Nov. 14, 2019

Low Inventory Impacting Home Sales in Phoenix


A recent snapshot of the Phoenix housing market showed a trend we’ve seen throughout the year: Inventory is tight. There are just over 14,000 listings in the Phoenix Metro Area against a population of 4.8 million. To put that in perspective, imagine a game of musical chairs with 342 players and only 1 chair. Thankfully, not all 4.8 million people in the Valley are currently in the game. If that were the case, our local housing market would look like San Francisco, where homes are going for more than $1,100 per square foot!

To get an idea of how tight inventory is right now, consider this: If no additional homes became available, the Phoenix metro area would sell out in less than two months. The issue of low inventory is even more pronounced in highly desirable areas, such as Fireside at Norterra. As of the day this article was written, just seventeen homes were listed for sale in Fireside - about 1% of the total number of homes in our community.

When inventory is low, sellers can command fair market value – and occasionally even more. This year we’ve seen buyers come in with offers above asking price to ensure they get the house they want. It’s times like this when we cringe at the idea of people selling their homes to an online service - at 5-10% below market value. Imagine selling your home in a high demand market and leaving $40,000 on the table!

Even with the limited supply, Phoenix-area homes are averaging sixty days on the market. Not as quick as 2006, nor as slow as 2011. It’s simply a good time for buying or selling a home at fair market value. And throughout the ups and downs of the real estate market, Fireside remains a highly sought-after community. Whether you’re staying or you’re selling, that’s a nice situation to have!

Posted in Buyers
Nov. 1, 2019

Fireside at Norterra Annual Cornhole Tournament

On Saturday, November 9 th , the bean bags will be flying at the 2 nd Annual Fireside at Norterra Cornhole Tournament. It’s a super-fun event, with proceeds benefitting the Alzheimer’s Association. If you’ve never played cornhole, it’s one of the simplest games to jump into. Think of it as a cross between horseshoes and ring toss. You simply take a bean bag and toss it underhand through the air toward a wooden ramp. You get 1 point If your bean bag lands on the ramp (andstays), and 3 points if it falls through the hole in the ramp. It’s easy to learn, but you can spend years perfecting your technique. Cornhole is a relatively new sport/activity on the competitive circuit, which means you’ll find people with skill levels ranging from first-time throwers to “masters of the toss.”

While the origins of cornhole are disputed, a gentleman by the name of Heyliger de Windt is generally credited as the inventor. Some believe the game originated in Europe in the 1,300’s. Others credit cornhole to the Blackhawk Native American tribe in Illinois. But Mr. de Windt, a Harvard graduate, was smart enough to realize that nothing is official until the U.S. Patent Office says it is. So, in 1883, de Windt filed a patent application for a game called Parlor Quoits that is very close to the game we know as cornhole. 136 years later, cornhole is enjoying a resurgence in backyards and tournament site across the country. In fact, there is even a professional cornhole league (The American Cornhole League, or ACL).

Last year’s Fireside tourney was tremendous. Good turnout, great competition, and smiles all around. And this year we’re expecting another picture-perfect autumn day. This weekend’s tournament features a modest entry fee ($25 per person), with some big-time prizes on the line. Each member of the winning team gets a 50” flat screen TV. Runners-up walk away with a foursome of golf at We-Ko-Pa Golf Club. Each team consists of two players. Singles will be paired withother singles to form a team. You do not need to live in Fireside at Norterra to play in or watch the tournament.

Come play, come watch, come sip. It’s an amazing time of year to relax outside, backyard-style. Our local community is at its best when it comes together for a good cause.


Posted in Around Town
Oct. 14, 2019

Social Media Impact on Community Reputation


Words Matter

While discussing neighborhoods with a buyer last month, I mentioned Fireside at Norterra and she frowned and said, “No thanks…I heard it’s really bad there.” As an original Fireside owner and 13-year resident, I wondered how anyone could form this opinion about our little slice of heaven. Then she hit me with the reason: social media. Ugh.

At its best, social media provides opportunities for referrals, recommendations, and stayinginformed. But at its worst, it’s a very public complaint department operating with little regard for the permanence of Internet content. People believe that typing online comments is like whispering into the ear of a friend. In reality it’s more like shouting from the rooftops while everyone takes notes. Recently, a number of neighborhood social media sub-groups and chatpages have popped up, oftentimes with no moderator or content guidelines. What starts as a hub for communicating and sharing ideas often devolves into a place to trade insults and airgrievances, real or otherwise. Potential home buyers devour this content for the same reason consumers are drawn to 1-star reviews on Yelp!: Everyone wants to see the dirt. But withoutcontext or balance, a person’s sole impression of a community might be built around a handful or residents piling-on because of a felled tree, an HOA violation notice, or a canceled fitness class.

Fireside residents do an excellent job online of helping return lost dogs, warning each other about danger in the neighborhood, and organizing against the dreaded self-storage facility. But it’s easy to drift into the territory of simply “venting” whenever things are less-than-perfect. And this type of information is eventually read by potential home buyers. I’m not advocating for internet silence or disingenuous commentary. Life in Fireside isn’t always sunshine andunicorns. But I might suggest avoiding the complaint spiral. Writing a scathing online post aboutthe neighborhood might feel good for a few minutes. And it might also chase away home buyers, which impacts your home value. This is what’s known as a “self-own.” Is that a business decision you’re OK with?

Posted in Around Town
Oct. 7, 2019

New Brewery in Norterra 85085

A New Brewery in North Phoenix - Front Pourch Brewing 




There are those who buy a beer, open a beer, and drink a beer without putting much thought into it. Then there are those who obsess over beer. They study labels, scrutinize ingredients, ponder recipes, and analyze flavors. These are people who approach every beer like it’s an experience. 

Meet the Bolstrom family…

Several years ago while sipping some cold ones on their front porch in Arizona, the Bolstrom family had a collective a-ha moment: What if we tried brewing our own beer? Armed with the knowledge of home brewing learned from friends back in Oregon, they decided to give it a go. All they needed was some hops, a little malt, and some basic brewing equipment. Before long they had set up their own microbrewery on that very same front porch. After a fair amount of trial & error they came up with a pretty decent microbrew – a full-flavored blonde ale with some kick. They knew they were on to something. From there, the family worked on perfecting the recipe until they had a beer that would impress even their toughest critics: their friends. The moment friends started asking for seconds, they knew they had found the formula. Now all they needed was a place to serve it to the general public.

And so began what would be an 8-year journey culminating in the opening of Front Pourch Brewing in North Phoenix. Front Pourch Brewing is a true microbrewery featuring hand-crafted beers ranging from their “porch-created” Toasty Blonde to their Boysenberry Sour to their hoppy Peripheral Pale Ale. Inspired by countless evenings spent hanging out with friends on the Bolstrom’s own front porch, this family-owned and operated neighborhood brewpub features “good company, good beer, and good times.” After recently paying them a visit I’m happy to report that the experience is exactly as advertised. As you enter for the first time, the professional-grade brewing equipment lets you know right away that this family is serious about their beermaking. And their passion for making beer is matched only by their passion for serving beer. The super-friendly staff keeps it casual and fun in t-shirts and shorts, while the laid-back atmosphere definitely has that front porch feel. The interior décor could be described as “industrial/farmhouse,” with wooden rafters and exposed ductwork looking down on a pub area filled with rustic tables and metal fixtures. Their wonderfully executed design vision incorporates elements built out of reclaimed wood from an Oregon turkey barn. Seating is generous, with a mix of high and low-top tables, plus an extra-large bar for those who prefer to belly-up close to the TVs and the taps. 

Although Front Pourch Brewing doesn’t serve food, a selection of tasty eats is available for purchase onsite from a rotation of food truck. Offerings include pizza, pasta, chicken & waffles, and barbecue. You certainly won’t go hungry - and you definitely won’t go thirsty – at Front Pourch Brewing. Cheers!



1611 W. Whispering Wind Dr., Phoenix


(623) 277-0526

Hours of Operation:

Tuesday-Saturday, 3-9pm

Sunday, 3-8pm

Closed Mondays for brewing.



Posted in Around Town
Sept. 17, 2019

Homes For Sale In North Phoenix | Here Comes the Sun

Homes for Sale in North Phoenix | Here Comes the Sun

A feature that’s showing up more frequently on existing homes is solar panels. The abundance of sunshine in AZ, coupled with the promise of lower energy bills, fueled a surge in solar installations both inside and outside Fireside at Norterra over the past decade. And as some of those homeowners downsize or relocate, we’re seeing an uptick in listings that feature solar power. So naturally, people are curious about the impact of solar panels on home values.

The concept of solar power is generally celebrated, although the value of solar panels on a home can vary. Some buyers definitely want solar, while others definitely do not. Most buyers, however, fall somewhere in-between. They would consider a home with solar panels, but it’s not a deal breaker. The part that remains unclear is the value that should be placed on a home with solar panels already installed. 

First off, it’s important for a buyer of homes for sale in North Phoenix, or anywhere for that matter, to determine whether the panels are owned or leased. If the seller owns the solar panels, this may add to the actual home value. If it’s a lease, however, the seller is depending on the buyer to take over the lease (and all the financial responsibilities that go with it). Although the solar panels may be a nice benefit, this scenario does not usually equate to a boost in home value. You can’t sell what you don’t own. To determine whether taking over a lease is in your best interests, have your Realtor request the past 12 months of electric bills. From there, you can run the numbers and see if the cost savings is worth your while. A solar panel lease might cost you $200 a month while saving you $300 a month in utility bills. Make sure the math works in your favor before committing. And don’t forget to factor-in the terms of the lease. On a 20-year lease, there’s a big difference between taking over at Year 1 versus Year 15. You’ll also want to find out who’s responsible for the costs of repairs and maintenance. Do your homework, crunch the numbers, and read the fine print!

Sellers may find it beneficial to run a few calculations about the energy savings, and then feature that information in the listing. The chance to purchase a home with super-low utility bills may be the perfect enticement for anyone looking to go green and save green at the same time. 


Posted in Buyers
June 30, 2019

Happy Trails!

Living in Fireside comes with an amenity few other communities can match: a

wonderful network of private trails and bike paths connecting our neighborhoods

together. “Walkable” communities continue to be in-demand, as residents look

for fitness options that don’t involve the tedium of a treadmill.

While trails and paths have long been marketable features for home sales, there

is now evidence that property values are boosted by a home’s proximity to

walking, hiking, and biking corridors. According to,

nationwide research shows that homes near trails and paths often command a

price premium of 5-10%. The methodology used in this research involved

statistical models of thousands of comparable homes, with the only difference

being proximity to bike paths and walking trails. And while the results vary from

city to city, there is a clear indication that trails and paths have a positive effect on

market value:


  •  In Austin, Texas, a neighborhood along a popular trail saw premiums of 6 to

20 percent, depending on views and trail access.

  •  In suburban New Castle County, Delaware, homes within 150 feet of bike

paths commanded a four percent price premium.

  •  Along the Little Miami Scenic Trail in southwestern Ohio, increases in

property values can be measured by the foot! Home prices increased by

about $7 for every foot closer a home was to the trail.


Knowing the impact these amenities bring to a neighborhood, it’s easy to see why

Fireside at Norterra continues to be one of the most sought-after communities in Phoenix.

From a lifestyle standpoint, our community is very on-brand. Hardly a day goes by

when you don’t see someone walking a dog, riding a bike, or going for a run. And

if your home happens to be adjacent to a hiking trail, bike lane, or walking path,

you just might experience a lift in home value when it’s time to sell. Just be sure

that your listing features the nearby trails and paths that home buyers love!

Posted in Around Town
May 1, 2019

Is Opendoor A Door You Want to Walk Through?

A few years ago, a company hit the market with a plan to disrupt and change the business of buying and selling homes. The company, known as Opendoor, touts speed and convenience for people selling their homes. As with any shiny new thing that comes along, there’s going to be curiosity – and questions - from consumers. Is it legit? What’s the risk? What’s the catch? In this article we look at how the process works, and examine the pros and cons for this type of service.


For a fee, Opendoor will buy your home from you at a predetermined price - and then turn around and sell it to someone else ASAP. Although you have nothing to do with them reselling your home, that part of the process is actually quite significant. The fee that you pay Opendoor to buy your home ranges from 6-13%, depending on how quickly they feel they can resell it. The longer they feel it will take, the more they charge you. In return, you get a set price and a set closing date. 


If you’re someone who just wants to be rid of their house in the shortest amount of time – regardless of your profit - Opendoor may be a good option. The speed of the sale is undeniable, because you establish those terms in advance. As the seller, you choose a closing date of 10-60 days. If you can’t be bothered to spruce up your house before you sell it (or you just need to get out of Dodge right away), you might like this business model. Keep in mind that you’re still on the hook for any repairs needed to sell the house – whether you make the repairs yourself or you pay Opendoor to make them.


Let’s begin with the service fees. Traditional Realtor fees for a home sale are 6%. The fees for Opendoor can be up to 13%. Ouch! Here’s how that looks with a typical house in Fireside at Norterra.


Home Sale Price                            Avg. Realtor Fee (6%)      

       $400,000                                      $24,000   


Avg. Opendoor Fee (7.4%)*      Top-end Opendoor Fee (13%)

       $29,600                                       $52,000


As you can see, this is where things start getting real. A $52,000 fee to sell your house is a pretty big bite out of your profits. And if that doesn’t make your heart (and your wallet) cringe, remember that Opendoor is trying to turn around and sell that house for a profit, as quickly as possible. The less they spend buying it from you, the more profit they stand to make when they sell it. If you think you’re getting top dollar from them, think again. You’re basically paying them to flip your house.

In a traditional home sale (with a Realtor), every month your home doesn’t sell means you have to pay another mortgage payment. This tends to scare some people into choosing Opendoor. But take a step back and you’ll realize that an extra $2,000 mortgage payment pales in comparison to paying $28,000 more in extra fees for that quick sale (not to mention the below-market price you’re getting from Opendoor).



For older homes that require more updating than you can afford, the ability to walk away from your house by using Opendoor can be appealing. Fireside homes, however, are only 2-12 years old, which means you don’t have to replace 1970’s carpet or popcorn ceilings when it’s time to sell. It often takes little more than some freshening-up to get a home ready for sale in this community. Bottom line: Why overpay in fees to sell a home that’s already in great shape? While the convenience of Opendoor might be nice, if you’re looking to maximize profits on your home sale – or at least get fair market value – you’re better off getting yourself a good Realtor who knows the market.




Posted in Sellers
April 16, 2019

3 Quick Ways to Update Your Home on a Budget


It might seem like it was only yesterday that you moved into your home, but a large number of homes in our area were built in 2007. Believe it or not, that was three U.S. Presidents ago. Maroon 5 was just releasing their 2nd album. And the New England Patriots had only won 3 Superbowls at that point.

Here we are in 2019, and much has changed – including styles. As with any neighborhood, a little wear & tear mixed together with changing tastes in design has inspired Fireside homeowners to rethink their interiors. For some homes, a few tweaks around the house are enough. Other homeowners have opted for a full home refresh. And a few motivated neighbors have taken the plunge on a major home renovation, replacing their cabinets, flooring, paint, appliances, and countertops.

Admittedly, it’s inspiring to watch home makeover/redesign shows. They make you want to rush out to a design center and order “The Works.” If that’s in your plans and in your budget, good for you. But if you’re quite not ready to sink tens of thousands of dollars into a huge project, here are 3 mini-refreshes you could tackle in a weekend for not a lot of money.

1) New paint. There is no simpler way to transform a room than with paint. A complete interior paint job will be a few thousand bucks. A single room will be in the hundreds. And if you do it yourself, your only cost will be paint, brushes, tape, and your time. You might find that your cravings for a total home makeover can be satisfied by rejuvenating a single room and getting that “new paint smell”.

2) Highlights and accents. The original color palette of the Fireside interiors is a very forgiving neutral – lots of browns, beiges, and greys. This allows you to introduce almost any accent color to the room – from bright yellows to deep reds to brilliant blues. With a few simple tweaks, you can change the entire complexion of a room just by adding color. New accent pillows, silk flowers, wall art, and area rugs can wake up a sleepy room without breaking the bank. 

3) Switch out your light bulbs. The homes in Fireside were built with good quality light fixtures. Rather than replacing the entire fixture (which can get expensive), you might consider swapping out the light bulbs for a set of Edison bulbs. You can find them online and in stores for just a few dollars each. Replacing the bulbs will make it look like you splurged on all-new fixtures, and it will transform your interior lighting in a big way.

