Archive for August, 2008

Weekend Wanderings…The End of Summer, Lazy Labor Day Weekend…

Friday, August 29th, 2008

   Labor Day is upon us and marks the end of summer which drifts into the air like the smoke from the backyard barbeque.   Yellow school buses make their rounds, University of Arizona students have lugged their belongings into their apartments and dorms, and Pima College students drive familiar routes to their classes.  Youth is back in the city.  Fourth Avenue is once again abuzz with students seeking entertainment and camaradie at the 4th Avenue venues. 

   Mike Stoop’s University of Arizona football team faces Idaho Saturday at Bear Down Stadium.   Deafening cheers will arise from the thousands of seats as U of A students in Zona Zoo cheer for their team and those “mature” citizens who hold season tickets, cheer for the Wildcats in a more demur manner.  Tucson is anxious for a winning football season!    Tickets are still available.   Game time is 7 p.m.

   The Tucson Jazz Society, often referred to as one of the best Jazz societies in the United States, is ready to jazz it up with the Latin rhythms of Sexteto Rodriguez Saturday evening at 7 pm at the J.W. Marriott Starr Pass Resort.  Hailing from Cuba, Rodriguez weaves Latin American rhythm with Jewish melodies and is a Grammy Award winner.

    Jazz continues Sunday evening with the Joyce Cooling Group at Lowe’s Ventana Canyon.  Opening for her group will be Matt Marshak who is relatively new to the jazz scene but has earned an excellent reputation as a jazz guitarist.   Tickets for the 7 pm performance can be purchased on line from the Jazz Society (link below).

    Tickets for the Fall Jazz Series to be held at St. Philip’s Plaza on Sunday evenings are also available on line.  Detailed information about all concerts is available at the Jazz Society site.

    Music fills the air at the Hotel Congress Festival, aka the Ho Co Festival at the famous, historic Hotel Congress, 311 East Congress Street.  More than 50 groups are expected to play during this three day event.  Hotel Congress is in the heart of downtown Tucson, and is the site where John Dillinger and gang hid from federal authorities prior to capture here in Tucson.  This three day festival ends Labor Day.

    For those wanting less music and more nature, wander and dig the prehistoric gardens of the Tucson Botanical Garden on Alvernon just south of Grant Road.   

   Saturday night is the last night of this year’s Summer Saturday programs at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum.   Observing the creatures of the Sonoran Desert and their nocturnal habits illustrates the desert never sleeps. 

     For more information about things to do and see in Tucson, check

     Whatever you do, enjoy!  

    Then, share your thoughts in the comment section of this blog.

Sharing the Stage…The Housing Bill…A Response…

Friday, August 29th, 2008

   I was pleased to open my e mail this morning and find a post from a gentleman who refered me to an extensive treatise on the housing bill.   There is no way that I can provide a synopsis of what the article contained, so I will reproduce the post from the gentleman along with the link to the articles.

   The point was made that the author didn’t believe that Congress people read the bill, and when I waded through the nearly 600 pages, that was my sentiment exactly.  

    His original post said:   “Don’t know your opinion of Catherin Austin Fitts, but this is one hell of a read.  She’s one fine detective.”

    The link is as follows:


     Much of this bill was written long ago, as far back as 2002, and like much legislation, just waiting for the appropriate time to tuck this legislation into something which seemingly is worthwhile.

     Additional comments are more than welcome!

Finding a Home in Tucson, Arizona From Your Desktop…

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

   Now that you have determined the area in which you think you would like to live, the next step is to determine whether you want to live in a community governed by a Homeowner’s Association.  Most newer homes are located in subdivisions which require a Homeowner’s Association and Association fees.  Determine what you are going to get for the fees you are going to pay.  Fees go up, hardly ever do they go down! 

    If you are 55+, you have the option of moving to an Active Adult Community.  Ask yourself some hard questions:  How do you envision your retirement years?  Are you going to be playing golf?   Is a golf course community necessary?  And if you play golf, do you want to play the same course, or are you the type of golfer who likes to play different courses?  If the later is the case, you may be better off living in an area which has good access to several golf courses, but is not on a golf course.   Are the classes you think you are going to take similiar to those given by Pima College, the University of Arizona, or the Parks and Recreation Department. 

