Old Pueblo, New Tucson
Continuously settled for more than 12,000 years, making it one of the oldest towns in the U.S., Tucson prides itself on its diversity of cultures, architecture, and people. It is also the home of the "Optics Valley," a hotbed for the phototronics industry because of the prominent optics-related companies located there; to Kitt Peak National Observatory, one of the astronomy centers of the world; and to University of Arizona, which is not only a premier research institute but also beloved for its cultural events and sports teams (Tucson residents love their Wildcats!).
Tucson also draws many tourists, especially during the winter. In fact, tourism accounts for one of every 10 jobs and adds more than $1.8 billion to the local economy every year. The area's most popular attraction is Saguaro National Park. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum offers a zoological park, a geological museum, and a botanical garden. The Old Tucson Studios is a family theme park and movie location. John Wayne and Harrison Ford are just a few of the stars who have filmed there. Other attractions include the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block and Columbia University's Biosphere 2 Center.
Who is Buying Here... and Why?
Greater Tucson is attracting 2,000 new residents each month... and for good reasons, according to Realtor Rosey Koberlein, president of Long Realty in Tucson. "The weather here is absolutely tremendous. We have only three or four months of really hot weather and that's a dry heat," she says with a chuckle. "Even in the hot months, once the sun sets the evenings are delightful. We have few bugs and, of course, you couldn't ask for better weather in the winter."
Another factor is the relatively low cost of buying a nice home on a substantial lot. "While the majority of current real estate activity involves residents who are buying up or buying down, about 25 percent of the market is made up of people buying second homes," according to Koberlein. "Most of these buyers are coming from California, Colorado, the Pacific Northwest, Chicago, and the Midwestern states." She says Californians anticipating retirement three or four years down the road are taking equity out of their California homes and not just buying a second home but an additional home, as well, for investment purposes.
Linda Ronstadt grew up in Tucson and her family was and continues to be a cornerstone of the community. Paul McCartney owned property in the area for quite some time, and Whoopi Goldberg is also rumored to be a property owner.
Photo by Thomas Bliss
Photo by Mario Arosemena
Photo by Mario Arosemena
Comforting earth tones that match the desert scape combine with the vivid colors that represent the town's Hispanic/Mexican heritage. The most popular architecture is based on the work of early Tucson architect Josias Joesler, which is characterized by rambling one-story homes with archways and courtyards. "It's free flowing and relaxed," says Koberlein. "It's common to have your home flow directly to the outside to exterior kitchens and dining areas." Landscaping, she adds, is very natural and desert-like. It's unusual to see a green grass lawn.
The median price for a single-family home in Tucson was $219,500 in June 2005, a 30.9 percent increase over the same month in 2004. The median price for a single-family luxury home was $800,000 in August 2005. Between January 1 and August 15 of this year, there were 275 properties on the market listed at $1,000,000 or more, according to Koberlein. Tucson is surrounded on three sides by mountain ranges, and Koberlein says some of the most luxurious Tucson homes are right against those mountains. The average size of a luxury home is just under 5,000 square feet. Tucson's most expensive property right now is the Campbell Cliffs at Cobblestone. Listed at $17,500,000, the estate is pictured on this issue's cover. Luxury markets near Tucson include Sonoita, Patagonia, and Tubac. "You get lots of acreage out in those areas," she says. "You can get a home on 40 acres for about $1,000,000."