What you need to know as a first-time home buyer in Arizona!
Many newcomers, especially those who are moving here from other parts of the country, are looking for homes to purchase without knowing the unique challenges that homeowners face in the desert southwest. The growth rate in Maricopa County alone averages 230 people a day. At Rosie on the House, we are more committed than ever to provide information to prospective homeowners that both informs and protects.
Here we have put together a list of things to consider for those looking to buy homes in the desert for the first time:
Consider Our Climate of Sunshine & Heat:
Our beautiful Arizona climate, with 299 days of sunshine a year, is a big part of the draw to Arizona. However, it is important for home buyers to know that the sun is not a friend to Arizona homes. The constant exposure to the UV rays of the sun causes a lot of wear and tear on a home. And when the intermittent rain and monsoons do arrive, the sun damage to roofs, siding and exposed wood are often discovered.
Keeping your home affordably cool during our long hot summers is also a big part of the challenge of the Arizona homeownership experience
Home Construction Matters:
We advise that you do your homework before purchasing a flipped or remodeled home!
Generally, it is a good idea to buy a home in as close to original condition as possible. If the home has been flipped or remodeled, spend some time at the city's building department. Conduct some research to make sure that the remodel that was completed with a permit and is in compliance with the city code. If a contractor performed the work, the company name will be listed on the permit. Check that they are a licensed and bonded contractor (roc.az.gov).
- Territorial Homes | Unique to the southwest, these homes are attractive to many people. These homes are characterized by wood framing, stucco, flat roofs with a parapet and wood accents (vigas, latillas and headers are common). Be aware that these homes demand a lot of maintenance: flat roofs require diligent maintenance, and the more wood that is exposed to the elements the more maintenance there will be. Check out: How To Give Your Territorial Style Home Some TLC
- Ranch Style Homes | Typically, ranch style homes require less maintenance than territorial style homes. Ranch style homes are generally characterized by a single story, sloped roof and a 2 ft to 3 ft overhang all the way around the perimeter of the home. This overhang helps protect the rest of the home from UV rays. Check out: Don’t slop Italian Dressing On A Ranch House
- Masonry Homes | A masonry home is the best choice for low maintenance. No matter the style of home you choose- if it is made of concrete block it will require less maintenance, be longer lasting and more easily insulated.
Landscaping Is Definitely Different Here!
Please come to Arizona with water conservation in mind!
- 70% of most Arizona homeowner’s water consumption is from water used in their landscape.
- Choosing a yard with a beautiful, lush landscape will cost you a pretty penny and tax our water supply.
Desert dwellers have learned to use xeriscaping to create beautiful yards with indigenous plants and plants that adapt well to the desert. Our abundant sunshine allows for plants that thrive all times of the year, including many fruit trees and plants that are edible! A good irrigation system with an automatic timer will go far in helping to protect the plants in your new yard! Check out: 5 Ways To Make Your Desert Yard More “Sustainable”
A good quality window is essential to an energy efficient home. Check the homes existing windows to make sure they come from a quality manufacturer. We really like the dual pane, extruded fiberglass window by Pella. A well-made window will help to ensure that you are not air conditioning the out of doors (a very expensive practice). Check out: Pain In The Glass
Note: If windows are used in conjunction with tinting, screens, and shades they will help protect the interior furnishings of your home safe from UV damage.
There are still plenty of neighborhoods in Arizona not connected to a city sewer system. If that is the case, your new home will be on a septic system. This is not bad, just different. There is some maintenance involved with septic, including a regular pumping of the system. Learn about how to care for your system, including how to know when it needs to be replaced. Check out: What Should I Know About My Home’s Septic System?
All Arizona homes have hard water, i.e. water that is full of particles resulting from high levels of naturally occurring minerals. If you are accustomed to soft water and prefer it, the addition of a water softener will be needed. The Phoenix Metro area is called the Salt River Valley for a good reason! This appliance removes the minerals from your water supply keeping clothes cleaner, bathroom and plumbing fixtures brighter, and water using appliances lasting longer. Check out: Would My Home Benefit From A Water Treatment System?
Air Conditioning & Heating
AC and heating as well as energy efficiency are keys to comfort and safety in the desert. You will want to make sure that the home you are considering has a quality AC and Heating unit(s) as well as efficient ductwork and a programmable thermostat. Request prior maintenance records to see if the unit has been maintained. During the warmer months, May to October, the largest portion of your monthly energy bill will be cooling.
A Note for Cooling | Managing how and when to you use energy will save homeowners a significant amount on their monthly bills. Prior to your first summer here, get used to concept of 'supercooling'. This is a money saving way to consume energy. Start by making sure you sign up for a time-of-day use buying plan with your utility company. Then practice shifting as much of the home's energy use as possible to off peak hours when energy is the least expensive. Next, stagger the use of energy use during on peak hours to keep your energy demand low.
A Note for Heating | If you are moving from a home with gas heat, you may want to put dual energy, gas and electric, on your list of must haves for your new home. All electric heat pumps, a common system in Arizona, blow out air that is cooler than your body temperature but, will still warm the room. Many of our new Arizona homeowners who are here from cold climates, where they use gas heat, don't like the air from a heat pump.
Maintaining Your Home:
- The Arizona Registrar of Contractors is a unique entity in Arizona that protects homeowners by licensing construction contractors. Contractors must pass a trade specific test as well as a test on state rules and statutes. . Use this website to make sure that anyone who has or will do work on your home is licensed, bonded and insured: roc.az.gov
- Rosie on the House - that’s us! We provide an encyclopedia of homeowner related information free on our website, operate a referral network that provides reliable contractors that are Rosie certified, and field homeowners questions through email, phone calls and our Saturday morning broadcast.
Once You Are Settled:
Get out and enjoy Arizona!
We want you to keep your home in good repair so that you can have extra time to get out and enjoy Arizona! Of the 5 C’s of Arizona, Climate is our favorite. We love enjoying the outdoors and hope you, too will learn to love and appreciate this great state.
Our vast public lands and state parks make enjoying the beautiful flora, diverse critters and amazing views of Arizona possible just about any day of the year! Check out: Arizona Game & Fish & Arizona State Parks & Trails
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