    Asking yourself these “tough” questions for you and your family, prior to purchasing a house, can save you both time and money in the long run.  Now how many bedrooms?   Bathrooms?  Great Room or formal living room and formal dining room?  Think about your lifestyle and what suits your lifestyle best.

   Now that you have determined the area, bedrooms, bathrooms, type of living space, and now number of garages, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.   Go to my website, and SEARCH at:   Now you can insert your parameters and see what comes up.  This database  is constantly updated in real time. You will be looking for ACTIVE listings.  Go to the upper right hand corner and click SUBMIT.

     The properties will come up in a thumbnail sketch.  You will be able to pull up detailed information, a virtual tour if there is one, as well as photographs.  You may also be able to access a map which shows the location of the property.

     If you have problems trying to located properties,  or otherwise need help, contact me at  and I will be delighted to help you.

    Meanwhile enjoy this feature brought to you by the Tucson Association of Realtors and by myself.

Check out the Tucson, Arizona Home Market From Your Desktop

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

     For all of you who are thinking about purchasing a home or second home in Tucson, Arizona , read on!

     Tucson is a very large geographic area and when people talk about Tucson they often also think about the Green Valley, Sahuarita areas which are to the south of Tucson off of I-19; Marana, to the north, off of I-10,  and Oro Valley which is also to the north off of Oracle Road. 

    Marana and Oro Valley are relatively new communities with many homes built in the 1980’s through the present.  Green Valley is best known as a retirement community with an abundance of nice older townhomes.    The newest community is Sahuarita which lies between Tucson and Green Valley and encompasses a master planned community with thousands of newer homes.  Building is still going on there.

    Many people do not realize how large the Tucson area is – extending almost 40 miles by 40 miles.  To get an idea, look at the map of Tucson which is divided into various segments for real estate purposes.

     Where you live will be determined by your lifestyle including your place of work and types of recreation you enjoy.   For instance, a person working at Raytheon should probably not live in the Northwest section of town since they will be working in the Southeast area.  A person who wants to travel to the University of Arizona in the central part of town, perhaps should not live in the extreme northwest (XNW).  If you are an avid hiker, biker, the central area of town may not be a good choice.

    Once you consider your lifestyle, then consider the ammenties you want in a home.  Most of the newer homes in tract developments have five to ten feet setbacks on each side and are on smaller lots ranging from 4,000 to 7500 square feet.  Newer custom and semi custom homes are on larger tracts of land, and in the areas of the northwest and west as well as the east, some are in SR zoning areas which require 3.3 acre building lots.

     The older homes generally are on larger lots where the front footage to the street may be as much as 80 feet.  On some of the newer homes, the front footage is 30 feet so the houses are long and linear.  With an older home, you may have some renovation to do, but usually you will have a larger yard. 



Town of Marana

Town of Oro Valley

Town of Sahaurrita

Town of Green Valley

City of Tucson

Tomorrow:   Using the Search at

Foreign Nationals…Buying Property in Tucson, Arizona

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

    The exchange rate of the U.S. dollar to foreign currencies, combined with the decrease in prices here in Tucson, Arizona makes real estate a very attractive bargain for people outside of the United States. 

    Many Canadians are taking advantage of the “bargain hunting” as well as Germans.   The weak dollar compared to other currencies offers nearly a 40% reduction in price and that combined with an approximate 10 to 20% decrease in price makes real estate prices for Foreign Nationals 50% to 60% less than in 2005-2006.

    With the mortgage debacle also comes some new rules.  Formerly, Foreign Nationals could put 30% down on a property with no questions asked and get a loan for the remaining 70% of the purchase price.  Today however, the rules have changed.

     Countrywide will do  conventional financing for a Foreign National with a K1 or K3 Visa if that person has a Social Security number.  If there is no Social Security number, Wachovia and Washington Federal require that the buyer put 40% of the purchase price down and document assets and verify employment.  There is not verification of income.  

