Our Unique Visual Wealth: 30 Years of Jarson & Jarson

Founded 30 years ago by Scott and Debbie Jarson, the real estate firm specializes in the sale of homes with architectural, design, cultural and historical significance. The couple call these properties part of our community’s “Unique Visual Wealth.”

“We have a credo and a mission statement that we hold our decisions up against: to sell, creatively market and promote good architecture and design regardless of price,” says Scott, who, growing up in the Valley, was inspired by homes and other properties the couple have sold during the last three decades.

Originally known as Jarson & Jarson, their shingle is now azarchitecture Jarson & Jarson Real Estate, with five employees and 14 sales agents, headquartered in the Will Bruder-designed Loloma 5 live/work building (2004) in downtown Scottsdale. “We realized that some people know us only from the internet, and they related more to azarchitecture.com, so we combined these two into one name everyone can relate to,” Debbie explains.

“A house we’d represent could be anything from historic to modern, a building with style and substance,” he explains. The structure may be adobe, the long-time desert building material; a design by Mid-Century Modern exemplar, Al Beadle; or the hand-crafted redwood interior of the midtown Phoenix home architect Fred Guirey built for himself and his family in the 1950s.

Or, perhaps it’s a sensitive post-World War II restoration of a Ralph Haver in North Central Phoenix by the noted designer/builder. The home may have been disregarded and kept in disrepair through the next decades; recent owners sensitively revived it. Vital again in a gentrifying area, it’s market strong and now historically significant.

“We want to share the knowledge we have with those that will celebrate this very interesting place with us. We want to promote good design and perhaps help build or save some good houses,” explains Jarson, who is the company’s director of sales and creative development. Raised in Arizona, he attended Scottsdale public schools and graduated from ASU with a Fine Arts degree.

“Our company allows us to connect with like-minded individuals who share enthusiasm for great design. We get to introduce, connect and celebrate unique talent and useful resources,” adds Debbie, the firm’s designated broker who trains and mentors the firm’s sales agents. The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, native attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, then the Tobe–Coburn School of Fashion Careers in New York City before settling in the Valley.

Debbie notes that Jarson & Jarson was Arizona’s first real estate company to publicize the architect’s name in its marketing. “We believe the architect or designer should get credit for his or her work and for adding to our heritage of creative desert design,” she says.

In addition, during the past 30 years, the company has advocated for historic and architectural preservation, Scott notes. He and Debbie were intensely involved in saving the David and Gladys Wright House (1952) in the Arcadia area of Phoenix when a developer recently threatened to demolish that residential vision of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum (1959) in New York City; they received the Wright Spirit Award from the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy for those efforts.

Scott was also an original member of the Phoenix mayor’s Post War Modern Task Force and chairs the Hillside Building Committee for the town of Paradise Valley, where he and Debbie live in a Will Bruder-designed hillside home, completed in 2008.

“And, from a lifestyle perspective, our real estate firm promotes, supports and advances better living, conservation and life-enhancing ideals through architecture,” she adds. “This is especially appropriate in our desert city.”

Says Bruder, “Scott and Debbie have steadfastly championed modernism in the Valley.” Since working with the couple while designing the Vale of Tempe condominiums (2004), he has been impressed with their sensitivity to and advocacy for Valley architecture.

“For every listing, they create a narrative that highlights importance of these properties in the story of the Valley’s built environment. Often they educate prospective buyers, who may be two or three times removed from first owners, on the historic context and importance of a property,” he adds. “Scott and Debbie get the big picture of the place and its architectural legacy.”

The Weave of the Valley

The Jarsons married in 1982; a mutual friend had introduced them a year earlier. Debbie was working at Bobby McGee’s, the landmark restaurant adjacent to Papago Plaza, Scottsdale’s pioneer retail strip center which has just been demolished for mixed-use development. “We had an immediate and wonderful romance which has lasted ever since,” he says.

He followed Debbie into the business. “We had a very successful early career in general real estate. But I was just not happy,” Scott says. “Somehow, selling tract homes and ignoring our architectural heritage made me feel like I had become ‘part of the problem.’” Because both of them loved design, art, architecture and history, she suggested focusing on “Architecturally Unique Homes.”

They contacted Peter Shikany, who had a year-old graphic design firm, ps:studios in Phoenix; he created a branding program for the new company. Shikany and the Jarsons have become close friends and continue to work together. In fact, he and his wife, gallery owner Lisa Sette live in the well-known House of Earth + Light (2006) by architect Marwan Al-Sayed, a sale completed by the Jarsons.

“The ability to connect architectural knowledge and expertise to the buying and selling of homes puts them in a unique position for their clients. There are no others who honestly operate from this viewpoint,” Shikany explains. “Because of this knowledge, they have been able to cultivate respect and friendships within the architectural and design communities and have been instrumental in raising awareness and helping to create a vibrant architecture movement in Arizona.”

Scott explains that “defining an architecturally unique property isn’t black-and-white.” The couple have, however, used five basic guidelines: the home offers a unique piece of history; it has been significantly published; it was designed by a significant architect; it offers a unique use of materials; and the home represents a particular period or architectural style.

Occasionally, the choice is intuitive: “We have always been committed to preserving the region’s history and to ensuring the environmental and architectural integrity of Southwest desert communities, so sometimes, you just know it when you see it,” she notes.

Scott believes that the growth of Metro Phoenix can be read through its architecture and design. “It’s a new place and, being where it is, in the West, a place that has had a sense of optimism and unlimited opportunity from the beginning. But, we do seem to have what I think of as ‘waves’ of creativity –– periods that the Valley has done the best in. The building inventory of unique design created during these times reflects the very best part of ourselves.”

“I am proud of our special place in the sun, but sometimes I hear from visitors and others that our area is just too ‘beige,’ not colorful enough with architectural panache and pizazz. We can be, yes, but we’ve delighted in introducing people to ‘threads’ in the creative weave that is our Valley: moments of design that reflect time and place or just a particularly creative spark of genius.”

“It’s not nostalgia, which can be narrow and dangerous,” he adds. “It’s about saying, ‘Yes, here we took a chance!’ It’s about art.”

Stewarding Our Visual Wealth

To celebrate their firm’s 30th anniversary, the Jarsons are selecting a few examples of the metro area’s Unique Visual Wealth –– architectural art –– and discussing one per story.

Some of these places are threatened with demolition or significant alteration from their original use. These include the first location the couple has chosen, Kiva Craftsman’s Court (1955, T.S. Montgomery), whose future is uncertain as the city of Scottsdale’s envisions a revitalized downtown including high-rise development.

Significant residences need advocacy, too, such as Paolo Soleri’s Cosanti (1956–) in highly desirable Paradise Valley. These kinds of homes are often vulnerable because the land they are built on has become so valuable that the new owners prefer to raze and build larger contemporary-style homes.

“Given the metro area’s relatively young age, the depth and range of the history and architecture of homes here is really quite remarkable,” Jarson says. “But our lack of awareness of this history makes these homes and buildings fragile because they are taken for granted or ‘in the way’ of progress.”

He notes that Bruder was the first person to share the saying with him, “Architecture is the most fragile of the arts.”

“The ‘artist/architect’ creates this three dimensional thing of beauty. Its original design is usually the purest, but time, elements, change of owners, encroachment, design ‘trends,’ even HGTV, all take their toll on these buildings,” Scott explains. “Slowly, then all at once, these homes and buildings become something different, most often diminished.”

Owners of these significant properties should, then, have a keen sense of responsibility.

“Scott and Debbie’s interest in culturally significant architecture, specifically homes, goes beyond connoisseurship and into stewardship,” says Darren Petrucci, principal of the architectural firm, A-I-R, in Phoenix and Suncor Professor of Architecture & Urbanism in The Design School of the Herberger Institute for Design and The Arts at Arizona State University.

“Their passion and commitment to finding the right buyer for a significant work is commendable, and, I am sure, sometimes detrimental to their bottom line, but the long view of their efforts outweigh the short-term gains,” he adds.

