“Time to move on. Time to get going. What lies ahead I have no way of knowing.”
RIP Tom Petty
It’s been an odd fall. Lot-o-change (I don’t like change) beginning with the last of my 3 of my little turkeys starting kindergarten full time. It’s hard to believe they are growing up so fast!?! With that, life got a little quieter, at least some of the time. Still, it can be hard to move on.
Speaking of moving on… to compound that feeling, one of the big properties I manage sold this summer and the new owners are not need of my services. Had that property for almost 4 years. Still mange a couple others in that community, so I do a drive-by about once a week (not weird at all).
To commiserate I found myself drowning my sorrows at a place called “Burritoholics” in Cave Creek. Think they may have the best burritos in all of Phoenix. As my friend Corey in the 331 says, “They’re so good!” If you happen up that way, stop in and have one… even if you don’t have sorrows to drown .
Fast forward to last week. We got the band back together. My kids were on fall break and we took a couple day trip to Tucson. A chance to bond and reconnect. After some hiking and swimming at our hotel, The Westward Look Resort (very underrated old place), we went to the Pima Air and Space Museum. It was pretty cool; very well run, loto planes, not too expensive, overall pretty good action.
The Westward is in that northern corridor of Tuscon that butts up the Catalina Mountains as is the little more fancy Lowes Ventana. Been that way a few times now. It’s not the “painted desert,” though it is pretty. But it’s Tucson, a U-turn town if there ever was one. Make me nuts eh?
Finally we returned in time for the weekend and to cap things off we had some friends and friends of friends over for grilling, fish-fry, chicken tacos and tortilla soup. Sort of a celebration for no reason. The kids played and laughed and the parents relaxed and had fun. It was a great end to the week. Think I’ll be able to lay off the burritos for awhile.
Lastly want to give a shout out to my wonderful Mother who turned 75 this month. She’s the toughest, most resilient person I know. I also give her credit for encouraging my craziness. Wouldn’t be who I am with out her. Happy Birthday Mom! I love you.
Have a different type of post today. One of the properties I manage sold last month. In it sat an awesome little 2007 Mini Cooper. The owner called her “Miss Mini” and because I would drive the car, at their request, while they were not here, my kids picked up on the name. So Miss Mini it is.
My now former clients were from Manhattan and when the house closed they offered to sell me Miss Mini because they no longer had any use for a car. Did think about keeping it because the mileage is so low, but it does not seat three growing children, nor does it haul tools, supplies or whatever other stuff I always seem to be loaded up with. Though it is fun to drive.
Will say, there was always a thought in my head that I may have a chance to buy Miss Mini one day. Because of this, I made sure she was serviced and maintained. Even had the fluids changed out at one point because they were old. That, along with the low miles makes this a really good used car.
Let me know if you are interested in buying. Have it listed on CarGurus.com
Could be I’m just getting old, but my general barometer for a good movie these days is if I stay awake. “The Founder,” which came out this past spring certainly kept me awake. My favorite “Mr Mom,” Michael Keaton, stars as McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc. In a nut shell, the film chronicles McDonald’s rise from small burger joint in California to the franchise juggernaut it is today. The story is told primarily from the perspective of Kroc who stumbles upon the McDonald brothers and their San Bernardino restaurant in 1955. He witnesses their attention to detail and the incredible “Speedy System” the brothers have created for their kitchen. Kroc then sells them on the idea of franchising and the rest as they say, is history.
I remember reading a review of the film when it was released. It gave me the impression that Kroc was some sort of monster who stole the McDonald’s from the McDonald brothers. At the time, I thought, ‘I’ll pass on that one.’ But a few weeks ago I came across the film at Red Box. (Yes, we still use Red Box. What’s Netflix?)
To my surprise, I found “The Founder” to be really interesting and excellent story telling . And while Kroc is vilified for his ruthless drive, I found myself inspired by his grit and tenaciousness and ‘persistence.’ In spite of everyone, including the McDonald brothers, telling him, “Franchising can’t be done.” He did it. And even more interesting, he was not a young man at this point in his life, he was in his early 50’s, an age when most men are looking to slow down or have slowed down. How many people have their greatest success after 50?
