Feeling at home in sunny Arizona
Hiring a realtor who knows the lay of the land can help Canadian buyers avoid property pitfalls
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.
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.
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