Academy, an A-rated K-8 charter, ranks among the state’s top performers; casual uniforms provide structure, and small classes emphasize individual learning.


phm0813 hot6 mdFULTON RANCH
With three shopping plazas, 28 acres of lakes, and Intel, Microchip and ON Semiconductor minutes away, it’s easy to see why Fulton Ranch has become a popular settling place for techies and their families. The master-planned community near Arizona Avenue and Ocotillo Road sits on 520 acres once owned by Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company and is home to three Fulton Homes communities, including custom luxury residences on an island reachable by fairytale stone bridges. Developed in early 2013, The Reserve offers more affordable three- to five-bedroom floor plans with two-car garage and granite countertops. Prices jumped considerably in early 2013, with nearly half of the available lots sold by late May. If new build prices continue to rise, Cachet Homes’ Crescent Falls townhouses and Serenity Shores condos may be the new mid-range option.

Info: 480-753-7584,
Home Price Range: $300,000s (The Reserve)
Average Home Size: 2,250 square feet
Average Lot Size: 4,680 square feet
Build Date Range: 2013

School District: Chandler Unified
Part of the Arizona Department of Education A-rated Chandler Unified district, Hamilton High is the state’s largest 9-12 school. Options for younger kids include Chandler Unified’s Ira A. Fulton Elementary and the new Fulton Ranch Learning Center, a K-6 charter with a strong gifted program emphasizing social and emotional development as well as academic achievement.

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Founded by Lon’s at the Hermosa veterans Robert and Danielle Morris and Chef Brian Peterson, Cork is the East Valley go-to for fresh, upscale seafood dishes and exotic meats (think mustard-crusted boar and chile pheasant). Cork has garnered praise from locals and critics, earning repeated AAA 4-Diamond status and a nod from Wine Spectator. 4991 S. Alma School Rd., Chandler, 480-883-3773,

Downtown Chandler
Thanks to a bevy of homegrown businesses and events, downtown Chandler’s historic square is a hub for food- and culture-loving locals. Sip a citrusy hefeweizen at the indoor-outdoor bar of bank-turned-microbrewery SanTan Brewing Company (8 S. San Marcos Pl., 480-917-8700, Head to wine bar Vintage 95 (95 W. Boston St., 480-855-9463, for vino, ancho-honey-glazed salmon, and live music. Pick up Arizona-grown produce and locally made foodstuffs at the farmers’ market (October-May, Thursdays from 3-7 p.m., Browse and buy paintings, sculpture and crafts at the Third Fridays art walk. AJ Chandler Park, 3 S. Arizona Ave., Chandler,

Snedigar Sportsplex
Adjacent to Fulton Ranch, the 90-acre Snedigar Sportsplex goes beyond the requisite baseball and soccer fields to include a cricket field, dog park and recreation center with classes in everything from Aikido to Zumba. Kids love the killer skate area with deep bowls and metal rails, ranked among the nation’s best skate parks by Thrasher magazine’s Wez Lundry. 4500 S. Basha Rd., Chandler, 480-782-2640,

phm0813 hot9 mdCAMELBACK & CENTRAL
Tucked behind well-traveled Central Phoenix streets sporting an eclectic selection of modern eateries, convenience stores and boutiques are a series of small neighborhoods with delightful brick bungalows and sprawling 1960s ranches. There’s a definite east-west divide here. Winding lanes and large, tree-shaded lots are hallmarks of historic Windsor Square on the northeast corner of Central and Camelback behind AJ’s Fine Foods, while properties west of Central Avenue attract younger buyers with cheaper, funkier homes. Another popular area is the two-block grid of Medlock Place (founded in 1926), a diverse neighborhood of Craftsman cottages, ranches and the occasional storybook Tudor. With the light rail nearby and buyers waxing nostalgic for hardwood floors and coved ceilings, this area of Phoenix’s Central Corridor is a hot commodity. “Central locations are hotter in 2013 relative to 2012,” ASU’s Michael Orr says. “The fringe areas have more supply now and are less competitive.”
Median Home Price: $237,055
Average Home Size: 1,600 square feet
Average Lot Size: 7,300 square feet
Build Date Range: 1940s-1970s

