Ideal Time To Buy Arizona

By Dan Gleason
Because the real estate market has softened and slowed since that almost fanatical “spike” of 2005, there is a lot of inventory on the market, even in golf communities where the supply/demand traditionally leans more toward the seller than in traditional neighborhoods. For that reason, and because the interest rates are still low, this is a great time to buy a home in a golf community.
James Cundiff, a successful agent for Long Realty in Tucson, says that is indeed the case.“From a seller’s standpoint, we are on a pace equal to the 2004 market, which was a strong market, but not as wild as that 2005 market where there was almost no inventory and buyers had to get into bidding wars on homes. I don’t think that
market was ultimately good for the real estate business.”
Even many of those speculators in that 2005 market got burned, says Cundiff, in the end being stuck with homes they couldn’t flip, and often saddled with balloon mortgages and interest-only loans. The result is a huge number of foreclosures around the nation.
But in real estate, as in golf, as Cundiff describes it, “every shot makes somebody happy.” Signs of trouble for some developers translate into opportunities for homebuyers. Cundiff says that resale prices are lower and new home prices are very competitive. “We have an attractive interest rate in Arizona right now—under 6 percent in most cases. So it’s a terrific time to buy. And when you’re talking about homes in golf course communities, it’s an even better opportunity, since the value of golf course community homes appreciates annually as much as two or three times more than a
comparable home in a neighborhood without amenities.”
Even those whose decision to buy is based at least partly on a return on investment probably can’t go wrong right now, Cundiff says. “In Tucson now, there are some 10,000 homes on the market— about a ten-month inventory. Eventually, we should get down to a 60-day inventory here and in Phoenix, and then we will likely
see another boom.”
Blackstone at Vistancia: Ground-Floor Pricing
If the opportunities to buy golf course property are great right now, Curt Smith says that buying at his company’s new Blackstone at Vistancia, the Phoenix West Valley’s newest private country club community in north Peoria, are even better, because of ground floor pricing. Smith is CFO and COO of Sunbelt Holdings of Scottsdale, the developer of Blackstone.“Buyers get the value of the appreciation as the club grows and golfers have the advantage of a club that isn’t crowded with tee times.”
A true,multi-generational lifestyle community designed around a country club environment—which Blackstone is—is a first for the northwest Valley, Smith says. Blackstone is a gated community situated within the award-winning Vistancia master plan, located west of Lake Pleasant Road and Happy Valley Parkway.Vistancia is modeled
somewhat after Disney’s town of Celebration in Orlando—designed with main streets and squares, parks and narrow streets to encourage a throwback lifestyle to a safer and more neighborly era in America. Blackstone is a family-oriented, country club community within Vistancia, offering a totally private equity country club.
James Engh designed the course, which was opened in the fall of 2005. This is the first Arizona course for the Colorado architect who was honored by Golf Digest as its “Architect of the Year” and has been a four-time national award winner from the magazine. Created around dramatic, rolling terrain with deep, incised channels and sheer rock faces, the course was inspired by some of the great courses Engh has seen in Ireland. Even though the landscape of Ireland in no way resembles that of Arizona, Engh’s idea was to leave many areas in their natural form, a quality of many of the great Irish courses. There are elevation changes on every hole. One interesting
feature is that the course can be set up with seven sets of tees, to play from 7,100 yards and challenge the best players, to 4,300 yards. The greens are smooth and not severely undulated, and as a result they do not “beat” players up, but instead encourage golf that is challenging yet lots of fun.
The 30,000 square-foot clubhouse, The Hacienda, blends natural materials and historic Southwest architecture with contemporary design elements. Included inside are various fine dining venues, and a wine room for private tastings. The Hacienda also includes a 3,000-square-foot fitness center with high-tech training equipment and classes, tennis facilities, a resort pool with private cabanas, a lap pool and children’s play area with water features.