After watching it twice, I tell my wife, “You got to see this movie. Ray Kroc is my new hero.” (I tend to live in hyperbole). So we sit down and watch and when it’s over, she tells me she thinks Ray Kroc is an awful man. ‘What!?!’ Got me thinking though.
The idea here at the 032 is to stay light and leave politics and other hot button issues to other people. But we live in an extremely divisive age. Like a lot of people, my values have been challenged by the politics playing out before us. Maybe when I was younger, before I was married and had kids, I would have been more offended by Kroc and his business practices. Maybe I would have felt worse for the McDonald brothers for having their life’s work swooped out from underneath them. But I don’t. If the McDonald brothers simply wanted to keep their one location and operate it the rest of their lives, they should have kicked Ray Kroc to the curb when he proposed franchising. Moreover, the McDonald brothers were smart guys, they should have looked out for themselves. They were grown men too.
We’re sitting here in this day and age where government continually argues about how it’s going to take care of everyone. Give everyone healthcare, give everyone social security, allow the refugees throughout the world to come here. It sounds good. But guess what? There ain’t enough to go around. Part of the United States ability to play Mother Theresa to the world is partly because of the successes of the Ray Kroc’s. Strong capitalism with economically stable upper and middle classes, and a shrunken lower class. That’s the only way socialistic policies work.
In reality, I relate more to the McDonald brothers. I like systems. I like working on a small scale. The idea of having one restaurant and running it very well is appealing. But that’s probably why I’ll always be small time. Nothing wrong with that. But it doesn’t drive tax dollars, and without some big-time movers and shakers out there, I can’t operate my boutique, mom and pop business. So I’m ok overlooking some ruthlessness. Because to give it away, you first have to have it. And this is how we got it.
I’m not blind, I can see where my wife and reviewers of the film thought Kroc was over the top. He could have, should have, honored his “hand shake” deal with the brothers. Believe people can be successful in business and still be honest. No question. But seeing this portrayal of a guy working his tail-off, selling milk-shake mixers out of the back of his car before finding his greatest success should be nothing more than inspiring and motivating to everyone. And that’s that.
This is the long sought after Part II of my last post, “You want new?” In that post we discussed ‘what’ type of home people people are looking for. In Part II we’ll look more closely at ‘where’ people want to live in the Valley.
Think we can all agree that the draw of Phoenix is undeniable. Being that we now have the 5th largest population in the country sort of confirms this point. And with all these people spilling in here, Phoenician culture continues to evolve and grow. Even my favorite band Son Volt came this spring. (See Crescent Ball Room). We have arrived.
Believe the cultural growth is rooted in the next gereration growing up here and not being from somewhere else. Gives certain neighborhoods a deeper identity. Communities like Central Phx, Arcadia and North Phx are now more distinctive than they have been in the past. There’s just a more mature selection of restaurants and stores. And with Downtown booming with great musical venues, theater and sports, these neighborhoods provide easy access.
But here’s the thing. Somewhere in this Valley; there is something for everyone. And there are plenty of people who prefer the outskirts of the Valley. In fact the outskirts of the west and east valley’s have always been a sort of a haven for new residents. Why? Cheap new housing. Can’t argue with that. Generally the developments accompany new infrastructure such as the 303 or something like Mesa Gateway Airport that now makes the area viable. Much of the time this will also attract a lot of young first-time home buyers that are looking to grow their families with community around them. It can also be quite scenic out that’er way. But good luck on those freeways eh? And yeah, you better like Chilis and other chain restaurants. (Aint nothing wrong with Chilis.