School Districts: Phoenix & Glendale Unions; Osborn, Madison & Washington Elementaries
Low teacher-student ratios, rigorous study, and esteemed athletic programs make Brophy and Xavier College Preparatories attractive, while Central High School
competes with their prestigious Cambridge Curriculum and business-oriented magnet program. Madison is one of Phoenix’s premier grade school districts, offering strong gifted and special ed programs as well as an International Baccalaureate option.

phm0813 hot10 mdFederal Pizza
After perfecting the modern urban eatery with Postino and Windsor, restaurateur Craig DeMarco and his Upward Projects team turned a 1950s bank building into a retro pizza palace. Enjoy inventive wood-fired pies designed by local bread maker MJ Coe, and wash it all down with a hearty craft pint. With growlers and grub available to-go, locals lucky enough to live nearby can take home a slice of the pizza action. 5210 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-795-2520,



phm0813 hot11 mdPractical Art
Founded by late lawyer-turned-creative Jane Reddin and now run by ASU art alumni Lisa Olson and Kara Roschi, this shop carries handicrafts from more than 100 Valley artists. Along with gorgeous inlaid-wood bread knives and blown-glass goblets, Practical Art carries a rotating selection of local paintings, photos and mixed-media pieces. 5070 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-264-1414,  

The Torch Theatre
Part playhouse, part comedy club, Torch Theatre has been graced by local improvisation troupes Apollo 12, The Light Rail Pirates, Mail Order Bride and The Remainders. Weekend performances are anchored by Friday night’s Skewed News Hour, a take on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update,” in which performers verbally skewer legitimate news reports. 4721 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-456-2876,

phm0813 hot12 mdARCADIA LITE
The host ’hood of culinary hotspots La Grande Orange and North Italian Farmhouse (above), this area south of Camelback Road from about 32nd to 40th streets bustles with trendsetters. Homes are older, lots are bigger and lawns are exceptionally well-manicured. But don’t let its timeless look fool you. Though homes appear traditional, Arcadia Lite’s newest residents are anything but. Biking is prevalent, and hip eateries have moved in to offer locals trendy places to wine and dine (or chew and brew). Stroll the winding side streets and you’ll see a variety of sprawling brick ranches that fall into the luxury price range, skewing median home prices. Mid-range options are more plentiful as residences and lot sizes shrink south of Campbell Avenue, with condos for $175-$250K and single-family bungalows in the $300s. The neighborhood’s safe reputation and central location between Scottsdale’s nightlife and Downtown Phoenix’s businesses make it an ideal place for urban couples and small families.     
Average Home Price: $412,625
Average Home Size: 2,300 square feet
Average Lot Size: 15,000-25,000 square feet
Build Date Range: 1950s-1960s

School Districts: Phoenix Union; Creighton & Madison Elementaries
Camelback High School’s 2013 graduating class nabbed a total of $3.3 million in college scholarships, thanks in part to innovative programs such as Camelback Montessori College Preparatory (CMCP) and virtual classes. Newly added perks like the coffee bar and pool tables help students unwind after the rigorous coursework. Biltmore Preparatory Academy’s “A” rating and foreign language immersion program make it the top contender in the Creighton Elementary District.

phm0813 hot13 mdQ&A - Tom Ruff
Market analyst Tom Ruff of The Information Market has spent more than two decades in the real estate business, compiling data on housing trends and forecasting market changes. For the past two years, Ruff concentrated on foreclosures and short sales. But as that market cools off, he’s looking to the future of Valley home sales.

Since the bubble, how has Phoenix’s housing market fared in comparison to the national market?
“Arizona’s increases have been dramatic, but you have to put that in perspective. We tend to overreact in both directions. Our declines were also much more dramatic, because Arizona home prices had farther to fall.”

Why is the market so volatile here?
“I believe it has to do with the dynamic growth we experience. The root cause is the overbuilding of new homes when the market is good. Think of it this way: When the country catches a cold, we catch pneumonia. Everything is exaggerated.”

There is a nearly $100,000 gap in the median new home price vs. the median existing home price. Is this normal?
“That’s actually a sign of a healthy market. A median priced new home should cost more than a resale home. We just went through a crazy time in 2005-2006 where there was a lot of speculators, and we built a lot of homes during that time that were never occupied, driving new home prices down.”