“If an owner appreciates the original intent of the architect, he or she can make reasonable changes that won’t affect the overall design,” Scott explains.

This is important because generally the new owners can’t return the house to its original, observe the building code in place decades ago or use the construction materials and techniques; they all change. “These designs are really habitable snapshots of the time they were designed in,” he says.

Building an exact copy of a Haver-designed tract home of the 1950s would be difficult. The signature thin single-pane glazing, the near-zero insulation, the antiquated HVAC system: These would not meet building codes or current lifestyle expectations.

“So today’s duplicate would be more efficient, yes, but the lightness of design, the delicate nature of how the roof connects to a small row of narrow clerestory windows, the thin roof that appears to almost ‘float’: All of this would be lost,” he explains.

Materials are also important to consider. In the mid-20th century, wood and lumber, such as clear redwood, were much more available, as in Guirey’s home from the 1950s, he explains.

“But that redwood is cost prohibitive today, and it’s difficult to obtain boards of the same clear quality. “Once they are painted white by a subsequent owner to ‘brighten’ and modernize the interior, that wood is usually lost and, with it, the look and the intent of the architect. Very few would take the effort to restore it again.”

Scott and Debbie Jarson and their associates are available at 480.425.9300, info@azarchitecture.com and azarchitecture.com.

Brown is a Valley-based writer (azwriter.com).

On the Shelf – Curated Clutter Free Products for 2021

The chef Alton Brown has a handy name for kitchen gadgets that serve one function, which are then stowed away for interminable lengths of time: Unitaskers. They take up much-needed storage space and cause many headaches. These single-purpose tools often originate from the domain of infomercials, which are already of dubious purpose, quality and origins.

This term could be applied as an overarching phrase when describing many items stashed in drawers in our house. In effect, the ‘On the Shelf’ lists featured in issues of ‘Defining Desert Living’ are a way of cutting through the proverbial clutter and spotlighting designs for their clarity.

In a long year that benefited from the re-examination of many “so-called” necessities, we’re proud to spotlight the best of these products which give something to admire with their good design. Without further adieu, here’s a compilation of the best products featured in our last two issues of Defining Desert Living in 2020:

Stagg [XF] Pour-Over Set by Fellow — $99

What is it: Stagg will help you consistently brew the perfect cup. The double-wall, hand blown, borosilicate glass carafe allows for longer heat retention and no exterior condensation.

Why we like it: This is a remarkably pure design: Boiling water from a tea kettle is poured into the filter and produces hot coffee into the doubled-wall glass container at the bottom – which also doubles as a pitcher. No mess. No cords. And a very long shelf life. Easy to clean and store. You can’t say the same for a coffee machine.

Polaroid OneStep 2 Viewfinder I-Type Analogue Instant Camera — $72

What is it: Polaroid Originals’ ‘OneStep 2’ camera takes its cues from the 1977 model but with the addition of a few high-tech updates like a 60-day battery life, built-in strobe flash and a high-quality ‘2ft to infinity’ lens. It’s also fitted with a tripod mount on the base and a self-timer.

Why we like it: Everyone loves a polaroid! A print lends an instantaneous quality to it that somehow artificially ages it beyond the moment it was taken. This design takes everything right about this iconic product, like the design of the case assembly and style of print, and updates it to modern day with a few choice design and functionality choices not available a few decades before. Fun times at the party (whenever those happen again)!

Fez Wool Blanket by Sophie Probst — $250

What is it: Fez tributes the wonderful culture discovered on a recent voyager from designer Sophie Probst to the north and eastern part of Africa. These real New Zealand wool blankets will keep you warm at home or out.

Why we like it: Never discount a classic. Something like this draped over a couch gives a space texture and character to a room and keeps you warm if your house is also drafty. This is the type of blanket that goes a long way and will last too!

Anecdote Candles by Anecdote — $14 – $24

What is it: Candles are designed to remind us of stories worth sharing. Candles are hand-poured using natural ingredients with no additives, dyes, or preservatives

Why we like it: As humans, sometimes we consume without considering the effect it has on our bodies. These scented candles are the genuine articles without the baggage of artificial smells. And this brand is already after our own hearts with its Mid-Century Modern scent, which is described as “clean lines, and atomic sunbursts.”

Ceramic Cooling Carafe by Magisso — $70

What is it: If drinks by the pool or a sunny brunch are in order, this carafe is primed to be your new BFF. It’s made from black ceramic and it’s got a really handy trick: Simply soak it in cold water for 60 seconds and it’ll keep the contents cool for (wait for it) up to four hours.

Why we like it: What it says on the tin. We’ve all left cold bottles of water in our cars on a warm day and returned to find hot water in the container, in their place. This product posits that we can go for a dip in the pool, answers calls in the house and return to collect the pitcher and find still cold liquid inside. Sign us up!

Click & Grow Smart Garden — $99 – $199

What is it: Fresh herbs can truly elevate any dish. For those who don’t have a green thumb, Click & Grow can grow, water and nurture your herbs for you (all you have do is plug it in and fill the water tank once in a while).

Why we like it: Simple design with none of the bulk that typically define an aero garden. It’s a flexible design that can be stored when not in use and can be an excellent conversation piece when it grows a patch of rosemary! What’s more to love?

The select products were featured in the September and December Issues of Defining Desert Living. To view the full lists, they can be found in the aforementioned links.  





Market Update December 2020

WHEW! What a year it has been! In a year of complete uncertainty, one thing has remained certain – real estate is a good investment!

We’d like to start this final market report of 2020 by taking a quick look at the stats. These are the ARMLS numbers for December 1, 2020 compared with December 1, 2019 for all areas & types:

  • Active Listings (excluding UCB & CCBS): 7,388 versus 13,869 last year. Down 46.7% from last year, and down 14.9% from 8,682 last month.
  • Active Listings (including UCB & CCBS): 12,481 versus 18,322 last year. Down 24.1% from last year, and down 10.2% compared with 13,901 last month.
  • Pending Listings: 7,347 versus 5,864 last year. Up 25.3% from last year, but down 6.6% from 7,862 last month.
  • Under Contract Listings (including Pending, CCBS & UCB): 12,389 versus 9,572 last year. Up 29.4% from last year, but down 8.2% from 13,081 last month.
  • Monthly Sales: 9,205 versus 7,131 last year. Up 29.1% from last year, but down 3.6% from 10,024 last month
  • Monthly Average Sales Price per Sq. Ft.: $207.71 versus $179.92 last year. Up 15.4% from last year, and up 0.2% from $207.71 last month.
  • Monthly Median Sales Price: $330,000 versus $281,000 last year. Up 17.4% over last year, but down 0.6% from $332,000 last month.

Per ARMLS data analyst Tom Ruff, we already broke records in November and are on track to do the same in December. According to Ruff, “We begin December with 28.2% fewer homes for sale today than we saw one year ago, with many areas showing record lows for the number of homes available. At the same time, demand increased 27.4% year-over-year, with ARMLS reporting the highest sales volume for any November in history. Low supply and high demand can only mean one thing: higher prices. The average sales price was up 18% and the median sales price rose 16.8% yearover-year…. My guess, sales volume in December will approximate 9,500. The highest sales volume ever in December occurred in 2010 when ARMLS reported 8,401 home sales. When the December sales are reported we will see another new record.”

If you have been keeping up with our monthly market report, you will notice that we have set or broken records many months in 2020. How is this possible to keep breaking records month over month during a pandemic? It seems that much of it is due to the inbound migration from other states to Arizona. Per the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, nearly 70,000 people move to Arizona from California each year to take advantage of the lower cost of living, affordable housing options, and lower income and property taxes.

Because no one has ever seen a market quite like this one before, it is understandable how some people might feel uneasy. It might even make some people wonder if and when the market will “crash”. While it is true that no one has ever seen a market exactly like this one before, experts have been tracking data in the real estate market for a very long time. And, data doesn’t lie. What data does is show us patterns that will most likely occur in various scenarios, even this one.

