Archive for December, 2008

The Welcome Tucson Winter Monsoons…

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

   The tiny beads of water dance on the orange plastic wrap which encloses the morning paper.  Although it is nearly 9 am, the dark grey skies look like Connecticut (from where I migrated) on a day which bodes snow.  A gentle rain, actually what I would call a sprinkle, dampens the earth. 

   This is a day to stay home and do paperwork, catch up on phone calls, and not drive around town for whatever reasons.  These days are like  snow days back in Connecticut when the glistening snow and ice weighs down the tree branches and sparkles like a million diamonds.

    This lovely and welcome greyness is part of the Tucson winter monsoon season.  The surrounding mountain ranges are covered by low lying clouds and I suspect there is snow on top of the Catalinas.   When this storm clears out, we will have snow capped mountains for a short period of time contrasting against the Arizona sunshine.

    The leaves from the Arizona Ash, a deciduous tree in the back yard, will shed even more green turned yellow leaves and fall into the pool, rippling  with tiny raindrops.  The pomegranates, nearly bare, have an abundance of fruit filled with holes, thanks to birds seeking the sweet juices.  And the citrus trees, always green, are slurping up the rain as the branches of the oranges and grapefruits sway somewhat in the wind. 

   We need this slow, gentle rain.   The water has time to seep into the ground and is not violent or rapacious like the heavy rains which pelt the earth and run off without percolating and benefiting the vegetation.

     We Tucsonans love this weather.  It is infrequent and needed.  This is “dancing in the street” weather.  Out of towners, who are accustomed to rain are puzzled by our excitement and gratitude for these beads of moisture.  Certainly the winter monsoons are not like the summer monsoons which often present dazzling lightning shows with the rays of rain. 

     I hear the trickle of the raindrops flowing down the gutters…oh what a beautiful day…the white grey of the sky obscures even the houses in the distance and my mind is playing the refrain, “let it rain, let it rain, let it rain!”.


Weather and Monsoons


Thinking About a Tucson Second Home?

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

    Celebrations of the winter solstice marked the full rotation of the earth around the sun.    The shortest day of the year is behind us.  Daylight increases with every passing day.  Holiday cheer is abundant and in less than ten days, we will be welcoming 2009 with First Night celebrations.  

    Snowbirds, or to be politically correct, winter visitors  will soon arrive.  While much of the remainder of the country has snow, sleet, freezing weather, and bone chilling cold ahead of them, those people who make a pilgrimage to Tucson will be in for high 60’s and 70’s  weather and increasing daylight – especially since Arizona does not turn it’s clock back!

    For anyone thinking about purchasing a winter home, this is the time!  Although many people pay cash, it may be worthwhile to think about taking a mortgage, especially since rates are 4.625% for a person with good credit scores who can put 20% down.  The 1% loan origination fee charged on this $100,000 loan has a break even point of about four years.  Principal and interest at that rate on $100,000 would be $514.14.

    Wrapping the loan origination fee of 1% or $1,000 into the loan at a higher rate of 5% makes the payment $536.82.  The difference is $22.68 a month.  Dividing the $1,000 by $22.68 gives a break even point of 44.209 months, or nearly four years.

    Although it has been the dream of everyone to be mortgage free, the exercise of examining one’s own mortality may be worthwhile.  Looking at a 30 year mortgage, assuming I am 68 years old, what is the probability I will live to be 98?   When really do I think I will die?  Let’s see, my Mom died when she was x years old, and my Dad died when he was y years old…what does that say about my own gene pool?   Hmmmm….I will probably die about 86 years old.

    So if I have a 30 year mortgage, that means there will be an additional 12 years to pay off when I die.   History has told us that inflation is inevitable… and let’s just calculate a mere 3% inflationary factor each year…interesting…that $100,000 in 2009 will become $245,684.22 in 2039!  It may be more prudent for me to let my estate worry about that remaining 12 years…a consultation with a financial advisor or CPA, might be in order here.