What’s the difference between an “investor” and a “speculator”?
“An investor will take a property and add value, improve the property. It’s a good thing. A speculator buys low and sells the same property high. There aren’t as many investors as there were a year ago, but flippers will always be a segment of the market.”

Will we continue to see a drop in foreclosures?
“Right now we’re in a period of normal foreclosures as a percentage of overall housing stock, around .5 percent. Since 70 percent of all foreclosures occur within four years of closing, right now some foreclosures are still coming from the bubble. We’re still clearing out the bad loans. Then I think we’ll move into a period of abnormally low foreclosures… we’re seeing this movement every day.”  
How do supply and demand drive local real estate?
“People tend to look at one side of the market. In 2005-2006, everyone was just looking at the comps and the prices, and they didn’t see the number of homes available. They weren’t tracking the supply side. Then we start talking about this shadow supply that’s going to come on the market and crush home prices and stop looking at the demand side. Ideally, we should look for a balance between supply and demand.”

Is there anything we could do to mitigate our market’s extreme highs and lows?
“Right now, we should probably be building more to account for the population growth. It tracks with the economy. Everybody wants to talk about jobs, but the high number of second home buyers – one in six – don’t necessarily need jobs. We need to account for those people.”

One in six residential purchases is a second home? That number seems high.
“A year and a half ago, a ‘second home’ check box was added on every affidavit of value form, and we’ve tracked those numbers. I think what sets Phoenix apart from other markets is that Phoenix is always a desirable place to live. People want to retire here.”

phm0813 hot14 mdSCOTTSDALE: 85250
For America’s “Most Livable City,” Scottsdale’s price point seems out of reach for most metro families. But even as post-bust prices creep higher, the neighborhoods between Pima and Scottsdale roads around Chaparral Road remain within reach of the mid-range buyer. Classic brick ranches and a smattering of townhomes fall in the $200-$300K range. 85250 is also a nature lover’s paradise, with tall, leafy green trees, Chaparral Park within walking distance and the Hayden Greenbelt a short bike ride away. Add easy Loop 101 access to that, and you have an area that’s more than just livable.     

Median Home Price: $220,000
Average Home Size: 1,500 square feet
Average Lot Size: 7,200 square feet
Build Date Range: 1960s-1970s

School District: Scottsdale Unified
At Saguaro High School, advanced students interested in technology careers can participate in Math & Science Academy programs. Peer mentoring and problem-solving challenges give academy graduates a leg up on university applications. Pueblo Elementary boasts a stellar foreign language immersion program, while the private feel and welcoming nature of Kiva Elementary promote parent involvement.   

phm0813 hot15 mdDEEM HILLS
Majestic views and 1,000 acres of preserved Sonoran Desert wilderness are the main attractions of Deem Hills, located west of the I-17 and north of Happy Valley Road. Named for early homesteaders Dennis and Carl Deem, the Deem Hills Recreation Area is a favorite with local runners for its varying trail lengths ranging from just over .5 mile to a 5.73-mile circle around the entire preserve. Horse properties south of Happy Valley Road are popular with avid riders. But even the newer communities of Stetson Hills, Indian Springs and Stetson Valley boast ample green space and walking trails that snake their way toward the preserve. A variety of builders with available lots add options for those seeking new homes with easy access to the great outdoors. 

Median Home Price: $294,000
Average Home Size: 2,600 square feet
Average Lot Size: 7,000 square feet
Build Date Range: 2000s

School District: Deer Valley Unified
An A+ School and 2011 Deer Valley Unified Superintendent School of Excellence, the pre-K-8 Stetson Hills is known for dedicated teachers and strong music extracurriculars. Deer Valley’s Sandra Day O’Connor High School earned a 9 out of 10 average rating from students and parents on; its Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps has garnered several program awards. 

Residents of Palm Valley’s 9,000-acre master plan in Goodyear enjoy suburban living with small-town benefits. “You don’t feel like you’re in the big city,” says Diane Artrip, who lives in the community with her husband, Craig, a Goodyear firefighter, and their two children. “It’s a quiet community. At Halloween, people sit outside and just wait for the kids to come by.” An on-site community center hosts recreational activities and clubs, while brand name department stores and eateries are located within a mile of Palm Valley’s boundaries. The market here is stable and steady. Now in its final building phase, Palm Valley has seen a 9 percent increase in year-to-year home values, with distressed properties making up only 13 percent of the available inventory. Affordable home rentals attract military families from nearby Luke Air Force Base, making for a diverse and ever-changing population.  

