Feel­ing at home in sunny Ari­zona

Hir­ing a re­al­tor who knows the lay of the land can help Cana­dian buy­ers avoid prop­erty pit­falls

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Recreation & Investment Properties - ALEX FRAZER-HAR­RI­SON

Ari­zona is home to the Grand Canyon, the Phoenix Coy­otes, Ari­zona State Univer­sity … and a grow­ing num­ber of Cana­di­ans buy­ing prop­erty as ei­ther a snow­bird­ing es­cape or with an eye to mov­ing down full-time, ei­ther now or in the fu­ture.

One of the big­gest pieces of ad­vice Mandy Smith-Haber has for any­one plan­ning to buy prop­erty in Ari­zona is to find a re­al­tor who knows the lay of the land.

“Search­ing on your own is tough,” says Smith-Haber, who owned prop­erty in Par­adise Val­ley, a sub­urb of Phoenix, for 12 years, and who used the same re­al­tor — Lisa Wadey of Russ Lyon/Sotheby’s In­ter­na­tional Realty — for both buy­ing and sell­ing the home. “Un­less you re­ally know the area, I don’t be­lieve we’d have found the gem of the home we did with­out her help.”

Smith-Haber says she was look­ing for a home with “a lot of character,” and chose Par­adise Val­ley be­cause of its prox­im­ity to en­ter­tain­ment and “vi­tal ar­eas, so you didn’t have to drive for 20 to 30 min­utes to get some­where.”

Par­adise Val­ley is an in­de­pen­dent town, but is just north­east of cen­tral Phoenix and ad­ja­cent to Scotts­dale, al­low­ing Smith-Haber to en­joy all the ameni­ties of the big city.

“Safety was also an im­por­tant fac­tor. I wanted a place where we would feel com­fort­able and safe,” says Smith-Haber. At the same time, how­ever, she says she wasn’t in­ter­ested in buy­ing into an ex­clu­sive gated com­mu­nity.

Although she has since re­turned to Cal­gary, Smith-Haber con­tin­ues to co-own One Source In­te­ri­ors, a floor­ing company based in the Phoenix re­gion, with her ex-hus­band. She says she’s seen first-hand how popular the area has be­come for Cana­di­ans.

“A lot of peo­ple are do­ing ren­o­va­tions and more re­mod­elling,” Smith-Haber says. “They’ll buy a place and want to up­date their floor­ing and coun­ters. There’s a huge Cana­dian com­po­nent.”

Wadey, who pri­mar­ily serves the Scotts­dale/Par­adise Val­ley re­gion, in­clud­ing many lux­ury and golf course com­mu­ni­ties, says it’s im­por­tant to get a feel for what a Cana­dian buyer wants in an Ari­zona prop­erty.

“One of the first ques­tions I ask is, ‘What is your life­style?’ ” she says. “Once I learn more about their life­style and their rea­sons for pur­chas­ing a prop­erty, it’s eas­ier for me to dial into the (right) com­mu­nity.”

Google Street View only takes you so far; Wadey stresses the im­por­tance of clients ac­tu­ally pay­ing a visit and get­ting a feel for the area first-hand. “I like to take at least a day or two and just drive them through the com­mu­nity. We might take a look at two or three prop­er­ties and they prob­a­bly aren’t the (ac­tual) prop­er­ties they’ll buy, but they’ll know where their dol­lars will go.”

Wadey says the days of Phoenix to Cal­gary and Banff — though Phoenix one-ups Cow­town by hav­ing its own moun­tains in the heart of town, most no­tably Camel­back Moun­tain, which over­looks Par­adise Val­ley and Scotts­dale.

“And one thing peo­ple don’t re­al­ize about the desert is we have many lakes,” says Wadey. “We have five within rea­son­able driv­ing dis­tance.”

Phoenix’s prox­im­ity to Mex­ico, Ve­gas and Cal­i­for­nia also makes it a great launch­ing pad for ex­plor­ing other des­ti­na­tions. be­ing strictly a des­ti­na­tion for re­tirees is long gone. “We have ev­ery­thing from young pro­fes­sion­als to empty nesters, in­di­vid­u­als, fam­i­lies. It’s a very good mix,” she says.

The Phoenix area has re­cov­ered well from the hous­ing cri­sis, she says.

“Our home val­ues are still rea­son­able and your dol­lar goes a bit fur­ther here,” Wadey says. “We have a lot of dif­fer­ent types of prop­erty to pur­chase, from con­dos and town houses to your large cus­tom homes. There’s a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing for ev­ery­one.

“Our prices are slowly go­ing up. I don’t think they’re flat; we’re in a very bal­anced mar­ket. You’ve got buy­ers who are savvy and sell­ers that know it’s a pretty spe­cial (area). It’s a healthy mar­ket.”

The No. 1 sell­ing fea­ture for the Phoenix-Scotts­dale re­gion is the weather, Wadey says, which makes it easy to en­joy na­ture year-round. With moun­tain ranges within an easy drive of Phoenix, Wadey likens the area Wadey says she’s see­ing more buy­ers who, in­stead of look­ing at Phoenix as a place for a sec­ond home or snow­bird­ing des­ti­na­tion, are set­ting up their pri­mary res­i­dences there and es­tab­lish­ing smaller-scale sum­mer homes else­where.

Smith-Haber says if she were to buy into Greater Phoenix again, she might con­sider a more cen­trally lo­cated home, but says some of her favourite things about liv­ing in the re­gion in­cluded her home’s prox­im­ity to Camel­back, and the nightlife.

Each com­mu­nity in Greater Phoenix has its own dis­tinc­tive feel, and Wadey says the growth over the past 13 years she’s sold real es­tate there has been phe­nom­e­nal.

With more attraction­s and ameni­ties added ev­ery day, de­mand for real es­tate is ex­pected to re­main strong as more Cana­di­ans con­sider putting down roots in the desert.

Christian Petersen/AFP/Getty Images

A grow­ing num­ber of Cana­di­ans are buy­ing prop­er­ties in Ari­zona. The No. 1 sell­ing fea­ture is the weather — you can be golf­ing while the snow flies in Cal­gary.

Pho­tos: Ari­zona Of­fice of Tourism.

The sky­line of Phoenix, Ari­zona, an area where many Cana­di­ans have been drawn to ei­ther as snow­bird­ers or as per­ma­nent res­i­dents.

There are five lakes in the desert rel­a­tively close to Phoenix. LISA WADEY

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