A deeper dive into the historical data will show that in order for the market to crash like it did in the mid-2000’s, we would need the number of active listings to exponentially increase and the demand for homes to drastically decrease. Fortunately, this does not seem to be happening any time soon. Tina Tamboer, Senior Housing Analyst with The Cromford Report, does a good job of explaining why. Tamboer states, “Because population growth has consistently outpaced housing growth every year over the past 10 years, rents and values are projected to continue rising through 2021 in Greater Phoenix unless builders are able and willing to ramp up production at ludicrous speed.  They are doing their best, but even 25,549 permits issued and 19,889 sales closed on brand new single-family homes through October this year hasn’t proven to be enough to satisfy the level of demand for housing that has descended on Greater Phoenix.  Sellers need not worry about their home values declining anytime soon.”

So, if you are thinking of selling your home in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Cave Creek, Carefree, Chandler, Mesa, Gilbert, Peoria, Glendale, Avondale, Sun City or any of the surrounding areas NOW is the time to do it! We have a team full of experts that are familiar with the market. Contact us at info@azarchitecture.com and we will put you in touch with the agent most familiar with your area and/or type of home.

If you are thinking of buying a home, it is still a great time as home values are still appreciating! However, in this market, it is imperative to have an agent who knows how to get a contract accepted and a deal closed. Our team stays on top of the market to ensure that their clients have the best shot at getting the home they want even in these crazy times!

While there were many negative things that came out of 2020, we plan to take a few of the positive things with us into 2021, like this booming real estate market! We are so thankful for our team of agents (aka essential workers) and clients like you that have stuck with us through the madness. Cheers to a brand New Year full of health, happiness, and cool architecture to call home. Bring it on 2021!

Home Buying 101 – A Quick Guide to the Homebuying Process for 2021

Have you decided that you are ready to purchase a home? With Phoenix rents continuing to rise faster than the rest of the country and interest rates at all time lows, now might just be the perfect time to purchase a home in the Valley of the Sun. If you have kept up with our monthly market reports; however, you know that we are currently experiencing a pretty strong sellers market. No need to worry though! Many experts are predicting home values to keep rising in 2021. This means that you could benefit from this appreciation if you chose to buy early in 2021. If you follow the steps outlined below, we feel confident that you will be able to call yourself a homeowner in the New Year!

1. First and foremost, find THE RIGHT REALTOR® for you! Many other home buying guides might place this step a little further down the list; however, we know that in a market like this, having the right representation and guidance from the get-go can help insure you get the home you want at the best price. A good REALTOR® will know the market, and more specifically, the area where you are looking to purchase. They can help guide you through every part of the process and help prevent and fix any pitfalls that can arise in the process. Depending on your price point, your offer might end up being one of many. If this is the case, it will benefit you to have a seasoned REALTOR® who knows how to write offers that have the best chances of being accepted. With nearly 90,000 licensed agents in Arizona, chances are you know someone (or several people) with their real estate license. Unfortunately, this is not the best time to rely on your family member or friend that only writes a contract every year or two. In this market, you need an agent, preferably a REALTOR® that is skilled in contract writing and real estate negotiations. Our firm is home to many successful, full-time, seasoned REALTORS® that can help you guide you through the home buying process. You can see their bios here.

2. Once you have chosen your REALTOR®, you need to figure out exactly how much house you can afford. If you haven’t ever created a budget, NOW is the time to do so. In order to figure out exactly what you can afford to pay for a home, you will need to have a good idea of what your monthly expenses look like. You need to be well aware of what you have coming in each month and the stability of the origin of those funds as well as what is going out each month. If you have a financial planner, he or she might be able to help you take a close look at your finances and help you determine exactly what you can (and can’t afford). If you have chosen the right REALTOR®, they can help you by showing homes that fit within your parameters. If the REALTOR® you choose to use insists on showing you homes outside of your price range, you might want to reevaluate that relationship. Your REALTOR® should have your best interest at heart.

3. Next, if you haven’t already, NOW is the time to start saving for a down payment. If you are looking to obtain a conventional loan, you will ideally want to plan on saving for a down payment of at least 20% of the purchase price of the home to avoid having to pay for Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). The down payment isn’t the only cost you will have though. You should also  plan on saving approximately 2-5% of the purchase price of the home to pay your closing costs. This money will be due along with your down payment when you go to close on your home.

4. The next step is to get pre-approved for your mortgage loan. Your lender will need some information from you regarding your assets and income in order to provide you with a pre-approval. If you do not have a lender you trust, just ask your REALTOR®. He or she should be able to give you several options for reputable lenders in your area that are well versed in various types of loans. Some people think it will be easiest to use your current bank as your lender. This is not always true. As the borrower, you have the ability to shop around for the best rate on your loan.

5. Finally, we get to the fun part – House Hunting! While many people spend time looking at homes on sites like Zillow or Redfin, unfortunately, these sites are not updated in real time. Oftentimes, when a client finds a home on one of these sites, it is already under contract. Your REALTOR® can set you up with a portal on his or her MLS that only shows you homes that fit your search criteria. The best thing about the portal is that it is updated in real time. In a sellers market, it is important that you don’t waste too much time looking at homes that are already under contract. Your REALTOR® can set up your portal to alert you when new homes come onto the market.

6. Once you find the perfect home, it’s time to make an offer. Your REALTOR® should work with you to create the best possible offer. This can be a nerve-racking time. It is important to have clear expectations about what can possibly happen after your offer is submitted. In this market and depending on your price point, your offer could be one of many. Best case scenario, your offer is accepted as-is. If this happens, kudos to you and your REALTOR®. Worst case scenario, your offer is rejected or ignored. If this happens, your REALTOR® can help guide you through what to do next. Typical scenario, your offer is countered in some way. Again, your REALTOR® will be a valuable resource in helping you decide what to do if this happens.

7. Once your offer is accepted and the final contract is signed the next step is to open escrow. Your REALTOR® should have given you title and escrow company options prior to writing your contract. When your contract is accepted any earnest money indicated in the contract should be wired or delivered to the title company to be held in escrow.

8. Once the contract is accepted and if inspections were not waived, a proverbial clock starts for the buyers “due diligence” period also known as the inspection period. Again, this is an important time to have a seasoned REALTOR® on your side. Because these things are time sensitive, it is imperative to have someone in your corner who is well versed in the real estate contract deadlines and required paperwork. The first thing to set up is your home inspection. Your REALTOR® should be able to provide you with a few different options for various home inspectors. In addition to the home inspection, you may opt for other types of inspections on the property such as a termite inspection, roof inspection, septic inspection, well inspection, sewer line inspection, mold inspection, pool inspection, etc. Payment for these inspections will fall primarily on the buyer. If issues arise from any of the inspections, you will work with your REALTOR® to fill out the BINSR (Buyers Inspection Notice Sellers Response) and either ask the sellers to fix the issues or credit you money back so that you can fix them yourself. The sellers may opt to do either of those things, or they might opt to do nothing. Depending on the issues, and how badly you want the home, you may have some hard decisions to make based on the sellers response. If the sellers agree to make repairs, you will be given the chance to do a final walk-through prior to close to make sure all of the agreed upon repairs have been made.

9. One more hoop to jump through… the appraisal! Unless it was waived in the purchase contract or by your lender, your lender will order an appraiser to come out to appraise the current value of the home. Because of the current sellers market, some experts predict that we might start to see an increase in overpriced homes that do not appraise for the purchase price. If this happens, you will need to talk with your REALTOR® about your options to possibly negotiate with the seller and continue with the purchase or walk-away. Your REALTOR® should be able to guide you through any sticky situations and help you come to a final decision.

10. Inspections done, appraisal done, final walk-through done, now it’s closing time! In Arizona, the title company will set up a time for you and the sellers to sign your final documents separately. At this point, you will pay your down payment and closing costs. Once funds have been received from both you and your lender, the title company makes sure the sellers are paid. They will also record your deed with the county recorder. Once the deed has been recorded, the title company will notify your REALTOR®. At that point, the home is yours! Most often, your REALTOR® will meet you to give you the keys to your new home. CONGRATULATIONS and WELCOME HOME!

