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Dream House: Arcadia Part III

Look at me; I’m finally getting around to the final installment of my Arcadia Dream House series. Sorry, life and more dramatic and ridiculous stories got in the way for awhile there.

If you can remember WAY WAY back to the end of 2010, in Part I, we discussed Arcadia and why it’s a desirable area. In Part II we talked about the first two houses we saw (which, admittedly were a bit of a letdown).

Moving on:

House 3, Royal Palm Cir. – Now this baby was more like it. 4400 square feet, built in 2001 (I’m assuming it was a knock-down), with gorgeous Spanish accents (décor accents, not pronunciations with rolled Rs). It is (and I can says ‘is’ because I repulled it just now and nothing appears to have changed about the listing), however, a short sale and priced at $1.1mil.

So just to recap: fabulous and desirable in Arcadia does exist, but you have to breach the million dollar barrier. That’s a touch disheartening for all of us out there who live in the real world where the economy has been playing that game with us your older brother used to play with you in the pool. You know the one where you’re dunking each other and then he grabs you and dunks you under and pulls you back up with just enough time so you can get a breath in and then dunks you under again? And you started out laughing but by the third time you’re crying and pretty sure you’re going to die and it’s just basically water-boarding by sibling? It’s not funny anymore, Economy. Mom’s totally going to ground you when she hears about this!

Anyway, this house totally would work for my sister/faux client. It was spacious and artsy. The kitchen was gorgeous and had one of those farmhouse sinks I’ve always wanted that makes doing dishes look nostalgic and fun (I’ll wash and you dry and we’ll tell each other jokes while we do it). The master closet was the size of Rhode Island. The master bath had an entire desk in it. My favorite part was the covered patio off the master:

And also the view of the camel’s snout:

I would throw parties and put on the invites 'Just Under the Camel's Snout' as the party location.

At that point we thought we’d found a winner. But then we saw:

House 4, Calle Tuberia – Before I tell you about this house, I need to give you a little background on my family. I have a brother and a sister. I have three sons and my sister has one son. My brother has not yet traveled down the road of offspring. So if you’re keeping count, that’s four grandsons for my mom. This makes her sad. She LOVES her grandsons, but she would also love a girl to spoil with beautiful clothes and jewelry. That’s how she tells people she loves them: with beautiful clothes and jewelry. So right now her love is going unappreciated by her four grandsons.

My sister and I loved this house SO VERY MUCH A LOT that we decided we should tell my mom if she buys it and saves it as the prize, we’ll each keep having babies one after another until we eventually produce a female heir to the clothing/jewelry throne and whoever does it first gets to have the house. Because my parents are the only ones in this family who even have a hope of affording this house. I think it’s a good plan. We just need to give my mom 3 glasses of pink wine and pitch it to her, I think.

Deboarding the tangent train. The house. Was. Spectacular. 3500 square feet, a knockdown of a 1955 ranch style home with totally stunning, modern décor. I seriously don’t even really have the words to describe it. All I can think of is: pretty pretty, I want.


I may have just peed my pants a little bit.

Can I lay down right here on this stunning wood floor and gaze up at the amazing ceiling for a minute?

Even the light fixtures were rad.

Even the laundry room knobs were pretty! PRETTY PRETTY I WANT!

I’m fairly certain this one was purchased as a fix n flip by a design/construction company. In the tax records it shows that it changed hands for $510K early in 2010. It’s now on the market for $1.365mil. When my sister and I saw it it was priced $100K more. I’m telling you, I’ve seen the views from Fountain Hills and the estates in North Scottsdale and Paradise Valley. If I had this kind of scratch, THIS is the house I would buy.

House 5, Calle Tuberia Part 2 – As much as I’d love to end on a high note, we did see a final house after THE BEST HOUSE EVER and it was also on Calle Tuberia, but that’s where the similarities ended. This sucker was 2500 square feet, built in 1957 with an addition put on some time recently and priced at $600K.

This house had a pretty front yard and a decent back yard, but the inside was kind of a mess. The ceilings were low and the hallways were narrow, the rooms were small and segmented-feeling. The kitchen was tiny. The master closet was worse. It needed a lot of work.

With that end to our Arcadia journey, here was our conclusion: If we were Richy Regina and her sister  Wealthy Wanda, we’d consider Arcadia. But for our budgets, the money goes so much further in Chandler, Gilbert or even Tempe. $600K in Chandler gets you a mansion with all of the trimmings. In Arcadia it gets you a property on a nice lot, close to Scottsdale Fashion Square and the Biltmore area, that needs to be completely knocked down and rebuilt. It’s just not particularly practical.

(Unless my mom takes the deal! I will begin procreating immediately! Jason, get home, NOW!)

Arcadia Dream House: Part II

Where were we? Ah yes, Arcadia. In Part I we talked about where Arcadia is and what makes it special and desirable. Now on to the houses we saw:

House 1, Vermont Ave.- The first house we saw was a bank-owned property right at the base of Camelback Mountain. It was built in 1982, 3180 square feet and priced right around $800K.