Average Home Price: $253,000
Home Size Range: 1,358-5,258 square feet
Average Lot Size: 11,250 square feet
Build Date Range: 1996-current

School Districts: Agua Fria Union, Litchfield Elementary
Kids follow in their parents’ footsteps at Agua Fria’s Desert Edge High School, where women’s and men’s golf are among the athletic choices for fall. Several schools within the A-rated Litchfield Elementary District offer a Traditional Academy Program with advanced math and analytical reading courses. At Palm Valley Elementary, students are schooled in character building as well as the classic Three Rs.

Vphm0813 hot16 mdERRADO
Verrado is Buckeye’s stab at reimagining Main Street USA for the modern homebuyer. The massive master-planned community mimics the look and feel of a small town, with its own golf course, community center and a literal Main Street of shops and cafés. “I’ve made some of my best friendships here,” says Neha Mallik, who moved to Verrado in 2006 with her husband and two children. “With the community feel, it’s like having more family.” Eight builders offer a range of single-family homes from petite ranches to $500,000 estates. Rents for lofts and apartments start around $1,400 per month. “The economic recession impacted the community,” notes Greg Burger of RL Brown Reports, “but the ongoing housing market recovery has revitalized this master plan.” As of spring 2013, real estate was approximately 30 percent sold. Future plans for luxury homes with stunning mountain views from Windgate Ranch builder Toll Brothers and a 55-plus senior care community will likely increase Verrado’s desirability, and thus its home values.

Info: 21029 W. Main St., Buckeye, 623-215-6000,
Home Price Range: High $100s to mid-$300s
Average Home Size: 2,350 square feet
Average Lot Size: 9,100 square feet
Build Date Range: 2002-current 

School Districts: Agua Fria Union, Litchfield Elementary, Saddle Mountain Unified
Verrado High School made Newsweek’s and the Washington Post’s 2013 top schools lists and is an A+ School of Excellence. Verrado’s culture and conduct codes were recently reformed based on Breaking Ranks II, a leading guidebook for school officials. Verrado Elementary is home to a number of specialty programs including character-building, reading fluency and the tech-based Atomic Learning initiative.  

phm0813 hot17 mdMcCORMICK RANCH

It’s been 40 years since developers broke ground on Scottsdale’s largest master-planned community, which stretches from Shea Boulevard to Indian Bend Road, and Scottsdale Road to Pima. Land that was once a horse and cattle ranch is now a virtual city in itself, with 20,000 residents sprawled across an oasis dotted with lush greenbelts, championship golf courses and 130 acres of man-made waterway. While some subdivisions feature neatly arranged rows of stucco mini-mansions, others are highly diverse – it’s not surprising to find a wide Spanish colonial in the same cul-de-sac as a country ranch with gingerbread trim and a spindled front porch. According to Leo Berg of Ranch Realty, the McCormick rental market has remained strong throughout the recession: “Now, home prices are slowly but surely creeping up, and I’m amazed to see the rental market is still booming.” Homes in this area easily run in the $500K-$700K range, with patio homes and smaller lots a more budget-friendly choice. Townhomes like those at Belcara and Villages Three run in the mid to high $100s, making them an excellent buy for this ritzy ’hood.
Info: 480-860-1122,
Median Home Price: $370,000
Average Home Size: 2,000 square feet
Average Lot Size: 8,300 square feet
Build Date Range: 1980s

School District: Scottsdale Unified
Designated an Excelling school for the past decade, Cherokee Elementary received an A+ rating from the Arizona Education Foundation in 2013. Older students attend Saguaro and Chaparral high schools. The latter churns out Presidential Scholars and pro athletes. Chaparral’s baseball team has won 10 state championships, with Saguaro’s Sabercats nipping at its heels in 2010 and 2011.

