Quick Hits: If you’re planning to buy a home in Phoenix, Flagstaff or Prescott, do it now, because prices are going up for the next few years. Investments in single-family rental properties have good potential mainly in Phoenix. Apartment developments have the best potential in Phoenix, where splitting homes into rental units is also attractive, and in Tucson. Mortgages and construction loans have average risk. Best bets for investments in retail are Phoenix, especially the southeast suburbs; worst bets are Tucson and Prescott.
Investing in Arizona no longer means dubious retirement projects in the desert – a kind of Florida West with sand instead of swamp. You can find those too, if you like taking a flyer, but Phoenix and Tucson have grown up and offer investors a range of possibilities. In addition to the big cities, Prescott does cater to retirees, Flagstaff has a younger demographic, and Yuma has a heavily immigrant population; all have different housing needs.
Home prices in all Arizona markets rose and fell sharply in the boom and bust; but afterwards prices in Phoenix – and somewhat in Prescott – went through a mini-boom of speculation in foreclosed properties. It looks like those have now been flushed through the system, so we can take at face value the recent price increases – strongest in Phoenix, Flagstaff and Prescott, weaker in Tucson and Yuma. I expect Phoenix prices up at least 25 percent over the next three years, which means you shouldn’t wait if you plan to buy there. Prices have been strongest in Phoenix itself, slightly weaker in the southeast suburbs.The strongest economic growth, and therefore strongest demand for housing, is in Phoenix, where jobs are being added at twice the national rate – many of them in healthcare, retail, and the large finance sector. Job growth has also been strong in Prescott, mostly in the retail and healthcare sectors as you would expect from the retiree population. Growth in Tucson, on the other hand, has recently been slow. Flagstaff depends heavily on the cyclical tourist trade.
Flagstaff, Tucson and Phoenix have a high proportion of renters, almost 40 percent, but because home prices in the former two are high compared to rents, investing in single-family properties to rent them out is most feasible in Phoenix – where the ratio is much more favorable and where housing needs encourage splitting single-family homes into multiple rental units. The relatively lower pay in the growing retail and healthcare sectors will expand renting in future years.