     Verification of assets is generally providing two months of bank statements to the lender.  Potential buyers who have a Green Card or a work Visa would have a social security number and can apply for an FHA or Conventional Loan.   Proof that the buyer has applied for US citizenship is also required.

     The process is essentially the same for a US citizen obtaining a loan for a home as well as a Foreign National.  Foreign Nationals paying cash must show the audit trail of the cash, just like a US citizen.  This requirement falls within the money laundering legislation.  The cash would be in the form of a certified check or a cashier’s check.   Actual cash is unacceptable.

    When a Foreign National sells a home in the United States the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA) applies.  A total of 10% of the Gross Sales price is withheld by the Escrow Office for potential taxes owed to the Internal Revenue Service if the sales price of the home exceeds $300,000.   It is important to note that the responsibility falls to the Buyer to ascertain that the 10% has been withheld.

    Many Foreign Nationals work with tax accountants or tax attorneys who may request information from the Internal Revenue Service regarding the maximum amount of tax liability which may be owed by the seller.   This may be less than the 10% and documentation would be needed from the Internal Revenue Service.

     Persons from outside of the United States do not have to use the lenders mentioned in this article.   They can use a mortgage broker or banker who can find the best product for their situation.

Resources:  Internal Revenue Service:,,id=105000,00.html

Weekend Wanderings…Happy Birthday Tucson!

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

     Tucson continues to celebrate it’s 233rd birthday with festivities throughout town.   The official birthday of the 48th state is August 20, and throughout the month, various celebrations including a huge birthday cake for the public are taking place.

    Continuously inhabited since 900 BC, Tucson is a wealth of colorful history and has had the mark of various indiigenous peoples which is reflected in its unique culture.  The flags of five countries have flown over the once territorial capital of Arizona including the Spanish, the Mexican, the Confederate, the United States and the Arizona Flags.  

     Look at the truly historical buildings built before the railroad – which incidentially was build in part by the “slave labor” of the Chinese imported expressedly for that purpose.  The historical long houses, built of adobe mud, were long and low and thick, architectually designed to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and also designed so that as the family increased in size, more rooms could be added conveniently.    Good examples are on Meyer and Convent Streets.   People are now returning to building adobe homes because of the energy efficiencies.

      Listen to the music of Tucson and the strong Mexican beat, or the haunting flute played by  R. Carlos Nakii, a Native American.   View the Southwestern Art which encompasses the traditional cowboy -western tradition as well as the mural art of people such as David Tineo, or the work of Ted DeGrazia.

      Look at the colors which abound in Tucson – a reflection of the vibrancy of the city.  The intricate mosaic dome in blues and turquoise and yellows of the Old Courthouse Building, itself a beautiful display of territorial architecture.  

     The history of Tucson is a tapestry of cross culturaliam.  Once a part of Sonora, Mexico, Tucson only became a part of the Gadsden purchase because it was the flattest route to the California gold mines.  And prior to the Mexican and Spanish occupation of Tucson, it was home to the Apaches, the the Yaquis, the Tohono O’odham, the Yumas, and the Pimas.   It was a thriving agricultural community with trade routes to what is now Northern Arizona as well as south into Mexico.

   Although we are officially celebrating 233 years, Tucson’s history is nearly 3,000 years old.  Happy Birthday Tucson!


Tucson History     

DeGrazia Gallery      

Chicano Murals      

Historical Walking Tours:

Tucson Birthday:   

<a href=”” rel=”me”>Technorati Profile</a>

A Gem for All … Pima Community College

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

    Tucson is home to the University of Arizona campus and also home to the twenty five educational centers for Pima Community College.  Registration is currently taking place both on the campuses and on line at  .  The course catalogue can be accessed also from this website.

     The 16 week traditional fall semester begins August 27 and ends December 21.  Pima also has two 8 week sessions which run from August 27 through October 22, and then October 23 through December 21. 