A 7,100-acre plan comprising three independent communities, this Peoria master plan exemplifies quiet living. The multigenerational, family-oriented Village at Vistancia development includes access to the 15,000-square-foot Mountain Vista Club and six-lane lap pool, while gated access, mountain views and a golf course are perks of living in one of the luxury homes at Blackstone. A Trilogy 55-plus community makes it possible for Vistancia residents with elderly parents to be near their loved ones without having to stay in the same residence. “With this combination of lifestyles and housing products, the Vistancia community currently leads all of the other master-planned communities in the region in new home sales,” RL Brown’s Greg Burger says. Plentiful land for development means the master plan is poised to keep expanding into 2014 and beyond.

Info: 12026 W. Lone Mountain Pkwy., Peoria, 623-933-6233,
Home Price Range: $207,990-$516,990
Home Size Range: 1,511-4,303 square feet
Lot Size Range: 5,760-14,000 square feet
Build Date Range: 2004-current

School District: Peoria Unified
Test scores at Vistancia Elementary are comparable with most local charters, while Liberty High School’s partnership with ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business allows accelerated students to earn college credit. Students at public charter Candeo Peoria test at levels well above the norm, with writing scores four times higher than those of surrounding school districts. A junk-food-free campus and structured, classical instruction satisfy picky parents.


phm0813 hot18 mdNORTH DESERT RIDGE
Surrounded by open desert, the neighborhoods several blocks north of Desert Ridge Marketplace are cozy yet exclusive. “Home values are going up here,” says Kathy Crawford, a real estate agent and television advertising executive who purchased her Desert Ridge home in 1995. “It’s a smart investment, but I plan to live here for the rest of my life.” Developments are insulated from the Tatum Boulevard traffic by divider walls, preserving the quiet and effectively hiding most homes from view. East of Tatum are smaller, traditional neighborhoods with curving roads and lots of cul-de-sacs, while west side developments are neatly organized around Cashman Park and the adjacent Desert Trails Elementary. Most Desert Ridge homes are sizeable yet not ostentatious, often two-story desert style with glass block accent windows (popular in the 1990s) and pristine xeriscaped yards. Wildfire Golf Club at JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa is the closest place to tee off, but Dove Valley, Terravita, Tatum Ranch and Whisper Rock are less than 10 minutes away.

Home Price Range: $424,000-$875,000
Average Home Size: 2,000 square feet
Average Lot Size: 7,300 square feet
Build Date Range: 2000s

School District: Paradise Valley Unified
The first Paradise Valley Unified school to receive the state’s A+ rating, Pinnacle High School earned the No. 298 spot on Newsweek’s Top 1,200 schools list. Wildfire Elementary is highly rated by students and staff, with AIMS Math and Reading test scores in the 94th percentile last year.

phm0813 hot19 mdphm0813 hot20 md

Humble Pie
Co-founder Tom Kaufman’s wood-fired pizza joint fared better than most during the recession, expanding to more than a half-dozen metro Phoenix locations. Fig & prosciutto and BLT are among the delicious pie offerings; soups, salads and burgers are also solid. 21050 N. Tatum Blvd., Phoenix, 480-502-2121,

Musical Instrument Museum
From Elvis Presley’s guitar to an Indonesian gamelan, MIM’s collection of 15,000-plus instruments has something to impress everyone (there’s even an “air guitar” for laughs). The museum also hosts monthly drumming workshops and concerts by the likes of Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Grammy-winning guitarist Jose Feliciano. 4725 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix, 480-478-6000,

Reach 11 Rec Area
A 1,500-acre city park, Reach 11 offers 18 miles of dedicated hiking trails including an accessible general use path with equestrian access at the E211N trailhead. The park’s five primary trails are wide gravel paths with minimal grading – ideal terrain for active families with younger children. 19226 N. Tatum Blvd., Phoenix, 602-534-6267

phm0813 hot21 mdWINDGATE RANCH
Stunning views of the McDowell Mountains and a posh resort lifestyle are the lures of living at Windgate Ranch. Here, 3,000-square-foot homes are considered “on the small side,” and granite slab countertops and restaurant-worthy appliances are standard. Founded in 2007 by luxury specialists Toll Brothers, Windgate Ranch has 150 acres dedicated to natural washes and greenbelts, a community pool with lounging cabanas, a gorgeous emerald-hued event lawn, and home security systems covered by monthly HOA fees. It’s also in a prime North Scottsdale location, near Westworld and Loop 101 and minutes from Scottsdale Airport. The costs of such a desert paradise are expectedly high, but unobstructed million-dollar views guaranteed by the neighboring preserve ensure resale values stay high.  