Golf memberships are priced at $75,000, at 80 percent equity (a 20 percent transfer fee is charged). There will be 400 golf memberships and about 300 social memberships (at $15,000). People who live outside the community can also join. There are about 500 lots behind the Blackstone gate, with a first phase of custom lots (priced from $350K to $1 million) nearly all sold out, but with more becoming available this fall. Condominiums, from 1,800 to 2,600 square feet, start in the $400s, and homes—from 3,900 to more than 5,000 square feet—start in the $900s.
Laughlin Ranch: A Recreational Haven
This is also an ideal time to buy a second home, which is a primary market for Laughlin Ranch, in Bullhead City, a recreational golf community near the fun town of Laughlin,Nev. Laughlin is a popular and laid-back alternative to the now-hectic, crowded Las Vegas. The award-winning golf course at this master-planned community is daily fee and features generous fairways that allow players to swing from the heels as they enjoy the scenery set among the
desert foothills and winding arroyos.
There are no spec homes at Laughlin Ranch, explains Orchid Comitz, who is director of public relations for the development. Of the 150 homes, 25 at one end are “buy, build and move in;” 25 at the other end, are “buy, build and resell” (from builders, small investment groups and individual owners); and the 100 in the middle are predominately for second-home buyers. Those who buy any lot with a production home must build within a year; with custom homes, the buyers have a year to get the plans and permits approved, then another year to build.
The community is built around the nearby Colorado River, as well as man-made lakes and an assortment of other recreational amenities.“Our owners come primarily from the larger cities within Arizona, especially Phoenix, as well as Las Vegas and California,” Comitz says. “We also have a big market of seasonal winter-visitor buyers from the Midwest.”
While there is a wide array of recreation in the area, from water sports to gaming, golf is the centerpiece of Laughlin Ranch. Laughlin Ranch Golf Club was selected as one of the top ten New Upscale Golf Courses in the Nation by Golf Digest magazine when the course opened in 2005. The course includes many elevation changes and five sets of tees that measure from 4,900 yards, stretching back to 7,100 yards.With the breeze rolling through the valleys, the course can play different every day.
Inside the 35,000 square-foot clubhouse, in addition to the golf shop is a 10,000 square-foot, full service day spa, a fine-dining restaurant called The Grill and an event center used for weddings and other festivities. The community is beautifully landscaped, including an assortment of lakes and cascading waterfalls, and the course has also won a national industry award for its landscaping.
Encompassing more than 12,000 acres of rolling terrain, highlighted by rugged mountains and both basin and range valleys, Laughlin Ranch provides residents and guests more than 80 miles of walking, hiking, biking and horseback riding trails, and what Comitz describes as “unparalleled views of the Laughlin casinos
and the Colorado River.”
Rancho Sahuarita: Seven Courses Within 15 Minutes
Just south of Tucson is one of the fastest growing communities in America—Ranch Sahuarita. Opened in 2001, this masterplanned community was the 11th fastest growing community in the nation last year, and for the past three years has been one of the top 25 master-planned communities in the country in terms of
homes sold.
Although there isn’t a golf course within the community, there are several in close proximity. “There are seven daily fee golf courses within a 15 minute drive,” says Cort Chalfant, Senior Vice President of Sharp and Associates, the community’s developer. There are several courses six miles to the south in Green Valley; Quail Creek is five miles away and Santa Rita is eight miles away.
This unique, 3,000-acre community offers diverse price ranges and styles of homes, from $165,000 for a 1,700 square-foot home up to $1 million for a custom home on large acreage. Out of the 13 actively selling neighborhoods, two are for adults only. A 150,000 square-foot shopping center is scheduled to open this year and will include grocery stores, service stores, boutiques and restaurants.
