Marketing “McMansions For Sale in Arizona”

With the general negativity surrounding the term McMansion, it is rare to see those in real estate marketing McMansions. However, here is such a website: MyOwnArizona has “McMansions For Sale in Arizona.”

An Arizona home builder has a model available in a three-bedroom, or a larger four-bedroom version. “The four bedroom outsells the three bedroom all day long,” said Arizona McMansion home builder. “I don’t know if we’ve ever sold a three-bedroom one.”

“But it’s hard not to see the increase in home size as a sign that the economy is recovering,” said AZ builder. “People weren’t buying SUVs during the recession either and they are again.”

Please feel free to contact us and we can provide you with additional Arizona McMansion information to guide you through the buying/selling process in AZ. We look forward to hearing from you and working with you soon!

I’ve quoted the closing pitch. But, how the site gets to the conclusion is interesting as well. The argument is that Americans want bigger homes and homes are getting larger again after a downturn during the recent economic crisis. The whole thing reads as if it is trying to convince potential buyers that purchasing a McMansion is okay. In other words, McMansions may get a bad rap in the media (just like SUVs) but they are exactly what you and other Americans want!

I don’t know if this is the right way to sell McMansions. But, there is clearly quite a hurdle to overcome here.


How can great art be located in a McMansion?

McMansions are often thought to be pretentious and low-brow. Therefore, it might be difficult to imagine that a renowned artist could live inside such a home:

The home of 81-year-old artist Dick Seeger doesn’t have a lot of curb appeal.

Located in a quiet, upscale neighborhood of North Scottsdale, it certainly doesn’t look like it’s the location of anything particularly remarkable. Half-hidden by scraggly creosote bushes, its unpaved circular driveway is littered with fallout from trees that surround the dun-colored house. It’s the least-groomed place in a neighborhood of typical North Scottsdale adoboid compounds dear to the hearts of Midwestern newcomers enthused about the Southwest. Its lack of distinction is exactly what compelled the octagenarian artist to purchase it…

Welcome to The Magical Mystery Spiritual Experience. That’s what Dick Seeger has dubbed the constantly transmuting, living-art environment he’s created, and continually reconfigures, in basically every square inch of what looks to be your average upper-middle-class home, on land that once sheltered horses and stables…

“It was amazing,” says Hampton. “He lived alone in a great big Scottsdale — I hate to say it — McMansion, which just made the contents of the place, including its artist-in-residence, that much more unlikely. The whole place was a constantly changing display of his collections and his own art that became a surreal art experience.”

What a great juxtaposition by the art expert (Hampton) who seems to suggest that a McMansion could never contain worthwhile art. I wonder why Seeger chose such a home if it would be reviled by others and whether anyone ever criticized the home in front of Seeger.

Perhaps the McMansion is simply part of the exhibit as ironic commentary about American culture: even within the heart of consumerism and materialism (represented by the McMansion), critical insights and aesthetic beauty can emerge (the art within the house).

(As a bonus: you can read a little about the artist’s community that developed in Scottsdale in the mid twentieth century.)

Florida leads country with 18% home vacancy rate

While foreclosures and vacancies are a problem throughout much of the United States, some states have been hit harder than others. New data from the Census Bureau shows Florida has the highest home vacancy rate in the country:

On Thursday, the Census Bureau revealed that 18% — or 1.6 million — of the Sunshine State’s homes are sitting vacant. That’s a rise of more than 63% over the past 10 years…

The vacancy problem is more dire in Florida than in any other bubble market: In California, only 8% of units were vacant, while Nevada, the state with the nation’s highest foreclosure rate, had about 14% sitting empty. Arizona had a vacancy rate of about 16%.

In Florida, the worst-hit county is Collier — home of Naples — with a whopping 32% of homes empty. In Sarasota County, 23% of the housing stock sits vacant, while Lee County (Cape Coral) has a 30% vacancy rate. And Miami-Dade County has a vacancy rate of about 12%.

The article goes on to say that the problem of vacancies has grown partly due to a slow-down in population growth in the state in the late 2000s. Additionally, the large number of vacancies has helped lower housing values: “The median price for homes sold in January was just $122,000, according to the Florida Association of Realtors. That was down 7% from 12 months earlier and less than half the price at the peak of the market.”

It would be interesting to see new or recent studies that look at how these vacancies impact community and neighborhood life. Beyond the economic impact, how does having a large percentage of empty houses effect interactions that people have with each other?

Also, how exactly are vacancy and foreclosure statistics related? Nevada has the highest level of foreclosures but a lower rate of vacancies – is this because more people have actually gone through the foreclosure process?

(If you want some insights into how the Census Bureau calculates different vacancy rates, see here. This would have been helpful information for an earlier discussion about seemingly different vacancy statistics.)

Update on “baseball McMansions” in Arizona: White Sox also facing issues

Yesterday, I wrote about a new spring training facility in Arizona that one writer dubbed a “baseball McMansion.” While this particular park may have issues, it is not the only one. The Chicago White Sox also recently moved to the same area. Because of the economic recession, the White Sox are having attendance issues and the mixed-use development that was supposed to surround their facility has not been built:

Small crowds on the west side of the Valley are an alarming trend as the White Sox and other neighboring teams try to rebound in the wake of a depressed area.

“The opening of the Rockies-Diamondbacks stadium (Talking Stick at Salt River Fields) is definitely pulling people away,” Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said before 10,074 fans attended Wednesday’s game between the Sox and world champion Giants. “Now you have six teams in the east valley…”

But the Glendale area hasn’t developed into what the Sox thought when they decided to move from Tucson after the 2008 season.”One of the attractions to putting this ballpark here was the plan for what was going to be built around it,” Reinsdorf said. “By now, in our third year, we were supposed to be looking at restaurants and retail and a hotel and condominiums. And the guys who were going to do that went broke. So we’re sort of sitting out here by ourselves.

