Whispering Ranch Diary

2007 Newsletters

This is a summary of the notes and information that I included for 2007 on the maps that I prepared and made available "for Public Use" in the information boxes at the two signs I have in Whispering Ranch. One is located by the mailboxes at 299th Avenue and Patton Road, and the other is at 347th Avenue and Carefree Highway, so depending on which way you come in, there were maps and current information near each entrance. Originally, I was just putting out maps with the listings of properties for sale, but I broadened the scope to give more people an idea of what was happening in the market, and how market changes were affecting Buyers and Sellers in the area.

Since there was more space available here on this site than on the maps, I may have gone into more detail or more fully explained events. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me e-mail to me by clicking here.

Newsletters - 2007

December 8, 2007 - Over the past few weeks I have been showing the Whispering Ranch area to a number of potential purchasers. Most of them are looking for a property that they can purchase with the intention of holding for a few years (I normally suggest a five to seven year holding period) with an eye toward possibly building a second home or a "mini-ranch", or in the future selling the property at a profit once we have worked our way out of this current depressed market. The key question has been, 'When do they expect power service in the area?' And, at this point my response is 'Nobody knows'. I go on to explain the current efforts by residents and owners to let APS and the Arizona Corporation Commission know that we would like power in the area by making phone calls, sending e-mails and letters. And it appears we are having some impact. I have been contacted by the Corporation Commission to be a part of an informal preliminary meeting later this month to give them an idea of what direction we are taking and to see how APS can work with us toward this goal. Hopefully this will lead to some sort of timeline projection from APS giving us some idea of what they see happening in the future as other events (bridges over the Hassayampa River for freeways, parkways and roadways) start to take form. Everyone agrees that the area has a lot of potential, but nobody know when it will happen in light of today's sluggish real estate market. It seems like most of the planners are focusing on other areas of development (Sun City Festival and Festival Ranch, Douglas Ranch) to the exclusion of Whispering Ranch. But, thanks to your input with the Corporation Commission and APS we will hopefully start to be included as a participant in these talks for future planning. This wouldn't have happened without your input. So again, thank you for your time and efforts.

In working with these prospective Buyers, the majority are interested but they are not confident enough in today's economy to make the commitment to buy. A few have indicated they would be more comfortable going into an area where power was available, but I cautioned them the prices would be about six to eight times higher per acre than in Whispering Ranch. Also, we are looking toward the Holiday Season, and most people are more concerned about paying for gift giving and not thinking about purchasing investment land parcels. Hopefully, this current hesitation will change as we move into 2008. Projections indicate that the current "mortgage meltdown" will still be a factor until about the second or third quarter of the year and there are measures under consideration that may help to lessen the economic impact of loans going into default. Until then, we will witness development projects - both large and small - extending their development timelines due to economic weakness. They will still move forward but they are awaiting a more favorable economic market before they really start to gear up again. The potential Buyers of a five-acre parcel in Whispering Ranch are not much different from the large developers from that perspective.

Are we at the bottom of the market? I think we are. I expect that things will remain sluggish for another six months or so. Prices will not drop very much from today's asking prices since property owners are aware of the value of their property. And I do what I can to keep Sellers and Buyers alike aware of what is happening in the area that will affect parcel pricing - now and in the future. I feel that now is the time to buy. Should there be a "trigger event" - an announcement of power coming into the area, forward movement on roadways or bridges, the opening of additional developments in the area - the interest in the area and activity in the area will increase. Prices will start to firm up and may start to rise (slowly) and there will be a lot of Buyers who will realize they may have missed the boat by waiting too long.

Stay tuned for more updates.