If you are thinking about buying or selling a home in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Tempe, Chandler, Mesa, Gilbert, Peoria, Glendale, Goodyear or anywhere else in the Valley of the Sun, we want to be a resource for you. Please reach out to us with any questions at info@azarchitecture.com.

Market Update November 2020

Here are the basics – the ARMLS numbers for November 1, 2020 compared with November 1, 2019 for all areas & types:

  • Active Listings (excluding UCB & CCBS): 8,682 versus 14,525 last year – down 40.2% – but up 7.4% from 8,101 last month
  • Active Listings (including UCB & CCBS): 13,901 versus 18,322 last year – down 24.1% – but up 4.5% compared with 13,305 last month
  • Pending Listings: 7,862 versus 5,919 last year – up 32.8% – but down 1.7% from 7,999 last month
  • Under Contract Listings (including Pending, CCBS & UCB): 13,081 versus 9,716 last year – up 34.6% – but down 0.9% from 13,203 last month
  • Monthly Sales: 9,992 versus 8,037 last year – up 20.5% – and up 3.6% from 9,641 last month
  • Monthly Average Sales Price per Sq. Ft.: $207.37 versus $174.14 last year – up 19.1% – and up 4.3% from $198.84 last month
  • Monthly Median Sales Price: $332,000 versus $285,000 last year – up 16.5% – and up 1.6% from $326,800 last month

If October of 2019 was a good month in real estate in Maricopa County (and it was), October 2020 was GREAT! In fact, in the most recent ARMLS Stat Report, data analyst Tom Ruff says, “Since the March and April market step back, ARMLS housing numbers have been running at a frenzied pace, leaving housing analysts running to their thesauruses in search of new superlatives. We expected a record October for home sales, and a record October is just what we got. October in a word was prodigious.”

As we have mentioned before in our monthly market update, one of the driving factors behind this market is a shockingly low amount of listings. According to a recent talk given by Tina Tamboer, Senior Analyst for the Cromford Report, we did see a slight surge in listings during the month of October; however, that surge has already seemed to slow a bit.

The lack of listings coupled with increased demand and historically low interest rates leads many experts to believe that our market won’t be making a turn around any time soon. According to Ruff, “When you pair the number of homes listed (7,824) with the number of listings under contract (12,586), it becomes readily apparent that our current market trends will not be changing anytime soon. Homes are selling quickly, and sellers are getting their asking price, in many cases more than they are asking. The momentum of our current market will propel our current trends into 2021. While current market conditions cannot continue indefinitely, there are no foreseeable changes in sight. In other words, the beat goes on.”

Another factor driving the current market is in-bound migration from places such as California and Texas. In a recent article posted by the Scottsdale Area Association of REALTORS®, Vanessa Vogel, senior research analyst for CBRE in Phoenix, said, “migration has only accelerated from California to Arizona amid the pandemic, for both office-using and industrial jobs. Office workers have newfound flexibility to work remotely while industrial users still want to be in driving distance to the ports. Employers can find a high-quality workforce and location at a lower cost in Arizona.”

Interestingly enough, it is not just the affordable housing market that is being impacted. Luxury sales are soaring too! According to the Cromford Report, “During October we saw 37 closed listings over $3 million in Maricopa County. This is not only the highest total for any October in history, it is the highest total for any month in history!” In turn, with the rise in prices and overall lack of supply, the market for homes under $300k is essentially disappearing all together.

In a nutshell, we are still very firmly in a sellers market. This is great news for anyone looking to list their property now. If you have questions about what you need to do to get top dollar for your home or how to best bring your home to the market, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We have a team of agents ready and willing to help you.

As for those buyers out there, don’t fret! The Phoenix Metro Area is still a great place to buy a home. In fact, Wallethub recently listed 5 Phoenix Metro Cities (Gilbert #5, Peoria #17, Surprise #20, Tempe #23 and Chandler #25) in it’s list of Best Real Estate Markets. According to the article, those five cities made the top 25 places to buy a house in the US. To determine the Best Real Estate Markets, their experts used “24 key indicators of housing-market attractiveness and economic strength.” You can read the full article here.

If you are looking to purchase a home, you need a great REALTOR® on your side now more than ever. Reach out to us directly at info@azarchitecture.com, and we will pair you with the right agent to fit your needs. Whether you want to buy, sell or just chat about real estate or architecture, we are here for you! We have been in this game for many years, and we love what we do.

Untangling Phoenix’s Messy Historic Preservation Problem

Much of Phoenix simply does not look as it did even half a century ago.

It is obvious whenever you see an old photograph of the sparse streetscapes of Phoenix, with simple block structures and the original carriages parked out front, and plug that a rough address into street views on Google Maps. It will be dramatically different.

Over the summer of 2020, two 100-plus year old structures, the Steinegger Lodging House and the Wakelin Grocery Warehouse, were demolished by their respective property owners. Although circumstances differed, both properties were designated on either the National Register of Historic Places, or the Phoenix Historic Property Register.

In the case of the 131-year old Steinegger Lodge, which sat next to the Professional Building/Hilton Garden Inn, it evoked palpable and unifying anger regarding why a structure clearly historic, and on the National Historic Register of Historic Places, could be so easily met with a large backhoe and demolition crew.

Compounding the collective angst, there was no requirement to salvage, and no effort by the property owner to retain any vestiges of the building. Nineteenth century millwork, bricks, and the original staircase crunched by the force of a crane. The same was true with the Wakelin produce warehouse a few weeks later.

This was a tragedy to the local preservation community — but by no means isolated. When you learn about Phoenix’s historic preservation problem, it becomes clear that a mixture of unique issues, rather one simple failure, are at play.

The buildings’ status on the different historic registers did not prelude the building from demolition by a motivated property owner. According to Jim McPherson, a local activist and vice president of the Arizona Heritage Foundation, the system is “honorific,” and without the weight of official government protection.

However, putting a historic property on the National Register of Historic Places is a gateway to grants, credits, property tax relief and other incentives. According to Chris Cody, the Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer, this is where confusion with historic preservation begins when a mere gateway to preservation is interpreted as cudgel for protection.

“When you become involved with the National Register, you’re effectively bringing the Keeper of the National Register in as an appeals body for local zoning decisions,” Cody said. “A lot of these towns in the valley are still leaning the National Register too heavily for this stuff, which creates entanglements, issues with misperceptions.”

In the case of the Steinegger Lodge, built in 1889, more than two decades prior to Arizona‘s incorporation into the Union, the current conditions of the structure hastened its demise.

The lynchpin of its destruction began in 2008 when the lodge and its roof were significantly damaged by construction workers renovating the neighboring Art Deco style Professional Building, rehabilitating it as the Hilton Garden Inn.

The Steinegger had already been declared unsafe for occupancy when it was shut down by the city in 2004. But, exposure to the elements further deteriorated the foundation, bowing the wood flooring and destabilizing the exterior brickwork. Until destruction, the roof of the lodge was left significantly damaged.

When the Phoenix Historic Preservation Commission opted not to give the building preservation status, it was on the basis of findings in a report that they requested that the building owner prepare to verify the actual condition of the building rather than its historical value.

“I think that [report] took the wind out of the opposition,” local preservation activist Roger Brevoort said.

Brevoort notes while a plan to save the lodge existed and several monetary offers and incentives were potentially available, the findings of the inspection report, overseen by structural engineers, who had previously inspected the building in 2005, sealed its fate.

“In our opinion the building is structurally unsafe to occupy.  It should be condemned and torn down to prevent the possible collapse into the adjacent buildings during the occurrence of an earthquake or high wind event,” the final report read.

Over several days in early July, the demolition was slowly carried out, taking down the original structure and its subsequent expansions. Again, no effort was attempted to salvage the brickwork or design features, which was carted off to a landfill.

