By Suzanne Sparrow Watson
Those of us who have lived in Arizona for any length of time have noticed a recent trend – there are a LOT of people moving here. Usually we have an uptick in population from January through April, as “snowbirds” leave the wintry climes of Chicago and Minneapolis to soak up a little sunshine. In addition to the weather, we offer exotic car auctions, the Phoenix Open golf tournament, Arabian horse shows and Spring Training games. So, we’re used to snarled traffic and impossible restaurant reservations during those months. But this year? Holy smokes…the traffic congestion started last summer and has only gotten worse. Trips to the grocery store that used to take 10 minutes now take 15, and once we’re in the store, the line at the bakery now snakes all the way back to the vegetable section, which somehow seems just plain wrong. In our small community we’ve seen firsthand the effect of the influx. In the first quarter of 2020 we had 9 home sales; this year we had 9 closings just in the month of January, and 38 total for the quarter.
COVID, of course, accounts for much of the movement into Arizona. First, many of the recent transplants stated that the lockdown caused them to re-assess their priorities and retire earlier than planned. Second, once people were able to work from home, they concluded that their home could be anywhere, so why live in an expensive, high-tax state? According to the University of Arizona’s Eller School of Business, more than 60% of the immigrants to Arizona are coming from California, followed closely by Washington and Illinois. Notice a trend? Third, our job market is booming, with many Fortune 500 companies relocating here due to our lower tax rates and abundant workforce. As a consequence of the population boom, housing prices in Arizona have already increased 8% in 2021. Each Sunday the Arizona Republic newspaper publishes the top five homes sales, based on price. Up until this year, the most expensive home was usually $2-3 million, with the other four somewhere between $1-1.5 million. Now, the top five are all $4-5 million. If you buy a million dollar home you are apparently living somewhere near the poverty line.
The downside of all this, other than the traffic, is that it’s become harder for people to buy entry-level homes and next to impossible to find a rental home. Affordable apartments are also hard to come by now. Young couples are moving farther and farther away from metro Phoenix, or moving out of state, in order to afford the lifestyle they assumed they would have in Arizona. And the housing market is not the only commodity benefiting from recent transplants – expensive cars are selling like hotcakes. Someone asked me recently if there had been a fire sale on Bentley’s, because they are now ubiquitous. One of the luxury car dealers noted that people moving from California can sell their home there, buy a bigger one here, and still have plenty left over for a $200,000 car.
- Rattlesnakes – they are everywhere and will spring out at you with little notice. You will go on walks as if you were traipsing through a minefield.
- Javelina – perhaps the ugliest animal on Earth, they will not only charge you, they will eat every beautiful bloom on your (expensive) cacti.
- Coyotes – no, not the hockey team, the real thing. They are sneaky and plan their attacks in groups. If you have a small dog you will never be able to let them outside alone again. Owls also fit into this category. A neighbor just had their Yorkie picked up by an owl and whisked away.
- Heat – this is the big one. Don’t believe it when people say it’s a dry heat. So is my microwave, but you don’t see me living in it. In 2020, we had 144 days over 100 degrees. ONE HUNDRED FORTY-FOUR! Believe me, it can take the starch right out of you…and anything you’re wearing.
I’m waiting with anticipation to see what the “move out” rate is come summer. My guess is that a lot of people who found our warm weather so charming in January will head back to wherever they came from by July. Hopefully by August I’ll be able to wait in line for cake without having to stare at the broccoli.