November 10, 2007 - Since October 1st there have been five sales in Whispering Ranch. This is a marked increase above the previous activity in the area over the past year. With gas prices heading up, the effects of the mortgage market meltdown in the residential Real Estate area having a negative impact on the Real Estate industry in general, and the stock market dropping back from record highs it appears we may be witnessing the movement of investment dollars from the stock market into the Real Estate market. This is obvious from all of the negative recent press coverage. But, we made it through the "Summer Doldrums" and now that the weather has cooled down from our triple digit daytime temperatures, I have seen an increase in interest and activity in the land market overall and in Whispering Ranch in particular. My advice to prospective Buyers that they had better buy now instead of "waiting for the bottom of the market" appears to be solid advice based on the recent activity. We may have seen the bottom of the market since it looks like activity is increasing. Only time will tell if this is really the bottom and the market is starting to rise, but the preliminary indicators are there.

Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) has issues its recommended routes for the roadways, and there will be a significant impact on Whispering Ranch. This map shows a six- lane freeway cutting through the southern part of "The Ranch" along the Patton/Jomax Road alignment, a major arterial roadway from east to west at Dove Valley Road, and an additional roadway from east to west on the Cloud Road alignment. They will have to build a couple of bridges for these roadways, so watch for more studies and planning in these areas. The map also shows the Hidden Waters Parkway (probably 4 lanes) running all the way through "The Ranch" from north to south between 299th & 307th Avenue. If you send me an e-mail, I can get an electronic copy of the map back to you so you can look at it yourself. Nobody is sure of the timeframe on any of these roadway improvements, but in conversations with the Festival Ranch and Douglas Ranch planners, I don't see them starting houses without roadway access to their mega-development, and the money they are putting in will be driving these roadways.

After spending three months is getting the information out to residents and Owners of property in "The Ranch" on the efforts to let APS and the Corporation Commission know that there is demand for electrical service in the Whispering Ranch subdivision, I am pleased to report that quite a few folks have e-mailed, called and written to the Commission and APS indicating they support this move. Watch for notices posted by the mailboxes advising when we will be having another upcoming "Tent Event" to assemble these folks and apply pressure toward this goal.

We may be witnessing some of the same economic factors that were in place just prior to the "Land Rush" of 2004-2005. At that time I had 35 properties on the market, and there was no activity, then everything took off. In looking at today's market, things may have bottomed out, and there is planning for roadways and bridges, the possibility of an electrical grid coming in, and the actual installation of telephone and fiber-optic cable, all of which are signs of growth. I have said for the past 18 months that for the Whispering Ranch area to start into the next growth phase that there would need to be a "catalyst" or "trigger event". It could be the MAG roadway announcement, the grass roots movement to get power, or the changes in the Stock Market (or a combination of these items). I don't foresee the same frantic activity since financing has tightened considerably, but there will be money moving out of the stock market into other investments.

Whispering Ranch still offers among the best land values in Maricopa County, is in the path of growth and future development, has plenty of water, and is poised for another run up in value. Is now the time?? We just have to watch closely to see what happens next.

October 13, 2007 - There's not much to report for this month, 3rd Quarter activity was pretty much the same as it has been for the past year. Even though there were only five transactions for the Quarter, there are other indicators to watch. What we are seeing is Sellers holding firm on the pricing on their property. There were a few desperate Sellers who just wanted to sell the parcel at any price, and probably a few uninformed Owners who got a mailer from one of the "Bottom Fishing" investor firms and sold their property at a low price. But informed Sellers are holding firm on their pricing since they know what the parcels are worth. And these Owners are willing to wait until the prices rise to the level where the property will sell. The thing to watch for now is a change in activity. Should there be any local announcements about roadways, developments moving forward or area annexations it could cause more interest and thus more activity in the Whispering Ranch area. There is plenty of stuff going on, but it isn't on the radar of the general public yet. And there is so much negative press about the economy and Real Estate; Buyers are sitting on the sidelines waiting for the "bottom of the market". By the time they realize the market has bottomed out and started back up, it may be too late - they will have missed the good deals. That's why I tell every prospect that "now is the time to buy", while the market is down.

