Saturday, September 29, 2012

Last days of the Borgata

The Borgata of Scottsdale, an upscale shopping landmark on the border of Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, has been sold to a local homebuilder with plans to redevelop the site into a luxury condominium community.  Read more:  http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/business/articles/2012/09/28/20120928last-days-borgata.html

LifeLock reveals finances pre-IPO

LifeLock Inc., a Tempe firm that helps consumers combat identity theft, has aired some of its own financial laundry in anticipation of a planned stock sale.  Read more:  http://www.azcentral.com/business/articles/2012/09/28/20120928lifelock-reveals-finances-pre-ipo.html

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Home prices rose in July in 20 major US cities

WASHINGTON - -- Home prices kept rising in July across the United States, buoyed by greater sales and fewer foreclosures.

The Standard & Poor's/Case Shiller index reports that national home prices increased 1.2 percent in July compared with the same month last year. That's the second straight year-over-year gain after two years without one.

Read more:  http://www.azcentral.com/business/realestate/articles/2012/09/25/20120925home-prices-rose-july-major-us-cities.html

Radar Logic: Home Prices Hit Peak in July, Distressed Sales Plunge

Home prices have hit their peak for the year, and the price increases seen earlier this year are slowing down, according to the latest data from Radar Logic.
http://www.dsnews.com/articles/radar-logic-home-prices-peaked-in-july-distressed-sales-make-steep-drop-2012-09-26

34,000 in Ariz. get mortgage aid

The latest data on the federal housing aid program known as Making Home Affordable shows nearly 34,000 Arizona borrowers have received permanent loan modifications to help them avoid foreclosure through the Home Affordable Modification Program.
Read more:  http://www.azcentral.com/business/realestate/articles/2012/09/19/20120919-ariz-get-mortgage-aid.html

Phoenix-based Vestar buys Calif. retail center for $84.8M

Phoenix-based retail property developer and management firm Vestar has acquired a nearly half-million-square-foot retail center in Riverside, Calif., for $84.8 million, the company said Wednesday.

The acquisition of Riverside Plaza, a 475,211-square-foot retail center on 35 acres, was a joint venture with a fund advised by Swiss mutual-fund manager UBS Global Asset Management, the company said.

Read more: Phoenix-based Vestar buys Calif. retail center for $84.8M

Phoenix-area rental homes a red-hot commodity

Crowds of people swarming open houses. Multiple bids on properties from desperate home seekers. Palpable fear over losing the "right" place to a ravenous market.
Read more:  http://www.azcentral.com/business/realestate/articles/2012/09/04/20120904phoenix-area-rental-homes-red-hot-commodity.html

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Home-related sales through the roof

As the housing market climbs out of the cellar, home improvement sales are through the roof.

Online purchases of home-related goods took priority over back-to-school-spending for families this summer, according to a study released Tuesday from IBM Smarter Commerce.

It's a trend that's also driving sales in brick-and-mortar home improvement stores from mom-and-pop hardware shops to Home Depot, which hammered out its highest quarterly earnings report last month in five years at $1.5 billion. The home improvement market was big enough in Uniontown, Ohio, for Wayne and Howard Miller to open what they call the largest independently owned hardware store, Hartville Hardware, in July, with a seven-acre retail space.

Read more: http://azc.cc/6nRfxc

New US home sales edged down 0.3% in August

WASHINGTON - -- Sales of new homes in the United States dipped slightly in August from July but the median price of homes sold during the month rose by a record amount.

New-home sales edged down to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 373,000 in August, a dip of 0.3 percent from July's revised rate of 374,000, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That had been the fastest pace since April 2010 when government tax credits were boosting sales.

Read more: http://azc.cc/5qXqrt

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Attorney General sets 3-year foreclosure plan for lender-case funds

The Arizona Attorney General's Office will spend most of the state's undesignated funds from the national $25 billion lender settlement on efforts to prevent foreclosures. However, it could be months before any money will be available to distressed homeowners.

On Monday, Attorney General Tom Horne released details of a three-year program to spend $57 million. Of that amount, $47 million comes from the $98 million Bank of America, Citibank, Chase, Wells Fargo and Ally Financial agreed to pay Arizona when the settlement was finalized in February.

About $10 million of the total comes from a separate settlement of an Arizona lawsuit with BofA over allegations of mortgage fraud.

Read more: Attorney General sets 3-year foreclosure plan for lender-case funds

Top 10 things to know about Social Security

Thinkstock
Do you know your Social Security benefits basics?
Read more: Top 10 things to know about Social Security

Understanding Social Security benefits

There's no way to avoid the tough questions when you start figuring out just when to begin withdrawing Social Security benefits.

Perhaps the hardest of all: having to guess how long you might live.

The age at which you start collecting affects how much that monthly check will be. It comes down to figuring out how much you want to gamble on what can happen to your health and your lifestyle.

Read more: Understanding Social Security benefits

Maricopa County homeowners likely to see property-tax bill lowered

Property-tax bills are in the mail, and most Maricopa County homeowners should owe less than last year.

The typical metro Phoenix homeowner can expect his or her bill to drop by $18, the Maricopa County Treasurer's Office says. Last year, when home values were even lower, the average homeowner saw a bigger decrease, about $60.

This year's tax bills are based on 2010 valuations, when Valley home prices dropped a median of 11 percent. But the drop in a house's value does not translate to the same drop in a homeowner's taxes.

Read more: Maricopa County homeowners likely to see property-tax bill lowered

Reagor: Building of homes slows a bit

Homebuilding across metro Phoenix is slowing slightly but still is up more than 50 percent from last year's sluggish pace. But some market-watchers are concerned the nascent rebound in new home construction is due solely to a decline in affordable and desirable existing homes for sale instead of an economic recovery.

In July, there were 1,062 homebuilding permits issued across the region, compared with 692 a year ago, reports the Phoenix Housing Market Letter. New-home sales climbed to 979 from 632 during July 2011.

The report's publishers, RL Brown and Greg Burger, say skeptics may not see the increase in homebuilding as a sign of the economy improving but as simply as a redistribution of the same level of homebuyer demand metro Phoenix has been experiencing during the past two years. But they disagree and believe new home sales and resales will continue to climb slowly as more regular homeowners see they can sell for a profit.

Resales in metro Phoenix this year peaked in March and have basically been slowing since then. The number of new houses built has topped 1,000 each month since March.

The housing analysts say real-estate agents are also helping the new home market.

"Today both builders and Realtors find themselves re-attracted to each other. The case for mutual benefit is easy to make with Realtors short of resale-home inventory, and builders desperate to attract buyers away from the resale projects," according to the latest Housing Market Letter.

Vacant homes

New census data show almost 18 percent of all the houses in the city of Phoenix were empty in 2011. But 13.2 percent of those are rental homes, and the rest are homes that are likely for sale.

The information comes from the federal government's one-year estimate after the 2010 American Community Survey. The report tracked a total of 601,370 housing units in Phoenix.

by Catherine Reagor - Sept. 21, 2012 The Arizona Republic | azcentral.com

Reagor: Building of homes slows a bit

At 40, McCormick Ranch still desirable place to live

The ranch that set the tone for decades of Scottsdale's suburban development has reached the big 4-0.

McCormick Ranch, a working cattle and horse ranch from 1944 to 1970, was developed as Scottsdale's first master-planned community from 1972 through the 1990s.

It has grown into a mature community of more than 3,100 acres with 8,900 homes, condominiums and apartments, and close to 27,000 residents.

They are surrounded by 10 lakes, parks, 25 miles of bike paths, eight shopping centers, seven churches, two hotels, a golf course, hospital, library and a school.

"I think it's still a great place to live," said Garth Saager, former executive director of the McCormick Ranch Property Owners' Association who retired in November after 30 years on the job.

Today, McCormick Ranch stands out for its tidy and lushly landscaped neighborhoods and parkways, lakefront properties and a convenient location just a few miles north of downtown.

But 40 years ago, the Ranch was a real ranch and homebuilders were reluctant to develop the property. It was considered too far north and there wasn't any money to be made from the area's one-house-per-acre zoning.

Read more: At 40, McCormick Ranch still desirable place to live

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fountain Hills mulls giving new life to avenue

The Avenue of the Fountains, a prominent destination for events and businesses in downtown Fountain Hills, could be undergoing a major face-lift if the Town Council decides the time is right.

The avenue and medians, west of Saguaro Boulevard and the town's namesake fountain, now includes leaky fountains, dying trees, limited pedestrian accessibility and an outdated electrical system and inefficient irrigation system. It was built in the mid-1970s.

"We ran some numbers on the fountains, and we're estimating that the existing fountains are losing about 250,000 gallons of water a year combined," said Paul Mood, the town's development-services director.

Read more: Fountain Hills mulls giving new life to avenue

Peoria entertainment/hotel plan closer to reality

If Peoria city officials have anything to say about it, Glendale won't be the only West Valley city with a thriving entertainment district.
In fact, Peoria aims to create a vibrant entertainment district and boutique hotel unlike any in the West Valley by the time Super Bowl XLIX hits Glendale in three years.

The city has been working with developers for more than a year to expand 83rd Avenue's restaurant row, which includes the city's spring-training ballpark and a dinner theater. The city recently informally christened the area P83 and seeks to build buzz.

Peoria developer Mike Oliver envisions an eight-story hotel with a rooftop lounge, boutique shops, trendy restaurants and upscale apartments on what now is ballpark parking lots.

Oliver's plan to start construction last summer vaporized after losing an investment partner. Now, he has teamed with Scottsdale-based Chandler Hotel Group. They formed Peoria Sports Park LLC and hope to break ground by April.

Before that, developers and Peoria officials must hammer out a deal for the project on 17 acres of city-owned land.

To jump-start the $130 million project, the city would lease land to the developers and pay for a roughly $30 million parking garage to make up for the lost stadium parking. Details must be worked out as part of the talks.

Read more: Peoria entertainment/hotel plan closer to reality





Residential lot coverage debated in Arcadia

Phoenix's Arcadia community south of Camelback Mountain is known for its ranch-style homes and large front yards, set back from the streets.

But some residents in the area fear a trend of building bigger homes on existing lots could detract from the neighborhood's charm.

Each year since 2010, Phoenix has approved a handful of requests for variances to allow increased lot coverage in Arcadia.

In 2010, five such requests were approved in the area. In 2011, that increased to seven. So far this year, seven have been approved, according to city records.

But, some residents worry that even a handful of annual home-expansion requests will start to change the character of Arcadia.

Builders and developers say most people probably don't notice the increase in lot coverage.

Read more: Residential lot coverage debated in Arcadia

Arizonans may not feel closure of local banks

Arizona's banking industry, like that of the nation overall, is gradually recovering from the housing collapse, subprime crisis and recession that began roughly five years ago.

But while locally run institutions suffered significantly, banking customers overall might not be much worse off after the experience.

The ordeal that began in the fall of 2007 cut the number of locally based institutions, their employee count and their loans outstanding by more than 40 percent. Fifteen banks headquartered here failed, with most eventually taken over by bigger, stronger rivals based elsewhere.

Arizona's home-grown industry is much smaller and less influential than it was, with consumers and businesses more under the sway of big institutions based in New York, San Francisco and Charlotte, N.C. -- the hometowns of the three largest banks operating here, which hold nearly 70 percent of statewide deposits.

But does it really matter that fewer banks call Arizona home?

Interest rates charged here on mortgages and other loans are comparable to those in other states, and deposit yields just as skimpy. Online bill-paying, mobile-banking and other cutting-edge services are available throughout Arizona, just as they are elsewhere around the nation.

"Does it matter that Wells Fargo is headquartered in San Francisco?" asked Anand Bhattacharya, a professor of finance practice at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. "The average person needs a mortgage, credit card and checking account. The national banks, regardless of whether they are headquartered in Arizona or not, are fully capable of handling that."

Still, shrinkage of the local industry would seem to have some impact in reducing competition and service. It can be handy to have personal contacts at a bank with authority to say yes or no, especially if you're trying to get a loan or handle other sensitive business. Anyone who has applied for a loan lately recognizes that the process has become more onerous. Business owners, in particular, seem to value the personal touch.

"There's no question about it -- there is value to having local decision makers," said Ed Zito, president of Phoenix-based Alliance Bank of Arizona. "We offer speed and access to senior executive management at any moment."

Elden "E.G." Barmore, a retired Arizona banking executive with about four decades of experience, thinks banking has become less responsive to customers, with fewer local decision makers and less flexibility.

"Basically, the staffs (at larger banks) are doing their jobs, hoping to get good reviews and pay increases," he said. "But they have limited authority and don't have a vested interest in the bank or its future."

Barmore also thinks the industry has grown riskier, with derivatives use by banks outpacing the ability of regulators to monitor them. Meanwhile, the government is sending mixed messages to banks, he says -- prodding them to boost lending but warning them not to make any bad loans.

Speaking of loans, smaller banks typically recycle all their deposits within the state where they operate -- a claim large institutions can't all make. Small and midsize banks account for 20 percent of assets but hold 60 percent of small-business loans, reports the Independent Community Bankers of America.

There's plenty of lingering animosity directed at the nation's biggest banks, as the Occupy movement exposed. The anger has been focused much less at small banks and credit unions.

Woody Thomas, an appraiser who lives in Litchfield Park and is critical of the "large industrial banks," said he switched to a credit union for basic banking services and a mortgage.

"The reason I left the banks is that I don't believe they're being honest with people or are trustworthy," he said.

Carol Palmer, a former bank employee who lives in Mesa, believes banking services and products have been in a "steady decline" for more than five years.

"In my opinion, three things are seriously lacking in today's banking world -- service, respect (toward customers) and regulation," she said.

When she worked as a teller decades ago, Palmer said, the president of her bank "stressed that customers could receive the same products at any other bank in town, but what set our bank apart from the others was the service they received."

She also questions the multimillion-dollar compensation packages paid to top banking executives at the big institutions.

"I personally don't think any one person is worth being paid some of the millions they get in bonuses and packages," Palmer said.

Dick Jensen, a business consultant and manager in Scottsdale, is critical of the many fees charged by banks and sees the institutions as difficult to work with.

"If you own a small business, just try to get a working capital loan," he said. "I have a number of clients who have never missed a payment but have had their credit line revoked because they simply were not big enough or created enough yield for the bank." Without lines of credits, he added, small companies often must downsize or struggle to survive.

Limited impact

Most Arizonans weren't directly affected by failures over the past five years. The largest collapse, First National Bank of Arizona, counted just 2 percent of statewide deposits when it went under in 2008, with Mutual of Omaha Bank taking over. Most of the banks that went under during the past five years were small firms serving a small-business clientele through a branch or two.

"They were doing higher-risk real-estate lending, for the most part," said Scott Schaefer, president of Meridian Bank in Phoenix "I think things are just as competitive, if not more so, despite several banks leaving the market."

The biggest banks insist they're ready to lend money and, with greater financial wherewithal than their smaller rivals, are in a better position to do so. Industry profits have come roaring back over the past few years. Led by the giants, the nation's banks earned a combined $120 billion in 2011 and are on pace to top that this year.

"At Chase, we have built our market share in Arizona because of the commitment to being there in the good times and the bad," said Joseph Stewart, Chase's manager of middle-market banking in Phoenix. "Throughout the economic cycle, we have continued to lend."

From 2009 to 2011, Chase's loan growth in Arizona roughly doubled, with further increases this year.

Wells Fargo, Arizona's leader in deposits, also claims leadership in small-business loans, home-equity lending and mortgages. Pamela Conboy, an executive vice president who serves as lead regional president for Arizona, said the company views itself as a community bank and shows that through grass-roots volunteerism, grants to local non-profits and leadership on local boards.

"You may see us as a large bank, but we see ourselves as very locally managed," she said.

Wells Fargo's Arizona employment base of 14,000 has risen by about 500 positions over the past five years, helping it to absorb some of the job losses suffered by small banks. Like Stewart at Chase, Conboy emphasizes that her bank has been on the scene through good times and bad. "We've been there for our customers," she said.

Even some community-bank advocates agree that competition is stiff in Arizona.

"It definitely decreased in 2008, 2009 and part of 2010 because everyone was internally focused," said Zito at Alliance Bank, part of Western Alliance Bancorporation. "But the 800-pound gorillas have awakened and have stepped up their competitiveness dramatically."

Schaefer at Meridian asserts most banks want to make loans because they can earn higher returns on those transactions than by parking the money in short-term government notes.

"When people say banks aren't lending or don't want to lend, I completely disagree," he said.

More shrinkage coming

The pressures that began building around mid-2007 hastened what some see as a long-term consolidation trend that could shut thousands of additional banks.

"There has been consolidation in the banking industry, but we're still overbanked," said Bhattacharya at ASU. "We have way too many banks here compared to other countries."

The national count has dipped from more than 8,500 banks in 2007 to roughly 7,200 today. Zito thinks it could decline to less than 5,000 within a decade.

The costs to establish a new bank are higher and the cycle longer than before, said Schaefer. Regulations are getting tougher, and so are the technology requirements to stay competitive. Bhattacharya cites ongoing and pending new Dodd-Frank federal regulations and a new round of international requirements known as the Basel III standards that will force banks to maintain higher capital levels.

"Smaller banks got a pass on Basel II but won't get it on Basel III," he said. "The regulatory requirement for banks will become more stringent."

Plus, it's just not as profitable to run a small bank, at least currently.

"There is owner fatigue out there and recognition of limited growth potential," said Zito.

Despite more than 440 bank failures and mergers nationally since 2007, there hasn't been a single truly new bank founded -- anywhere in the country -- over the past six quarters, reports the FDIC.

So as banking becomes more commoditized, the question is whether most customers will notice or even care, especially as they conduct more transactions impersonally through the Internet and smart phones, rarely visiting a branch.

"With the local banks, one of the big marketing points is more personal service and an ability to recognize (customers) by name," said Bhattacharya. "But is that an issue for you?"

* * *

Out-of-state influence

The banking crisis and recession led to failures, purchases of struggling local banks and other pressures that have increased the market share of the three biggest institutions operating in Arizona: Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America. Here are the percentage of Arizona deposits held by the three giants:

2007: 62.1 percent

2008: 62.6 percent

2009: 63.5 percent

2010: 67.4 percent

2011: 68.9 percent

Source: FDIC

Arizona lags profit recovery

The banking industry is back from the depths, and Arizona-based banks are healing, too. Here are some statistics as of mid-2012: Q OUT/JD

All banks nationally

Percent that are unprofitable: 11 percent

First-half earnings: $69.3 billion

Five-year change in profits: -6 percent

Five-year change in employment: -5 percent

Five-year change in assets: +14 percent

Five-year change in loans: -1 percent

Arizona-based banks

Percent that are unprofitable: 32 percent

First-half earnings: $89 million

Five-year change in profits: -12 percent

Five-year change in employment: - 45 percent

Five-year change in assets: -32 percent

Five-year change in loans: -44 percent

Note: The five-year statistics compare profits, employment, assets and loans for the second quarter of 2012 against those for the second quarter of 2007.

Source: FDIC

by Russ Wiles - Sept. 18, 2012 The Republic | azcentral.com Arizonans may not feel closure of local banks

Monday, September 17, 2012

Proposed Scottsdale condo plan gains height, density

A Los Angeles company wants to increase the height and density of a condominium complex it hopes to build in downtown Scottsdale's entertainment district.

Hewson Investment Group has submitted an application to amend development standards for floor area, height and density to build the complex on a 1.8-acre site at 4422 N. 75th St., near the southwestern corner of Indian Plaza Road and 75th Street.

The area is home to the largest concentration of bars in Maricopa County.

The application is being submitted under the downtown infill-incentive district and plan, which was approved by the City Council in July 2010.

It allows property owners to request amended development standards in the downtown area to include such things as greater height and density, in exchange for public benefits.

The complex would include 112 condominiums in an eight-story building totaling 90 feet in height. It would be built in the current location of the Lodge, an area bar.

In 2007, the council approved rezoning for Hewson to build Boutique 75 Lofts on the site.

The complex would have included about 45 condominiums in a four-story building.

Hewson is utilizing the city's downtown infill-incentive district to provide additional housing in the area, said John Berry, a zoning attorney representing the firm.

"The Lodge is not immediately closing, but eventually it will close," he said. "It would close whether the project approved in 2006 or this is (built)."

Hewson has owned the parcel since before the 2007 rezoning, Berry said.

The complex would be adjacent to the Hotel Indigo, which has five floors, and in proximity to the W Hotel, which has six floors.

"There's a belief that there's a demand for the product in that area," Berry said. "These are intended to be for-sale condos, and it's going to be people who want to live in proximity to the entertainment district or in downtown."

The condominiums will range in size from about 600 square feet to 1,200 square feet, and 27 percent of the site would be maintained as open space, according to the application. The complex would not include any commercial, restaurant, bar or retail uses to compete with existing or future land uses in the district.

"The request for additional height is appropriate given the height of the adjacent Hotel Indigo and the densities of the nearby projects such as the W Hotel and Waterfront (and planned developments such as Safari Drive and Blue Sky)," according to the application.

The zoning for the project is already in place, said Greg Bloemberg, city planning staff coordinator. City staff is reviewing the infill-incentive district proposal, he said.

Berry said condominium development is starting to make a comeback as the market continues to improve. He also is working with Deco Communities on the Echo at Windgate condominium complex to be built on an 11-acre site that wraps around the Windgate Crossing shopping center northwest of Bell Road and Thompson Peak Parkway.

Other residential is being planned in the entertainment district. Developer Shawn Yari has two projects in the pipeline that would bring 320 apartment units to the district.

Industry East (188 units plus retail) and Industry West (132 units plus retail) are in the early stages of the city's planning-approval process.

The complexes would be on the north side of Stetson Drive between Wells Fargo Avenue and 75th Street.

by Edward Gately - Sept. 16, 2012 The Republic | azcentral.com




Proposed Scottsdale condo plan gains height, density

Luxury retirement facility's sales rise

Sagewood, a northeast Phoenix retirement community featuring resort-like amenities.


Officials at a northeast Phoenix luxury retirement community say its record sales so far this year are indicative of improvement in the housing market and the Valley's high demand for upscale living and on-site health care.

The 278-unit Sagewood, near Tatum and Mayo boulevards, opened in 2010. It features independent- and assisted-living units.

Stewart Ingram, Sagewood's executive director, said in a release that the complex has sold more units in the first seven months of 2012 than all of last year.

From January 2011 to July 2011, the complex sold 11 units, compared with 33 during the same period this year.

"Interest has steadily grown since we opened, and more retirees are taking notice of our complete approach to senior living that emphasizes well-being, an active lifestyle and independence," Ingram said.

At least three entrance-fee luxury retirement communities have opened in the Northeast Valley in the past few years, providing a wide choice of senior-living options for wealthy retirees. Other rental retirement communities include Maravilla Scottsdale, Belmont Village Scottsdale and Arte'.

Tom Mertensmeyer, president of Senior Financial Benefits, a Valley financial-services firm, told The Republic in May that some large entrance-fee retirement communities have offered incentives to buyers but generally have not cut prices despite the downturn in the real-estate market.

According to Ingram, the recovering housing market has allowed prospective clients to quickly sell their homes and move into the retirement community.

"I think when the bubble first started bursting, people were afraid to list their homes at a lower price," he said. "Obviously there has been an improvement in the real-estate market, but clients are also now pricing their homes to sell."

Once residents pay an entrance fee, they make monthly payments covering rent, most utilities, most meals, weekly housekeeping and other services. Entrance fees at Sagewood start at $310,000. Monthly payments range from $2,500 to $4,500.

The community provides on-site health care at no additional cost to residents unless the patients require meals or supplies during health stays, Ingram said.

Sagewood is operated by Life Care Services, an Iowa-based company.

by Brittany Smith - Sept. 14, 2012 The Republic | azcentral.com




Luxury retirement facility's sales rise

Audit: Maricopa County housing-agency woes continue

An internal audit has found that the Housing Authority of Maricopa County still is struggling to handle its finances properly because of a lack of certain internal controls.

The agency, which helps provide affordable housing to lower-income families, in 2010 came under fire from federal auditors for mismanagement.

Following up on that federal audit, internal county auditors recently found inconsistent procedures in processing and approving certain financial transactions. That has led in some cases to the authority underreporting its financial liabilities and overstating revenue.

For example, the agency incorrectly was reporting voided checks as income instead of unclaimed property. County auditors found $18,187 in incorrectly reported unclaimed property in 2010 and 2011.

Reporting unclaimed property is a state requirement. The Housing Authority will adjust its records and report according to state requirements, said agency Director Gloria Muñoz. The agency has signed a compliance agreement with the state.

The Housing Authority launched an investigation into voided checks for low-income and public housing to make sure all previously posted voided checks were classified correctly.

The audit found that the agency also violated county procedures for making purchases and awarding contracts. Auditors said the agency needs more monitoring and enforcement of procurement policies and procedures.

In fiscal 2011, 65 percent of vendor transactions did not have proper approval or follow set procedures. The agency overspent and may not have gotten the best value for what it was spending, the report said.

Transactions worth $1.9 million were done incorrectly, leading to inaccurate reporting of the agency's assets and spending.

County housing officials promised to correct the issues outlined in the audit by July 2013.

"I had an indication that there were some weaknesses there. We've been working toward resolving through policy development and procedure development," Muñoz said. "This internal audit is basically a road map for our plan to address some of the weaknesses there."

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development officials in 2010 uncovered more than two dozen financial, procurement and human-resource management problems with the Housing Authority. Doug Lingner, former executive director of the agency, resigned amid allegations of nepotism and mismanagement.

The county Board of Supervisors later that year took tighter control of the Housing Authority and appointed Muñoz, a veteran housing administrator, to direct the organization with the help of an advisory committee. The county audit was the first internal review since Muñoz took the helm.

County Manager Tom Manos said the audit's findings were disappointing. But he said the lack of financial control is not affecting the county's ability to help provide affordable housing for low-income families. He noted the audit did not identify any specific incidents in which housing clients were harmed.

Manos said he has met with Muñoz and has said the county administration will help her agency improve its financial processes.

The Housing Authority and HUD now have corrective-action and repayment plans for the county agency. Most of the authority's budget comes from HUD.

Under Muñoz, the authority has made organizational changes and refocused its strategic priorities. She has made several changes per federal guidelines to bring the agency into good standing with HUD.

Earlier this year, the Board of Supervisors approved a revised Housing Authority ethics code that housing projects seeking federal funding must follow. The agency recently hired a consultant to help it comply with HUD requirements.

Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, a public-housing advocate, said she was not surprised by the internal audit's findings, adding that Muñoz made it clear from the start that the agency's longstanding management and financial issues will take longer than one year to resolve.

Wilcox said Muñoz so far has worked to revamp the authority's structure and change the agency's internal culture.

"The prior director and the prior running of the Housing Authority was even worse than we thought, and this audit really proves it," Wilcox said.

by Michelle Ye Hee Lee - Sept. 14, 2012 The Republic | azcentral.com




Audit: Maricopa County housing-agency woes continue

Foreclosure starts fell on annual basis in August - Yahoo! Finance

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The evolution of the U.S. foreclosure crisis is increasingly diverging along state lines.

On a national level, fewer homes were placed on the foreclosure track last month than in August last year, when they hit a 17-year high, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.

At the same time, so-called foreclosure starts increased almost exclusively in states like Florida and New York, where the courts must sign off on foreclosures, the firm said.

Conversely, in many so-called non-judicial states, like California and Arizona, the number of foreclosure starts declined versus August last year.

The pace of homes entering the foreclosure process is expected to decline gradually, barring another severe economic shock that sends the slowly rebounding housing market into a tailspin, experts say. But that decline is likely to continue playing out unevenly, in part because of the differing approaches to handling foreclosures from state to state.

In addition, some states have passed laws that effectively slow down the process, creating a backlog of foreclosure cases that will take longer to wade through.

Foreclosure activity has been declining in most non-judicial foreclosure states because they didn't build a huge backlog of pending cases during an industrywide slowdown in foreclosures last year. The slowdown stemmed from widespread claims that lenders had been processing foreclosures without verifying documents.

The slower process in states where courts play a role in foreclosures contributed to a logjam of pending foreclosure cases that now has lenders playing catch-up.

All told, 99,405 homes entered the foreclosure process in August, up 1 percent from July, but down 13 percent from August last year, RealtyTrac said.

The latest figure shows a marked slowdown in foreclosure starts since they peaked in April 2009 at about 203,000. But they're still well above the 34,000 recorded in May 2005, before the housing bubble burst.

Foreclosure starts posted annual increases in 18 states — mostly in those where courts are involved in foreclosure cases. One of the exceptions was Washington state, a non-judicial state where foreclosure starts more than doubled.

Lenders there were catching up with foreclosures cases that had been delayed by a state law that took effect July last year and allowed borrowers facing foreclosure to request mediation, said Daren Blomquist, a vice president at RealtyTrac.

"This trend in state legislation intervening in the foreclosure process in some of the non-judicial states, particularly over the past six months to a year, is actually going to prolong the time it takes to fully clear this backlog of foreclosure properties," he said.

Meanwhile, the number of completed foreclosures nationwide declined last month to 52,380. That's down 2 percent from July and down 19 percent from August last year, the firm said.

Home repossessions have been down on an annual basis the past 22 months. But they increased last month in 35 states, including Nevada, where they jumped 76 percent, and Oregon, where they climbed 57 percent.

Between January and August, banks completed foreclosures on 452,016 homes. At that pace, the nation is on track to end the year with 678,000 completed foreclosures, down from 800,000 last year, Blomquist said.

There are as many as 1.5 million homes already repossessed by banks or in some stage of the foreclosure process.

At the state level, Illinois had the highest foreclosure rate in the nation last month, a rate of one in every 298 households in some stage of foreclosure. Both foreclosure starts and completed foreclosures rose in Illinois last month.

Florida, California, Arizona and Nevada rounded out the top five states with the highest foreclosure rates in August.

by Alex Veiga Associate Press Sep 13, 2012


Foreclosure starts fell on annual basis in August - Yahoo! Finance

Housing prices up in most NE Valley communities

Scottsdale's housing market is showing improvement with median home prices up 13 percent in June over last year and a drop in investor flips, short sales and pre-foreclosure deals.

Prices were up year-over-year in five of the six Northeast Valley communities with increases ranging from 18.7 percent in Cave Creek on 87 sales to 39 percent in Paradise Valley on 42 sales, according to the latest monthly report from the Arizona State University Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice.

Fountain Hills showed an 11 percent dip in median price to $320,000 on 58 sales.

It has not helped that the number of short sales and pre-foreclosures in the town doubled to 12 in June and investor flips doubled to four.

Scottsdale reported 85 short sales and pre-foreclosures in June, a 13 percent decline. That runs counter to the greater Phoenix market that saw distressed sales up 8 percent.

Scottsdale also showed a steep decline in bank-owned homes from 79 last June to 31 this year, according to the report with data compiled by the Information Market LLC of Glendale.

"The continued imbalance between high demand and low supply remains the main story for the greater Phoenix residential market," the report said. "After a strong move upward during the spring, prices remained relatively flat during June, as predicted last month. We expect to report something similar next month."

The number of home sales in Scottsdale dipped 12 percent in June to 561 deals.

Scottsdale's price per square foot for homes was $183.13, up 6.5 percent, and significantly higher than the overall market average of $98.11.

The condominium and townhouse median price of $90,000 in the overall market was up 32 percent from a year ago.

Scottsdale's median price for condos of $142,000 on 281 sales was up 13.6 percent.

Office deal completed

Scottsdale has completed the purchase of a $1.87 million office-warehouse building in the Scottsdale Airpark.

The nearly 18,000-square-foot building northeast of Greenway-Hayden Loop and Scottsdale Road will be used for the Scottsdale Police Department Investigative Service Bureau.

The bureau currently operates in a leased 13,000-square-foot facility at an annual cost of $430,000. That lease expires in April 2013.

The Scottsdale City Council approved the purchase of the police building in early July and the deal was finalized a few weeks later. The seller was James Dobbs III.

The city has declined to identify the location of the new building. The Arizona Republic confirmed the building's location based on Maricopa County property records.

Built in 1995, the property includes warehouse space and second-floor offices.

The sale price of $104.90 per square foot is within the range of other office-warehouse buildings that have sold recently in the Airpark, according to commercial real-estate brokers.

Scottsdale-area home prices

Median home prices in June increased from last year in five of six Northeast Valley communities, according to the latest monthly report from the Arizona State University Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice. Here are the number of sales, median price and percentage change since last June:

Scottsdale -- 561, $391,000, up 13.3 percent.

Cave Creek -- 87, $355,000, up 18.7 percent.

Fountain Hills -- 58, $320,000, down 11 percent.

Paradise Valley -- 42, $1,325,000, up 39 percent.

Rio Verde -- 11, $550,000, up 31.4 percent.

Carefree -- 7, 701,000, up 23.6 percent.

Source: Arizona State University W.P. Carey School of Business.

by azcentral.com Aug 16, 2012


Housing prices up in most NE Valley communities

Housing key part of SkySong's 'secret sauce'

Arizona State University is launching a major residential expansion at its SkySong innovation campus in south Scottsdale. Construction begins this month on a 325-unit apartment complex that will house, among others, people who work at SkySong businesses.

We asked ASU Foundation Vice President of Real Estate Don Couvillion to tell us about these plans.

Question: Could you briefly explain what SkySong is?

Answer: SkySong is a global business community that links technology, entrepreneurship, innovation and education to position Greater Phoenix and ASU as leaders of the knowledge economy.

SkySong is already an exciting place with a variety of people from small and large companies, from the university and various student entrepreneurs interacting together on a daily basis. Visitors often comment on the energy at SkySong — it is already a hub of business activity that will continue to grow over the next decade.

Q: Why is this residential expansion so important?

A: We have been working since 2004 to create a real mixed-use facility, a place where people can live, work and learn. The residential project is the culmination of that development plan; with it we now have a project that is unique in the metro area, offering our knowledge workers the opportunity to experience a true community within the campus.

Q: How will more residential development change the campus?

A: More residential will help to create a 24-hour community — one that will support retail, additional office space and, most importantly, continued collaboration among the residents and workers at SkySong. This kind of collaboration is the “secret sauce” that leads to new ideas, new technology, and new products that will help southern Scottsdale revitalize itself in the new economy.

Q: Who do you envision will live in the new housing?

A: Employees of the SkySong tenants such as Ticketmaster, Adaptive Curriculum, Yodle, Earth 911 and Global Patent Solutions. We will also see folks who work at Scottsdale Healthcare, General Dynamics, the downtown Scottsdale merchants, airline employees from Sky Harbor, and some members of the ASU community. An eclectic mix.

Q: Why has residential development been slow to emerge there?

A: It took awhile for the players in the “new economy” to sort themselves out. Now, projects have to make sense on their merits, not just ride on the up-currents of easy debt and rosy projections. The city of Scottsdale has approved several projects of late that are in good locations and have good prospects for success. We welcome the company.

Q: When is SkySong projected to be built out?

A: We are preparing for a build-out of about 150,000 square feet of office space every three years, meaning build-out in about 15 years.

Q: What do you anticipate it will be like at build-out?

A: I see an eclectic mix of buildings, architecture, tenants, companies and products being developed there. I see people from all over the world living there, collaborating and creating a new ecosystem of companies that educate and innovate in fields as varied as alternative energy, education software, Web design and technologies we haven’t even imagined.

Q: Will we ever see innovation campuses like SkySong crop up in other parts of the Valley?

A: I think there will be those that attempt to emulate our success. If so, we will be flattered.

Q: Is SkySong gaining attention as a possible model for other cities and universities?

A: Yes, we receive inquiries every day from people all over the world who ask us how we have created the vibrancy of SkySong. We host delegations from U.S. cities, from Asia, Europe and Latin America, who ask lots of questions about how we created the ecosystem of collaboration and entrepreneurship that they see at SkySong.

Q: What are you reading this summer?

A: I finally got around to getting “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. I love the outdoors, and appreciate her take on the challenges of a good long hike.

by Scottsdale Republic Aug 15, 2012


Housing key part of SkySong's 'secret sauce'

Valley in top 10 in US for foreign investors

For the first time, metro Phoenix was among the top 10 U.S. markets in terms of foreign investment in commercial-real-estate assets in the second quarter.

Local real-estate analysts said a number of factors contributed to the boost in foreign investment in Phoenix, including a dearth of attractive, available commercial properties in coastal U.S. cities and the stabilizing of Phoenix-area real-estate prices.

While Canadians have dominated the Phoenix area's offshore commercial-real-estate investment activity in recent years, there also have been purchases by European, Middle Eastern and Asian investors, analysts said.

More foreign investment in local office, retail, industrial and apartment properties would help bolster the Phoenix area's commercial-real-estate market, which has been slow to recover from a severe downturn that began in 2008, some analysts said.

"In the past, Phoenix has not been a magnet for offshore investment," said Dennis Desmond,senior managing director of commercial-real-estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle in Phoenix. "It's a great sign for Phoenix to see that type of interest from offshore investors."

Others warned that too much foreign investment in metro Phoenix could have the effect of siphoning precious revenue from the local economy. Time will tell whether the increase in offshore real-estate investment in metro Phoenix is a trend or an anomaly, analysts said.

In the second quarter, foreign investment in Phoenix-area commercial-real-estate totaled about $317 million, according to a report issued in late July by Jones Lang LaSalle Capital Markets Research.

That was enough to place metro Phoenix at No. 10 on the list of U.S. markets with the most foreign commercial-real-estate investment activity, according to the report.

New York topped the list with just over $1 billion in offshore real-estate investment in the second quarter, the report said, followed by San Francisco, with foreign real-estate investment totaling roughly $685 million.

Desmond said it was the first time Phoenix has broken the top 10 in the quarterly report, known as the Global Capital Flows Report.

The report includes purchases of existing office, industrial, retail and apartment properties but does not include residential investment such as single-family-home purchases, Desmond said.

Nor does it include raw land purchases or capital investment in the construction of new buildings such as manufacturing and retail facilities, he said.

Two large office purchases by a Canadian real-estate investment trust, or REIT, contributed significantly to Phoenix's placing on the top-10 list in the second quarter, Desmond said.

Artis REIT, based in Winnipeg, purchased north Scottsdale multitenant office building MAX at Kierland, 16220 N. Scottsdale Road, for $79 million and the GSA Phoenix Professional Office Building, 21711 N. Seventh St., in Phoenix, for $75 million, both in the second quarter.

The GSA building is the local headquarters for the FBI.

Those two purchases totaled $154 million, nearly half the Phoenix area's total for offshore commercial-real-estate investment in the second quarter.

Artis representatives said MAX at Kierland was an attractive investment because it is a certified "green" office building by the U.S. Green Building Council, has a relatively high parking ratio of 3.5 spaces per 1,000 square feet and serves as the corporate and regional headquarters for several multinational corporations including Universal Technical Institute.

The GSA building also was good investment because it is a certified green building and was 100 percent pre-leased by the federal government for 20 years, the company said.

Artis owns several other Phoenix-area commercial properties including a 100,000-square-foot industrial building at 7499 E. Paradise Lane, in Scottsdale; the Humana Building, 91 W. Glendale Ave., in Glendale; and Union Hills Office Plaza, 2550 W. Union Hills Drive, in Phoenix.

In all, there have been 11 commercial-real-estate purchases of at least $10 million in metro Phoenix by foreign investors since January 2010, Desmond said.

Desmond said continued economic uncertainty in Europe may encourage more European real-estate investors to seek out properties to buy in places such as metro Phoenix.

In general, U.S. real estate always has been attractive to offshore investors for a number of reasons, said Mark Stapp, director of the Master of Real Estate Development program at Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business.

Most important, there are no barriers or restrictions that would prevent or limit foreign investment in American real estate, Stapp said.

"Anybody can show up here and buy a piece of real estate and have the same ownership rights as a U.S. citizen," he said.

Another appealing aspect of the U.S. as a place for real-estate investment is its political stability, Stapp said. There's a minuscule risk of losing the property because of a government overthrow or civil war.

Beyond the general appeal of U.S. real estate, metro Phoenix is considered an attractive place to invest because it's a growth market with relatively new structures, he said.

Unlike some local experts, Stapp said he sees both an upside and a downside to increased foreign investment in Phoenix-area commercial real estate.

The positive effect is that it creates liquidity in the local real-estate market and generates revenue for local professionals such as commercial-real-estate brokers, he said.

The negative effect is that it takes value from a fixed, local asset and exports that money away from Phoenix to wherever the investor lives, Stapp said.

"The question is what are they buying, why are they buying it and what are they doing with it?" he said.

With the stock market proving to be a less sure way to generate investment revenue than in the past, Stapp said it's likely foreign investment in American real estate will only increase in popularity.

Still, he said, a single quarter with significant foreign investment doesn't necessarily mean offshore real-estate investors are gearing up to flood metro Phoenix with their cash.

"If this is an anomaly, it really doesn't mean very much," Stapp said.

Desmond said it will take another year before local real-estate analysts can judge accurately whether the recent increase in foreign investment is anything more than just a blip.

Local offices of commercial-real-estate brokerages already have benefited from the foreign investments, including the Phoenix office of CBRE, which is the designated leasing agent for MAX at Kierland.

"I would like to think it's the beginning of a trend," Desmond said. "I think it's too soon to tell."

by J. Craig Anderson - Aug. 11, 2012 The Republic | azcentral.com




Valley in top 10 in US for foreign investors

New tax on home sales is overblown rumor

It's not quite up there with alligators living in sewers, but an urban legend is forming around a provision of the Affordable Care Act recently upheld by the Supreme Court.

The health-care legislation touted by President Barack Obama includes a provision that could result in a partial capital-gain tax on homes sold by a small number of taxpayers. But e-mail blasts claiming all transactions would be subject to a housing sales tax are inaccurate, experts say.

At issue is the new 3.8 percent tax on the investment earnings of upper-income households. This provision, designed to help fund Medicare, will take effect in January unless Republicans in Congress can follow through on vows to scuttle it.

"That provision provides the rumors with a kernel of truth," wrote Jack Hagel and Alistair Nevius for the Journal of Accountancy. "A very small number of taxpayers will pay a surtax on gain from the sale of a principal residence."

One e-mail message making the rounds discusses the Medicare levy as "a ploy to steal billions" from unsuspecting homeowners through a sales tax on housing.

"Did you know that if you sell your house after 2012, you will pay a 3.8 percent tax on it?" the message states, and then gives examples of a $3,800 tax on a $100,000 sale and a $15,200 tax on a $400,000 transaction.

"Under the new health-care bill, all real-estate transactions will be subject to a 3.8 percent sales tax," the message states, erroneously. "This bill is set to screw the retiring generation, who often downsize their homes."

The website of the National Association of Realtors points out that the 3.8 percent surcharge isn't a sales tax. Further, the group notes that the new law doesn't eliminate the ability of single homeowners to exclude up to $250,000 in gains on a principal residence, or $500,000 in gains for married couples filing jointly.

"Thus, only that portion of a gain above those thresholds is included in (adjusted gross income) and could be subject to the tax," reads an NAR statement.

(To qualify for the $250,000/$500,000 exclusion, you also must have owned the home for at least two of the five years preceding the sale date, and you need to have lived in it as your main residence for at least two of those five years.)

If you think you might have a taxable housing gain, you should first determine whether you're subject to the 3.8 percent tax. It will apply only to a small number of taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income above $200,000 (singles) or $250,000 for joint filers. Only 2.4 percent of the 2.7 million federal tax returns filed by Arizonans in 2010 reported AGI of $200,000 or more, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

Next, calculate the size of any taxable housing capital gain. Even people with incomes above $200,000/$250,000 can exclude much, if not all, of their profit. As noted above, singles can exclude the first $250,000 in capital gain on the sale of a primary residence, and joint filers can subtract $500,000. When figuring your gain, exclude what you paid for the property and what you spent on improvements such as adding a bathroom. Together, the original purchase cost and later reinvestments are known as a home's "basis."

"So, a $100,000 gain on the sale of a principal residence would not be subject to the tax, and even a $400,000 gain on the sale of a principal residence would not be subject to tax for joint filers," said Mark Luscombe, principal analyst at tax-researcher CCH Inc.

Finally, the 3.8 percent tax, if applicable, is levied against the smaller of two numbers. The first number is your gain or net investment income from the home sale, as calculated above. The second is the amount by which your adjusted gross income exceeds $200,000 (singles) or $250,000 (married couples filing jointly).

Hagel and Nevius provide an example: Suppose you and your spouse bought a home years ago for $350,000, and then you sell it for $900,000. After excluding $500,000 from the $550,000 gain, you're left with $50,000 in investment income/gain.

Now suppose you and your spouse have adjusted gross income of $325,000, including the $50,000 from the home sale. Your AGI of $325,000 is $75,000 above the $250,000 income threshold for joint filers, but the tax wouldn't apply on this $75,000. Rather, you would face a tax on the smaller number -- the $50,000 net investment income/gain.

In short, $50,000 would be subject to the 3.8 percent surtax, and you would owe $1,900 from the home sale. That's a far cry from paying tax on the full $900,000 proceeds.

It's worth noting that some homesellers could owe regular capital-gain tax in addition to the 3.8 percent surtax. Also, the gain on the sale of a second home wouldn't qualify for the $250,000/$500,000 exclusion and thus would be fully included as net investment income, said Luscombe.

Gains on rental real estate might not qualify for exclusion, either. "That capital gain would generally be subject to the 3.8 percent tax on net investment income, unless the gain is derived from property considered to be held in an active trade or business," Luscombe said. "Therefore, real-estate professionals would not be subject to the tax, but real-estate investors would be."

In short, this provision is confusing and subject to misinterpretation, but most homesellers won't be affected by it.

Reach the reporter at russ.wiles@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-8616.
Are you in line for the tax?

The Affordable Care Act contains a provision that could impose a 3.8 percent tax on part of the gain from the sale of a primary residence. Here's how to tell:

Figure your adjusted gross income. If your AGI, including any taxable gain from the home sale, exceeds $200,000 (singles) or $250,000 (joint filers), then the 3.8 percent tax might apply.

Determine the size of your taxable gain. The tax applies only on part of the gain, not overall proceeds, from a home sale. To figure it, subtract your original purchase price and the cost of improvements made over the years (collectively known as a home's "basis") from the sale proceeds. Then subtract the $250,000 exclusion amount for singles or $500,000 for married couples. Most people selling a home won't have a taxable gain.

Compare the resulting gain with your income. The tax, if any, applies on the smaller of two numbers. The first is your taxable gain from the home sale (after the $250,000/$500,000 exclusion). The second is the amount of your adjusted gross income that exceeds $200,000 (singles) or $250,000 (joint filers). Most people won't owe the 3.8 percent tax on either figure.

by Russ Wiles - Aug. 10, 2012 The Republic | azcentral.com




New tax on home sales is overblown rumor

Home construction on uptick in Scottsdale

Scottsdale new-home construction is showing a healthy increase even though the number of homes is relatively small.

The city issued 205 building permits for single-family homes in the fiscal year that ended June 30, an increase of 52 percent over the previous fiscal year.

The $96 million valuation of those homes, an average of $468,656 per home, was up 38 percent from 2010-11.

Scottsdale's residential construction largely is limited to custom-built houses with no large subdivisions of tract homes, said Mike Clack, city director of development services.

"I expect that trend to continue," Clack said.

Scottsdale is seeing an increase in activity on multifamily projects but only one development is under construction, Optima Sonoran Village at 68th Street and Camelback Road, he said.

A $44 million project to build 325 apartments at SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center, is expected to start this month at McDowell and Scottsdale roads.

Alliance Residential Holdings has a demolition permit to clear its site northwest of Lincoln Drive and Scottsdale Road with plans to build 264 apartments, Clack said.

Developers have submitted plans for more than 5,000 multifamily units the past two years but financing and market demand will dictate how many of the projects are built.

Scottsdale issued 24 building permits for multifamily projects in fiscal 2011-12.

That is down from 51 permits the previous year. But the valuation in that category was up 35 percent to $44.8 million and the number of housing units increased 25 percent to 227.

The category includes apartments, townhouses and condominiums.

In other building-permit categories, the valuation of commercial remodeling projects totaled $69.2 million in 2011-12, up 30 percent from the prior year.

Commercial tenant improvements surged 22 percent to $33.7 million.

The valuation of home remodeling increased 19 percent to $22.3 million.

"We're seeing a little bit of a pickup," Clack said. "It seems to be pretty steady."

The number of building plans submitted in Scottsdale fell from about 7,500in 2007-08 to 5,900 the following year and is back up to 6,890 in the past fiscal year, he said.

by Peter Corbett - Aug. 10, 2012 The Republic | azcentral.com



Home construction on uptick in Scottsdale

Building set for approval - USATODAY.com

A California-based developer is ready to construct the largest industrial building in Surprise, a $10million project that will spill over 24 acres at the Skyway Business Park near Cactus and Dysart roads.

At a workshop this week, Surprise City Council members praised the project by Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based Skyway LLC, because it was a potential job generator. The council is expected to formally approve a development agreement with the company on Tuesday.

The developer plans to start construction later this year.

"This is a significant project ," said Jeff Mihelich, Surprise Community Development Director. "Whatever it takes to have good, high-quality jobs is what we're looking for."

New jobs would come first for construction workers, since the "on spec" Skyway project has not secured tenants for the 418,000-square-foot building. City officials said the building could attract a distributor or other manufacturing company.

Construction alone could generate as many as 100 jobs. City analysts estimated the building could generate as much as $500,000 annually in city taxes once it is occupied. The building will sit in the same park as Gestamp Solar Steel, Rioglass Solar, Brentwood Industries, Southwest Products and Intrepid Industries -- all are new businesses Surprise has attracted over the past several years.

Under the development agreement, Surprise would waive $275,000 in permit fees if the project meets its deadlines. Skyway would have to be ready for tenants by February 2014 to meet the city's criteria.

Councilman Richard Alton noted that the Greater Phoenix Economic Council has advised cities to prepare "shovel-ready" sites for businesses considering a move to Arizona.

Moshe Silagi, who heads Skyway LLC, said he believes the market is right for a speculative industrial building. "Lenders still are not as ready, but it will come," he said.

By Lesley Wright, The Republic|azcentral.com Aug 11, 2012


Building set for approval - USATODAY.com

Furnishings firm takes over ex-nightclub site

After sitting vacant for about 18 months, the building that formerly housed Devil's Martini nightclub in downtown Scottsdale will be the new home of a high-end kitchen design firm.

Bulthaup Scottsdale currently has two locations in downtown Scottsdale, at 4225 N. Marshall Way and a smaller location on Fifth Avenue west of Goldwater Boulevard. It will be consolidating those in a larger space at the former club location, at 4175 N. Goldwater Blvd.

Devil's Martini closed in February 2011 when owners Richard and Delania Geddes decided to leave the bar business. It opened in December 2001.

Bulthaup Scottsdale, which has been on Marshall for seven years and on Fifth for four years, will open the new location in November.

"We have gotten lots of enthusiasm from the neighbors that finally it's going to be a great place, and we are really excited about it," said Robert Moric, principal of Bulthaup Scottsdale.

"There are certain things that come with the bars, from the standpoint of traffic and nuisance and noise, and you wake up in the morning and hear horror stories."

Irene Kelly, spa director at Spa Du Soleil, is "thrilled beyond words" that another bar isn't opening in the building. The spa is just east of the building and has been there 17 years.

"You have no idea how horrible it was when the bar was there," she said. "It was a nightmare. It's so exciting that (Bulthaup Scottsdale is) going to be there because it's a very high-class, fabulous business."

Bulthaup Scottsdale has been in the local market for 27 years.

The firm sells kitchen furnishings produced by Germany-based Bulthaup, which has been in business since 1949.

"We design it here, we work with the clients here, the product gets made in Germany and then gets shipped here and we install it," Moric said. "This market has responded really well to the product, the quality of the product and the value that's delivered to the end-users, so we want to be able to look ahead 10 years and satisfy the market demand."

Bulthaup Scottsdale also sells Carl Hansen & Son furnishings.

The Marshall location houses three display areas, while the new location will house six,Moric said.

"We are going to be growing by about 50 percent on the top," he said. "The new space will allow us to showcase even more of that lifestyle, per se, rather than individual cabinets."

The new location includes a large outdoor space that will be incorporated into the store, he said.

"It's going to be used as an outdoor space so we can use it from time to time, not unlike the way the space is used over here, but it's going to be a little bit more private, and will be a wonderful space to be outdoors and deal with cooking and food," Moric said.

by Edward Gately - Aug. 8, 2012 The Republic | azcentral.com


Furnishings firm takes over ex-nightclub site

The market: Views from the trenches

Metro Phoenix's housing market is showing signs of a real recovery: higher prices, more regular home owners and buyers, and fewer foreclosure and short sales.

The market's rapid changes, peculiarities and frustrations draw many comments from homeowners and people in the real-estate industry. Here is some recent correspondence from readers:

I've been trying to sell my house for four years. Anyway, I listed my house (again) in June, except this time my agent was far more optimistic, and our asking price was far more reasonable -- that means I won't end up owing money but not making money. Within a week, I had a full-price offer and accepted it. I was happy until the appraiser came in, undervalued my home and got the deal canceled. To keep and stay in my home has not been easy. I cannot see how the appraisal process has any value. I'm relisting.

-- Jan Paulson

Realtors should allow their client to decide if the price is right after they show the property. Many Realtors pull up the MLS sheet; look at square footage, price, lot size and commission. If (real-estate agents) don't like the commission, they throw the listing away. The buyer never gets to see it or view the property. What business allows the sale person to determine the sale price?

Also, who really made the profits from the housing crash? How come no one went to jail?

-- Ralph Block

Have you researched how sellers of short sales are asking buyers for a side offer for the appliances, window treatments, water softener, and other items that do not convey? Many buyers need to overbid for these items in order to get their original offer submitted to the bank. This side offer is an out-of-escrow offer and is cash in the seller's hands. It is not illegal. However, the seller chooses which buyer's offer to submit. We are new to the Valley and a traditional well-qualified buyer. We have lost bids due to the side-offer issue. This doesn't seem right, does it?

-- Ryan Hall, discouraged buyer

My girlfriend and I just bought a new Pulte house because the used housing market didn't have any single stories available in ZIP code 85085. We also didn't want to compete with any investors since we have to make offers with a 30-year conventional mortgage instead of cash. With interest rates so low, we were able to get a lot of house.

-- John Stafford

We have had a four-bedroom, three bathroom house in Ahwatukee on the market since May 14. We did have one offer that was $25,000 less than asking price, and they wanted our appliances. We countered $5,000 because our washer and dryer are brand new. We never heard back from the potential buyers or their Realtor. Since then, we have had about three dozen showings and no offers. Other Realtors constantly say our house is beautiful, clean and shows well, but they think it is overpriced. The inventory in Ahwatukee is very low.

Our house was completely remodeled in 2006, and we paid $440,000. We are selling for $350K and are not underwater. My husband was transferred to California, and I want to get the kids out there before school starts in late August.

When Realtors say our house is overpriced, is that really a cover for a reason why they don't really like our home? I can't understand why it is not selling. I don't really believe in open houses. What other way is there to market a house?

by Catherine Reagor - Aug. 10, 2012 The Republic



The market: Views from the trenches

City closer to Waterfront apartment-plan OK

The $54 million final phases of the Scottsdale Waterfront moved another step toward final city approval Wednesday and the developer is ready to start construction as soon as possible.

The Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend Development Review Board and City Council approval of the site plan for Broadstone at Waterfront, which will include 259 apartment units and 10,000 square feet of retail-restaurant space.

Commission Chairman Michael D'Andrea withdrew from the case because he is a member of the development team.

The site plan is tentatively scheduled for consideration by the board Sept. 6 and then by the council Oct. 2.

A separate proposal for elevations and landscaping is tentatively set for board consideration Oct. 4.

The final phases will encompass all of the land between Marshall Way and Goldwater Boulevard. The site plan includes a single building that wraps around a center courtyard, with restaurant and retail on Marshall.

Alliance Residential Holdings, the developer, also is developing Broadstone on Lincoln, a 264-unit apartment complex northwest of Scottsdale Road and Lincoln Drive.

Commissioner Erik Filsinger made the motion to recommend approval and commended Alliance for working with nearby residents to gain their approval. No residents spoke at Tuesday's meeting.

"I think this is a project that's a splendid one for Scottsdale and has spoken well to what the city, and with input from citizens and other members of the community, have been able to obtain," he said.

Filsinger also said it makes sense that the project includes apartments as opposed to condominiums.

"It's really important that Scottsdale, to stay vibrant, listens to the marketplace," he said. "If we are to achieve the goal of Scottsdale having a healthy live-work-play atmosphere, it isn't just a residential bedroom community. It's a place where we have people who live here, work here and hopefully recreate here and the market can help dictate what types of housing are necessary to achieve that proper balance."

John Berry, a zoning attorney and project spokesman, said the project will bring 259 "high-income" rental units to the downtown area.

There's a list of people waiting to rent units at the Waterfront's current condominium towers, so there's clear demand for apartments in downtown and at the Waterfront, he said.

"There are a lot of people who are high income who don't want to be in a home, who want a different lifestyle, who maybe can afford a home but don't want to put down a substantial down payment on a condo," he said.

"There are people who may be in transition, they've gone through a divorce, they're looking for a place to stay where they don't have to take care of everything, and so a rental is a better product for them."

There are no specific tenants yet for the retail-restaurant space, but it's likely to be businesses comparable to those already at the Waterfront, Berry said.

In early 2011, a divided council approved a maximum building height of 135 feet to allow a taller building on the east side of the property.

However, the maximum building height in the site plan is 65 feet along Marshall Way.

"The important part of it was to provide the 259 units, so the prior approval allowed the 259 units with (greater height)," Berry said. "It provided the flexibility for a user to use that height if they needed it, but we don't need it."

Alliance Residential Holdings is ready to begin construction as soon as all approvals and permits are obtained, he said.

The Broadstone complexes are among 18 apartment projects that would add about 5,700 apartments citywide. Optima Sonoran Village, a condo complex that will include some rental units, is the only one under construction.

by Edward Gately - Aug. 10, 2012 The Republic | azcentral.com




City closer to Waterfront apartment-plan OK

Scottsdale council approves permits for downtown beach club

The Scottsdale City Council on Tuesday approved several permits for Triyar Entertainment's beach club-anchored complex in the city's downtown entertainment district.

Scottsdale Retail Plaza is well under construction on most of the block that housed Myst nightclub on Shoeman Lane, and Suede restaurant and bar on Indian Plaza. The complex is set to open in the first quarter of 2013.

The council approved the following:

Conditional-use permits for a bar and live entertainment for Triyar's beach club, which will include a 9,700-square-foot indoor bar and 17,600 square feet of outdoor pool and patio areas. The club will be in the center of the complex.

Conditional-use permits for a bar and live entertainment for Riot Hospitality Group's Whiskey Row, a modern Western saloon on the eastern side of the complex.

A conditional-use permit for a bar for Munchbar, Les Corieri's latest venue. The sports bar also will be on the eastern side of the complex.

The council also approved liquor-license recommendations to the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control for Whiskey Row and the beach club.

Councilman Bob Littlefield voted against all of the items, saying the complex will be the "biggest and most intrusive part of this bar district," and that the city has yet to "discipline and get control" of the district that's "destroying" the city.

Councilman Ron McCullagh voted against the conditional-use permits for Whiskey Row. He said the live entertainment won't be contained inside the bar because, although the doors are required to be closed and there won't be any outdoor speakers, there is no requirement for the roll-up window to the patio to be closed.

"The whole issue of trying to contain the noise seems to have been bypassed," he said.

Councilwoman Lisa Borowsky made the motions for all of the approvals, saying the applicant has met all of the criteria imposed by the city and that Triyar is investing a lot in the city to revitalize aging properties.

The council has yet to consider a recommendation for Munchbar's liquor license. Planning Director Tim Curtis said its liquor-license application had to be withdrawn and resubmitted, and will be considered by the council in the coming weeks.

McCullagh said the council shouldn't consider a conditional-use permit before a liquor-license recommendation and made a motion to postpone the issue until both could be considered at the same meeting. Littlefield seconded his motion, saying the liquor-license application includes a lot of important information, such as an applicant's criminal history.

The council voted 5-2 for Borowsky's substitute motion for approval, with McCullagh and Littlefield voting no.

Jason Morris, a zoning attorney representing Triyar, said the complex replaces "precisely the same uses that were there before ... only updated and better constructed." He also said there will be daytime and nighttime use at the complex, and that entertainment won't start until after 5 p.m.

Mark Stuart, a Scottsdale resident, asked the council who the target market for the complex is and, "why do we want this?"

John Washington, a former mayoral candidate, said he was asked by Bill Crawford, president of the Association to Preserve Downtown Scottsdale's Quality of Life, to speak in opposition. The city originally was told the complex would replace two bars with one bar and retail space, and now it will include five bars, no retail and less parking, he said.

"The bottom line is these uses will exacerbate the problems we already have with parking, noise and imported crime," he said.

by Edward Gately - Sept. 12, 2012 The Republic | azcentral.com




Scottsdale council approves permits for downtown beach club

Metro Phoenix a seller's (and landlord's) market

Renters looking for houses in metro Phoenix are experiencing much of the same frenzy as buyers.

As reported on Page A1 today, new data from the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service and real-estate analyst Mike Orr show the supply of houses for rent in the region is nearly as tight as the supply of homes for sale, and the number of leases signed in the past few months is at record levels.

High demand for rentals is another indicator of metro Phoenix's housing-market recovery.

Rob and Sandra O'Dell discovered how competitive metro Phoenix's rental market has become when they began looking for a house in July. Rob O'Dell is The Republic's new investigative reporter, specializing in computer-assisted reporting. The couple drove up from Tucson on a Saturday to check out a central Phoenix rental home and found themselves at an open house with 30 other prospective renters.

Open houses for rental homes is a new trend in metro Phoenix and evidence of the high demand for the houses. Dismayed and surprised by their experience, the couple spent the next weekend in Phoenix looking for a place to rent. But it was "frustrating and exhausting," Rob said. Most rental houses they checked out already had multiple applications from renters or were in bad shape.

The charts in today's paper and online at money.azcentral.com show the median rents for homes and ZIP codes where rentals are leasing the fastest -- data that have never been reported. To find the addresses of most rentals, prospective tenants should call a real-estate agent who has access to the ARMLS database.

"Rentals have become a growing business for the region's real-estate agents," said Chris Heagerty, a director with ARMLS.

She said the number of rental contracts every month now is almost half the number of metro Phoenix's sales contracts.

The O'Dells were on their way back to Tucson when they drove through the Coronado neighborhood and found a house where the owner was just putting up a "for rent" sign. The couple checked out the house and offered to give the landlord the security deposit then so they wouldn't lose the house.

"I wrote her the $1,000 check on the spot," Rob said. "We had our place to live in Phoenix, and I had one of my first stories for The Arizona Republic."

by Catherine Reagor, columnist - Sept. 13, 2012 The Republic | azcentral.com




Metro Phoenix a seller's (and landlord's) market

Scottsdale home prices up 9.26 percent over a year ago

Scottsdale's median home price in July of $386,500 was a 9 percent increase over a year ago, according to the latest monthly report from the Arizona State University Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice.

That is based on 512 homes sales, a 2 percent increase over July 2011.

Prices were up in three of five communities in the Northeast Valley and down 1.75 percent in Paradise Valley with a median price of $1.06 million.

Rio Verde's median price of $189,950 was off 55 percent, but that is based on only eight sales this year and five in July 2011.

The median home price in Maricopa County increased 30 percent to $155,000.

Scottsdale's median price in July for condominiums and townhouses of $153,000 was up 30 percent from a year ago on 235 units sold, down from 260 a year earlier.

The overall supply of homes on the market declined 26 percent in August compared with a year earlier.

Scottsdale-area home prices

Here are the July median home prices for these Northeast Valley communities along with the percentage change from a year ago.

Scottsdale -- $386,500 (up 9.26 percent).

Paradise Valley -- $1.06 million (down 1.75 percent).

Carefree -- $580,000 (up 19 percent).

Cave Creek -- $348,000 (up 12.26 percent).

Fountain Hills -- $310,000 (up 9.8 percent).

Rio Verde -- $189,950 (down 55 percent).*

Phoenix -- $112,000 (up 48.5 percent).

Maricopa County -- $155,000 (up 30 percent).

* Based on eight sales in July 2012 and five sales in July 2011.

by Peter Corbett - Sept. 11, 2012 The Republic | azcentral.com





Scottsdale home prices up 9.26 percent over a year ago

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Valley bankruptcies keep plummeting

Phoenix-area bankruptcies continue to drop at a double-digit pace, falling by more than one-fourth in August compared with August 2011.

The 1,809 filings last month were down nearly 26 percent from 2,431 in August 2011, according to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Phoenix. The latest results marked the 19th straight month of bankruptcies declining on a year-over-year basis and the 14th consecutive double-digit decrease.

For 2012 to date, Valley bankruptcies are down nearly 26 percent.

The latest results come despite mixed signals, including a continuing sluggish employment market. An August survey of 500 Valley residents by Country Financial showed a slide in local financial optimism to the study's lowest reading since June 2009.

Conversely, loan defaults have eased, housing prices have improved and employment growth, although sub-par, remains on an upward trajectory.

In a report, Phoenix economist John Crosby said he expects "continued modest to moderate growth" for the economy into early next year. Sherry Cooper, chief economist of BMO Financial Group, cited the housing upturn, high housing affordability, rising auto sales, strong performance by corporations and the pending conclusion of the presidential campaign as signs for optimism.

Credit-card debt among Valley residents is down 16 percent over the past year through August to an average $4,948, researcher Credit Karma reported. Credit-card debt is a key type of borrowing that consumers seek to jettison in bankruptcy. Average mortgage- and student-loan balances also have dropped for Phoenix-area residents over the past year, the company reports, although auto-loan borrowings have risen.

For all of Arizona, the 2,479 bankruptcies in August were down 23 percent from 3,224 one year earlier.

Nationally, the 104,336 total filings in August represented a 14 percent decline from August 2011, the American Bankruptcy Institute and researcher Epiq Systems reported. U.S. filings rose 7 percent last month compared with July, while Valley bankruptcies were down 2 percent from July.

"While the August totals rose slightly over last month, we remain on course for the lowest total new bankruptcies since before the financial crisis in 2008," said the ABI's executive director, Samuel Gerdano, commenting on the national trend.

by Russ Wiles - Sept. 11, 2012 The Republic | azcentral.com




Valley bankruptcies keep plummeting

IRS pays Swiss ex-banker, whistleblower $104 million - USATODAY.com

WASHINGTON — the largest amount ever awarded by the agency.

Former Swiss banker Bradley Birkenfeld is credited with exposing widespread tax evasion at Swiss bank UBS AG.

Birkenfeld himself served roughly two and a half years in prison for a fraud conspiracy conviction related to the case, which resulted in a $780million fine against the bank and an unprecedented agreement requiring UBS to turn over thousands of names of suspected American tax dodgers to the IRS.

The IRS, which doesn't usually confirm individual award payments, said Birkenfeld signed a disclosure waiver, allowing the agency to confirm his award.

"The IRS believes that the whistleblower statute provides a valuable tool to combat tax non-compliance, and this award reflects our commitment to the law," IRS spokeswoman Michele Eldridge said in an email.

Birkenfeld has become something of a cause celebre among whistleblowers because of the magnitude of his case and the fact that he was jailed after cooperating with authorities.

In a summary of the award provided by Birkenfeld's lawyers, the IRS said, "The comprehensive information provided by the whistleblower was exceptional in both its breadth and depth."

Federal prosecutors had said Birkenfeld withheld information about his own dealings with a former UBS client who pleaded guilty in 2007 to tax charges.

In 2006, Congress strengthened whistleblower rewards. The law targets high-income tax dodgers.

By Stephen Ohlemacher, Associated Press Sep 12, 2012


IRS pays Swiss ex-banker, whistleblower $104 million - USATODAY.com

Baby Boomers have many options for retirement planning

Your home value fell flat. That 401(k) nest egg you carefully created is cracking, and the inheritance you hoped to tap? Drained by your parents' medical bills. What's a retirement-bound Baby Boomer supposed to?

C. Angus Schaal, managing director of the Tandem Wealth Advisors' Phoenix office, said the children of the late 1940s, '50s and early '60s are worried about their financial future.

"Many are afraid of retirement and not convinced they will live comfortably" and feel vulnerable, scared, unprepared and fearful of poverty, Schaal said. Their fears are driven by uncertainties of investments, housing prices, Social Security and health costs.

When it comes to protecting themselves, Baby Boomers in general aren't the savers their parents were.

"In the mid-'60s, the national savings rate was 15 to 16 percent of net income," Schaal said. "Today, it is less than 4 percent of net income, while most developed countries save roughly 10 percent per year."

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates less than half of Americans have calculated how much they need to save to retire, even though, on average, they will spend at least 20 years in retirement.

More Americans than 10 years ago are concerned they will not have enough money to live comfortably in retirement, according to research by the Washington, D.C.-based Employee Benefit Research Institute. Its 2012 Retirement Confidence Survey shows 24 percent were "not confident," compared with 19 percent in 2002.

But fear and worry don't seem to have increased a sense of urgency about saving. Although 75 percent of respondents in the research institute's 2009 survey said they were saving for retirement, this year, only 66 percent said they were doing so.

"How do we find the capacity to spend less than we make and save the difference in the U.S. is the real question," Schaal said. He offers this solution: Ask yourself if the purchase is a want or need. "People are living beyond their means. ... We see many spending far too much on eating out, cars and travel. People work hard, and they feel they deserve things regardless of what they'll need in the future. As a result, many face the threat of a major lifestyle adjustment late in life."

Schaal said people should determine their discretionary spending per household member and build their living standard around it: "We must clearly say this money is for current spending and this money is for future spending: money to live by and money to grow by."

Schaal said it's time to get back to paying off a mortgage before retirement.

"I remember this great 'All in the Family' episode where Archie and Edith Bunker throw a mortgage note-burning party to celebrate paying off their mortgage," he said. "These types of parties were once the norm. The American dream was not only homeownership but paying off the debt that came with it. This goal was lost in the last few decades."

One of the most important things people can do is to try to knock down their debt, said Darin Shebesta, assistant vice president with Jackson Financial Advisors in Scottsdale.

He advises those in their late 40s to early 50s to increase contributions to retirement plans. Those in their middle to late 50s should come as close to maximizing their contributions as they can.

"Those are peak earning years, and they need to sock away as much as possible," Shebesta said.

And those in their early to mid-60s should be wary of risky investments.

Like Schaal, Shebesta recommends trying to get rid of debt and re-evaluating expenses.

When working with clients, Shebesta said, he likes to call it a "spending plan" as opposed to a budget because "people like to spend money." Knowing what they spend money on helps them identify what they need to change or exclude.

"A lot of times, they realize they can't have cake and eat it, too," Shebesta said. "You need to plan out for 30 years. ... Things don't happen by happenstance."

Tempe resident Terry Abair understands that advice. He has used that notion to help ensure a viable and vibrant retirement.

The 65-year-old veteran construction executive learned the value of hard work from his father, a successful life-insurance salesman.

"If he needed money, he'd work harder," Abair said. "He was very positive and a believer that you're capable of anything."

That work ethic was driven home the summer before Abair's senior year in high school. He was living away from home, part of a crew picking cantaloupes.

"You'd get up at 4 in the morning, eat in the school cafeteria, and then we'd hit the field about 5:30. After a couple days, I called my dad and said, 'I think I'm going home. I'm really sick.' My dad said, 'Did you sign the contract?' I said, 'Yes.' He said, 'Tell me what that means.' I said, 'It means a commitment.' He said, 'If you quit, don't come home.' "

Abair chuckled at the memory. "He taught me that if you want something to set a goal. It's one step at a time."

Having that sense of patience helped Abair, who is married with two adult children, retire two years ago.

But there were struggles. Investments in the late 1970s and early '80s were rocky. He'd make some money and lose some, tripped by the technology bubble.

"I was trying to hit home runs to the point it almost cost me my marriage," he said. "I had always managed the money myself, so we decided to become a partnership."

His dream wasn't to be wealthy but financially independent, so that he could donate his time to various causes.

Awhile back, he started working with the financial planner he still consults with.

"I started tracking things closely and learned to ask the right questions," Abair said. "I'd read and get online. I was convinced that in my lifetime, Social Security would go away or change, so I wanted to make a plan not to depend on it."

Like Abair, Phoenix resident Chris Ewing, 53, had a difficult time with investments. She trusted an adviser who invested in a fraudulent scheme. Her money was recovered, and she took her time before trusting another financial adviser.

"I should have always paid closer attention to my investments," said Ewing, who owns Ewing Consulting, which helps organizations with philanthropic projects. "And I wish I had taken the time to educate myself about finances in general years ago. I was always just too busy working."

Ewing said she grew up knowing to be careful with money: "My father taught me by example that debt was a no-no, a lesson that has served me well."

But she said it wasn't until last year, when her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, that she realized how quickly savings can evaporate.

"We were forced to move her into a home. Talk about a reality check," she said. "The cost of quality skilled care was a real eye-opener. As was the fact that you don't make it to the admissions office without full disclosure of every penny."

Ewing is saving more of her discretionary income than ever before. And she finds her needs are changing.

"As I get older, the 'stuff' is less important to me than it once was," she said. "In the end, it is loved ones that count."
5 ways to save for retirement

1. Start saving, keep saving and stick to your goals.

2. Know your retirement needs.

3. Contribute to your employer's retirement-savings plan.

4. Put money into an Individual Retirement Account.

5. Consider diversifying your investments.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor Employee Benefits Security Administrationion
Is $1 million enough?

Having a $1 million retirement portfolio has been a lofty goal for many Americans, Valley financial planners say. But is that even enough? It depends on many factors , such as how long you think you'll live, how many trips you plan to take a year and whether you enjoy eating out several times a month.

Want a more extravagant lifestyle or think you'll live an extraordinarily long life? You may want to have $2 million on tap.

A $1 million portfolio will give you $50,000 a year for 20 years, not including your Social Security or pension allocations.

How to get there by age 65 (based on a 7 percent annual return on investments):

If you're 45 and have nothing saved, you would need to save about $2,000 a month. If you already have a $500,000 portfolio, you wouldn't need to save any extra.

If you're 55 and have nothing saved, you would need to save about $6,000 a month. If you already have a $500,000 portfolio, you would need to save an extra $100 a month.

Source: Darin Shebesta, retirement planner for Jackson Financial Advisors
Planning advice by age

No matter how old you are, you have options for retirement planning. Here are a few planning suggestions, depending on your age.

Late 40s to mid-50s

Increase contributions to your retirement plan. If you're contributing 5 percent of your paycheck now, make it 10 percent or more, if possible.

Start knocking down debt. Make additional payments on your mortgage, credit cards and student loans.

Set up or contribute to a college fund for your children or grandchildren, and talk to them about contributing to it themselves.

Make sure you have enough life insurance to cover the cost of rent or a mortgage in addition to the income of Social Security needed to sustain the household.

Mid- to late 50s

Maximize contributions to your 401(k) and other saving plans.

Do a financial inventory and review your savings allocations.

Research and consider paying now for long-term or home care. Nursing homes with semi-private care cost about $68,000 a year in Arizona; home care is about $45,000 a year. Try to find a policy that provides at least $150 a day in benefits.

Decide where you want to live and what you want to do after retiring, to see if you'll have enough money.

Early to mid-60s

Pare down your investment risk. For example, if you've been investing 60 percent in stocks and 40 percent in bonds, reverse that.

Finalize a retirement date.

Decide if you'll work after retirement, whether for extra money or to keep active.

Create a plan for distributing your assets. Every year you delay drawing Social Security, your allocation will increase by 8 percent (until you are 70).

Sources: Darin Shebesta, retirement planner for Jackson Financial Advisors, American Association of Retired Persons and staff research
Retirement resources

www.usa.gov/Topics/Seniors/Retirement.shtml: Government resources for retirement planning, including several to help estimate retirement expenses.

www.dol.gov/ebsa: U.S. Department of Labor Employee Benefits Security Administration. Click on "Retirement Plans" under "Consumer Information" for what you should know about your employer's retirement plan and more.

www.ssa.gov: U.S. Social Security Administration. Find online applications for retirement benefits, online statements and a retirement calculator based on your Social Security earnings record.

www.napfa.org: The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. Under "Helpful Links," find questions you should ask a financial planner and a guide to financial self-defense.

Find more resources, including a millionaire calculator and a life-insurance-needs calculator, at boomers.azcentral.com.

by Connie Cone Sexton - Sept. 7, 2012 The Republic | azcentral.com




Baby Boomers have many options for retirement planning

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