But perhaps the most attractive and appealing feature is the recreation here: a total of 13 parks, including a ten-acre lake and lake park—which is Arizona’s largest water park. Residents also enjoy recreation such as a miniature golf course, ten miles of bike and walking paths and 300 acres of open space. Additionally, there is a full-time activities director who plans activities for families, children and seniors, and will likely eventually book tee times at the surrounding courses. “There is always something to do here,” Chalfant says, “and we have many golfers in our community. People here get to know each other, and many of them have formed regular golf
While close to the city of Tucson, Rancho Sahuarita provides an escape from the fast-paced life of a city. “This is a fun place to live, no doubt about it,”Chalfant says.
Rancho Sahuarita, along with most of Arizona, is on a path of growth, as Chalfant explains. “I would expect homes not only in our community but in most of the rest of the state to appreciate in value. The market may have its ups and downs, but because the state continues such rapid growth, there is no end in sight to the investment values of buying a home here.”And because multiple listing services are loaded with inventory and interest rates remain low, he agrees that this is probably the best time to buy in the past three years.
Coming Soon: Encanterra, New Self-Contained Trilogy Community in Queen Creek
The model gallery will be open for sales in the fall for Encanterra, a new Trilogy community on the southeast side of Phoenix offering ground-floor opportunities in a self-contained, resort-like, private gated community. Encanterra’s centerpiece will be the first golf course that Tom Lehman designed on his own in Arizona. Lehman uses a hands-on approach with the design and the construction of his signature course here. In fact, he is on site about once a week, supervising the construction.
Encanterra has a Queen Creek address but is in Pinal County, only ten miles from the east 202 loop.
The entire community is planned to be a Mediterranean interpretation in the desert, maintaining that theme not only in the architecture of the homes, but also the restaurants and pubs, spa and fitness areas, wellness center and guest facilities. Ben Keilholtz, director of marketing for Blue Star Resort and Golf, which will manage the course and facilities, says that the whole idea here is to have the amenities of a resort within a totally private community.
Homes at Encanterra, developed by Shea Homes, will range from approximately 1,400-square-foot, two-bedroom units, up to 3,600-square-foot, four-bedroom homes. With one- and two-story options, there will be a lot of open space in the square footage, Keilholtz explains, adding that although the community is planned for people of all ages, the marketing will most likely target empty nesters and couples in their 40’s and 50’s. Prices have not yet been announced, but will include 14 floor plans with a limited number on the golf course.
Encanterra is a desert oasis, with lush, green grass, lots of trees and mature landscaping throughout. Closed streets and the Mediterranean village concept will provide the appearance and appeal of a more traditional style neighborhood. Because all residents will automatically be social members of the golf club, they are encouraged
to interact at the clubhouse, restaurants, spa, pubs and the Internet café.
Golf memberships must be purchased and will cap at 400.
The golf course, which is currently under construction, has lots of tall trees and green grass, something that Lehman cherishedgrowing up in his home state of Minnesota and wanted to recreate here at Encanterra. No homes are planned in the interior of the course, only around the exterior, which means that Lehman did not have to design a course to accommodate real estate sales.
Keilholtz added that it will be “a pure layout, typical of a Phoenix Country Club or traditional club you might see in the Midwest.” However, thanks to modern technology, Lehman has been able to move some dirt to create contour and subtle earth movements to shape some risk/reward situations off the tee, where a well-placed drive will always produce a flat lie, but an errant one likely won’t.
The golf course is scheduled to be completed in the fall and ready for play next spring, and the tour center, gatehouse and model home gallery by fall of 2007. The first residents are projected to begin moving
in by spring of 2008.
Long Realty’s James Cundiff explains it this way: “I would compare golf course property to oceanfront property, in the sense that you don’t always find it available in abundance.”He says that people who move here from out of state, for our climate, or in-state residents who seek to upgrade their lifestyle, want to have that kind of amenity readily available to them. “That’s why golf course property, especially the higher-end products, are always likely to sell more briskly because of that demand.”
As J.W.Marriott once said when asked about the secret of success in the hotel business, it’s all about location. And there is no better location than one where you can gaze out your window and see a pretty golf course before your eyes.