With the hand delivery of flyers to families living in the area, and a bulk e-mail getting the same information out to Owners on my notification list, we have started to get the attention of the representatives at Arizona Public Service and at the Arizona Corporation Commission on the issue of bringing electrical service to our area. So a hearty "Thank You" to all of you who have called, e-mailed or written to make these entities aware of the issues we are facing. I am in the process of mailing out 2000 additional copies of these informational flyers to property Owners I haven't been able to contact through other means. Over the next month or so there will be another surge of calls and e-mails to APS and the Corporation Commission as these flyers arrive to these out of state owners. The possibility of having another "Tent Event" meeting now that the weather is cool is being considered and we will be inviting everyone to attend, including Corporation Commission members and APS Representatives. Once we put our heads together and settle on a time and date, we will get the word out on this meeting.

There have been meetings locally about the BNSF plans for an industrial/siding area in the 211th Avenue and Dove Valley Road area, up near Nadaburg School. And there are the meeting on the proposed annexation of Wittmann, Circle City and Morristown into the City of Surprise. If you look at the planning area maps for the City of Surprise, you'll see what is in the works and where this City is planning to grow. Whispering Ranch will not be included in the annexation plans, but these plans will have a dramatic effect on what happens in "The Ranch" since Surprise is already working with MAG on which of the roadways need to be improved or expanded.

All the pieces are in place. We just have to wait for some of this information to be absorbed by the public. Then activity will increase. Waiting is the hard part.

September 8, 2007 - We still have a few weeks of Summer left, but it's starting to cool down a little. That will make it easier to show prospective Buyers around, if any should happen to stumble out this way. Things are slow since there is so much doom and gloom in the press about Real Estate in general, the layoffs at the mortgage companies and the record number of delinquent mortgages probably going into foreclosure soon. There were even a couple of foreclosures at here in "The Ranch". With all of the negative news, the average consumer is not confident in the economy, and they are not making purchases - choosing instead to 'wait and see what happens'. So, even though we may have prospects that we are showing around in the area, they are more likely to be researching and assembling information, not looking to buy something now. And that won't change until the news is better, the economy is more stable and consumers get back the confidence that is missing from today's market.

There are still about 160 parcels on the market, and a couple of sales so far this Quarter, so things haven't really changed that much. Probably 80% of the calls I get are from Owners asking what the market is doing, what is happening with sales activity, have there been any recent announcements of importance, etc. A lot of these Sellers have a price point in mind and know that the parcel prices will reach that level, but today the prices are not there yet, and nobody can predict when this sluggish market will turn around. But everyone agrees on this - the market will turn around . . . it always does. Until then we will just have to wait it out.

Progress is being made on roadway planning, but MCDOT is awaiting the results of the study to determine the impact of any improvements (roadways, bridges, etc.) on the Hassayampa River corridor. Once that study is done, we'll hear where the roads are going to go - whether on Patton Road or Jomax Road - or surprisingly, on both. The last Maricopa Association of Governments preliminary map showed the new freeway in this area meandering back and forth between these two roads until it turns south and heads toward Douglas Ranch. There is also the Hidden Waters Parkway on the map running north to south in a corridor between 302nd Ave. and 304th Ave. but all of this stuff is "Preliminary" at this point. This road doesn't make sense because it runs into a mountain at the north end if they follow this route. You'll probably see them going around the mountain. This same map also shows the Hassayampa River crossings at Cloud Road (Black Mountain Road), Dove Valley Road, and Jomax Road. Do you think this means some bridges? ? Only time will tell.

As I was leaving Whispering Ranch last month after our Saturday "Open Lot", I drove across to the west side of Whispering Ranch, dropping off copies of the flyer describing what we are attempting to do on the issue of getting some kind of plan for power put together for the area. Most of the residents I met with expressed the same concern, "We were promised electrical service before, when they put in the transmission lines. Why do you think we can get them to do anything now?" I honestly don't know if this will make any difference. But I do know this - if you do nothing, that's what you're going to get . . nothing. I feel we have an opportunity to get the attention of the politicians who are supposed to represent us and bring the issue to the forefront. So far this month, our small group has e-mailed a similar flyer to property owners, and I am creating the address labels so we can mail this information out to all the other owners. By the end of the next month we hope to have the information out to everyone concerned. Right now, we are not organized, but if we start seeing more response we will have to put some structure to our group.