The opportunity to buy new within the city becomes a little more complicated. As I’m sure most Phoenicians have seen, because of the sprawl, over the years many ‘interior plots’ of land were skipped over. A builder looks at a plot that has a good location, but he can’t build enough homes on it to make a buck. So he finds something a little further out that he can do some volume on. Now years later there have been pockets within the belt-way that are sort of screaming for development. (Looks weird to have big empty spaces in densely populated areas). But builders weren’t make any money unless they built multi-level condos. And after the great recession they have. They sell for 200k+ and hey, they go fast. But if someone wants ‘new’ and still be close to Downtown, a condo is probably the way to go.
Up in Cave Creek is a little different. Development isn’t quite as far along. And the remaining plots of land that have been skipped over are larger than down in the city. Because of this the builders are still putting houses on them. But this isn’t like 25 years ago when they would build 2500 homes over 4 square miles. The new developments are 60-100 homes packed in whatever space they have, zero lot lines. And sometimes, these new developments don’t always mesh with the existing landscape. You may end up with Sanford and Son living across from the entry of your new development. (Sanford couldn’t be bought out). And we’re not talking entry level pricing here either, these places start at 400k and run up to a million+ in various sub-divisions (rhymes with Boll Truthers).
Why pay such a premium? For those that are past the starter home phase or looking to get out of the rat race. Cave Creek is the place to be. Along with having a really cool cowboy town near by, it also has good access to Scottsdale, North Phx and the West Valley. But the main thing that has always been a no brainer about Cave Creek is the fact that it butts up to Tonto National Forrest. This is great if you love boating and the outdoors because the access is right there. But from a real estate perspective it also caps the development moving north. If you go east, west or south in the Valley, sprawl goes on and on. One minute your living at the end of civilization with views of forever, next thing you know your property values have just taken a dive because they started a new housing development across the street and the houses are bigger, but cheaper. Not cool.
Ultimately there are a multitude of great places to live in the Valley. Have even heard people rave about how great Maricopa (the city) is. Will take their word for it, I’ve never been to Maricopa and wouldn’t try to sell anyone on living there. Think for buyers, having these conversations with a Realtor can be very productive and informative. To arrive in this vast valley and think, “I’ll just look everywhere” is probably a little naïve. A person will probably just become more confused by the process. But hey, looking for a home should be fun. Just need to do some homework eh?
Am trying like mad to avoid giving an annual update of the weather. Won’t complain, spring was about as good as it gets, anywhere. Which is why Phoenix is always a viable place to live. This time of year however, before the monsoon, a man with very little hair can feel like his head is on fire.
Am beginning a 2 part housing series of what and where to buy in the Valley. Wanna say it’s investigative, but it’s not, just my observations from talking to people and driving around hustling a buck. Have watched a lot of Magnum PI though, so I kinda know what I’m doing.
In my conversations with buyers looking for homes, aside from where they want to live (that’s part 2), people are mainly expressing a desire for “New.” Goes something like this, “I Just don’t want to hassle with any problems like an old roof or old a/c.” which is followed by, “The new houses have better technology.”
Ok I get it. (I don’t actually, but accept it). People are saying they want new builds with a “Smart Home” component that comes complete with a new roof and a/c. Turn Key? Kinda. To varying degrees the new houses are being built as ‘smart homes’ or in some cases wired up for smart home capabilities that the owner can take advantage of at a later date. And yes they are new.
Think this is all smoke and mirrors. To me, these are lesser properties than their predecessors of 25 years ago. Back then, the new builds came with a decent size lot. Maybe even a side gate. And now, while that house maybe 25 years old, chances are the roof and HVAC unit have been replaced in the last couple years. No, they are not smart, or new, but can be a great value.
And how about those houses that were built 40 years ago down in North Phx? The smallish looking ones with low ceilings that many people wont even look at. The ones with block walls that are incredibly energy efficient. They are a tremendous value, and because they are relatively cheap compared to new builds, there maybe extra money for remodeling and landscaping in the budget. And guess what? They are generally located in mature areas of the city that have quite a bit to offer in terms of restaurants and shopping.
What I’m saying is that new houses might look great on the inside, but there are drawbacks. Be aware. The smart technology also requires maintenance and at times have seen it be more of a hassle than a help.
Stay tuned for part 2.
Over and out.
My friend Matthew of the 541 up in Wisconsin sent this over. Our friend Mittens was the source of some great chuckles awhile back. Seems he’s a bigger star than I realized. Apparently he has quite the modeling career going and has been immortalized on this stein from Anheuser Busch.
How about that? I knew there was something that I liked about that cat. And if I really like him I can buy the stein for 100 bucks. (That’s actually 40 of the original price). LOl, too rich for me. But just think about the dude that is drinking his Bud from this. Big stones eh?
Bet I know a guy. Wears white sun glasses.
If you think you are man enough to handle this mug, attached the link below.
Had a couple ol’ boys come my way a few months ago and ask me if I could build them a cabinet for their camping trailer. ‘Sure’ I thought, ‘but let me see what it looks like first.’ So I go over and take a look at this very old, somewhat dilapidated trailer they had bought. Would describe it as, “One mans trash is another mans treasure.” No matter, they were confident they would be able to transform it into a first class hunting/camping trailer.
The concept they were after was to build a small, lightweight fully functional camper that can be taken deeper into the backcountry. They had also purchased a tent that mounts on the top and folds out. My part was to build a cabinet that sits in the back and pulls out into a cooktop for a make-shift kitchen. So I said, “Get it together and I’ll build you a cabinet.”
Within a month or so they had done their part and rolled it over to my house. For me, this was one of those projects that takes my mind off work and refreshes the brain. Like a lot of people, when it comes to work, when the phone is ringing it’s usually because there are problems. Roll with the punches eh? But it can get tiresome. So how can I get a re-charge? For me it’s usually working with my hands. And since I had agreed to be paid in beer, I felt like I could take my time.
Fast-forward to last week. Got a few hours here and there and knocked it out. Afterward had the boys over to celebrate, recap our journey and pat eachother on the back. Men being men. Kind of like it might have been in the old days, before guys played video games and obsessed over tattoos. Just sayin.
Not trying to be snarky or anything. But to me, it feels like there is more and more a disconnect in society. People are becoming increasingly isolated and less reliant on one another (Selfies? Really??) This project was fun because we collaborated our skills and built something pretty cool. It wasn’t just one guy and there was very limited ego involved. But it took welding, machine work and woodworking to complete. Not many guys versed in all those skills. Takes a village eh?
Along those lines, my mind wonders, “What else can people do to shake themselves up?” Bike riding is really big here in Cave Creek. And recently I saw an article discussing much of this subject by former Phoenix councilman Bill Gates. Gates was instrumental in jump-starting the re-vitalization in North Phx. He hits on a lot of this topic as far as getting out with people and being more ‘communal.’ It doesn’t have to be a building project, just anything that gets people doing things together. And while I am not seeing a ton of usage of the bike lanes on 32nd street, I am hearing of groups of people in North Phx getting together on the weekends and riding. Good for them. Keep shaking it up! (Here is a link to that article) http://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/2017/04/17/bike-work-day/100495664/
It has been an incredibly busy season. Not much time for writing. Things are slowing just a bit now, chance for me to catch my breath, chase my kids around and watch’em grow. It’s the best.
The other day I was at my sons basketball game. (It’s 1st and 2nd graders, think Chinese fire drill with a lot of double-dribbling). Got to talking with one of the dads. Somehow we get on the subject of ‘walls,’ as in walls that surround most of the properties in the sub-divisions here in Phoenix. Both agreed it can feel like a ‘prison.’ Come to find we are both living on acre lots now with no walls, cheers to us.
I go on to tell him how I used to sit out on my back patio at my old place in my underwear and how my neighbor would poke his head over the wall and want to talk. “Sort of a false sense of privacy?” I say, and go on to ‘explain how I would ask my neighbor not to do it anymore, but he still would.’ But the dad is looking at me like I’m nuts. “Why do you need to sit outside in your underwear?” he asks. “Because, I like to! Why don’t you like to sit outside in your underwear?” I ask. Tells me I’m crazy. No kidding eh.