   Additionally there are classes which can be taken on line, weekend accelerated classes which meet Fridays, Saturdays and/or Sundays and cover the entire course content in a few successive weekends, and then there are regular weekend classes which span the course of the regular semester.   Self paced independent classes are also available.

    Pima truly is a community college.  I have taken several classes there and I am a “senior citizen”.    Classes can be taken for credit or audited.  Classes are generally small and it is energizing to be among many college aged students.  

    I am an afficiando of the FSS 185 class, technically  called “Beginning Weight Training and Cardiovascular Fitness”.  The class is classified for “the beginner”.   I have been a beginner about six times.   The gym on the West Campus is full of shiny equipment, weights, treadmills and elipticals and the staff is extremely knowledgable and always willing to help.   In truth, their credential are very impressive!

   The West Campus has a Senior Fitness and Conditioning class which meets twice a week from 7 am to 7:50 am for “mature individuals”.  But or anyone wanting yoga classes, spinning classes, dance classes, aikido, tae kwon do, or t’ai-chi chuan classes, Pima has it!   You can learn to play tennis or golf, or perform water aerobics.  There are Plus-Sized exercise classes, aerobics, stretching and toning classes and classes in strategies for weight management.   Why belong to a gym when you can go to Pima?

   I am most familiar with the West Campus, but many of these classes are given at other campuses.   Want to learn Spanish or another language?  Pima offers a multitude of courses.  The course catalogue is more than 150 pages and offers everything from Accounting to Non Fiction Writing. 

    Are you thinking about changing careers and want to learn a new skill?  There are classes in Aviation Technology, health services, Veterinary Technology, as well as Radiologic Technology and Nursing to name a few. 

   I know people who have had very successful careers but had a yen to learn a new subject.   They begin their new quest with classes at Pima.  Retired people keep their minds vibrant;  I had a friend who always wanted to be an artist who took classes at Pima and subsequently earned a degree at the age of 70 at the U of A. 

     Pima is perfect for the student who wants a two year degree, a student who will transfer to a four year institution or the person like myself who wants to take classes for personal enjoyment and leisure.  Check it out!  Pima College offers so much for so very little.

Real Estate Ethics

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

     Every two years, Arizona Realtors must take the Ethics class which covers the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the National Association of Realtors.  You can find the Code on my website  at with links in both Spanish and English.

    The Code of Ethics has three main segments:  Duties to Clients and Customers;  Duties to the Public; and Duties to other agents.  It is the basis by which Realtors must conduct business and the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice are the guidelines used during mediation and arbitration of a dispute.

    Answers to most problems which arise in a real estate transaction can be found in the Code and in the Standards of Practice.  It was first adopted in 1913 and has been subsequently amended almost annually since 1986.

    The Code covers everything from disputes about compensation to the difference between a client and a customer…and who is owed fiduciary responsiblity.  

   For example, in today’s market, when sellers are still trying to get top dollar for their property, “Realtors, in attempting to secure a listing, shall not deliberately mislead the owner as to market value.”  Despite what the seller may want to hear, the Realtor has an obligation to tell the seller in a forthright manner whether a property may be priced too high.  (Article 1, Standard of Practice 1-3)

    There are 17 articles in the Code and within each Article are standards of practice.   The Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice provide the basis for much real estate law.  Although only eight pages, this document is chocked full of answers to questions which arise on a daily basis with real estate transactions.

Short Sales…Do Lenders Really Want to Sell?

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

   I showed property this weekend and amongst the properties I showed to my client were a couple of short sales.  I also had occassion to check a property which I previously mentioned in an earlier blog. 

    I had a client who made a full price offer of $275,000 for the property.  We had had a cursory inspection prior to making the offer and had the requisite information, loan approvals, “as is” documentation, the whole shebang.  We knew before writing the offer that this would be a “go” deal.

    We submitted the offer to the Realtor and were told it would be between 30 and 60 days before we knew whether or not the offer would be accepted and maybe as much as 90 days before the property could close escrow.  My client needed to find a house and we withdrew the offer.  We found another house and closed escrow within three weeks.