August 11, 2007 - With the number of foreclosures increasing, the doom and gloom headlines about mortgage lenders in serious trouble, and now the overseas economies feeling the pinch of our "real estate adjustment" there is not a favorable outlook for the "Whispering Ranch" sub-market recovery in the short term. The number of properties is floating in the 155 to 165 range, as it has been for the past year. There are new properties coming on line and some properties that have been on the market for quite a while are dropping off, most with the intention of staying off the market until activity increases. There are a few sales, most by desperate Sellers who for one reason or another will sell at a discounted price, and some sales for nicer parcels at fair prices, but in general the market is relatively dead. And from what I see it may stay slow for the foreseeable future. The scary part is that if the economy continues to get worse, this area may grind to a halt. Some of the developers are extending their timelines for their projects, and rumor has it that some of the smaller builders are heading toward bankruptcy protection, having overextended themselves in the exuberance of 2005. We just have to watch and wait.

Part of my focus lately has been to see what could be done to get the attention of the Arizona Corporation Commission and Arizona Public Service toward the goal of planning some sort of power grid for the Whispering Ranch subdivision. If you are a resident of the ranch and want to provide your input toward that goal, I have information available on who to call and how to make your voice heard. If you own a parcel in Whispering Ranch and would like to see the values rise in the future because there is movement toward a power grid for the area, you can help too. I will be keeping everyone posted of where we stand and what is happening if you are interested in getting involved in this movement. No matter what the economy does in the next year or two, nor what effect this has on the Whispering Ranch prices, when things turn around, we will be in a much better position if we have made some headway with the power issue. So whether you are for it or against it, make your voice heard. We have the attention of some of the decision makers, and now we have to give them our input. If you want to make a phone call to these folks or send them an e-mail, I'll provide the information to you so you can make your voice heard.

Think about this. Buyers want to have an idea of when there will be power. Even if there is no power currently, they want to know how long will they have to wait. Three years?? Five years?? If they know there is a plan and a timeframe, and that something is in the works, they can plan for that. When they find out there are no plans in the works for power, they tend to move on to other areas where there is power. Five acre parcels with power (or reasonable access to power) are priced about $25K to $35K higher than those without power. So if you want the value of your parcels that currently have no power to increase by this amount, get involved in this process.

The next big surge in sales activity and price increases will be driven not only by the economy in general, but also by what we do today to bring the issue of power in Whispering Ranch before our elected representatives who can help us. Until that item is addressed, plan on sales activity and prices remaining stagnant.

{For more information on the Whispering Ranch Electrification Efforts (or WEE ! ! as those of us involved like to call it), click here. This will take you to the section of this web site where you can view the flyers we sent out to local Residents, the flyers that will be going out to property owners who don't live at Whispering Ranch, and the contact numbers at Arizona Public Service and the Arizona Corporation Commission. We might as well make the effort now to get something done. They've been promising power for 30 years and waiting on them just ain't cutting it.}

July 14, 2007 - The 2nd Quarter '07 numbers are in and available on my web site (Whispering Ranch Activity) if you want to take a look. In a nutshell, there is still very little activity as far as the number of sales, but two items are worthy of noting. First, the Average Sales price per acre of the parcels that sold jumped from $13,700 up to $17,600! And the Average Listing price per acre rose from $14,850 to $17,520! There were quite a few lower priced parcels that dropped off the market without selling, being replaced with other parcels at a higher asking price. So we may have seen the bottom as far as price is concerned, but we won't know that for another one or two Quarters. It could just be a market aberration.

The other issue is the area activity. There is not much going on - sales are very slow, and this may have skewed the numbers as well. But I am seeing more inquiries and I am touring more prospective Buyers around "The Ranch" which should lead to an increase in sales. The other agents working the area are reporting the same 'minor' increase in interest, and that is a good sign.

One of the high points recently is that I attended and spoke at a Corporation Commission hearing regarding the rate hike that Arizona Public Service is requesting. One of the items buried in the requests that APS was making was the elimination of the "1000 feet Free" allowance that APS has been honoring for years. When we raised this issue and stated our opposition to this exemption or allowance being eliminated, we also brought to light that APS has been promising for about 40 years (since Horizon Development put the wheels in motion in the 60's) to bring power into the area. And the issue of power in "The Ranch" still hasn't been addressed - which raised the eyebrows of a couple of the Commissioners. So we are planning a few more private meetings with the Commissioners to show where things currently stand and see if they can help us get some action from APS on providing a plan to bring power into the area. (For those of you who missed the March 27, 2007 meeting in Whispering Ranch, when I addressed the attendees at the meeting I stated that dealing with APS wasn't getting the desired results. I indicated that applying political power might be another avenue to explore. Now, it looks like that may work.) Whether you are in favor or against power coming into the area, I would like to hear from you, as we need to be able to indicate to the Corporation Commission the wants and needs of the area residents and owners. For those of you with internet access, go to my web site, click on "Helpful Links", then "Whispering Ranch Information" and on the Whispering Ranch home page that comes up, click the highlighted word "Meetings". As soon as I know dates, times and subject of any future meetings, I'll post them there.

If you want to either send me an e-mail or call me with an address or phone number, I'll assemble the information and get information back to you when we see which direction this whole thing is going.

Think about this. Buyers want to have an idea of when there will be power. When they find out there are no plans in the works for power, they tend to move on to other areas where there is power. Parcels with power are priced about $25K to $35K higher than those without power. So if you want the value of your parcels that currently have no power to increase by this amount, get involved in this process.

The next big surge in sales activity and price increases will be driven by what we do today to bring the issue of power in Whispering Ranch before our elected representatives who can help us. Until that item is addressed, plan on activity remaining stagnant.

June 9, 2007 - The past few months have been pretty slow in Whispering Ranch. But, I am seeing more hits on my web site, and lots of people are printing up the maps and "Activity" graphs. And I am getting more calls from folks who have just 'discovered' Whispering Ranch. Normally, this increase in traffic is a prelude to more sales activity. I am having Equity Title do some research for me on the private sale activity, since I am discovering that there are a lot more sales out there that are not going through the local Multiple Listing Service. Since that is where I get my sales information, it doesn't include these private sales. There are investors who are re-selling parcels to other investors in their group, etc., and have been a couple of "Bulk Sales" (six or more parcels/One Seller/One Buyer/One Escrow) that I have seen. Most of what I see is what goes through MLS, unless I spend the time to dig a little deeper. After I get the information back from the Title Company, I will update the sales information and get the information out to you.

I just added a link to the "Whispering Ranch Tour" Power Point presentation that you can view to get an idea of how I'm marketing properties. Go to www.JoeLiberty.com, click on "Helpful Links" then click on the "Whispering Ranch Tour" link. It's a big file, but after it loads you can sit back and get an idea of what I see happening for this whole area as civilization moves in this direction.

I have always been optimistic about this area, and I encourage and Buyers to get in now. Currently, the market is soft and prices are down, but that won't last. When the prices start to run up again (and they will) a lot of Buyers will be priced out of the market again - just like what happened in 2005. I don't expect to see the kind of frenzy we saw in '05, but I am expecting things to surge. I just don't know when it will happen. If I did, I would buy up everything I could get my hands on the day before the activity starts!!

As a "Sellers Broker", I have always done everything possible to get the highest price I can for the properties I have currently have listed, and even continue to show properties after the listing has expired if there is someone who expresses an interest in a particular property. It is tough to sell properties if they are not in the Multiple Listing Service as the other Agents who have Buyers don't see the property as available, but I have an extensive network of other agent I have worked with that come to me when they have a particular request.

The laws of Supply and Demand are always in play, and prices won't rise if there are too many properties on the market. This is why I always advise Sellers that "If you need to sell, I'll get you the highest price possible in today's market, bit if you don't have to sell - wait." I would rather sell your property at a higher price in the future than at a lower price today. That would be better for all concerned.