    History also tells us that regardless of the political affiliation of the administration, whenever we have a budget deficit, the government pays it off by printing money…i.e. inflation.  So perhaps 3% is a low rate. If we were to experience 5% – a rate which has been consistent for Tucson between 1993 and 2004, the value then jumps to $446,774.49!

   And then we add the income tax deduction which is calculated on the marginal tax rate…and the fact we keep our $100,000 in tact for other safe but more liquid investments…

   Financing is a personal decision.  But with the price of properties in Tucson now, including Active Adult Communities, people thinking about a second home should consider the advantages of acting now.



Tucson Weather and Precipitation:


Nova Home Loans:

Sundt Mortgage:



Housing Statistics 1993-2007:

See blog

Weekend Wanderings…The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

Friday, December 19th, 2008

   Tucson lies within the Sonoran Desert which extends south to Mexico and westerly to southern California and the Baja Penisula.  Often called a “green desert”, people are surprised that the Sonoran  does not look like miles and miles of sand…the Gobi Desert or the Sahara.   A gem within Tucson is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

    The Museum is a delightful place to visit, but plan on at least a morning or afternoon…if you are a trooper, plan for most of the day.  And wear comfy shoes.  I backpack water bottles and quartered oranges and sometimes plan for a late lunch at the restaurant. 

    The Desert Museum is off of Kinney Road on the west side of town.  Crossing Gates Pass, stands of stately beautiful saguaro cactus salute you and when you cross the crest, the sky appears to be more brilliantly blue.  Old time movie goers  will recognize the scenery, the backdrop to many a John Wayne western movie.

    Wandering the paths of the desert museum is a different world.  Climbing through the caves with the replicas of bats is an adventure for young and old;  the huge room with all of the exquisite rock formations…precious and semi-precious gems found in the Sonoran desert, some irridescent and deep gorgeous colors, reminds me I’m in a mining area…famous for copper, silver, and gold.

    Craning necks, people cluster to see the various types of rattlesnakes which inhabit the area as well as a multitude of tiny and not so tiny lizards, and of course the infamous gila monster with which you don’t want to tangle!  Insects and critters occupy one entire building, including the scorpions which have attracted an undeservedly nasty reputation.

    Meandering down the paths are the larger animals, delights to children;  bears, cougars, mountain liions, and the prarie dogs whose antics one can watch and can’t help but smile.  The Sonoran Desert is a birders’ paradise, and hundreds wing their way in the aviaries.  Photographers have a field day focusing  close up shots …including the hummingbird aviary which has more than 17 species.  The javalina and the coyotes are a big draw, just like the roadrunner, local wanderers within Tucson city limits.

       You can walk from the desert floor with the spiny types of cactus, to the top of the Catalinas at an elevation of 8,000 feet plus, to what looks like the pines of Maine, in the exhibit of the flora of the Sonoran Desert.  Some animals migrate up and down the mountains rather than flying south.

     A don’t miss treat, the Arizona- Sonoran Desert Museum is an outstanding collection of all that this Desert presents.  Stopping at the Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau downtown to purchase a Tucson Passport for $15. will get you into the Desert Museum on a two for one basis as well as many other attractions. 

    Put the Desert Museum on your list of things to do and see and give yourself a treat!


Sonoran Desert Museum:


Tucson Convention and Visitor’s Bureau:

The Sonoran Desert:

The Old Is New…The New is Old…

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

 ” What’s old is new and what’s new is old.”  That adage stands today.   As we all know, no more NINJA loans, no income, no jobs, no assets.  And sometimes the old fashioned way is the best. 

      Putting 3.5% down on an FHA loan after January 1 is prudent.  And conventional loans with 5% or more down, is also prudent.  Where else could you purchase something costing $350,000 with no money down?  It makes no sense.

     But in 1999 Congress repealed Glass Steagall through the passage of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.  This permitted commercial banks and investment banks to compete. 