To local activists, like Steve Dreiseszun, it is indicative of favoring the expediency of business than preserving the architecture of the past.

“It would have been a substantial investment to save that building, but in my view it was oversold as far as its inability of anyone to save it,” Dreiseszun said. “The question was never asked, ‘What would it take to save it.’ It was automatically assumed that it was a hardship.”

In the Historic Preservation community, the circumstances of how the lodge was eventually demolished is referred to as Demolition by Neglect, where a structure is allowed to decay, whether intentionally or not, without intervention by the property owner to the point where demolition is inevitable.

If there was a bittersweet silver lining in the road to demolition of the lodge, it’s that city ordinances allowed communities time to mobilize — albeit unsuccessfully. Several groups. Including Preserve Phoenix, the voice for advocacy in Phoenix garnered major attention on social media.

Due to a recent change to Phoenix Historic Preservation ordinance, a property owner can no longer simply pull a demolition permit on a 50-year old commercial building in Phoenix and teardown the historic structure the next day.

The ordinance now requires a 30-day waiting period on destruction before it a structure can be legally demolished. This is a new development in local historic preservation, as until recently activists only learned of about demolition permits when the wrecking balls appeared on-site.

This was exactly what happened to the lodge when the property owner took out a demolition permit in early June – it delayed destruction by only a month. If the Historic Preservation Commission had initiated a historic overlay, that action could have granted even more time for the owner to evaluate options and have a discussion with the preservation advocates who were offering alternatives.

When the Phoenix commission votes to give historic status, it starts a countdown clock of a single year to allow the city and a building’s property owner to negotiate on terms to save the structure. This doesn’t guarantee a building’s survival, but it might give the building a second chance.

If it seems like the city is slow-moving to act, it’s partially by design. In decades past, the Historic Preservation Office was a much more forceful entity. Now, under the city’s current Planning & Development department, the office works closely with other city planners to move historic interests, while not impeding business.

To outsiders, that same dynamic of being frustratingly impartial affects the Phoenix Historic Preservation Commission, which is comprised of different occupational segments of the community. Yet, McPherson thinks that balance of its members is a good thing. The committee includes people from a variety of backgrounds, including a realtor, historian, archaeologist, attorney, and general citizen representatives.

“Those folks are nominated by [city] council members, so that could inject a little bit of politics because sometimes the person nominated is not a diehard preservation advocate, which again you want the balance, you want the dialogue,” McPherson said. “But, I have seen a trend where commissioners have not been as aggressive on the advocacy side.”

The membership of the Commission does change as terms expire. However, to activists, the current commission makeup is not as aggressive as it has been in the past.

According to Brevoort, the shadow of Prop 207, a land use law which passed in Arizona in 2007, looms over the city’s decision-making as the fate of structures continue to come up. Proposition 207 passed with 60% approval. It potentially requires the government to reimburse land owners when regulations could result in a decrease in a property’s value.

The concern is that if an action by the city devalues a person’s historical property, then the owner can sue for monetary damages. Brevoort says there’s never been a successfully-tried Prop 207 case but this hasn’t stopped city attorneys from erring on the side of caution, thereby hindering efforts at designation by the City Historic Preservation Office. This is true in Phoenix, and in other Arizona cities, he says.

It’s a solitary job for a group of loosely coordinated citizens to preserve the city’s architectural history; because of its age as barely a century old city, Phoenix already had a deficit of existing 19th Century architecture.

Back in 2014, McPherson and his organization spearheaded a successful effort to save the Art Deco Civic Building on the Arizona State Fairgrounds. The task to save this WPA project, built in the 1938, often met fundamental barriers, like access to the state fair board in charge to start a dialogue. It took months to arrange a series of meeting with the various parties. All of which is to say it is very time-consuming, almost full-time, to save a single building

“It would be nice to have the 600-pound gorilla, which is Phoenix, be able to stand up on its own and have that initial effort and we’d come in, the Arizona Preservation Foundation, comes in, if you really do need that support.”

But, one more unavoidable reality concerning the present state of Historic Preservation is the following: There’s simply no dedicated state or local funds for such projects. Bonds are exhausted. The nearest dedicated historic preservation funding, the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund, will be available again in 2029, but not before more important line items like education are funded first.

On top of this, Arizona has not enacted a State Investment Tax Credit to coincide with the Federal Investment Tax Credit for income-producing renovations, which increase the effectiveness and economic viability of both credits. At present, 38 states have a state-level credit that is in all cases a hugely successful preservation and economic development incentive.

This doesn’t mean homeowners are hopeless. There is a state property tax reduction program for residential owners of non-income producing properties. There are 8,000 homeowners in the program statewide, according to Eric Vondy, with the AZ State Parks Office. The program reduces the homeowner’s burden if they are inclined to maintain or restore their property. The tax reduction program is technically a reclassification program of what that property owner owes in taxes, which amounts to almost a 50% reduction.

In a perfect world, Brevoort, McPherson & Dreiseszun offer similar, yet differing perspectives for better preserving the local architectural record, from integrating salvaging materials into the demolition permit, reusing those materials, and mandating a building plans with a property owner if they were to demolish and rebuild.

According to Cody, minor solutions, not structural changes would go a long way to addressing the gaps in ordinances, like the city finally implementing demolition by neglect ordinances and making demolition applications come with required re-hearing every year in the event they’re denied, which would bring Arizona to the historic preservation standards of the rest of nation.

Cody, the Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer comes to Arizona with an education of Historic Preservation from cities like New Orleans and Charleston, the latter of which he called the “golden goose” of preserving its architectural history.

In a place like Charleston, their Historic Preservation office takes a much more proactive role in preservation. Cody gives an example of an occasion when two comparably historic buildings both structurally failed at about the same time, which left no other recourse than to demolish.

However, as a condition to approve a demolition permit, the city required the property owners to make 3D scans of the structure and drone footage to extensively document the structures’ existence.

But, strong historic preservation itself is conditional upon government departments, like the Historic Preservation Commission, being empowered to use their authority to act to set conditions rather than concessions.

If there’s a built-in fault to that logic, as Dreiseszun sees it, when concessions were already made to the property owner, there are deficits to the value of the building itself.

“I hear a lot, ‘It’s a hardship to the owner. It’ll be too costly.’ Well, it’s always gonna be that way because you have to advocate for the building,” Dreiseszun said. “When you’re advocating for the owner, they’ve lost their responsibility.”

Get out and explore The Valley of the Sun!

Frank Lloyd Wright once stated, “Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” We believe this to be true as well. We are lucky to live in such a spectacular place. After even a minor amount of exploring, it is easy to see why Wright chose to build his beloved winter home and desert laboratory, Taliesin West, right here in the Valley of the Sun.

Now that the weather is starting to cool off in the Phoenix Metro area, it is the perfect time to head outdoors and explore the plethora of multi-use trails in and around your neighborhood. Whether you want to hike, bike, go horseback riding, take a Jeep Tour or sit and observe nature, there are so many fabulous places to go right here in the Valley of the Sun. We even have several paths in or near Phoenix that have been deemed “barrier free” which means that anyone can enjoy these particular trails even if they are using a wheelchair, pushing a stroller, encouraging young children or slower walkers to hike, recovering from an injury or just beginning a fitness routine for the first time. Having these trails close by is just one of the many benefits of moving to Arizona!

While we realize that this incredible state has much more to offer in the way of trails, we thought it best to narrow our focus and dedicate this particular post to a few of our favorite trails in and around Phoenix. Feel free to click on any of the red text below to read more about these magnificent parks and trails.