Keep in touch with me by e-mail or phone, and I'll let you know when this "Adjustment" turns the corner and the market starts heading upward.

May 12, 2007 - We are now heading into our fifth quarter of activity since the "Land Rush" days of 2005 started cooling off. Though we have seen some pretty lean times recently, there are signs that the activity is increasing (other agents working in the area are seeing more phone calls and traffic as well) and there are more properties being sold and being put under contract than the pace of the three previous quarters. Unless there is some sort of event that slows the economy we should see the market heading back more to a normal market in the foreseeable future. The biggest wild card right now is gas prices. If they continue upward, it impacts the available capital, and thus the spending that most of our Buyers are planning. Fewer dollars equal fewer purchases. And most folks are being a little cautious in this economic period. But since we are heading into an election year, the party in power wants to make things better to get your vote, so they will do everything they can to keep the economy strong. And if the economy remains strong, the land market will become more vital, and should grow.

The number of listed properties has been floating between 140 and 150 for the past few months, prices are still all over the chart - a five acre parcel can be bought for about $30K, but if you really have a fat checkbook, there's one for $300K - and plenty of properties in between. So, no matter what you are looking for, it's out here! ! You just have to find the right one.

And what's on the market is not everything that's available. I have probably 40 to 50 properties that Sellers would part with if the price were right. I'm pretty sure that is you were to check with any of the agents who have worked out here for very long, you would discover that they also have properties available that might have expired and their Seller might be willing to deal a little. Most Sellers, though, have a price in their mind and won't go too much below that number. The other thing to keep in mind is that there are quiet a few "private sales" (not a part of the Multiple Listing Service) that have been transacted. So there is decent sales activity. I have had a few of my clients doing their own transactions, but it can be very risky, as there are some slick traders who get Sellers into a legal corner and beat prices down. I have told a lot of folks that they are capable of doing their own deals, but to use caution! As a Real Estate professional, my job is to make sure that all sides in a transaction are treated fairly and honestly and that there is full disclosure - price and terms are important, but there are other factors that are just as important. Floodplain/Floodway, terrain, access and financing can all play as important a role as well. So when you are ready to buy or sell it is important to have someone representing you who really knows the ropes.

Call me when you are ready to make a move. I know the market as well as anyone, and probably better than most. This is not bragging. I have focused my efforts in this area for years so a lot of other agents come to me for guidance and advice. Maybe you should too.

April 14, 2007 - I could start this months observation with the headline "Whispering Ranch Sales Up by 100% over Previous Quarter" and it would be accurate. But the underlying numbers are still pretty ugly - in the 1st Quarter of 2007 there were 8 transactions, up from only 4 transactions in the 4th Quarter of 2006. So the headline would be factual. But the headlines don't always tell the real story. The average sale price for a 5 acre parcel was just over $67,100, down from the previous Quarters average of $74,250, a drop of about $7,000 or 9.6% in value. And bear in mind that the numbers we report are only those sales that are handled through firms that are members of the local Multiple Listing Service. I was contacted by an investigator at the Department of Real Estate who is looking into some of the private sales in the area - none of which showed up in the MLS records - it seems there is quite a bit of private activity. Sadly, some of it is coming under scrutiny of the Department, and there may be some upcoming news on that front in the near future. So we are still in a "Buyers Market" and probably will remain in this type of a market until there is an event that will trigger more interest. I expect that there will be an increase of activity once APS announces that there are plans for a power grid in the area. Those of you who were at the meeting on March 27th and listened to the representatives from APS heard their message loud and clear. From a business standpoint, APS is not making any plans for providing and electric service grid in Whispering Ranch since the return on the investment to put in a power grid would not pay back as quickly as doing the work in the Douglas Ranch or Festival Ranch areas. So we are at a "Chicken and Egg" dilemma - without power the area won't develop, and without development APS won't bring in power. The only solution I see is to get enough people together and go to the Corporation Commission and ask "Why are we being denied basic electrical service??" At this point, the only pressure that can be brought to bear on the power company is political pressure, and if this is properly applied, the Corporation Commission can instruct APS to provide service. APS, after all is a "Public Utility" governed by the Corporation Commission. I hope to assemble a list of contacts that we can write and call to start this movement in the next few weeks. I have been busy looking into other items recently to help out some property owners.

