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Relocation to Phoenix
Old 05-29-2014, 05:03 PM   #1
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Relocation to Phoenix

My DW is finally considering ER in the next 6 months. We have lived in the Denver area for 23 years and are considering relocating to an Active Adult Community - perhaps in the Phoenix area. I am heading there in the next few weeks to scope it out. While we both want out of the snow belt, I'm a bit terrified of the summer heat in Phoenix. We do like the low humidity climate of the West.

Any advice from those living in, or once living in, the desert southwest? I have a black car with a black interior. Will I have to sell that before we move? Is it so oppressive that you just don't want to go outside in the summer? Are the electric bills $300/month? Or is just paradise?

Replying here is fine, but if anyone is willing to give me advice or feedback on the phone, I'd really like to talk to you. You could send a private message to me with your contact info and I would call at a set time and day. We don't know anyone that lives in that area so getting good advice is difficult. Thanks.
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Old 05-29-2014, 05:26 PM   #2
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I should be able to answer most questions as I am a Phoenix native and over 50. I still live here 6 months a year... basically 3 months here and then 3 months in Utah.

Black car with Black interior... Yep, its going to be hot when parked in the July sun. All cars get very hot. Black is just a bit worse than all the other colors. Not worth selling as many people have black/black cars around here.

Electric bills depend on square footage and sun exposure. A stand alone home like mine has $100/mo winter bills and $400/mo summer bills.

Some of my seasonal neighbors are from Denver... but they spend the summer in Denver... didn't see that coming did you ;-)

The key things about Phoenix summers are this

1. The high temps are from 10am to 10pm with a 30 degree daily variation. When its cold in Denver, its cold morning and night.

2. If you work at it, you will acclimate to the heat, but the first 2 summers will be brutal... and somewhat dangerous if you try to be active in the high heat.

3. June temps will be hot, but the mornings will be cool. Get out in the morning.

4. July, August and the 1st half of September will be brutal. High temps and higher humidity forces the morning lows into the mid 90s of late... while the mornings are cooler, there is no relief.

Most of the Active Adult communities are in the south valley or the way west valley. I'm in Scottsdale and do not have any direct experience with such communities. They seem to be popular; especially with people who relocate here from back east.

Ask some questions and I will check back here often
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Old 05-29-2014, 05:35 PM   #3
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Well, I am not in PHX, but live due south of you (ABQ area) and there are some good sun-filled days here. I would not worry about the car, as any sealed up car will get hot. Lighter is better for less soaking up the heat.

There are a lot of other areas in AZ that are not as hot as PHX, have you considered some of those as well?

The humidity is so low here that you can get by with an evaporative cooler, aka swamp cooler. They are real cheap to operate as it is essentially just running a fan. You do have some yearly maintenance and switchover costs, nothing that a reasonable skill person can't do themselves. Evap cooler also does not work so good with thunderstorms, but that is because the humidity level is up for that time. Refrigerated air, what the locals call regular A/C, is better, but also has more elec costs.
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Relocation to Phoenix
Old 05-29-2014, 05:41 PM   #4
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Relocation to Phoenix

I can attest to what utahskier says.

I've had my 1300 sf Scottsdale condo as a second home for 12 years. My electric bill is more than $200 per month in the summer when we are not there, with the thermostat set at 85.

Definitely get rid of the black car. We have a white car and it gets very hot.

I don't know much about active adult communities. Like Utahskier said, not many of these exist in the northeast valley.

Definitely spend a lot of time researching real estate. I spent about 6 months researching online before I narrowed the search to a few select areas. Then spent a week riding around looking at places before making the final decision.

Very hot in summer, awesome in spring and fall, nice in winter but sometimes daily highs only reach the 50's.

Just ask away if you have more questions or pm me.
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Old 05-29-2014, 05:54 PM   #5
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Thanks Utah Skier. The house we would purchase would be a 1,700 to 2,000 sf, ranch. Our electric bills here rarely exceed $50/month (maybe a little over in the summer if we get a hot streak). I've seen some reference in some of these AAC's that say electric costs of less than $100 per month annual average (no solar) on their new energy efficient homes. Are they pulling my leg?

Did you say morning lows in the mid 90's?? Holy fireball, batman!

We are looking in both the south and the west sides of Phoenix. Are one of those areas better than the other for things like a newer area, crime, house appreciation? I know Scottsdale is "the place" in Phoenix, but where is second or third on the list?

I know that most homes don't have grass, but there are other living plants that need water. So do you need a drip irrigation system? If so, what happens when you leave for a number of months? Do you just assume it continues to work? I've had some house flooding in my past, so I'm sensitive to leaving water on in the house when I go away.

Does everyone there use water softeners? I see them in pictures of homes. I have no experience with them. What is the maintenance and costs for them?

That's it for now. Thanks for the help!
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Old 05-29-2014, 05:59 PM   #6
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There are a lot of other areas in AZ that are not as hot as PHX, have you considered some of those as well?
Since we are only really looking at active adult communities, and Phoenix has 40 of them to choose from, that is where I've started the search. Tucson has a number of them as well, but the temps are not that different.
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Old 05-29-2014, 06:03 PM   #7
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I've had my 1300 sf Scottsdale condo as a second home for 12 years. My electric bill is more than $200 per month in the summer when we are not there, with the thermostat set at 85.
This is great info, though almost hard to believe. This could be a deal breaker for me. I'll have to ask the realtor's I'm using to get me utility bills on a couple of resale homes we look at.
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Old 05-29-2014, 06:32 PM   #8
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This is great info, though almost hard to believe. This could be a deal breaker for me. I'll have to ask the realtor's I'm using to get me utility bills on a couple of resale homes we look at.

Definitely ask for utility bills. And they may tell you that it's ok to keep the AC off when you're not there. I tried that and my kitchen table veneer bubbled up and the laminate counters started to delaminate.
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Old 05-29-2014, 06:35 PM   #9
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I will be considering the same type of move in 10 years, Packman (gotta wait for the lady to accumulate her benefits) and being from Missouri I am used to summer heat. My experience in Phoenix area is this. If anyone tells you it doesn't matter what the temperature is once it's past 100 is crazy in my opinion. Vegas usually can top out about 107 or so when I am there and it's not bad considering the dearth of humidity. But that 115 mark I have hit in Phoenix a few times almost burns the lungs to breathe. Don't go to a water park in Phoenix and assume the grass was real. I wasn't paying attention thinking it was a grass spot and that fake stuff about melted into my foot! But I did notice when the sun went down it could be 105 and was still very pleasant to me.


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Old 05-29-2014, 06:39 PM   #10
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I rented a condo in Scottsdale in the Spring as I was tired of the Colorado cold. It was amazing. Our plan is to snowbird enjoying the Colorado summers and Scottsdale the rest of the time.

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Old 05-29-2014, 08:17 PM   #11
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I own rentals there and I have to pay for utilities when there is no tenant. Electric and water generally need to stay on in the summer. Lenders replaced a lot of patio doors that shattered in the heat in foreclosures during the housing crisis. And sewer gas can get into houses if the traps go dry. A lot of snow birds leave full buckets of water in sinks, tubs and showers and have someone stop by and check the house every month from May through September. I set my thermostats at the highest temperature, close all the blinds and still get summer bills that approach $300 in 1800 square foot older houses.

If you condition the air in the summer in a mid-2000's house with 1,800 to 2,000 square feet to a sort of comfortable 84, you will spend at least $300 a month, depending on the energy features and the orientation of the house. Trees, sun blocking screens and a north/south orientation help, but when it's 117 and heat is reflecting off asphalt, concrete, and your neighbor's stucco, the impact of blocking direct solar gain is much less.

Everyone shops at 6 AM or after dusk. It can be over 100 at sunrise or shortly after. Kids play inside during the summer. A white car with a light interior helps a little, as do white towels on the seats and steering wheel.

Unless you want to be in the middle of nowhere, avoid outlying retirement communities in places like Florence. There is no transportation infrastructure out there. Buckeye is a bit better because of I-10, but Buckeye is a lower income area. It will also take 20 minutes to get into Surprise from Sun City Festival. Pebblecreek and Sun City Grand are closer in and have better access to everything. The Sun Lakes housing stock down in Chandler is starting to age. The older Sun Cities are probably not of interest because of the age and maintenance requirements of the houses.

In your shoes, I would think about heading to Phoenix around early October and returning to Denver by mid- or late April. I know a lot of folks that have two properties and do that. They get their snow fix when they visit the grandkids at Christmas.
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Old 05-29-2014, 08:28 PM   #12
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My FIL had the best arrangement, IMO: house in Broomfield, CO in which they lived during the summer, and a house in Phx were they went in the winter. The had a business where they worked accounts in each location during their respective stays.

We live in CO, and you've gotta admit - it's great living in a place where you don't need air conditioning in the summer! Well, Denver is a bit warmer than the Springs...

You might expand your search a little north of Phx: Prescott, Payson. Maybe not the sort of community you're looking for now, but the summers will probably be a bit more bearable...
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Old 05-29-2014, 08:35 PM   #13
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This is great info, though almost hard to believe. This could be a deal breaker for me. I'll have to ask the realtor's I'm using to get me utility bills on a couple of resale homes we look at.
I live in SE Arizona, at 5000' it's about 15-20 degrees cooler than Phoenix during the summer. Have a local friend who bought a 2nd home in Phoenix when the market collapsed a few years ago. He's renting it now but for awhile was using it for weekend getaways. He kept his AC off except when he was there. He said his electric bill one summer month was $285 and he was only in the house for six days that month. I don't doubt at all that you could spend $200/month just to keep the inside temp below 90. I'm not familiar with any of the super energy efficient housing in Phoenix but I would be suspect of the $100/month electric average estimate you were given.
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Old 05-29-2014, 09:16 PM   #14
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I can attest to what utahskier says.