     The “short sale” house which we offered $275,000 for closed at $223,000.  That is a $52,000 difference.

     I think $52,000 is a lot of money.

    I was reminded of a short sale I tried to do with a seller who was facing foreclosure.  I had three cash offers on the property.  The property had polybutelyne piping which had burst and therefore there was black mold as well as an assortment of other problems with the property including a green swamp for a pool.

    I had all the appropriate “as is” addenda, proof that the buyers could purchase, a thorough inspection on the property which detailed the problems, as well as photos which I gave to the lender.  This was a property, which to me, seemed to be a liability for the lender and a property I thought the lender would want to get rid of fast.  Wrong again!

     The lender had to send the offer to “committee” and it would be another 30 to 60 days before a response would be generated.  In the meantime, the owner of the property declared bankruptcy, and the lender was faced with just pennies on the dollar.

    In checking the property this weekend, I spoke with a very well regarded Tucson Realtor about a short sale property which now has a contract on it.  She expressed my sentiments exactly, “I don’t have time to do short sales….this has been five months in the making…I can’t tell you how many offers I’ve had on this property, all higher than what the lender finally took.”  

    She then went on to detail some of the problems.  Lenders lose paperwork, it is sent again and lost again, one person says one thing, another something else.  There is no rhyme nor reason to how the lenders do things.  It often takes ten phone calls to get someone on the phone, nevermind an answer to a simple question.

  Lenders are in the business of making money.   That is a noble goal.   I too am in the business of making money.  But one would think lenders could streamline the entire short sale process.  I have long advocated that lenders put all of the paperwork in order prior to putting a home on the market.  Have the appraisal done beforehand and if another appraisal is needed later, so be it.  It’s cheaper than $52,000! 

    When the property goes on the market, allow the Realtor to list the price at whatever price, but the lender would have a base price under which, then “committees”, could be involved.   But if the base price comes in at $238,700, the property is on the market for $249,000, and an offer comes in at $240,000- then the lender can act immediately to accept the contract and close in a timely manner.  A 48 hour turn around from the time the offer is submitted to acceptance would be possible rather than 30-60 days!

     Good Realtors are getting disgusted. Lenders are loosing money right and left.  Maybe $52,000 is not a lot of money in a “billions of dollars industry”, but multiply that number by the numbers of properties where lenders take far less because of their ineptitude and/or bureaucracy and I’ll bet the final number comes to millions!

Great July Numbers!

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

     The Tucson Association of Realtors has released the July numbers and the market appears to be stablizing.  The average number of pending contracts is up by nine from 951 in June to 960 in July.  Active listings have decreased by 264 listings from 8,140 in June to 7,876 in July.

    New listings have decreased by 416 to 1,679 in July from 2,095 in June.   A total of 945 home sales were processed through Multiple Listing in July down 89 units from June.  The total sales volume decreased from $266,202,280 in June to $240,837,426 in July.   Although the average sales price has decreased to $254,854 in July from the June price of $257,449, the Median sales price is about the same at $199,900 in July verses $200,000 in June. 

    The breakdown of homes for sale by zip code indicates 422 homes for sale in the 85706 area which is around Davis Monthan Air Force Base.  A total of 417 homes are on the market in the Catalina Foothills 85718 zip code.  Next to that is the 85641 zip code which is south of San Xavier Mission and west of I-19 with a total of 358 homes for sale.  Then the 85641 Vail area has the fourth greatest number of homes for sale at 358.  A total of 336 homes are on the market in the 85743 area which is the Continental Ranch area. 

   Areas which have few properties for sale is the central downtown area, 85701 with only 10 active listings, and then the 85619 area which is Mount Lemmon -Summerhaven area.

   It follows that the majority of areas where the most properties are for sale are those areas where Builders put up homes in master planned community areas.

    To further understand the numbers, this blog post could be read in conjunction with: July 28, 2008 – Bring on the Numbers and July 29, 2008 A note of Apology…and More Numbers.


For a full report see:

For information from Charlie Kentnor on the Sonita numbers, check: