The Whole Family
By Laura Latzko
Some areas of the Valley cater more specifically to one demographic or age group. In communities like Fireside at Norterra, Sonoran Foothills and Union Park, folks from different age groups can find something to meet their needs.
The area offers single-family homes for families, retirees and everyone in between.
In this area, single-family homes with three to four bedrooms and two bathrooms are the most common. Sonoran Foothills has homes with larger lot sizes than other planned communities.
The area also has condos and townhouses, which tend to attract empty nesters and single people with no kids.
Shelley Sakala of the Sakala Group has lived in Fireside at Norterra for the last 13 years.
A Realtor for 16 years, Sakala says living in the area allows her to be able to talk about specific details of the communities around 85085.
“I think it’s the best way to go. I have first-hand experience of the area,” Sakala says. “I’ve seen a lot of the homes, just through buying and selling with clients.”
She moved to the area when her family was expanding and she needed a larger home. The area offered her a chance to have the type of home she wanted, at a price point within her budget.
“I was growing my family, and I knew that we could afford this area. We could have a beautiful home without paying the high prices of the Scottsdale or Desert Ridge areas, which is also a draw,” Sakala says.
Sakala’s family is an example of how the area’s master-planned communities appeal to multiple generations. Along with Sakala’s family, her parents, mother-in-law and 94-year-old grandmother also live in Fireside at Norterra.
“They can be close to the grandchildren and family and not feel like they are surrounded by only old folks if they were to go to a Sun City,” Sakala says.
The close-knit community feel makes the master-planned communities in the area appealing to those who want to know their neighbors.
“People love to feel like they are part of a community, not just a homeowner,” Sakala says.
In areas like Fireside at Norterra, residents move within the same neighborhood. They may purchase a bigger home when they have kids or downsize when their children go to college.
Community centers, like those in Sonoran Foothills and Fireside at Norterra, have social groups and activities.
“The community center is definitely a big draw. It is designed to bring people together,” Sakala says.
These community centers offer amenities such as pools and fitness centers. The Fireside at Norterra community center also has a rock-climbing wall and tennis and basketball courts.
The North Valley area is a short drive to attractions such as Six Flags Hurricane Harbor water park. Sakala says when her children were little, she took advantage of community center pools.
“I didn’t want a pool because I was always scared of the possibility of kids drowning. I loved that there was a community center where I could take them down to swim, but I didn’t have the stress of it in my backyard,” Sakala says.
Master-planned communities often come with added fees, such as homeowners association dues.
Fireside at Norterra residents pay HOA fees of around $125. HOA dues in other master-planned communities vary, based on amenities and common areas that need maintenance.
Under HOAs, residents need to abide by guidelines in the CC&R, which can cover items like overnight street parking and home colors.
Sakala says HOAs can be off-putting for some individuals who don’t want to follow these strict guidelines, but they can help keep home values high.
“The majority of the population loves that because it ensures that a neighborhood is always going to look nice,” Sakala says.
The commute to other parts of the Valley can deter buyers from purchasing in 85085. With road development, this has become less of an issue.
“We are close to the I-17 and 101 freeways, which makes commuting easier,” Sakala says.
Having greater resources in the area, such as shopping centers and restaurants, has made it easier for residents. No longer do they have to drive to other parts of the Valley to get a bite to eat or basic necessities.
For Realtors, the best “problem” is the homes are in high demand. Sakala says a few months ago, buyers could be choosier about home features, but now the market is so competitive that they can’t be. Homes often aren’t staying on the market very long.
Houses that are under $350,000 often get multiple offers. Sakala says it is important for buyers to be prepared for when they find a home that’s right for them.
“In this market, be ready to make a decision,” Sakala says. “If you go into a house and you like it, be ready to make an offer. Depending on the price point, it’s probably going to be a full-price offer. Agents are telling clients, ‘Look, you might not even be able to ask for repairs. You just take it.’”
Interest rates are low, affording more families the opportunity to purchase homes now. The median price of a home in the area was around $418,000 in February.
Sakala says the community offers amenities similar to Desert Ridge but at a more affordable price. Although buyers looking for homes want different elements, there are certain trends that Realtors see.
Many buyers are looking for certain sizes and features. Recent remodels are appealing as well.
“People absolutely love it if the flooring has been redone because that can be such a difficult process to live through,” Sakala says.
Sakala says many buyers don’t want multistory homes.
“I just think that people feel like they don’t want to deal with stairs. I think a lot of people also think that a two-story house is more expensive to cool. In a market like we are seeing now, where it’s on fire, people have stopped being so picky even about that,” Sakala says.
Sakala expects the area’s growth to continue in the next few years, especially with new developments in places like Union Park. It will offer more of an urban feel with shopping and dining options within walking distance.
“It will be the kind of thing where you can walk down to the main street and do happy hour, grab a gift for somebody or get breakfast,” Sakala says.
The area has always catered to people who enjoy outdoor activities, such as hiking and biking on the Sonoran Preserve, but now it’s offering other amenities.
“It’s been a cultural desert up here. That’s because aside from outdoor activities, there wasn’t much else to do. Now all of a sudden, we’ve got shopping, dining and lot of great things coming into the area. It’s really starting to change,” Sakala says.
Sakala says Sonoran Preserve views have always been a big draw.
“We have these fantastic views almost throughout the entire ZIP code. That’s what’s so beautiful about this area. People in Arizona really want views. If they are going to live in the suburbs, that’s what they are looking for,” Sakala says.