A bit of the camel from the upstairs deck.

This house was kind of a weird one. At first glance it seemed pretty fabulous. Excellent location with mountain views, recently remodeled and very modern kitchen and baths, nice big backyard with a pool, spa and covered BBQ area. But when we really started to discuss the intricacies of how you would live in this house, its shine started to fade.

The kitchen didn’t actually have much in the way of cabinet or pantry space. The upstairs bedrooms connected in a line, like adjacent hotel rooms and one of the three upstairs bedrooms had a wall that opened up over the family room (it wouldn’t feel like a very private room). All of the remodeling had a faint odor of DIY (the paint edges weren’t nice or subtle, the cabinets had IKEA stickers, the flooring was different in every room).

The house just wouldn’t work for my sister and her family at all. It was a no. And a disappointment. $800K and 3180 square feet in Arcadia isn’t necessarily a slam-dunk, we learned on that one.

House 2, Exeter Blvd.- The second house was a traditional sale (not a bank owned, not a short sale). It was 3572 square feet, built in 1955 and priced at $880K.

We were pretty excited about the prospect of this house. It seemed like the traditional Arcadia cutie. It should have lots of charm from the 1950s and at almost $900K we should be getting a fair amount of fabulousness, right?

Well… sort of. It definitely had some 1950s charm.

The mantle had a detail that might be pretty if it didn't look like it had been painted by a 5 year old with a nail polish brush.

The kitchen had little kitchy saltillo tiles painted with fruit in random spots. OK, I didn't really think this was charming or cute either. But I guess maybe it was interesting? To people with no taste?

Unfortunately, it also had the low ceilings, narrow halls and almost non-existent closets of the 1950s. It had obviously been remodeled in the 1980s, but not completely, and not since. My sister liked the Saltillo tile and butcher block kitchen counter, but not much else.

Dear Sink, Backsplash and Gold Faucet, If you were a person, you would be on a fashion emergency show. One host would play good cop by holding your hand and nodding sympathetically while the other would tell you how you were NEVER in style and are embarrassing yourself. Love, The Bad Cop

This is the best warning against early adoption of brand new technology I've ever seen. "I'm totally going to have this new fangled awesome electric can opener built in to my wall! Everyone on the block will be so jealous of how high-tech I am."

It was another lesson learned for my sister. People often want the history and unique touches of older properties, but the lack of closet space is a deal killer. Or the claustrophobic panic they get from walking down the hall to the bathroom. Clearly people were smaller, thinner and had lamer wardrobes in the 1950s; it’s important to remember. Also, ‘unique touches’ don’t even usually equal ‘pretty and in good taste’, much less always. It’s not like tacky is something that didn’t exist in the olden days.

At this point in our tour, we were a little bit bummed out. Even if we could scrape together a million dollars, it didn’t look we could get what we wanted out of Arcadia. Under a million gets you a house in need of an epic remodel.

Luckily, the next house cheered us up a bit… (To be continued in Part III. When I get around to it.)

Dream House: Arcadia Part I

Arcadia is one of those areas in Metro-Phoenix you just happen upon because you’re going to a party at a work acquaintance’s house who lives at Camelback and 48th Street. You pull into the neighborhood 10 minutes before the party is set to start because you thought it would take longer to get there. You don’t want to be the first one in the door because you’ll end up making small talk with the work acquaintance about your mutual boss’s tendency to speak to the front of your shirt rather than your face and the boss will inevitably wander in right at the moment you say ‘boobs’ and point to your chestal region and you’ll spend the rest of the party wondering if he heard any of that and over-analyzing whether he’s looking at your cleavage now or specifically avoiding it. To circumvent this you drive around for a bit to kill time. As you’re wandering you realize it’s a fabulous, adorable neighborhood. It’s filled with unassuming, but unique ranch-style homes on large lots. There’s no tract home feel and some of the houses are spectacularly well-maintained and originally remodeled; it’s clear even from the exteriors. I could live here, you think.

And of course you could. Everyone thinks that. That’s why it’s insanely expensive and exclusive. Arcadia is kind of a Reese Whitherspoon neighborhood. It tricks you into thinking it’s all down-to-earth and accessible, and you could probably totally be BFFs if you could just get your hands on a phone number, but really it’s just as unattainably rich, famous and heavily body-gaurded as Jennifer Lopez (McDowell Mountain Ranch). Your co-worker is probably married to a plastic surgeon.

My sister and I picked Arcadia for our first ‘Dream House’ tour because she’s always appreciated the slightly old-fashioned, but interesting and expensively beautiful esthetic. You know, Anthropologie-esque. That’s her look. We wanted to see what kind of scratch it would take for her to buy one of the fabulous little gems we’d always driven past and coveted.

Geography Lesson: OK, so I had to actually do some Googling to figure out what the boundaries of Arcadia are. It’s not a specific subdivision with an HOA like we know and love out in the East Valley. It’s more of a large neighborhood. It’s sort of like Ahwatukee (which some morons are still convinced is a city. I showed a listing out there a couple of months ago with Ahwatukee in the MLS as the city. Not a city, Dummy. Phoenix is the city. Tangent.). I found a Wikipedia entry on Arcadia that called the boundaries Camelback to the Crosscut Canal and 44th Street to 68th Street. I have, however, heard it described as a much broader area. For the purposes of this tour, we kept mostly in that main area, although we did see one house just North of Camelback, right up against the mountain.

The home building in Arcadia began in the 1950s and many of the houses there now were originally constructed in that time period. Because the location is in such high demand, however, there has been quite a bit of land-subdividing and new construction, complete remodels and even total knockdown rebuilds. The lack of a Home Owner’s Association makes for some unusual sights as you drive around. We saw an enormous yellow house with a purple block fence across the back. We saw blow-up Santas and houses coated in holiday vomit next door to homes clearly worth millions. It’s a neighborhood like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.

The basic parameters of the houses we toured were:

2500-4400 square feet

4 bedrooms

2 car garage

Built between 1955 and 2001 (although one I’m convinced was a total knockdown and built this year)

Priced between $600K and $1.465MIL.

And let me tell you; what we saw ran the gamut.

My sister did find her dream house. She actually found two she could happily live in for the remainder of her existence. She also decided that if she had $600,000 to spend on a home, she probably wouldn’t spend it in Arcadia and her antique-loving heart learned to appreciate the benefits of new construction.

Monday I’ll share the details…

Dream House

The first day after you get your license as a real estate agent, when you’ve gotten all of your red-tapey things squared away and you’re officially a member of your association, you spend 7 hours straight searching the MLS for your dream home (and calculating all of the potential commissions you would make on each of these homes).

You investigate all of the amazing neighborhoods you’ve always wanted to live in and you scour the high price ranges looking for that very perfect house you kind of have to have right now even though it costs 8 times what you can afford as a newly licensed agent. Oh sorry, did I say you could afford an eighth of what you’re looking at? Because I just realized that 8 times zero is actually still zero. It’s actually infinity times what you can afford PLUS 3 million.

Eventually you tire of looking at pictures of amazing houses you’ll never have and move on to the number 2 activity of newly licensed agents: looking up what people you know paid for their houses in the tax records and reassembling your opinions of them accordingly.

The sad thing is that when you become a real estate agent, you think you’ll spend your days strolling through amazing properties with titanium and diamond bidets and hologram butler services and your evenings hammering out deals with independently wealthy buyers and sellers over cocktails and tapas. But really you spend more time stepping gingerly through houses trying not to get on your shoes whatever the previous owner let their dog do on the carpet before the bank foreclosed on the house and holding your breath to keep from retching on the dried out sewer trap smell (or explaining what a dried out sewer trap smell is). And the only ‘cocktails’ involved in contractual debates are the glasses of cheap wine you have to pound back to de-stress after spending 5 hours stalking a ‘busy’ listing agent who won’t call you back because he already has 3 offers on that property anyway. But I digress.

The point is, although I’ve had occasional clients looking for expensive and/or unique properties, they certainly aren’t the bread and butter of my business. So I have decided to start a new feature on my website that is almost completely and solely for my own entertainment and call it: Dream House.

The Dream House blogs are going to involve me picking a ‘client’ out of my own social sphere and setting up an afternoon of showings of houses that they (or maybe just me) would love to live in if they won the lottery (or were able to successfully train their baby to be a Disney star).

I know, you’re thinking this sounds unethical on my part. I’m touring houses without a buyer who could actually afford them? It’s actually totally not. They tell us all the time in the How to Be a Fabulously Wealthy and Awesome Real Estate Agent seminars we should be constantly previewing homes on the market, even if we don’t have a buyer for them, just to have a good understanding of what’s going on in the market. So it’s actually research. Super fun, expensive houses with rad design features we could never afford, research.

And don’t worry: if the listing says it’s occupied by an 87 year old couple who is on oxygen and has 11 golden retrievers and a niece with a 3 week old baby staying with them, so please make an appointment 5 days in advance so the sellers have time get everyone (and the oxygen tank) out of the house for the showings, I will leave that one off the list. I’ll stick to houses that are slightly less of a hassle to show for everyone involved.

Plus, please. It’s really in the seller’s best interest to have me see their house and know its features. Who knows when I might meet the Lithuanian heiress at a soccer game sitting next to me in her camping chair cheering for her North East Valley 6 year old nephew, who’s thinking about buying a house in Arcadia with a pot filler and surround-sound controlled by Ipod docking stations built into the walls? It could totally happen.

All of this is a build up to my Friday post on 5 homes in Arcadia I took my sister (who is the heiress to a small Dobson Ranch fortune split three ways) to last week. It was really fun. Although her newborn, Colby, was not amused by the part where I tried to teach her how to carry him in one of those baby slings but I showed her how to put him in wrong, so he had to tour three houses with his feet sticking up out of the top of the sling and his sweet little face smashed into the side of her boob. I think he’ll get over it, though. Babies have short memories.

Tune in Friday for the Arcadia Dream House Tour!