For those of you who have not already looked into entering into "Grazing Leases" for your property to keep your upcoming tax bill from going through the roof, you probably should look into it. I have done some research that I can pass along to you in case you want to look into it for yourself. Just send me an e-mail requesting the information, and I'll send it out and you can decide if it's right for your situation.

Despite the slowdown in activity, I am still very upbeat about the future of "The Ranch", as I see it as an area that has yet to blossom. With a little luck and some intelligent planning it may well turn out to be the "Cave Creek of the West Valley". I hope it does. We shall see.

March 10, 2007 - Armed with information that was provided by a few of the friendly folks that live out in "The Ranch" and some reliable information from other sources, I spent a little time digging around and came across a map that gives some preliminary ideas of where the County plans to put in roadways. It's not a new map, it's just one that hasn't been widely publicized. There is one 'freeway', two 'parkways' and a 'major arterial' running through "The Ranch". (And the rest of the West Valley looks like a bowl of spaghetti.) These roadway ideas are part of a preliminary draft, but from where I sit it looks like the "Money Guys" (the larger developers with plenty of political influence) will get some roads put in so that the people who need to get home to all of the houses that are planned in the West Valley will be able to get around. Lots of folks who have seen it dismiss it as wishful thinking, but I see the philosophy of municipal development changing a little. There are an increasing number of professionals who are farsighted enough to realize that it doesn't make sense to do the roads after everything else has been built - learning from the lessons of the past. Intelligent planning can minimize the costs of putting in roads if it is done as a collective effort, which is what I see happening more and more. Douglas Ranch, for example has integrated a light rail concept into their master plan, and Wickenburg, Surprise and Peoria are all talking with each other about how to incorporate this into their General Plans as well. We may not see these roads and rail systems in the near future, nor do I expect that the plan we see today will be what is built in the future, but at least there is some cohesive, intelligent planning in process.

For those of you who may be interested, I received a flyer earlier this week announcing another meeting to take place in Whispering Ranch. Mark your calendars to be at the corner of Patton Road and 299th Avenue at 9 AM on Tuesday, March 27th. It looks like there will be a couple of guest speakers and an area development update followed by an open discussion forum and everyone is invited to attend and participate. It's a good chance to catch up the latest news and get an idea of what's in store for the area as civilization continues to move this way.

Sales activity has picked up somewhat over the past month, and I are seeing plenty of activity, mostly from property owners who are livid that property valuations are going up by anywhere from 400% to 800%. I've been spending a lot of my time putting together sales information so these owners can file an appeal to reduce these increases. We'll see what position the County Assessor's Office takes after a few of these appeals are filed. I have a sneaky feeling that there will be a lot of business in "Grazing Leases" over the next few months. And I'm getting a lot more calls for information from prospective Buyers. The number of properties on the market has stabilized at about 150 to 160 and will start to decline a little as more sales take place. Hopefully, the lean times are behind us and things will return to normal.

February 10, 2007 - It now looks to me as though we may have seen the bottom of the market in the 4th Quarter of 2006. There are about the same number of properties on the market, but I am seeing more activity - Buyers requesting information on properties - more people are asking for 'tours' of "The Ranch" to see what's here - the number of visitors to my web site has just about tripled - all since the end of the year. Other agents that I've talked to who work in this area are reporting the same activity. What is happening now is that the 'decent' lower priced parcels are starting to move - but not at the asking prices. Quite a few properties are coming down in price since they were overpriced to begin with and these Sellers had to sell. There are plenty of Sellers who are holding out for higher prices (I have my share of these as well!) and these parcels will sell, but not until the mid-priced inventory is bought up. Then we will see the market start to rise again, not like in '05, but we will see more activity.