I've had my 1300 sf Scottsdale condo as a second home for 12 years. My electric bill is more than $200 per month in the summer when we are not there, with the thermostat set at 85.
My highest bill was $330 for August 2013, for the usage of 2,800 KWh.

My home is a 2-story, 2,700 sq.ft., with a diving swimming pool where the pump runs 5-6 hrs/day. Thermostat is set at 78.

How old is your A/C? Mine is 10 yr old. I do not remember the SEER.
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Old 05-29-2014, 09:57 PM   #15
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Learned from living in in Vegas for 3.5 years:
- First year is the worst. But the end of the third, summer is no big deal. That's partly due to acclimation, partly because of heat avoiding strategies.
- The difference between 107-8 and 115+ is huge, even for the acclimated. 115 is oppressive. The first outside breath hurts my lungs, but by the 4th it's OK.
- A big golf umbrella as sun protection really helps if you have to be outside and the wind allows it.
- Car gloves for summer months, otherwise the steering wheel can be too hot to hold. Some say they use oven mitts, but I've never seen it.
- Treat a summer like those in the north do winter - plan your trips outside and keep them to a minimum. One season a year where one spends most of their time indoors or in a car with AC becomes OK.
- I was an AAA member but I still always had a gallon jug of water in the car just in case.

If you pay attention, you'll learn if, when and where there is shade for car parking at the places you frequent.
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Old 05-29-2014, 10:11 PM   #16
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Here are some additional data points on electric usage so you can have a feel.

Lowest Bill: Nov, 999 KWh, $100
Highest Winter Bill: Jan, 1741 KWh, $160
Highest Summer Bill: Aug, 2767 KWh, $330

The lowest bill was when the heat pump did not run at all. The winter bill was when the heat pump ran the most. The summer bill is also self-explanatory.

Note that the cost is not proportional to the KWh, because we have different summer/winter rates, plus a demand rate (higher on-peak, lower off-peak).
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Old 05-29-2014, 11:24 PM   #17
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>> house appreciation?

The further you live from where the jobs are (downtown, north Scottsdale) the greater the house price variance will be. During the recent down turn, homes in the outlying areas, near the adult communities, had severe pricing issues. Its probably still bad today. Also, home prices will appreciate less if you are closer to the open fields (future home construction).

>> but there are other living plants that need water. So do you need a drip irrigation system?

Yes

Many communities have HOAs that maintain at least the front of the property. I also have a drip system for my back yard for watering trees and shrubs. 10 years and no problems. Just do a thorough checkup before leaving. The worst problem is the hard water prevents the valve from closing... so the irrigation system will have a slow leak.

I have my home setup where I turn off the inside water (except for fire suppression system) and leave the irrigation system on.

>> Does everyone there use water softeners? I see them in pictures of homes. I have no experience with them. What is the maintenance and costs for them?

water softening is very common and there are all kinds. I have a kinetico system that is non-electric. Expensive to install, but low maintenance to use. The water is initially hard, so the softened water is very salty. I have an RO system for drinking. But then my espresso machine doesn't like RO water, so I have to use bottled water... just thought you should know!

I have a new 15 seer AC unit and 2400sf, 2-story home. If I'm in the home during the summer, my bill is $330/mo. If the home is empty (temp set to 82), the bill is around $160/mo. I get full west - afternoon sun with no trees. Note that the water heater costs about $45/mo. Make sure to turn it off.
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Old 05-29-2014, 11:34 PM   #18
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Everything else being equal, the more south facing exterior wall the more the sun will heat the dwelling. Good in winter, not so good in summer.
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Old 05-29-2014, 11:49 PM   #19
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>> but there are other living plants that need water. So do you need a drip irrigation system?

Yes

Many communities have HOAs that maintain at least the front of the property. I also have a drip system for my back yard for watering trees and shrubs. 10 years and no problems. Just do a thorough checkup before leaving. The worst problem is the hard water prevents the valve from closing... so the irrigation system will have a slow leak.

I have my home setup where I turn off the inside water (except for fire suppression system) and leave the irrigation system on.
I got an stuck open valve once. It cost me over $100 IIRC. It could have been worse but I caught it after 5 days. So now, I changed the irrigation system such that the valves are fed from a main control valve. The main valve will open only when any zone valve is scheduled to activate.
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Old 05-29-2014, 11:52 PM   #20
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>> Everything else being equal, the more south facing exterior wall the more the sun will heat the dwelling. Good in winter, not so good in summer.

Yes. In my case, the long axis of my house faces south, but is partially blocked by the neighboring home (single story). But the sun is so high, it probably doesn't matter.

The narrow axis gets full sun on 2 stories. So basically, I get full sun from the East, south and west.
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