Phoenix Parks/Trailheads

  • Camelback Mountain
  • Deems Hills Recreation Area
  • Lookout & Shadow Mountain
  • North Mountain & Shaw Butte (The Penny Howe Barrier Free Trail is barrier free)
  • Papago Park (the Crosscut Canal Trail & Elliott Loop Trails are barrier free)
  • Piestewa Peak & Dreamy Draw
  • Rio Salado Habitat Restoration (The North Overbank and South Overbank Trails are barrier free)
  • Sonoran Preserve (The East Skip Rimsza Paseo and West Skip Rimsza Paseo Trails are barrier free)
  • South Mountain Park/Preserve (The Judith Tunell Accessible Trail is barrier free)
  • Reach 11 Recreation Area (Barrier Free Access Nature Trail is barrier free)

Scottsdale Parks/Trailheads

  • Brown’s Ranch Trailhead  (The Jane Rau Trail is barrier free)
  • Gateway Trailhead (The Bajada Trail is barrier free)
  • McDowell Mountain Regional Park trailhead (The Nursery Tank Trail is barrier free)
  • Lost Dog Trailhead (Lost Dog Wash Trail is barrier free)
  • Pinnacle Peak Park has a trail for hiking, horseback riding and rock climbing.

Cave Creek Parks/Trailheads

  • Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area Map (PDF)
  • Cave Creek Regional Park
  • Desert Foothills Land Trust

East Valley Parks/Trailheads 

  • Usery Mountain Park in Mesa (The Merkle Barrier-Free Trail is barrier free)
  • Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction (The Native Plant Trail is barrier free)

Physical activity and fresh air might be more important now than ever before. While we encourage you to get out and be physically active, we also want to make sure you stay safe. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC recommends the following when visiting public parks and recreational facilities such as the trails and trailheads mentioned above:

  • Visit parks and recreation areas that are close to your home.
  • Don’t visit crowded parks or campgrounds.
  • Carefully consider use of playgrounds, and help children follow guidelines.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from people you don’t live with.
  • Wear a mask.
  • Wash your hands often and don’t share items with people you don’t live with.

If you are looking to move to Phoenix, Paradise Valley, Scottsdale, Cave Creek, Carefree, Peoria, Glendale, Tempe, Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler or any of the other surrounding cities, let us know. Our team of agents at azarchitecture can help you find the neighborhood that best fits your lifestyle. Contact us directly at info@azarchitecture.com, and we will put you in touch with an agent in your desired area.

“Leave the roads, take the trails.” – Pythagoras

Market Update October 2020

Let’s start with the stats! Here are the ARMLS numbers for October 1, 2020 compared with October 1, 2019 for all areas & types:

  • Active Listings (excluding UCB & CCBS): 8,101 versus 13,755 last year – down 41.1% from last year, but up 0.9% from 8,028 last month.
  • Active Listings (including UCB & CCBS): 13,305 versus 17,592 last year – down 24.4% from last year, but up 1.0% compared with 13,178 last month.
  • Pending Listings: 7,999 versus 6,011 last year – up 33.1% from last year, AND up 1.4% from 7,892 last month.
  • Under Contract Listings (including Pending, CCBS & UCB): 13,203 versus 9,848 last year – up 34.1% from last year, AND up 1.2% from 13,042 last month.
  • Monthly Sales: 9,667 versus 8,022 last year – up 20.5 from last year, AND up 4.9% from 9,213 last month.
  • Monthly Average Sales Price per Sq. Ft.: $198.68 versus $169.60 last year – up 17.1% from last year, and up 1.9% from $194.98 last month.
  • Monthly Median Sales Price: $327,000 versus $279,500 last year – up 17.0% from last year, and up 0.6% from $325,000 last month

According to the Cromford Report, “The flow of new listings was strong throughout September, with roughly 17% more listings posted than in September 2019. However, this did not result in much change to the available supply. This rose a barely perceptible 0.9% which is in line with normal seasonal trends.”

Regardless of a severe shortage of listings, ARMLS data analyst and commentator, Tom Ruff, is still projecting 2020 to be a record setting year for home sales in Maricopa County. In the most recent ARMLS Stat review, Ruff stated, “The deficit in year-over-year sales in April and May impacted the numbers, but the anomaly will most likely be fully erased in October. And when our final sales figures for the year are reported on January 1, the 2020 real estate market will have surpassed everyone’s expectations.”

One of the major factors fueling the current real estate market are the historically low interest rates available to home buyer’s right now. These rates have essentially made homes more affordable despite rising prices and they have allowed for an increase in buying power. According to a recent Forbes article, these interest rates “have made buying a home the most affordable it’s been since 2016.”

Even with record setting sales and interest rates at unprecedented lows, many clients continue to ask us if we think this is another housing bubble. While we can’t deny that a market correction is bound to happen at some point in the future, experts aren’t predicting it to happen any time soon.

In addition to low interest rates, the current market is being fueled by an increase in demand and a severe lack of supply which is markedly different than the factors that caused the “bubble” in the mid-2000’s. A surge in population growth in Arizona is a major contributing factor to the shortage of homes for sale. According to a recent AZ Big Media article, Arizona tends to be one of the top places that people are moving. With over 63% of all moves being inbound in Arizona last year, it doesn’t look like our market is going to take a dive anytime soon. People from places such as California, Colorado, Texas, Florida, Illinois, and Washington have been relocating to Arizona in record numbers seeking things like better weather, more space, lower taxes and more affordable homes.

So what is our advice to you based on this month’s market report? If you are thinking of buying or selling, NOW is the time to do it! Whether you are relocating to the Valley of the Sun or just looking to make a move within the Phoenix Metro area, our team of experience agents at azarchitecture is available to help you. We can help you find a home or price yours to sell. Feel free to reach out to us directly at info@azarchitecture.com for any of your real estate needs.

Hayden Library’s Reinvention with Todd Briggs of TRUEFORM

The surface level to Hayden Library on the ASU Tempe Campus became a mausoleum, of sorts, when the library entrance was sealed in 1988, as the then-new subterranean entrance to the library was opened south of the Hayden Lawn. Over the decades, the punchcard pre-cast panels on the outside, acted as a marker of its mid-century roots. It became a barrier for the sun as students and staff walked down Cady Mall on the way to Memorial Union for lunch. But, it never went away. When you’re an architect or designer, these are the things you notice when commissioned to bring new life to a building older than you. The project, dubbed the “ASU Hayden Library Reinvention,” involved the collaboration of Ayers Saint Gross Architects and TRUEFORM Landscape Architects. Normally, the further a landscape architect steps away from a project’s physical structure, the less they’re involved in the design. But, that dynamic was upended, owing to the unique design of Hayden Library. azarchitecture recently chatted with TRUEFORM’s principal architect Todd Briggs about this and the other unique dynamics to this project.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

On a Reinvention of this Scale

This project was very unique, in many ways. It’s the heart of campus. Right away, this is gonna be high profile and heavily scrutinized, attention to detail from the President (of Arizona State University) and everybody else. With that comes all these discussions with the library itself, the chief librarian. “What is a library in this day and age, with technology and access?” It’s not the library of 50 years ago or even 20 years ago. That was a big part of it, “What is a library now?

Obviously, that’s not impacting landscape a lot, but it does a little bit. Because it really encourages a porosity to its edges, which is why you now have three entries and exits at the library and more student engagement. All of those goals of the university start to factor into making more outdoor space accessible, useable, comfortable and flexible for different uses. It might be events, it just might be studying, it just might be two people having coffee. You have to achieve all of those. The challenges of marrying up all of those things, with new classroom space, a new structural lid, and a new plaza that’s at a different level from the Orange Mall. And then, matching that up with a 1966 building was super challenging.

On Peeling Back and Integrating Decades of Design Clutter

That subterranean entry [from an 1989 update] wasn’t there and it was this appendage. You know, trying to knit in a new perception of what a successful public space is and integrate with a 1966 building and architecture. When we see these old buildings like this, we’re always looking for chances to repurpose, reuse and recycle, all those “re”-words. What are the results of that intervention or what’s the goal and focus? A lot of the library felt very dark and dreary. There was not a lot of natural light. Ayers Saint Gross [the project architect] pulled all the granite slabs off the building. They made the first level of the library, which was the plaza deck level. It created a notion of this heavy base that the upper floors and delicate architecture sat upon.