The Douglas Ranch group decided to buy the Trillium acreage for $86 million or about $30K/Acre and incorporate 3000 Acres of that planned development into their parcel. Watch for more announcements from the Sun Valley Parkway corridor in the next few months.

And the Surprise City Council gave its blessing to Sun Haven Ranch and Surprise Grande Vista last month. Copper Mountain Ranch may well be the next newsworthy development.

I have been trying to get to the bottom of the 'Utility Study' that APS was doing to give us a timeframe on bringing power from the south end of Whispering Ranch up to the north end, but nobody seems to have any definitive information. Our meeting in January of '06 with the APS representatives was meant to show we want electrical service and this study was going to give us an idea of what to expect. It looks like APS is very busy working on the groundwork for Sun City Festival and getting new residents hooked up to power, and spending a lot of time and money in planning the infrastructure for Douglas Ranch. From a business standpoint, they realize that this is where the quickest payback will be on the investment they make to bring the power in. Whispering Ranch, on the other hand, will be a large investment, and they don't see the dollars coming back as quickly. So it's a chicken or egg situation. The area won't develop quickly without electrical service, and APS doesn't want to invest in bringing in power if the area isn't developing quickly. And without political pressure or a financial payback for the power company, it isn't going to happen anytime soon. You may soon see an effort to get the attention of the Corporation Commission to compel the utility company to get with the program to bring power to the area.

January 13, 2007 - We made it through the projected Real Estate "Adjustment" of 2006 and are looking forward to the market improving in 2007. As previously reported, the 4th Quarter of 2006 was discouraging for those trying to sell their properties. With only a handful of sales for the 4th Quarter, it appears that Buyers were either saving their money for Christmas presents or hanging back until they found out what their taxes for the year would be. This translates into a real opportunity for Buyers interested in this area. I have watched as a large number of properties for sale have adjusted their prices downward, and we are now looking at prices for some parcels that are at about the same level as they were in mid-2005. Some smart Buyers are looking at the $75K to $85K parcels and making offers in the low $70's - and they are being accepted by the desperate Owners who have to sell. Parcels above $90K are not moving - there are too many other good properties in competition, which are properly priced.

And there are some other rumblings that are the early indicators that the market may be at the bottom, and we may well see more activity in the near future and prices starting to head upward. There are new houses going up every time I drive out on Patton Road, the Asante Development between Loop 303 and Jomax Road and between Grand Avenue and 163rd Avenue is coming along nicely, and the other "Big" players (Douglas Ranch, Sun City Festival, Trillium and Tartesso) are continuing to move forward. The article in the Arizona Republic on Sunday, December 17, 2006 had my phone ringing off the hook for about a week - with all of its information about the explosive growth in the West Valley. Rumors are again surfacing that the Toyota Testing Facility is relocating to the new location in the southeast Valley, but there is no way to verify the information, so this will remain just a rumor. The town of Surprise is still trying to annex Wittmann, Circle City and Morristown - all the way west to the 259th Avenue alignment - which will make for some interesting politics. Copper Mountain Ranch has not yet gone public with its plans, nor have we heard too much from Surprise Grande Vista (the old Chrysler Proving Grounds) or Sun Haven Ranch, but you will be hearing plenty of buzz on these projects as we head further into this year.

There's no word back from the APS group that was doing the study on bringing power into Whispering Ranch. When they complete this study and announce when they're starting the power grid in "The Ranch" things will really take off. After nosing around a little, I found out they (APS) were busier that they had anticipated putting in meters at Sun City Festival (on the north end of the Sun Valley Parkway) and working with the Douglas Ranch group on the proposed bridge over the Hassayampa River (running electric along the same alignment) for the entrance into Douglas Ranch from the Sun Valley Parkway.

Let's plan for a productive and financially rewarding New Year. And thanks for all the memories from our previous years as well.

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Liberty Southwest Realty, LLC

Joseph D. (Joe) Liberty, Designated Broker
26742 West Ross Avenue
Buckeye, Arizona 85396
Phone: (602) 505-7675

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