Info: 18570 N. Thompson Peak Pkwy., Scottsdale, 480-596-7300,
Home Price Range: $576,000-$1.3 million
Home Size Range: 2,253-6,388 square feet
Lot Size Range: 1/4 acre – 1/2 acre
Build Date Range: 2007-current

School District: Scottsdale Unified
The A-rated Chaparral High boasts above-average test scores and a high output of merit scholars. Nearby Notre Dame Prep has a 96 percent four-year college matriculation rate for recent grads, offering a Catholic-based education with annual coursework in theology as a core requirement. Though part of the public system, Copper Ridge K-8 has private school qualities such as uniforms and a curriculum that stresses character, responsibility and safety.

phm0813 hot22 mdCAREFREE
Outsiders often imagine Phoenix as a rugged cowboy town made up of adobe ranches and cactus-covered acreage. The truth may be tract homes and strip malls, but the Wild West lifestyle is achievable in the sleepy suburb of Carefree – where property sizes are listed in acres, not square feet. Carefree homes have the Valley’s second-highest cost per square foot at $211.44, up 7.75 percent from last year, according to The Cromford Report’s May 2013 rankings. The town was originally conceived as a master plan, later attracting celebrities and movie moguls during the heyday of Southwestern Studios. Carefree has a laid-back, rural feel, with a spiritual component bolstered by a faith-based retreat center and awe-inspiring views of Black Mountain from the tony Boulders Resort. Pool houses, nanny quarters, guest casitas: The well-heeled professionals and retirees Carefree attracts can have whatever their hearts desire.
Median Home Price: $780,000
Average Home Size: 3,637 square feet
Average Lot Size: 50,000 square feet
Build Date Range: 1960s-1990s

School District: Cave Creek Unified
High achievers have a number of advanced programs to choose from at Cactus Shadows High School, including an International Baccalaureate, Honors classes and Early College, where students can earn a community college Associate’s degree by graduation. In nearby Cave Creek, the K-12 Bella Vista Private School also gives older students the opportunity to earn college credit and has a strong theater and visual art component in earlier grades.

phm0813 hot23 mdPARADISE VALLEY
Housing in Paradise Valley runs the gamut from lower-end townhomes to multi-million-dollar custom estates, but it’s the city’s mansions and more modestly classy ranch-style homes north and west of Camelback Mountain that give the town its reputation. “This is the premier area in Arizona,” agent Robert Joffe says. “Paradise Valley is home to many movie stars, athletes and CEOs from around the world.” Prices are climbing the ladder as fast as its residents, with 30 homes selling beyond the $3M price point since May 2012. In addition to luxury amenities and spectacular views of Camelback Mountain, Paradise Valley residents have a slew of hot resorts and restaurants nearby, including El Chorro and Chef Beau MacMillan’s Elements at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain.  

Median Home Price: $1,300,000
Average Home Size: 5,130 square feet
Average Lot Size: 12,000 square feet
Average Build Date: 1980s

School District: Paradise Valley Unified
Budding scientists score big with Paradise Valley High School’s CREST program, a small, grant-funded specialty school offering biotechnology and engineering classes. Two students enrolled in the program recently landed prestigious internships at Barrow Neurological Institute studying the brain’s neuron activity and the effects of ketogenic diets on cancer cells. A Core Knowledge® public school, Desert Springs Prep K-6 incorporates a sequential curriculum and structured dress code for a traditional education. SAT-9 test scores here are above state and national average.

phm0813 hot24 mdARCADIA
Quaint, family-friendly Arcadia has long been a desirable place to live. The canal at Indian School Road limits southern access to Arcadia proper, so many longtime Phoenix locals have never actually seen the heart of the historic community, which is bounded by Camelback and Thomas roads, from 44th to 68th streets. There’s a definite Brady Bunch vibe here: Drive by on a weekend afternoon and you’ll spot families riding bikes together and kids playing fetch with their fluffy golden retrievers. Pools and sport courts are common, and spacious homes allow larger families to spread out. Arcadia’s real estate market is growing stronger, says real estate agent Robert Joffe of The Joffe Group in Scottsdale. “Prices have rebounded about 65 percent from the lows of 2007 and 2008. It’s very difficult to find a home now under $500K in this area.” That’s a small price to pay for your own private island in the city.