But, we thought, “That granite is really beautiful — it’s just not doing what it needs to do anymore.” What if you pulled that off and used it in some other way? It happens to be two and a half inches thick. It’s really, really beefy and super heavy, but polished on one side. Once we inventoried how much granite would be available, we determined we could, because the library sits three feet above both Hayden Mall and Orange Mall, create this plinth, this raised platform plaza with the stairs and ramp to access it all the way around the entire library, with that material used as the retaining wall system. That proved to be one of the more exciting opportunities, because not one piece of granite was ever taken off site. It didn’t disappear, we kept that history in close context. It tells that story right there.

On Collaboration

As a design team alone, we closely collaborated with the architect on almost every detail, because every single thing we did was touching the building or touching the roof of the plaza below. On most projects, once we step away from the building, we’re not engaging much with architecture at all. The collaboration between the architect and the landscape architect isn’t as important. But, on this one, we collaborated on a daily basis. ASU that has such a layered system of management, you have to navigate all the different avenues including the offices of the university architect, capital planning and management, the President and CEO. And, all four entities have different opinions.

On Goals Set By Their Client of the Final Product

They had earmarked that north plaza down below at the moat level as a study space, an entry and exit and an event space. In normal, non-COVID times, the library hosts anywhere between a half dozen to a dozen special events, for which they’d use the outside area. And, they wanted to be clear, open, flexible, and not have many obstructions within it, but, at the same time, you don’t want it make it feel vast and empty. Making sure they could accommodate an event but still keep it inviting enough for four or five people in a study group to get out into the courtyard during nice weather was important. That north plaza is really interesting because it is shaded by the building for a long time during the year. So, it’s actually quite a pleasant environment even when it’s pretty warm out. That was completed first in August of 2019.

They required that and then the rest of the plaza level that sits three feet above Hayden Lawn and Mall, Orange Mall, and the MU [Memorial Union], just became seamless between the two as much as possible. And, they wanted it as useable and flexible with tables and chairs. Those just recently arrived. None of the photographs you’ve seen actually show furniture on the deck. There’s power all over the place up there so people can plug in. They put some Wifi enhancers on the building so all those plaza decks have really good strong signals. So that whole deck is usable and seamless to the surrounding malls, lawn and plaza. And that was really the predominant goal.

On Complimenting the Existing Design

We did something on some of the pedestal walls that hold the edges of the granite walls or stairs and ramps. We gave a little cant back on those walls because they sort of pick up that geometry on the pre-cast panels on the library. If you look at the columns on the old 1966 library, those columns actually taper down, they’re a little bit canted, so we picked that up and repeated it on the wall that project on the malls out toward the edge. Then, we repeated that angle with the handrails and the ramps. I was really looking to study the architecture and compliment it. And that goes all the way down to the planters, those white planters on top of the walls at the stairs and ramps. They weren’t custom designed, but they were made locally at Kornegay Design. And that design seemed to pick up a lot of what was going on in the hanging precast panels. There are a lot of little gestures.

On Feedback from the University Staff and Students

The north patio was used for six or seven months. I don’t think they ever hosted an event there, because they’re still adjusting to how to use their new library. But everything I’ve heard from the head librarian and the campus architect is that everyone loves the final product. President Crow said one time that his opinion of this library is that it’s ASU’s Acropolis [of Athens] and after it was all done, because there’s a new lighting effect on it, he says it’s elevated to what beyond it was. Obviously, the deck outside wasn’t used too much because COVID hit, and there never was furniture there until recently. We’ll see how it’s used. I’m curious to see it, I kinda wish I spent this last spring semester out there watching people. Because that’s what we love to do, just sit and watch people use space. We love to see how they use it.

On Architectural Luck in COVID

The interesting thing about COVID is that the upper deck space was space designed and laid out for furniture that actually exceeds CDC distancing requirements for seating. Just by chance, it just does. And, the reason why is that everything was predicated on the layout, the rhythm of the trees on the west side of the library that separate it and Cady Mall. When they grow, those trees will provide shade along Cady Mall, and provide shade for the seating.

I think there are 18 trees, so there are 18 pockets of seating and shade. All of those already adhere to ASU’s new guidelines, so they haven’t had to re-adjust anything along that entire deck like they have had to do everywhere else. You know, we didn’t forecast it, we just got lucky. But, we’re pretty giddy about that! I just talked to the landscape architect about that the other day about. And he said, “Yeah, we’re laying the furniture out and everything is meeting the distance requirements.”

On What They Learned from This Project

I guess the thing we took from this project the most goes back to more about the notion of history, preservation and repurposing. There really is no building, product or material on that project that you can’t find a way to reinvent it. That goes back to why they called it the Reinvention Project. There are no bounds to what you can redefine for a new generation or century. Because, as all of you at azarchitecture know, in Phoenix, we’re tearing down way too many buildings. And this could be one of those glowing examples of not needing to tear down anything. You can go in and surgically modify and tweak. It can be really delicately or really heavy handed. You can always find value in a building or a site, pretty much anything and figure out how to reinvent it, modify, change it into what the needs are today.

Thinking about relocating to Arizona? 

While we don’t have a beach, there are lots of other great reasons to move to Arizona! Here are just a few that come to mind:

Lower Taxes. According to a 2019 article from Kiplinger.com, Arizona is considered to be one of the top 10 most tax-friendly states while states such as Illinios, New York, and New Jersey are some of the top 10 least tax-friendly states.

Cost of Living is low. According to the Cost of Living Calculator on Payscale.com, “Phoenix’s housing expenses are 5% lower than the national average and the utility prices are 4% lower than the national average.” Cost of living could be calculated as high as almost 50% lower than areas such as San Francisco, California and New York, New York.

Lower cost of living means you can also get more for your money in Arizona as compared to states like California or New York. Even median home prices are significantly lower in Arizona. In an AZ Central article from 2019, the median home price is Phoenix was $273,000 while the median home price in San Francisco was $1.3M, $610,000 in Los Angeles, $522,000 in Seattle and $408,000 in Denver.

You can find a job! According to US News in 2019, Scottsdale, Arizona was ranked the number one place to find a job in the entire United States! Chandler, Arizona, another Valley city also made this list.

There is SO much to do! You don’t have to go far to find something fun to do when you live in the Phoenix Metro Area, but with Sky Harbor International Airport at your disposal, your options are endless! Whether you want to visit a museum, play a world class golf course, explore the outdoors or travel afar, you can easily do it all when you call Phoenix home.

Want to go to Las Vegas for the night? You can opt to hop on a quick flight or you can take a scenic, 4.5 hour drive past the Hoover Dam to get there. Want to go to the beach? No problem! A short four hour drive will get you to Puerto Penasco in Mexico, or you can drive six hours and arrive in sunny, Southern California. While mountains in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico are easily accessible from Phoenix by plane or car, you don’t even have to leave the state to find good snow skiing, hiking or mountain biking. A quick two or three hour car trip can have you exploring the mountains of Eastern or Northern Arizona in no time! And, don’t forget about one of the great wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon, located right here in Arizona.

In addition to outdoor activities, we have a plethora of museums and attractions you can visit such as the Musical Instrument Museum, the Heard Museum and the Phoenix Art Museum.

Sports fan? We’ve got you covered! The Phoenix metro area is home to the Arizona Cardinals (NFL), the Arizona Coyotes (NHL), the Phoenix Suns (NBA), the Phoenix Mercury (WNBA) as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB).

Speaking of baseball, if you are a fan, chances are, you can get your fill and maybe even cheer on your home team right here in the Valley of the Sun. Why? Spring Training, of course! Major League Baseball has only two “Spring Training” leagues, one played in Florida called the Grapefruit League, and the other, played right here in Arizona, called the Cactus League. Want to know more about the Cactus League and its history in Arizona, check out the blog post we wrote earlier in the year right here.