At some point, everyone’s home will need a major redesign. But until then, try these budget-friendly design revivals to inject new life into an old room.


Posted in Home Decor
March 22, 2019

Millennials - How To Know If You're Ready To Buy A Home


Millennials have taken longer to obtain traditional milestones than the generations before them, such as getting married, having kids, and buying a home. However, that does not mean that they do not still aspire to achieve those things.

History shows that people tend to buy their first home around age 30. Nearly 5 million millennials will turn 30 in the next two years. This will continue to fuel demand for housing.

This is also one of the many reasons why the millennial homeownership rate has continued to grow over the past few years. 48.4% of Americans between the ages of 30-34 now own a home.

There are over 46 million millennials (33% of the generation) who are considered “Mortgage Ready”, meaning they meet the qualifications to be approved for a mortgage today!

a FICO Score ≥ 620

a Back-End Debt to Income Ratio ≤ 25%

no Foreclosures or Bankruptcies in the last 7 years

no severe delinquencies in 1 year

Rob Chrane, CEO of Down Payment Resource, commented on the findings of the report,

“We now know there are millions of buyers with the income & credit necessary to qualify to buy a home. The biggest question is:

Do they know it? …Unfortunately, many renters don’t investigate homeownership simply because they don’t believe it’s an option.”

The good news is that more and more millennials are realizing that they can afford a home now. Even so, more can be done to increase awareness of low down payment programs to attract even more of this generation.

New data from shows that in December, millennials accounted for 42% of all new home loans originated in the month. This is more than any other generation.

Bottom Line

If you are one of the many millennials who may be “Mortgage Ready” but are unsure what your next steps should be, contact The Sakala Group and we'll guide you on your path to homeownership.


Posted in Buyers
March 6, 2019

Picture-Perfect Homes











About 45% of buyers look at homes online before they make a purchase. They might be checking out recommendations from their Realtor (or researching homes on their own before they’ve even hired one). But no matter what stage of the buying process someone is in, the fact remains that almost half of today’s buyers are pre-shopping on their phones, tablets, and laptops. With so many people clicking on homes for sale, wouldn’t it make sense to have a flawless online presence? 

The first step is to evaluate the photos of your home. How’s the lighting? How’s the framing? How’s the composition? If these are questions you can’t quite answer, you’re not alone. The average person’s photography skills are usually limited to the capabilities of their camera phones.  But amateur equipment used by an amateur photographer will make your listing look…amateurish. Not a good strategy when trying to entice someone into spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. The last thing you need is for a buyer to move past your listing because your tan house looks green in the photos. Or because the camera angle makes your kitchen look tiny. Simply put, your photos need to be awesome. They have to generate interest, if not excitement, for the home you’re selling. 

A well-crafted home listing should include about 30 images. You need a minimum of one photo for each room in the house (including bathrooms, the laundry room, and the front entry room/foyer). Larger rooms may require multiple photos. Include pictures of selling points such as a wine fridge, a built-in barbeque, or an epoxy-coated garage floor. Be sure your listing shows pics of the front of the house, the backyard, plus any specialty shots such as community amenities or aerial shots of the mountain views.

The way your home is featured, including the photographs, should be part of the overall marketing strategy. And the marketing strategy is the responsibility of the Realtor. A good Realtor will hire a professional photographer to capture the highlights of your home. The Realtor will then choose the best shots for the listing. Resist the temptation to involve yourself in the selection of pictures - You’re not creating a Christmas card. As the homeowner, you’re also biased. Your emotional connection with a certain room or a part of the house will cloud your judgment as to which photos work best for marketing purposes. Let your Realtor handle this part. Remember: You’ve been involved in maybe one or two home sales in your lifetime. But an experienced Realtor has done hundreds of sales. When you hire someone for his/her experience you might as well get what you’re paying for! 

If you think of the home you’re selling as the product, and the online listing as the catalog, you’ll understand why having high-quality photos is so important. Proper lighting, the right lenses, plus an eye for photography can make a world of difference. Don’t put yourself out of the running because of crummy photos. And if you’re not getting any support from your Realtor in this area, it might be time for you to shop around.


Posted in Sellers