   Congress deserves to take it’s lumps.  The repeal of the Glass Steagall Act at the end of the Clinton administration combined with the loosening of terms and government encouragement to banks to make  unworthy loans through the Community Revnvestment Act, lead us to this debacle. 

    Money was loose and abundant.  And builders took advantage of this free for all, as did lenders, Realtors, investors in housing stocks, investors in property… anyone who thought they might make a buck. If you could fog a mirror, you could buy a house!

    But now, returning to saner times, people are lamenting the lack of easy money.  But in the 1990’s, people needed a down payment, and they needed closing costs to purchase a house.  In some areas of the country, there are 40 and 50 year mortgages…years ago, a 20 year mortgage was considered long. 

    If people have a vested interest in their home, chances are they will work hard to keep it and they will make their purchasing priorities accordingly.  But if I have no vested interest in my home, why should I deprive myself of something I want in order to make a mortgage payment? 

    That simplifies the problem, I know.  We have 80-20 loans out there with adjustable rates…there are rates resetting at much higher rates…and I know the forclosure rates are at their peaks.  There is plenty of blame everyplace…some of which should be laid at the doorstep of Congress. 

     Let’s hope this financial mess ushers in a period of stability where people begin to count their pennies again before making huge purchases.  And maybe some reflection for all those people who tried to make a fast buck…and some consideration of business ethics and the fact we are dealing with people’s lives and the lives of their families…and maybe…just maybe…some reflection about self responsiblity. 

    It’s a blame game alright, but ultimately, the person responsible is oneself.  


Don’t be a Coulda…Woulda…Shoulda….

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

      We all are familiar with the person who needs to buy “whatever” at a discounted price, but doesn’t act. When when the price goes up, he/she begins the “I coulda….I woulda…I shoulda…” refrain.   Things are miserable because he/she missed the “golden opportunity” to buy at rock bottom prices.

   But how many of us are intelligent enough or savy enough to get what we want at rock bottom prices? Too many factors impact pricing and especially the price of real estate.  You may follow interest rates, but do you follow the bond market, and the stock market?  And what impact does the bond market and the stock market have on the price of real estate?

     In my experience, I have had potential investors tell me they wanted to buy “a good property”…and I ask, “what is a good property?”…The standard answer is …”I need a property with a positive cash flow”…and then I ask, “is that on paper or is it actual?”  

      There is a big difference here.   The potential buyer wants the money in hand, month after month.  The greater gain may be on paper through capital appreciation by inflation, plus the tax advantages.

    I ask the buyer if he/she has an investment philosophy….and I have rarely received a satisfactory answer. I begin to explain philosophies of investmen;  A properties, B properties, C properties; university properties, active adult communties, snowbird rental properties; Section 8 properties…areas of town, concentrating properties all in one area, or throughout town …and the big question, who will manage the properties…?

     What is the point of all of this?  For the investor willing to dig a little deeper, willing to do some elbow grease, willing to have a bit of patience on short sales, or purchase bank owned properties, this is the Tucson time now which will be “woulda, coulda, shoulda” in another few years.

    With a well thought out investment philosophy utilizing 1031 Tax Deferred Exchanges,  doing the homework necessary, and understanding the potential of leveraging, combined with today’s lower interest rates and low prices,  the time is now.  The key to the puzzle is an excellent Realtor and a desire to suceed.

    Couldas, Wouldas, Shouldas, are a dime a dozen and in three years a lot of people will be crooning that tune.


Carpe Diem! The Time Is Now!

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

     In all the media doom and gloom, (which of course sells papers and viewership for news programs) one can look closely and see there is positive impact out there – interest rates as low as 4.675% – for someone willing to pay a one per cent loan origination fee.

    “Rates have not been that low in at least six years” said Lance Dickson, Senior Vice-President of Nova Home Loans in Tucson.  People not desiring to pay a loan origination fee for a 30 year fixed mortgage can obtain a mortgage for about 5%. 

     Jerry Sundt of President of Sundt Mortgage in Tucson is offering the same low rates for people with good credit scores.  Twenty per cent down is required for an 80-20 Loan to Value.  For every $100,000 in purchase price, the borrower needs to put down $20,000 for a 20% equity stake. 

     This  is an ideal time to refinance a higher rate mortgage if you have at least 20% equity in your home.  Many people are now in 6 1/2 % or 6.75%  mortgages.  We’re looking at good credit scores of about 740.  But rates are much lower for people with lower credit scores too!

     To understand how interest impacts payment, $100,000

               at 6.75% for 30 years, the cost is $648.60; 

              at 6 .25%, for 30 years, the cost is $632.07;

              at 5%, the cost is $536.82; and

              at 4.675% the cost is:  $517.14. 

    If you are thinking about selling your home within a year or two, refinancing may not pay.  You, your lender, and/or your Realtor, should do a break even analysis to determine if a lower rate will save you money. Calculate the closing costs including the loan origination fee to determine whether this works for you. 

    The media does not emphasize that people who have been in their homes prior to 2004 and have not refinanced to the hilt, should have some solid equity in their homes. 

   A previous blog dated July 28, 2008 and titled “Bring on the Numbers” traces the increase in home pricing in Tucson from 1993 through 2007.  With a 45% increase in three years between 2005 to 2007, the lamented decrease in home value of about 25% still leaves the homeowner who bought in  2004 or before, with at least a 20% increase in equity.  The only article I’ve seen about this phenomena was written by Kenneth Harney who is “right on” in his analysis.

    With more than 600 homes in Tucson on the market for $120,000 or less, now is the time to “sieze the day!”    A gander at the blog yesterday which shows all the active listings and the breakdown by both zip code and price range combined with the lowest interest rates in years will get savy people moving. 

    It is a well known fact that by the time the media says we are pulling out of the doledrums, prices have already moved up — and when that happens, interest rates will move up too!  The media uses lagging indicators!

    So to the savy out there, Carpe Diem!




Ken Harney Articles:

Lance Dickson -Senior Vice President – Nova Home Loans:

Jerry Sundt – President – Sundt Mortgage

Tucson Realtor:  Terry Bishop



November Statistics…A Return to 2004 Levels???

Monday, December 15th, 2008

     Although the average price of a Tucson home in November this year decreased more than $10,500 from October of this year, the average sales price of a Tucson home was closer to the September price of $217,397 or less than $1,500.  The median sales prices dipped $2,000 to $178,000 from $180,000 in October.  

    These numbers mirror November 2004,  the beginning of the real estate boom.  The average sales price in November 2004 was $214,183 and the median sales price in November 2004 was $177,000.  

      Reflecting the beginning of the holiday season when home sellers and home buyers are less active, sales in October totaled $186,356,109 and in November, $137,104,343.  This is a decrease of more than $49,000,000.

    Many buyers remained on the sidelines waiting for the outcome of the November Presidential election.   In any Presidential election year, home sales tend to decline, a factor pegged to “uncertainity” about a new administration and fiscal policies.   Fear about the economy was certainly parlayed into an election year mantra and such talk does not bode well for home sales.

    Active listings on the Tucson Multiple Listing Service increased by a mere 8 listings from 7,988 to 7,996.  This shows that inventory is stabalizing.  A total of 635 units were sold in November, a decrease of 185 homes.  New listings to the market decreased by 417 listings, from 2032 in October to 1615 in November.  If this number holds throughout the next six months, inventory levels will abate to pre run up levels. Pending contract, those contracts waiting for close of escrow, also decreased from 755 to 677 contracts.