Average Home Price: $1,301,900
Average Home Size: 3,100 square feet
Average Lot Size: 6,500-8,000 square feet
Build Date Range: 1950s-1960s

School District: Scottsdale Unified
Despite 2013 budget battles, Scottsdale Unified is one of the few local districts to decrease classroom sizes and raise teacher salaries in the past year. Director Steven Spielberg attended Arcadia High School, well known for its arts and film programming, and parents praise the A-rated Hopi Elementary for its attentive, highly motivated teachers and administrators.

phm0813 hot25 mdQ&A - Gregory L. Burger
RL Brown Reports Chief Operating Officer Gregory L. Burger joined his family’s housing research firm after 10 years in the industry. He created a proprietary web-based software application to track housing data down to individual transactions. By looking at trends in construction permitting and new home closings, Burger can gauge supply and demand in the Valley’s master-planned communities.

What is the state of Phoenix’s real estate market right now?
“Phoenix is clearly on the road to recovery, and we think we’re going to continue to see recovery in all submarkets across the Valley, with some ebb and flow based on the availability of lots.”

In your opinion, what caused housing prices to bottom out in 2011?
“Affordability existed in the previous market, the ’06 time frame, when interest rates were low and credit was easy to get. Adjustable rate products were used extensively to get buyers into homes that were really above their income level at the time. Nobody foresaw the reset of the market, that an onslaught of foreclosures would bring an onslaught of distressed housing into the market. That caused a downturn.”

How do today’s new home prices compare to earlier years?
“We’re currently sitting at the same median new home price that we had at the height of the market. The resale market dropped more but it’s now rebounding, which is obviously a relief to homebuyers who held onto their properties through the bust. Hopefully that boost of confidence will allow some people to make a move into a new community, or to upgrade.”

Is the demand for new homes increasing?
“There were 1,290 home permits issued in April, compared with 1,184 from the same month last year, so it’s an 8.9 percent increase. Year-to-date through April, we had 4,479 permits, up 21 percent from a year ago. So that does continue to trend upwards.”

New home closings were down in April compared with the previous month. Why?
 “We anticipated this to occur. As the market turned up, spec inventory – when a builder builds a home that hasn’t sold yet – diminished. Builders have continued to start spec homes in the communities with the most sought-after demand, knowing there will be buyers waiting in the wings.”

Why are prices rising so quickly in master-planned communities?
“While the market remains affordable, the demand for new homes has dramatically increased. There’s a shortage of available lots, which is driving up the prices in those areas. That will force a shift into some of the other areas of metro Phoenix.”

Where are the new build hotspots?
“Thirty-five percent of permits in April went to Mesa/Gilbert, followed by the Southwest Valley at 22 percent and northwest at 17 percent. The 303 corridor will also continue to expand. There is plenty of land available; it’s just that there is a lack of currently developed lots for sale.” 

Will locals looking for affordable new real estate eventually be forced into Maricopa and other outlying areas?
“There will be a time when Maricopa will perform at levels similar to what it did at the height of the market. At that time, activity leapfrogged into Maricopa because developers were able to build homes for sale at a much lower price. That activity will happen again.”


Eighteen holes just aren’t enough for golfers at Sunland Springs, a 900-acre master-planned retirement community near the Superstition Mountains. A 27-hole executive course provides added challenge, and residents not up to par can take lessons from a PGA professional. Beyond golf, Sunland Springs’ recreation center features shuffleboard, tennis, pickleball courts, and a lap pool for cooling off after a good workout. Pet parks and an RV storage lot area provide additional bonuses. New home options include two-bed, two-bath townhomes, golf condos and single-family residences, with occasional spec homes available for purchase. A major benefit of living at the 55-plus community is its proximity to US 60, Banner Gateway Hospital and Superstition Gateway shopping plaza. With Mesa-Gilbert a booming community for families with young children, many seniors with grandchildren in the area choose Sunland Springs.   