Point is, if a guy wants to sit outside his home in his skivvies, he should be able to. Walls or no walls. Had been thinking this was a smart guy I was talkin to, maybe not.
Speaking of smart guys, Son Volt Properties picked up a new client last month. He’s an old boy from California who just bought a second home here in Carefree. It was interesting because he hired me while he was still in the process of buying. Usually my clients have waited a couple years before seeking out my services, thinking they could just lock the house up and leave. Usually it takes a few things getting away from them before they realize they need a point man here. Think about it, who wants to show up next season and find the roof leaked during the monsoon? Or to discover the landscapers stopped doing their job once the house had been vacated for the summer.
But the new guy is on it. Said to me when we met, “Got to have a guy down here watching things.” “Roger that, here to be of service.” I say. A day or two after closing, I had my pool guy (Kevin of Black Mountain Pools) and my landscaper (Roberto of RA Landscaping) on the job. Kevin does a first rate job with his business, and Roberto is reasonably priced and does a great job as well. There are also some small electrical projects that I am coordinating with a contractor. No fuss, no muss.
What if my new client had to find these people on his own? I’ve gone through a lot of landscapers and pool company’s and cleaning services and HVAC repair…to arrive at the people I have now. The best people, don’t do much advertising. They can be hard to find. Either way, my client was heading back to California and won’t return for a couple months. He really didn’t have time to deal with it all. No worries, I have everything taken care of. Best part for him, I’ll bet I’m saving the old boy $100-150 a month on vendors. That’s smart.
Spring is here. The Valley seems as healthy as ever; spring training is in full swing, the Final Four is on its way and last month the Phoenix Open set records for attendance. With all these people in town of course Real Estate is churning. Values are up. inventory is low, interest rates are still cheap and the investment markets are strong.
Along those lines, as more and more people enter into these transactions, it’s important to keep your eyes pealed and your head on a swivel. Just happened on a website by Quicken Loans. Read a passage about ‘closing costs.’ As follows:
“A misconception about mortgage closing costs is that they all go to the lender, when in reality, many costs are related to services performed by others. Mortgage closing costs cover expenses associated with getting a home loan, from inspections and appraisals to title insurance, taxes and more.”
The second sentence where it states, “Mortgage closing costs cover expenses…”
Trust me, I’m shooting you straight when I say, ‘inspections, title insurance and taxes’ are separate costs that you will pay before or at the close of escrow. They are not part of the closing costs associated with your loan. The appraisal is, but nothing else is on the list from Quicken.
Not trying to make trouble here or throw Quicken under the bus, but there are fees all over the purchase of a home, so let’s keep it honest. The inspection will run 300 – 500. Possibly you friendly realtor will take care of that cost (always a courtesy to my clients). Title insurance is about 1000 – 1300. And a buyer can end up owing up to a half year in taxes, 1000 – 2000. On the average 300k transaction, a buyer with financing is looking at 2000 – 3000 in costs in addition to the 3000 – 5000 in closing the loan from the lender.
The other reality, a company like Quicken is going to have extra fees. Their whole marketing campaign is directed toward making the consumer think they are sort of ‘fast forwarding’ through the loan process. Of course that will cost a little extra. But really they aren’t doing anything different than other lenders. Here’s the deal, find an independent mortgage broker who can shop a few lenders and find you a good rate with reasonable closing costs. Done.
Buying a home is not cheap. Even with all the lending incentives available, it’s going to cost 8 – 12k on the front end of the transaction. So get with your friendly realtor and go over everything in advance. The fewer surprises the better eh?
Going back to ‘keeping your head on a swivel.’ With the warm weather descending on us, starting to see some snakes. Saw 2 last week. Think the best rule of thumb is to just sort of pretend they aren’t around and you’ll be fine. You know, ‘hear no evil see no evil.’ Works for me.
Hope you don’t get bitten.