   The majority of homes on the market now fall between the $200,000 and $249,9000 price range (1,043).  521 listings are priced between $120,000 and $139,999; 592 between $140,000 and $159,999;  636 homes between $160,000 and $179,999; and 590 homes priced between $180,000 and $199,999.  Approximately 600 homes in the Tucson Multiple Listing Service are priced below $120,000.

   Between $250,000 and $299,999 there 758 homes on the market;  985 between $300,000 and $399,999; 503 homes between $400,000 and $499,999; 669 between $500,000 and $749,999; 294 homes between $750,000 and $999,999;  and 358 homes on the market priced at $1,000,000 or above.


Zip Code # Active Listings # Sold Listing % of Actives Sold  
85601 12 0 0.00%  
85614 379 19 5.01%  
85619 14 0 0.00%  
85629 227 35 15.42%  
85641 381 33 8.66%  
85653 214 22 10.28%  
85656 202 8 3.96%  
85701 39 3 7.69%  
85704 229 18 7.86%  
85705 198 13 6.57%  
85706/85756 421 43 10.21%  
85710 305 37 12.13%  
85711 205 19 9.27%  
85712 186 15 8.06%  
85713 335 24 7.16%  
85714 61 4 6.56%  
85715 183 41 22.40%  
85716 195 10 5.13%  
85718 442 14 3.17%  
85719 217 8 3.69%  
85730 195 22 11.28%  
85735 97 11 11.34%  
85737 280 19 6.79%  
85739 266 12 4.51%  
85741 154 27 17.53%  
85742 268 21 7.84%  
85743 365 23 6.30%  
85745 280 20 7.14%  
85746 266 34 12.78%  
85747 208 19 9.13%  
85748 126 14 11.11%  
85749 224 13 5.80%  
85750 342 28 8.19%  
85755 300 25 8.33%  
85757 119 10 8.40%  


Weekend Wanderings…Fabulous Time to Hike!

Friday, December 12th, 2008

     At one point in time, Tucson used to be an ocean and if one digs around enough in the dirt, fossils of marine life can be found.  All one has to do to visualize this great body of water, is hike one of the four mountain ranges and then look down…to this flat valley of sorts, and the body of water suddenly comes to life in one’s imagination.

    Tucson is surrounded by four mountain ranges, all of which provide spectacular hiking experiences!  And the time is now to hike!  The 80 degree days are in hibernation as are the snakes which appear when the thermometer hits the octo numbers.

    To the west is Saguaro National Monument West, home to the Tucson Mountains.  These mountains are not as high as the Catalinas or Rincons, and are more pointed, therefore younger.  But the trails here are numerous and include Wasson Peak, the highest peak in the Tucson Mountains.   We hiked that when the wildflowers were in bloom. 

    We hiked the Sweetwater Trail a year ago and got off the beaten path to find our own enchantments.  Admidst an abundance of saguaros, the rock formations provided a great area to spread out and let the sun kiss our bodies.  We could look out and all of Tucson lay before us.  It was fun to spot the familiar U of A red brick buildings, and the tall buildings of downtown from this perch.   Dressing for hiking requires layering since as the morning wears on, the temperature goes up and off comes one layer.

     The David Yetman Trail is a fun hike and provides a real surprise with the stone house in the middle of nowhere.  It winds up and down and is so beautifully quiet.  One would never know the city is within a few miles.  The blue skies provide a placid background for the birds which wing overhead.  This hike, to me, is more leisurely.

    I haven’t hiked much of the Santa Catalinas except for Sabino Canyon trails which seemed to have a lot of switchbacks.  Of course, I’ve wandered on trails up to Mount Lemmon, but actual hiking, no.  But the Catalinas have lots of good trails and I’ve provided a resource below.  There are mountain lions in the Catalinas as well as bear, so be prepared!

      To the east are the Rincon Mountains, a part of which belong to the Coronado National Forest and the Saguaro National Monument East.  I’ve been to the Loma Alta trailhead and intended to hike that, but never have.  I think I’m just a west side girl!  But the Rincons offer great hiking too! 