“All of the projections for the Phoenix area growth had Glendale in 10 years being the population center of the valley, a ton of people west of here. And that stopped. But at some point the economy will come back. This is too vibrant an area. And when it does come back, those projections will come true. So it’s just a delay.”

It may be some time before the White Sox and other teams see an uptick in attendance and building as Arizona has been hit hard by the economic recession, evidenced by foreclosures and a slowdown in development. Reinsdorf sounds quite optimistic about the future – perhaps he has to be if he has put a decent amount of money into this project.

it seems like now would be the time to look into why exactly the White Sox and other teams moved to this area. In their projections about Glendale, was their any allowance for a growth slowdown? Was the main draw the growing population in this area or were there certain financial incentives that made this move attractive? And what will happen to these spring training complexes if population growth in this area is limited for a significant amount of time?

Describing a “baseball McMansion”

The term McMansion is generally a pejorative word, typically referring to the size or the poor architecture of a home or the cookie-cutter nature of a suburban neighborhood. Occasionally, it gets applied to others structures, even baseball stadiums.  In a review of Scottsdale Stadium, the spring training home of the San Francisco Giants, a writer suggests that another spring training facility, Salt Water Fields, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, is more like a McMansion than a home:

Salt River Fields, someone said later, “isn’t spring training.” It’s a baseball McMansion. Scottsdale Stadium just feels like home.

Here is a little more of the description of the two ballparks. Scottsdale Stadium is described as, “intimate and evocative of its sport,” “the Cactus League’s quaintest stadium,” “The place blends into the landscape as if Frank Lloyd Wright had come back from the grave to assist the architects who replaced the old wooden park 20 years ago,” and “There is no such thing as a mediocre seat.” In contrast, here is how Salt River Fields is described: “The world up there seemed so different, the trip should have required a passport,” “Salt River Fields sits next to a Target and movie multiplex. Concrete rules the landscape, offset by some sprouting trees and cactus gardens,” “The parking lot and the walkways at the new stadium consume more space than the entire Giants facility,” and “Shade, like everything else, is more abundant than at the Giants’ park.” Overall, Salt River Fields is more suburban, bigger, less intimate, and features more space (particularly in the parking lots) while Scottsdale Stadium is more like Fenway Park and Wrigley Field.

It would be interesting to find out how fans respond to these two settings. Both offer certain amenities. Not everyone likes cozier, more intimate facilities like Wrigley Field. While Cubs fans tend to like the place, many others (including other teams) complain about the lack of space and outdated facilities (like the bathrooms). Additionally, we could ask whether Scottsdale Stadium really is authentic or simply borrows architectural and design features from other successful ballparks and tries to put them all together.
Ultimately, will baseball fans go in greater numbers to Scottsdale Stadium because of its design and atmosphere and avoid Salt Water Fields with its McMansion nature?

Places that might be deserted due to a lack of homebuyers

The issue (amongst many) in the ongoing economic malaise is a lack of homebuyers. To have a hot housing market, such as happened in much of the 1990s and some of the 2000s, you need both sellers and buyers. What happens if this temporary trend of a lack of buyers turns into something less than temporary?

One suggestion is that certain areas will be deserted:

Many economists argue that the housing market may take four or five years to recover. Even if that’s proven to be true, the all-time highs of 2006 may never be reached again.

The devastation in some regions will never be repaired. Parts of Oregon, Georgia and Arizona have become progressively more deserted. Since jobless rates may never recover, there is little reason to hope that the populations in these areas will ever rebound. Some homes will be torn down in these pockets of high foreclosures in the hopes that reducing supplies will boost prices. Whether that idea will work in hard-hit areas such as Flint, Mich., and Yuma, Ariz., remains to be seen.

If this comes to pass, this would be an interesting period in American history. Yes, we do have some instances of population loss: the “ghost towns” of the Old West come to mind as people poured into a region and then seemed to leave just as suddenly. Rust Belt cities like Detroit and Buffalo and Pittsburgh have been experiencing a slow but steady population drain over the last few decades. And I have tried to find evidence of “lost suburbs” – places that would go against the typical narrative of American suburbs continuing to grow in population and sprawl further out from cities.

But this prediction suggests that certain metropolitan regions might not have any hope of recovery. While some of these are Rust Belt places that already had issues (like Flint), others are newer, particularly locations Nevada, Arizona, and California. As a matter of public policy, what should be done? Should we prop up locations with government aid? Should we write certain areas off and let them slowly lose population until the critical population mass is gone? Is contraction worthwhile (something that has been debated now for several years regarding Detroit) or is simply losing a city or region a better option?

In the long run, the only possible solution seems to be to convince people that these areas are desirable places to live. One selling point, and this seems to come up a lot on the front page of Yahoo, is that these places have affordable housing. This may be the case but that won’t be enough to attract people – these areas need jobs, economic engines that will bring stability and profits to hard-hit regions. And which companies might be willing to step up?

Interestingly, Illinois ranks #5 on this list. It looks like this analysis says the main factors are a limited population growth and a severe loss in manufacturing jobs over the recent decades. Certain areas of the Chicago region seem more immune to this than others. DuPage County is populous and wealthy, partly due to the influx of higher-end, technology-related jobs that have entered the county since the 1960s. Because of this, DuPage County has an unemployment rate always multiple points below the national average.