Now that you’ve seen more than a few good reasons why you should move to Arizona, here are some things we think you should know to make your relocation to Phoenix or Scottsdale easier: 

You don’t need an attorney as you would in New York or Chicago. Your REALTOR® can prepare documents for you and the title company can help manage the process. You can choose to hire a real estate attorney, but it is not required in Arizona.

The market is HOT! Many sellers are hesitant to sell to buyers that have not seen the property in person. This doesn’t mean it can’t happen though. Find a REALTOR® you trust to show you the property virtually and you don’t necessarily need to see it in person. If you can though, it’s always a good idea.

You’ll have room to roam. Like other large cities around the country, the Valley of the Sun is very spread out. The areas are all different. Talk with you REALTOR® about the amenities you want in an area such as a 55+ community, good schools, golf community, close to trails, close to family members already residing here, new build vs resale, multi-family vs single family, etc. They can help you find he perfect place.

If you are thinking of relocating to Phoenix, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Carefree, Cave Creek, Glendale, Peoria, Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert, Fountain Hills or anywhere else in the Phoenix Metro area, email us at info@azarchitecture.com. We are happy to help you navigate the in’s and out’s of relocating. Think of us as your relocation specialists! Let us help you make the Valley of the Sun your new home.

Market Update September 2020

Needless to say, our market has been as hot as our summer weather! In reference to the real estate market in Maricopa County for the month of July, Tom Ruff, The Information Market Data Analyst for ARMLS recently stated, “Day after day the news plays like a broken record, but when we look at the July sales data (as reported by ARMLS), it’s all about smashing records. The 10,303 home sales were not only the highest number of sales ever in July, but one of the highest monthly totals ever. Sales normally don’t peak in Phoenix in July; they almost always subside. The high-water mark for sales usually occurs in March, April, May or June. It is now clear that Covid-19 only paused sales, which in turn created pent-up demand. Our market has shown remarkable resiliency.”

The data for August was almost just as impressive. Per Tina Tamboer, Data Analyst for the Cromford Report, the past August was the third biggest August on record just behind August of 2004 which was a close 2nd to August of 2005.

With records being shattered and things changing so rapidly in this market, our clients are relying on us to stay as up to date as possible with the statistics. Here are some of the most recent questions our agents have been receiving from their clients and our answers to those questions:

Is this another bubble? That is a common question we are getting from clients these days. According to many experts in the field, the answer is no. In her weekly Zoom talks with area REALTORS®, Tamboer explains this by introducing the idea that the demand we saw in 2004 and 2005, prior to the burst of the bubble, was not real demand at all. The demand was driven by people purchasing properties under the guise that they would be living in them, when, in fact, they never intended to do so. Because of the number of properties that had been built prior to the bubble bursting as well as the investors buying up properties around the valley, we ended up with a glut of excess homes. Things are different now. Currently, inventory in ARMLS is shockingly low while the data from the Cromford Report shows that demand is staying slightly above normal.

What is fueling the current market? The shortage of supply coupled with excess demand is the perfect recipe to fuel the current market. Experts are saying that they think demand is holding strong because of the low interest rates currently available to buyers. Another interesting thing that could possibly fueling the current market in Maricopa County is the proposed tax increase on the wealthy in California as well as other states. In a recent National Review article, Robert Gutierrez, the President of the California Taxpayers Association said, “The tax hikes would be the tipping point for many taxpayers prompting them to book a one-way trip to one of the 49 states with lower taxes.” Many experts believe that the surrounding states such as Arizona and Nevada would and may already be benefiting from this “wealth flight”.

I have been thinking about selling my home. Is now a good time? Definitely! According to Danielle Hale, Realtor.com®’s Chief Economist, “Sellers are calling the shots in today’s market. Prices are rising and housing inventory is vanishing almost as fast as it appears.” In the same article for REALTOR® Magazine, Hale mentions possible changes coming to the market with the dynamics of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic as well as upcoming election in our country. If you have thinking about selling, we, as well as many expert, would recommend doing it now!

I would like to purchase a home. Is now a good time to buy? Surprisingly, YES! Even though supply is low, homes are still affordable. If you are in the market to purchase a home, now is the time to do it. In a recent article from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), NAR’s chief economist Lawrence Yun stated, “Although housing prices have consistently moved higher, when the favorable mortgage rates are factored in, an overall home purchase was more affordable in 2020’s second quarter compared to one year ago.”

We hope that you found the information in this post to be helpful. If you have additional questions, please feel free to reach out to us via email at info@azarchitecture.com. We would be happy to help you navigate this crazy market. It is what we do, and we love our job!

HOME+WORK with Brent Kendle, AIA – Part Three 

This final conversation of the three-part series entitled HOME+WORK, Scott Jarson pondered life without office and garnered the input from three top design leaders to share their experiences and wisdom. Eddie Jones, FAIA, of Jones Studio, and Luis Ibarra, of Ibarra Rosano Design Architects, were previously interviewed for this blog feature. Scott posited the same five set questions to each of them:

-What are you enjoying most about the space you are working in?

-How have you made things work under the current circumstances?

-Based on your recent time spent there, are there any changes you’re dying to make to your current design?

-With your recent experiences, how do you think this will affect the future advice and design concepts you’d want to share with clients?

-Do you feel that the pandemic experience in America may affect the future of urban design in the U.S. and even influence a return to suburbia?

He wanted to know how this time may have affected their approach, and how they think the future of design may be impacted as a result of recent experiences.

Our final installation of the series features insights from Architect Brent Kendle. Kendle Design Collaborative designs homes that are inspired by the natural beauty of our area and they work in an interesting arts compound on Cattletrack Road in Scottsdale.

SJ: Brent – Your studio is at the Ellis property on Cattletrack Road.  What are you enjoying most about the space you are working in?

BK: Yes. It’s laid back, casual and historic with adobe walls and concrete floors. It’s the antithesis of “corporate office”. It feels like going to your cabin on Mondays instead of heading to the office. It is surrounded by creative artists within an historic artist compound.

SJ: How have you made things work under the current circumstances?

BK: Our staff, except two of us, have been working from home. We collaborate with both staff and clients and interview with potential clients using platforms such as GoToMeeting, Zoom and FaceTime. Rather than sitting at a desk and sketching things while sitting next to my staff, I find I redline drawings and 3D model images, photograph them with my phone and send them to my staff who are working remotely. It’s pretty efficient really.

SJ: Based on your recent time spent there, are there any changes you’re dying to make to your current design?

BK: Dying to make? Not really. I can always think of improvements I’d like to make given time and money, but nothing needed right now out of any necessities caused by the pandemic.

SJ: With your recent experiences, how do you think this will affect the future advice and design concepts you’d want to share with clients?

BK: I think people are thinking more about the importance of a well-designed home since they are spending more time there. They are longing for those experiences they might find at their favorite restaurant, club, resort or other social gathering spot and wishing they had a way to create that in their homes.

SJ: Do you feel that the pandemic experience in America may affect the future of urban design in the U.S. and even influence a return to suburbia?

BK: I have to believe it will change many of the things we have taken for granted. Restaurants in particular.

When a top chef finds, out of necessity, that they can successfully and profitably run an upscale food delivery service out of their kitchen without the expense of renting dining space and the associated help cost, will they decide to do that instead of returning to their former restaurant? When a non-profit finds, out of necessity, to hold online fundraisers rather than the costly renting of ballrooms and the associated staff and hassle, will they opt for that, leaving venues like our upscale conference hotels to have to change their model?

Certainly offices will realize that they can collaborate with staff and clients from a distance, lowering their need to expand their space in order to take on new staff. And, that staff will feel emboldened to request more work-from-home options of their employers who previously felt the need to have their staff under one roof.


A huge thanks to Brent Kendle, AIA, LEED AP, of Kendle Design Collaborative in Scottsdale for helping to round out this three part HOME+WORK series. We are extremely grateful for Brent Kendle, Luis Ibarra and Eddie Jones for each taking time out of their busy schedules to share their insights and wisdom with us.