   My vast experience with the Santa Ritas is hiking Madera Canyon and after becoming leg weary, nearly slipped into a ravine.  But Mount Wrightstown is there and well deserving of mention since many hikers make that climb.

    For good information about all the wonderful hiking opportunities in the Tucson Area, see Betty Leavengood’s book,  “Tucson Hiking Guide” published by Pruett Publishing Company.   



West Side Map:

Wasson Peak:  

Sweetwater Trail:

David Yetman Trail:

Santa Catalina Mountains:

Rincon Mountains and Saguaro National Monument West:

Santa Rita Mountains:

Madera Canyon:

Tucson Medical Scene…Southern Arizona VA Health Care System

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

   Yes, Tucson has a VA Hospital.  It is called the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System.

   This is the answer to the question posed by many people thinking about relocating to Tucson.  With 283 beds, the VA Hospital is a teaching hospital which provides both primary care and specialty care in surgery, medicine, neurology, and mental health.

    The Southern Arizona VA facility began as many Tucson hospital did, as a hospital to treat respiratory disorders and tuberculosis.  The facility, located on South 6th Avenue, opened in 1928 after moving from Pastime Park.

     One of 21 facilities in the country, the Tucson hospital provides polytrauma treatment (see resources) accomodating veterans with amputations, brain trauma, burns, and visual impairment. The center has a blind rehabilitation center.

    A Women Veterans Health Care Program for female veterans provides all types of women’s medical services.  The program is staffed by an all female medical team.

     Community based outpatient clinics are located in Northwest Tucson and Southeast Tucson, as well as Green Valley.  They are also located in other areas of the state:  Casa Grande, Safford, Sierra Vista, and Yuma.

    Information about eligibility requirements for VA medical benefits are available on line at the primary Southern Arizona VA Health Care System website.  This site also provides information on prescription renewals.  


Website of Southern Arizona VA


Map of Southern Arizona VA Facility

Outpatient Clinics and Locations:


Tucson Medical Scene…University Physicians Healthcare at Kino

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

    University Physicians Healthcare at Kino is a 167 bed hospital specializing in general surgery, urology, orthopeadics, and emergency care.  Located at 2800 East Ajo Way, UPH Kino is a non profit hospital serving southern Arizona.

    Totally renovated from the old Kino Hospital, , UPH Kino operates serveral outpatient clinics throughout Tucson.  It is a full service and outpatient treatment facility with more than 600 physicians anticipated in the near future.  The facility draws from the pool of medical personnel from the University of Arizona.

     Research, teaching, and clinical facilities supplement those at the University of Arizona Schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacology.  UPH Kino is able to draw upon these pools of talent and offer state of the art treatment to patients.  It is also a Base Hospital for EMS and Fire Departments as well as the National Guard units.

    Integrative Medicine which combines both eastern and western medicine is supported at UPH Kino. The hospital has physicians who provide services for patients diagnosed by another physician.  Alternative medical options are offered including yoga, massage, Chinese medicine, and nutrition.  A calendar of events of conferences and seminars is available online (see resources).  Additionally, the hospital serves as a research facility for integrative medicine.

    According to the website, the mission of UPH Kino is:

    To support the educational and research missions of the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center.  

    To achieve excellence in quality and cost effectiveness in providing care for each patient.

  • To treat each patient with dignity, respect, courtesy and honor the confidentiality of patient information.
  • To support innovative health related research.
  • To foster an environment in which physicians and staff are valued, recognized and rewarded for their contributions.
  • To provide services to the Southern Arizona communities and the State through educational, clinical and outreach activities.
  • To encourage teamwork, communication, cooperation and mutual respect among all health care providers, staff, administration and students at the Hospital and within the Arizona Health Sciences Center.
  •  Resources:

    UPH KIno Website:

    Outpatient clinics:

    Integrative Medicine Calendar:

    Employment Opportunities: