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Should you buy or sell a house during the pandemic?


Man handing another man keys with a boy to the left in front of a blue door

In an economy hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, impacts to the housing market aren’t cut-and-dried. Demand for homes appeared to drop along with sales in March, but home prices have risen. So, should you buy or sell a house during the pandemic?

What does this mean for the average homebuyer or seller?

Gary Pivo, a professor of real estate development and urban planning in the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, is a widely cited expert on responsible property investing and sustainable urbanization.

Pivo talked to UANews about how COVID-19 might impact the number of homes for sale and sale prices, and whether the pandemic will encourage people to move to less dense areas. He also offered advice for those interested in buying or selling now.

Q: How has the pandemic affected the time houses spend on the market?

A: There is anecdotal evidence that things are selling more slowly. There’s been a decrease in existing home sales. Historically, there’s a strong negative correlation between time on market and home sales. So, the drop in sales would normally increase time on the market. Also, median months on the sales market for newly completed homes increases during recessions. But some of the drop in sales is from a shrinking market – a decline in both the number of buyers and sellers. So, if there remains some balance between the two, time on the market may not be greatly affected. 

Q: People like to look at the 2008 financial crisis when they think about the effects of the pandemic on real estate. Is it a fair comparison?

A: That was a crisis in our financial system that made it harder to get mortgages. So far, lending policies have remained unchanged, so that’s a key difference. Damage to household wealth did occur then and is happening now and that will weaken demand for housing, but low interest rates will offset that to some degree. But people with uncertain job prospects don’t want to buy houses. Still, on net, I do not expect a downturn in housing prices anything like the 24% drop we saw during the financial crisis. Commercial real estate may see bigger effects, particularly Class B and C retail and office space, if small businesses close, which seems quite possible.   

Q: How likely is it that lenders change their loan criteria for mortgages in the face of the economic effects of COVID-19?

A: As of April 2020, the Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey on Bank Lending Practices by the Federal Reserve shows lending policies for mortgages have remained basically unchanged, according to 91.1% of the respondents. 

Q: The housing market in Tucson was steadily growing before the pandemic. How has COVID-19 changed that?

A: Financial stress on households should weaken demand, eventually pushing downward the 7% annual growth in housing prices we’ve seen the past two years. I expect to see total returns on investment in the private student housing market in Tucson and elsewhere to crater during the second quarter and that could extend through the year depending on how many students return to the UA in the fall.

Q: How might the pandemic foster a counter-urbanization movement?

A: This means increasing the share of people interested in living or companies locating outside denser areas, in the suburbs or exurbs or rural towns. In that case, we’d end up developing more open space, paying more for infrastructure and using more energy – all things known to be the result of suburbanization. My guess is this may have some slowing effect on New York City – for example, an Amazon might think twice before investing in a major office center there – but unless COVID-19 gets out of control in several other large urban centers, there won’t be a permanent shift in attitudes toward urban living.

Q: What advice would you give people who are thinking about buying or selling a house right now?

A: The interest rates are the lowest in history, so if you’re looking to buy a place to call home and have secure income, I’d go for it. If you’re looking for a student housing or a vacation rental investment, I’d wait and see what the future holds. You may get a better price and returns down the road. For sellers, prices are holding up just now and have been rising for the past few years. So, it is a good time to sell even if you may have to wait a little longer to find a buyer. I don’t see much upside to waiting.

5 Phoenix Neighborhoods Trending Up Towards 2020

As we approach the third decade of the millennium, the neighborhoods of Central Phoenix are beginning to resurge as community hubs and destinations for foodies and families alike. Check out 5 CenPho neighborhoods that will be worth the investment. 



Trending Up: Artsy appeal, campus proximity, coffee & foodie destination

The statue of a phoenix at Roosevelt and 13th streets proclaims “Garfield Rising.” After booms in the Willo and Coronado historic districts, Garfield is beginning to emerge.  With artsy attractions such as Alwun House, Welcome Diner and Sundown Arts Gallery, and thanks to its proximity to Downtown, “the Eastlake-Garfield neighborhoods are nicely situated for becoming cool,” says Reinvent PHX’s Katherine Coles.

With the 100-year-old properties being bought, remodeled and re-delivered to the public by developers like Trellis, Temac and "mom-and-pop" local residents, Garfield is seeing a new type of neighbor emerge. The recent delivery of luxury apartments, 11 Capital Place and 12 Capital Place, as well as the Roosevelt Row renaissance, have brought a resurgence of ASU students to the immediate area. In the next two years, a flock of job-creating developments in the area – ASU’s Arizona Center for Law and Society, U of A’s Cancer Center and Biosciences Partnership Building – could help Garfield take off even further. 

Local Attractions: 
• Gallo Blanco Mexican Cafe & Bar
• Welcome Diner
• The Pueblo Plant Nursery
• Mother's Bunch Brewery
• Street Coffee


"The Triangle" - Grand Ave

Trending Up: Hip housing, cool cafes, historic vibes

This urban pocket bounded by Roosevelt Street, Grand Avenue and Seventh Avenue has seen the beginning of its renaissance in the past 3 years with no plans to slow down heading into 2020. The hip hypotenuse, Grand Avenue, got spruced up with green bike lanes and Grid Bike Share spots. But it’s the "Containers on Grand" apartments that have locals talking. Fashioned from  shipping containers, these edgy studios bring a futuristic feel to the historic 'hood. Meanwhile, Eighth Avenue is seeing traditional-style new builds go up routinely with White Stone Studios’ Danish-style homes being featured in Dwell magazine, and the upcoming Center 8 Townhomes bringing modern luxury to the area. 

“This area contains both charm and great stories of its past. The neighborhood’s small size also allows for these stories to be told and there’s easy communication between property owners, residents, business owners and developers.”

- Local Resident, Kara Carwell 

Local Attractions: 
• Novel Ice Cream
• Grand Avenue Pizza
• ThirdSpace
• Barrio Cafe
• Grand Avenue Brewing Co


Trending Up: Views of downtown, mountainside living, hiking & outdoor activity 

With commuting getting more expensive every day, working and living along the light rail makes sense for a lot of the central Valley's residents. With expansion of the light rail to reach Dunlap, in the near future, the breach of Sunnyslope will be a quick ride to the central corridor, Tempe, and Mesa.

Residents live at the base of North Mountain, with the area extending about 2 miles west of the mountain. Homes here have stunning city & mountain views for a median price under $300,000. A few blocks to Dreamy Draw, Piestewa Peak, and Phoenix Mountain Preserve means easy access to mountain biking, hiking, and other outdoor activities.  

Local Attractions: 
• Timo's on Central
• North Mountain Park
• Phoenix Mountain Preserve 
• Grinder's Coffee
• Pointe Hilton Tapatio 


 Central City South (WHD)

Trending Up: Downtown proximity, Venues & Stadiums, Warehouse District

Cross over the Union Pacific railroad tracks and you'll find yourself in the (soon-to-be) tech hub of Downtown Phoenix. Central City South, home to the Warehouse District, has seen an influx of industry as historic warehouse buildings are being converted to support high-volume tech & healthcare companies and their sprawling campuses by companies like WebPT & Galvanize. Just blocks where the Suns and Diamondbacks play, the district is attracting an eclectic collection of office spaces, restaurants, galleries and one-of-a-kind venues for music and events. 

With luxury complexes like Symphony & Henson Village, you would not believe that you were on the south side of the tracks. New housing will open soon. JMA Ventures, a real estate investment firm, will break ground this spring on a 276-unit apartment complex. The project will cost $60 - $80 million and feature a rooftop pool and glass co-working spaces. With downtown living costs inflating and a plethora of attractive, historic, homes available in the neighborhood, there should be a lot of new demand for these areas.

Local Attractions: 
• The Larry
• The Duce
• LoLo's Chicken & Waffles
• La Canasta
• Chase Field


 South of Camelback East

Trending Up: New restaurants, fix & flips, Arcadia proximity

This area, from 20th St to 32nd St between Indian School and Thomas, is beginning to see the outskirts of Arcadia Lite have a heavy influence on the retail, restaurants and residents. With the renovation and new-construction of retail on the both the SE and SW corners of 32nd St & Indian School, this area has seen the addition of health-food restaurants, big box retail, and farmers markets alike. This area encompasses various historic districts including Phoenix Homesteads, famous for its yearly Christmas-light drive down Pinchot Ave. Mature greenery and luscious lawns deck these homes and separate the neighborhoods from the rest of the nearby area. 

Close proximity to the Biltmore and Arcadia mainstays like LGO & Postino, as well as shopping at Gaslight Square, and a number of grocery shopping options make this part of town desirable but more affordable than the neighboring Arcadia Lite & Camelback East. New luxury apartments such as Park 28, and high-end townhome developments nearby are bringing prices of this neighborhood up almost daily. 

Local Attractions: 
• The Rebel Lounge
• Binkley's Restaurant
• Avanti's Italian
• Sprouts Grocery 

Coming Soon to Park Central

Park Central Mall has been a staple in Uptown Phoenix since the 1950's. Formerly home to Goldwaters, JC Penny and Dillard's, architects like Welton Becket, Ralph Haver, and John Schotanus Jr had hands in designing the first iteration of the outdoor mall. Recently, the mall has been under construction in an attempt to bring the under-performing complex into the 21st century. Around this time las year rumblings of an $5 billion, 50,000 employee, Amazon campus at Park Central started swirling. This week we've received news of a new health-services project planing on calling Park Central home.

The mall is already home to Banner Health Systems - occupying the original Goldwater's, Dignity Health - occupying the original Diamond's, and UnitedHealth Group - occupying the original J.C. Penny's. Park Central has reached an agreement on the construction of a new, nearly $100 million health sciences campus for Creighton University. 

The new building will be located along Central Avenue on the Park Central property, on land that is currently a parking lot. Phase one of the project includes a new building totaling 200,000 square feet and eventually will house nearly 800 Creighton health sciences students in Arizona. The expansion will include a four-year medical school, nursing school, occupational and physical therapy schools, pharmacy school, physician assistant school and emergency medical services program. ? [Source.]

“For more than a decade, Creighton University has been a key partner in helping Arizona train highly skilled health care professionals,” said Gov. Doug Ducey. “Their significant new expansion and investment will help to meet our state’s growing need for health care professionals in the coming years, and it’s yet one more way that Arizona is solidifying its reputation as a premier destination for excellence in health care."

Phoenix Mayor Thelda Williams has welcomed Creighton’s expansion in Phoenix saying, “Creighton’s investment in our community will create new jobs and bring new life to a critical property in the heart of midtown Phoenix—but what’s more, it moves us closer to transforming our economy into one rooted in competitive, forward-thinking industries.” “I want Phoenix to be a destination for world-class medical education, research, health care and solutions, and our growing partnership with Creighton University is going to help us get there.”

The Future of Historic Phoenix

Among the Top 100 Most Prestigious Private Clubs in America (Golf Connoisseur Magazine), Phoenix Country Club is rooted in its rich history in Midtown Phoenix. Founded in 1900 and opened in October 1921, PCC is about to jump head-first into the future of real estate with its request for rezoning a portion of the property.

Meetings and hearings have been set for Rezoning Case No. Z-41-18, which requests a change in zoning for approximately 2.16 acres located at the northeast corner of 7th Street and Thomas Road from Parking P-1 to R-5 Multi-Family and High­Rise HR. The area in its current form is a parking lot surrounded by the Club's exterior gate. Sunbelt Holdings have come together with the Club to propose "high­-quality condominiums and to redesign and improve the entire Phoenix Country Club parking lot to continue to meet the parking needs of the Phoenix Country Club and to create a shaded, walkable environment along 7th Street." (Source.)

Sunbelt Holdings recently completed the largest office project and commercial transaction in Arizona history with its involvement in the Marina Heights project in Tempe.  Marina Heights consists of the 5 building State Farm Insurance regional hub and 2 million sq. ft. of office space as well as up to 60,000 sq. ft. of retail space. They are also responsible for Portland on the Park, a residential condominium building located 200 W Portland Street on the southern boundary of Hance Park in Downtown Phoenix. 

The neighborhoods "between the 7's" and surrounding areas are home to a multitude of high-rise condo buildings, the most recently-built being Crystal Point in 1983, followed by The Regency House in 1964, and Executive Towers in 1963.  The Residences at Phoenix Country Club would be the first luxury new-construction high-rise in the immediate area in 25 years. The population growth rate of the Phoenix metro area increased by nearly 4% per year for the past 40 years. The municipal governments in the greater Phoenix region are planning for a population growth of at least two million residents over the next two decades, reaching an estimated population of 6.2 million by 2030. Both long-time and new residents of Phoenix's central city will have a new option for conveniently located living as well as a revitalization of an under-utilized intersection. 

From the Residence's website, "We believe that an investment of this magnitude, on an intersection that has struggled to keep business open long term, will revitalize and stabilize the community. Ultimately promoting great improvements in the 7th St corridor including shops, restaurants, and housing."

The multifamily high-rise condo project, reaching 164 feet and 15 stories, is facing opposition. "A city staff report issued on September 4 states that a high-rise at the proposed location doesn’t comply with several principles of the General Plan Land Use Map. The staff report includes a list of 18 stipulations that should be followed if the rezoning request is approved. The report also noted that the city received at least 20 letters of opposition from members of the community." (Source.There are still remaining committee meetings if you are interested in learning more or making sure your voice is heard: 

Planning Commission Hearing: 
October 4, 2018 at 6:00 p.m.
City of Phoenix Council Chambers
200 W. Jefferson Street, Phoenix, AZ
City Council Hearing: 
November 7, 2018 at 2:30 p.m.
City of Phoenix Council Chambers
200 W. Jefferson Street, Phoenix, AZ

Are You Ready For The Stewart?

We have received an official announcement from Scottsdale-based Aspirant Development, a leading residential & commercial developer in Phoenix Metro, that construction on The Stewart, a 19-story, 312-unit luxury apartment building in downtown Phoenix is nearing completion. The property will begin pre-leasing in the fall of 2018 and is expected to open its doors in January 2019.

September 6 marked the final structural concrete pouring ceremony on the building’s top floor. The event was attended by  Phoenix Vice Mayor Jim Waring, Phoenix Councilman Michael Nowakowski, Phoenix mayoral candidate Daniel Valenzuela, and Phoenix Director of Community and Economic Development Christine Mackay. 

“We’re excited to be part of the city’s changing skyline by completing a project that has been almost four years in the making,” affirmed Geoffrey Jacobs, partner at Aspirant. “This is the first high-rise apartment building constructed in downtown Phoenix since the 1950s. That shows you how much Phoenix is changing, and we’re proud to be a part of its evolution.”

The Stewart is a pet-friendly property featuring modern studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments for rent, with 24 unique floor plans ranging from 477 to 1,899 square feet. Apartment homes at The Stewart feature distinctive amenities including expansive private balconies, the latest “smart home” options, abundant closet space, front-loading in-home washers and dryers, contemporary custom-wood cabinetry, quartz countertops, under-cabinet lighting, lofty nine- to 11-foot ceilings, and energy-efficient windows. Residents of The Stewart will enjoy access to an on-site concierge, an eighth-floor 24-hour fitness center with open-air sanctuary, gas BBQ grills, entertainment kitchen, bicycle storage and rentals, 24-hour on-demand parcel lockers, resident boardroom, club room lounge and garage parking. The property’s shimmering rooftop pool and spa, the highest in Phoenix, will afford breathtaking city and mountain views while providing residents with a refreshing oasis from desert temperatures. A restaurant will occupy part of the property’s 9,000-square-foot ground floor.

Offering residents unparalleled convenience in downtown Phoenix, the building is close to the Phoenix Public Market Cafe and Open-Air Farmers Market, The Churchill, prominent sports venues including Chase Field and Talking Stick Resort Arena, performance venues including Comerica Theatre and Crescent Ballroom, The University of Arizona College of Medicine, museums, galleries, and copious nightlife and dining options. For residents traveling within Phoenix and beyond, the property is a five-minute walk to the light rail station and close to I-10.

The Stewart was constructed on the site that formerly housed the Circles Records & Tapes building, and that was originally occupied by The Stewart Motor Company, a Studebaker dealership, in 1947. The upscale apartment building incorporates many architectural details from the original building, including the showroom turntable, where Studebaker cars were displayed and rotated in the semi-circular window. With its blend of historic and modern touches, extensive amenities, and claim to fame as the tallest residential building on Roosevelt Row, The Stewart will provide a distinctive lifestyle experience for discerning residents in the center of dynamic downtown Phoenix.

“I’m proud that, in a city known for its sprawl, 450 people will enjoy an amenity-rich living experience at The Stewart on a little over three-quarters of an acre,” stated Randy Grudzinski, a partner at Aspirant. “Our vision for The Stewart is to draw residents who are looking for a unique urban high-rise lifestyle, and we look forward to enhancing the neighborhood and shaping a vibrant community here in the years to come.”

8 Coolest High-Rises in (or near) Historic Districts


Central Phoenix is home to the majority of the designated Historic Districts in the Valley. Check out some of my favorite high-rise projects in these highly-desirable neighborhoods. 

Embassy Condos



On the edge of Roosevelt Historic District, Embassy Condominiums is in close proximity to Diamondbacks Chase Field, Talking Stick Resort Arena, light rail, ASU downtown campus, Roosevelt Row art galleries, cafes, and all the excitement of downtown. Sky pool, newly refurbished clubhouse, pool, workout room and laundry. You can still snag units at Embassy in the $100's!!


Artisan Lofts On Central



The modern, industrial spaces of Artisan Lofts are located in downtown Phoenix on the light rail line. Each of the 40 lofts in this contemporary complex boast exposed ductwork, soaring ceilings, tons of windows offering spectacular city lights and mountain views, granite countertops, full sized washers and dryers, and sealed concrete or hardwood flooring. Units in Artisan average in the $300's.


Portland on the Park



Blurring the distinction between home, work, and the neighborhood coffee shop, Portland on the Park offers its residents an energized, metropolitan standard of living. A short walk to restaurants, galleries, live music venues, downtown, the Arts & Entertainment District and light rail couple with a resort-style pool, fitness center and 15th floor rooftop lounge to make this address the most sought after in downtown Phoenix. Units range from the $400s to over $1 million.


Landmark Tower



In the heart of Midtown Phoenix, the best of mid-century chic meets the best of urban living. Landmark Towers on Central offers an eclectic mix of modern and vintage flair with a 17-story tower of condominiums overlooking the skyline. Originally opened in 1963, the Landmark Towers building has been grandly renovated to play up its architectural highlights including floor to ceiling windows opening onto panoramic balconies. Units here in the $100-$200s! 


Crystal Point



If mid-town living in a secure high rise with a 24-hour concierge is what you're looking for, check out the elegant Crystal Point condos. These two and three bedroom homes offer both mountain and city views. Large master suites, upscale kitchens and private balconies add to the amenities. When it's time to relax, take a swim in the community pool or take advantage of the exercise room and club room. Units can be priced upwards of $2 million. 


Orpheum Lofts



The Orpheum Lofts is one of the few historic buildings in downtown Phoenix transformed into residences. Formerly the Phoenix Title and Trust Building in Downtown Phoenix built in the 1930's, the building was gutted and renovated in Art Deco Style. The lofts have open floorplans, with the trendy exposed ductwork and warm brick walls. You know that this isn't your standard Phoenix property when you enter the retro lobby area with marble and terrazzo tile.  Units range from the $200s to $500s. 


One Lexington



One Lexington is a 17 story high rise with a modern flair and spectacular city views. Once known as Century Plaza, this high rise was a former office building gutted and refurbished into modern, loft style condos. Units are styled with contemporary finishes - wood floors, european cabinetry, high-end appliances and plenty of floor-to-ceiling windows to enjoy the views. Upper floor units have awesome views of the valley. Units start in the low $200s.


Summit at Copper Square



Located in the heart of the action in downtown Phoenix, Summit at Copper Square is a contemporary 22-story high rise that offers unparalleled views. Floor plans offer one, two and three bedrooms that range in size from 898 to 1,500 square feet. Summit at Copper Square is ideally located just a few minutes' walk to theatres, museums, trendy restaurants, and the light rail. Chase Field is right next door! Units start i the high $100's and approach $1 million. 

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