Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What You Get for the Money ($75,000 to $90,000)

February 2009 update - I've discontinued this briefly run series, in light of the plunging prices that happened in the metro Phoenix region in late 2008 and are continuing in 2009. Instead, I suggest readers check out my Sunday Stats series which tracks sales volume and median price information for most of the Valley north, northwest and central ZIP codes.

This is the 1st in what I hope & plan will be an ongoing series of posts about real estate price bands around North Phoenix. Essentially, I'm trying to answer the question I get from almost every out of towner who's considering a metro Phoenix area real estate investment - "how much does it cost?"

This blog is focused on North Central Phoenix, where I live, work, and grew up. So the What You Get for the Money series will include only the ZIP code areas of 85020, 85022, 85024, 85028, 85032, and 85050. You can see these on a ZIP code map here and here

Price Band $75,000 to $90,000
This is a challenging price band in almost every part of the metro Phoenix area, but especially so in the North Central Phoenix area (the ZIPs noted above).  In these postal codes, your dollar buys a smallish 1 or 2 bedroom condo.

In Phoenix, "condo" typically means it looks and feels like an apartment. These are usually 2-story stucco buildings, often with tile a roof. Usually, there are ground floor units and upstairs units, and about 4 to 16 units per building.

Most buyers and sellers think there's a value attached to being on the upper floors ("no one above you" or "no one walking on your head" is common phrasing in the online ads). But it's not a hard and fast rule that upstairs is "better". I've had young singletons tell me they feel safer being upstairs, while buyers in their 40's, 50's and 60's tell me they want something on the ground floor for easy access when they're older and the old knees might go. Generally, having an end unit is also desirable, because only end units get light from windows on 2 sides of the condo.

Parking is usually a row of covered, assigned spots and you're usually assigned only 1 spot. If you must have a garage in these ZIP codes, you'll need to stretch your budget to at least the $175,000 to $200,000 range. Storage space is found in closets and cupbaords under staircases (aka "Harry Potter's bedroom"). Many condos have balconies and/or patios with closets for additional storage.

Condo owners own space, not land, although in most condo complexes the individual owners jointly own the common area. The common area is where the postal boxes, pool, and any other amenities are located, as well as the streets, sidewalks and any landscaping.

Condo conversions are common in this price range. During the real estate boom of 2005-06 a lot of developers took older apartment buildings and turned them into condos, selling individual units and often making hefty profits. I'm no expert in building codes and so I hesitate to even write this, but I believe (?) that the building process is different for condos vs. apartments, and so the noiseproofing between neighbors is better in condos than in apartments. But everyone has their own limit for tolerating noise from the next door neighbors, so condo conversions aren't necessarily bad, just different. (Any readers with authority on condo & apartment building codes? Please comment!)

At today's writing, there are  17 properties for sale between $75,000 and $90,000. It's important to note that of these 17, only 5 are not lender owned or short sales. They're on a map and in a list below.

As you can see from the chart above, the spaces are small, 600 hundred to 1,100 square feet. I would normally say this price band buys you only 600 to 900 square feet, but with foreclosures pushing down prices, buyers might get a little more space for their dollar.

Below are some interior & exterior photos of properties typical to this price band.

The most popular financing in this price band is often an FHA loan. These loans allow buyers to put as little as 3% of the purchase price down. For cash strapped buyers, and especially for first time buyers, buying a small condo on an FHA loan can be a great launching pad to building real wealth.

First time buyers often combine an FHA loan with a Down Payment Assistance program. These allow the seller to contribute to the buyer's down payment. You can read all about options for first time and cash-poor buyers here: and get some up to the minute advice on FHA loan program changes at The Arizona Mortgage Guru's blog.

Shopping in this price band and want more info? I am happy to help you out! Just call and I'll set you up with a custom MLS search that will email you whenever new listings hit the market that suit your needs.