Info: 2233 S. Springwood Blvd., Mesa, 888-709-5750,
Home Price Range: $161,900 and up
Home Size Range: 1,064-2,315 square feet
Average Lot Size: 6,660 square feet
Build Date Range: 2000s to current

It takes just two words to get avid golfers to this East Valley community: Tom Lehman. The PGA veteran designed the lavish championship course at Encanterra Country Club, which houses two master-plans including the age-restricted Trilogy. In the four years since Trilogy at Encanterra was built, Shea Homes Active Lifestyle Communities area president Hal Looney has seen an increase in the number of sophisticated boomer couples enjoying the course together. “They’re in it for the sport, not the competition,” he quips. Residents of the 55-plus community have full access to golf and the 60,000-square-foot La Casa clubhouse, which houses four restaurants, three pools and the Alvea resort spa. Home prices here are relatively stable, though sales are heating up in 2013. As of May, approximately 500 of the 2,627 available lots were sold. 

Info: 36460 N. Encanterra Dr., San Tan Valley, 800-685-6494,
Home Price Range: High $190s and up
Home Size Range: 1,300-3,700 square feet
Lot Size Range: 5,250-7,475 square feet 
Build Date Range: 2009-current

phm0813 hot27 mdTRILOGY AT VISTANCIA
Like its sister property at Encanterra (above), this 55-plus gated community in Peoria centers on multigenerational activities, clubs and classes. Homes are built in a desert contemporary style, as is the breathtaking Kiva Club with its inlaid tile floors and panoramic mountain views. Inside, residents enjoy an Olympic swimming pool, café and fitness center. Outdoor perks include a 7-mile trail system and par-72 championship golf course designed by Gary Panks. Trilogy homeowners save cash – and the planet – with the SheaXero plan, a solar grid system that provides year-round electricity at no monthly cost. Fewer than 100 new home sites remain at Trilogy at Vistancia. Decreasing availability has pushed new home prices higher since the 2012 rebound, and few resales have come on the market in recent months.     

Info: 27980 N. Trilogy Blvd., Peoria, 800-685-6494,
Home Price Range: Mid $200s and up
Home Size Range: 1,437-3,096 square feet
Lot Size Range: 5,750-8,050 square feet 
Build Date Range: 2004-current

phm0813 hot29 mdVI AT SILVERSTONE
Part of a nationwide chain of 10 community care facilities, Vi (pronounced “vee”) at Silverstone is a luxury continuing care facility for the 75-plus set. Far from typical assisted living, Vi provides guests with the same luxuries found at upscale hotels: valet, weekly laundry services, on-site spa. Vi residents are known for their spunk; one community representative has spotted women driving shiny red Corvettes around the community, wearing scarves and glasses like 1940s Hollywood starlets. The 165-acre community also includes dog parks, a movie theater, a formal dining room with proper attire required  – ideal for senior date nights – and a fully stocked bar. Unlike other active adult communities, Vi does not sell real estate. Residents pay an entrance fee and monthly fees starting at $3,020 for an apartment-style home or freestanding villa.
Info: 23005 N. 74th St., Scottsdale, 888-719-0942,
Entrance Fees: $206,900 and up
Apartment/Villa Size Range: 912-1,886 square feet
Build Date Range: 2010-current

The “boutique size” 55-plus community of CantaMia is located in Goodyear’s Estrella master plan, making it an ideal place for retirees whose families live in Estrella’s other subdivisions. The community’s starry nighttime skies and Tuscan-inspired architecture is impressive, but it’s the lifestyle that attracts residents like 66-year-old self-described workaholic Michael Bohdan and his wife, Melba. “We looked at other Del Webb communities, but they were too old,” Bohdan says. “I wanted to be active, to get exercise and fish. My wife rides her bike 6,000 miles a year as a personal goal.” At the Village Center, residents take advantage of exercise facilities, massage rooms, and recreation classes like the popular Drums Alive. There’s even a luxurious demonstration kitchen where gourmands whip up a cable show, What’s Cooking at CantaMia. Still not sure? Prospective residents can reserve one of CantaMia’s eight vacation villas for a small fee to test drive the community before buying.    

Info: 17700 W. Star Point Dr., Goodyear, 623-474-6960,
Home Price Range: $130s to $250,000
Home Size Range: 1,200-2,900 square feet
Lot Size Range:4,950-8,190 square feet
Build Date Range: 2010-current.