A little over a year ago, we reported some statistics that indicated a recovery in Valley home values and a resurgence of Eagles Nest lot sales were beginning, although the local press had not yet reported on it. What a difference a year makes. Not only has the local press discovered that the greater Phoenix market has come alive, the market gains in Phoenix have attracted the national press reporting that greater Phoenix is in the top tier of US cities leading the national real estate recovery.
The statistics are quite remarkable. Over the past five years resale home inventory is down 58%, foreclosures are down 72%, building permits are up 370% and the average resale home price is up 29%.
The first quarter real estate market report by ASU was released in May with a bullish forecast. Author Michael Orr, Director of the Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice, said in the report, “Given the balance between supply and population growth in Phoenix, prices are unlikely to fall below today’s level and are more likely to continue to climb for a very long time.” This is welcome news for everyone after a long real estate recession.
Lot sales in Eagles Nest are also gaining momentum and prices are rising aided by the lack of bank-owned lots on the market. In fact, MCO Realty reports only one bank-owned residential lot on the market in all of Fountain Hills. Eagles Nest building activity is increasing with four new Eagles Nest homes under construction and several more in design review. Developer MCO Properties will soon be releasing new lot inventory never before offered, so the community should see continued positive energy and interest from new owners and residents.
As the Design Guidelines can attest, landscaping is integral to the designs of homes in Eagles Nest to ensure developed areas create outdoor environments that reflect a “soft touch” on the land where Private Areas emerge seamlessly and unobtrusively from the serene, natural environment. Plant selection and placement is also very important in keeping harmony between the desert wildlife and residents. Here are few practical tips to avoid unwanted encounters with our desert wildlife residents. Birds, mammals and reptiles eat seeds, fruit, insects and nectar. There are many types of plants that provide these food types. Consider the placement of these types of plants in proximity to areas you may or may not want this type of company. Attracting harmless animals like rabbits and ground squirrels may in turn bring their predators like coyotes and bobcat to your doorstep.
Easily accessible water, or water too close to landscaped concealed areas could attract more frequent visitors than water where prey animals have to reveal themselves to reach it. Consider designing landscapes and hardscapes around water with this in mind. Also consider areas where birds will inevitably perch near a source of water where they will leave unsanitary and unsightly droppings on patios, walkways and furniture. Moving water such as fountains and waterfalls should remain off as often as practical. The sound of moving water telegraphs great distances.
Dense shrubs provide shelter for quail, lizards and other small animals. The natural shape of most desert shrubs allows prey to disappear from sight easily and inhibit larger predators from following. However, dense brush can also provide cover for snakes, so consider minimizing the use of them near higher traffic areas and where children may be attracted.
Wildlife in and around Eagles Nest is abundant, and animals are well adapted to the harsh climate. However, water and concentrations of easy food sources in landscaping will inevitably entice animals into private areas to come in contact with residents. We can avoid many unwanted encounters by thoughtful consideration of these enticements through the plant material we select and areas with which we place them around homes.
The Eagles Nest Design Guidelines were recently updated to make them more concise and understandable. I conduct the predesign conference on site with each owner to discuss the unique characteristics of the lot and the desires of the owner. Before starting a conceptual design, consider a home’s orientation for views, environmental intrusion such as sun and wind, impacts to and from neighboring properties and exterior appeal – not just from the front, but true four-sided architecture.
Here are some things to consider:
- Architectural style should echo your personality and set the proper tone for everything from interior geometry and finishes to landscaping. Choose an architect carefully, as not all designers are adept to all architectural styles. A common mistake is bidding an architect as one would bid a load of lumber. Good design is an art form, not a commodity; and a great design can be worth far more to the value of the home than the fee charged.
- Design from the inside out. Understanding “spacial relationships” right for you should dictate the envelope within which you put them. A common mistake is falling in love with an image of an exterior first and trying to fit the right interiors and orientation to match.
- Consider the natural environment in which you will build. How does topography, natural vegetation, colors and even the local culture relate to the structure. Homes that are sensitive to the environment are more timeless in style and retain their value and appeal longer than those that appear out of place. One wouldn’t build a Santé Fe adobe home in London or an English Tudor home in Scottsdale.
- Consider how the spaces in which you desire to live translate into how the architecture “moves.” In that I mean how the building masses fit together and relate to each other in logical proportion and how they step with the topography. Multifaceted architecture can produce many opportunities to embellish the exterior and respond more easily to the environment and sense of unique quality.
Carefully consider the importance of light and shade. Much of art is demonstrated in the ability of the artist to capture the affects of light. Solar orientation on interior and exterior spaces during the times of day when individual spaces are used can not only make the spaces more functional, it can create friendly atmospheres and moods tailored for how you would like to live. Artificial light can also enhance or detract from a space.
I look forward to working with future residents on these and other elements of design articulated in the Eagles Nest Design Guidelines.
Gates present in residential communities garner conflicting opinions. The naysayers are typically the ones outside who distain the perceived snobbery of those who live behind them; however, the reasons for them are quite compelling regardless of which side of the transponder your perspective is viewed.
For the homeowner inside a gated community, gates provide an aesthetic arrival experience often with a courteous and welcoming gate host. They provide a sense of security and quiet enjoyment without the intrusion of personal solicitations or nefarious visitors. Gated communities also have common areas that are typically better improved and maintained since these areas are privately maintained. Private maintenance reflects a higher pride of ownership and avoids the reliance on a municipality or county for maintaining parks, landscaped roads, road repairs and the like. Neighbors, not taxpayers, are financially vested in the quality of common areas.
Welcome Home! – The lovely entry gate at Eagles Nest in Fountain Hills
Nearby neighborhoods to gated communities also benefit. Gated communities contribute to the tax base of the larger community – often more than non-gated communities – without the need for public funds. The municipality collects taxes, but does not expend those dollars maintaining private infrastructure. The reduction in crime in these areas also enables municipalities to direct police resources more effectively elsewhere. Gating the entrance to a neighborhood often reduces the instance of gating individual driveways. This improves emergency response time and adds to the aesthetic appeal of streetscapes. Lastly, the home price premium within gated communities often alleviates the need for higher building densities which reduces vehicular traffic and enables development to be less intrusive into the land.
Eagles Nest in Fountain Hills is an excellent example of a well-executed gated community supported by its residents as well as the greater Fountain Hills community. Eagles Nest is one of the lowest-density residential developments in the area and it’s hillside location preserves much more of the natural landforms visible from the city.
Gated communities can and usually do prove valuable where a market exists for those seeking this amenity. Do you live in a gated community?
Newspapers seem to be notorious for making the bad sound worse and the good sound better, so what is the REAL story with recent reports of the Arizona real estate recovery? The S&P Case-Shiller Index recently reported housing price gains in all but one of the metropolitan areas in the index. Phoenix has gone from bad to one of the leading cities in the index seemingly overnight.
Based upon the market “tea leaves” we follow, this news is not overblown this time; in fact, we’re surprised it took this long for the press to realize what was happening. For the past 18 months or so, residential sales activity has been quite brisk in the region and new foreclosure activity has declined substantially. The latter has kept more homes from hitting the market and the result has been a rapidly tightening supply and price appreciation. The improving market has also improved economic prospects for many households and once-pending strategic defaults are returning to performing loans or legitimate sales.
The best indicator of the declining foreclosure trend continuing is in the marked decrease in the notices of trustee sales. These portend future property seizures by banks, so these numbers are good leading indicators for the near term.
The last bank-owned lot sale in the affluent Fountain Hills community of Eagles Nest closed during the first quarter, and normal buyer traffic has returned to the marketing center. New home construction plans are once again arriving for design review and several new custom homes are under construction. Eagles Nest developer lot sales activity during the second quarter have been the best in four years.
Nothing stimulates future success better than prior success. The momentum of the recovering market is real and gaining steam with each passing month. Wouldn’t you agree?