Arizona Myths, Facts

Arizona Myths and facts

Considering relocating to warmer, sunnier climes? If so, you’re probably eyeing Arizona for its majestic landscapes, affordability, bright economic outlook, outdoor recreational opportunities, and world-class sunsets.

If you’ve never been to Arizona, or you’ve already arrived and you’re looking for a community that’s the perfect fit for your family and lifestyle, you have plenty of great options to choose from. Arizona has real estate opportunities for every budget and expectation—from flips to starter homes, to custom-built residences with all the amenities.

For homebuyers lacking first-hand experience in Arizona’s desert lifestyle, some common myths may be cause for hesitation when it comes to buying a house in this desert ecosystem. Here’s the lowdown on the myths vs. facts from the experts in Arizona Real Estate:

Myth #1: Arizona has one season year-round:  hot!

Fact: Arizona has four subtle but distinct seasons.  Each season brings with it a unique character, courtesy of Mother Nature.

Spring blooms in Arizona

Spring starts in early March, with lemon, orange, and grapefruit trees in bloom and filling the air with their citrus-y fragrance. Fig trees and  Green Palo Verdes begin to sprout leaf buds, and ocotillo begins to establish their tall, spiky red flowers. In fact, every plant that blooms in Arizona does so in spring. Mountainsides are carpeted in wildflowers and birds migrate to their summer habitats. Droves of hummingbirds and sandhill cranes meander overhead, and hiking is glorious.

Summer starts in May and lasts until mid-September. Yes, the days are hot and can be extremely dry or agonizingly humid. Summer is best spent in your swimming pool, and sunblock is a must. In early May, you’ll paint your older citrus tree trunks with a special white paint, which protects the trees against the sun’s intense rays—otherwise, the overheated sap expands and the bark pops off.

Fall starts in October. Time to plant tomatoes and other garden favorites that can’t be grown in the heat of summer. Apples, berries, and watermelon are local, delicious, and ready for picking. Your citrus trees that started blooming in May are laden with ripe fruit, and the migrating birds that left in the spring start to return—you’ll notice the different bird calls, especially early in the morning. Nights begin to cool down. There is no daylight savings time here, so it gets dark earlier but not artificially early.

Winter starts in December, and while you’ll have warm days, it can get cool enough to wear a sweater or a jacket. Unless your pool is heated, you may want to pack away the bathing suits for now. Arizona’s winter air is clear and provides high, bright blue skies. Trees slowly shed their leaves, tomatoes and other container crops ripen, and rains start. The mountain tops become capped with snow, at least above 5,500 feet. Oranges begin to ripen by January and you’ll be picking your breakfast fruit right off your tree through February.

Flagstaff

Flagstaff, Arizona

If you miss ice and snow, you can always travel about two miles north to Flagstaff or Snowflake to shred some gnar and get your snow fix.

Myth #2: Snakes and scorpions are a constant menace

Fact: Not really.  While Arizona has its share of critters you don’t see in the Northeast,  simply understanding their behaviors and modus vivendi is enough to avoid any threat. Snakes hibernate in winter and are most prevalent in spring when it warms up. Luckily, most snakes here are harmless, and even rattlesnakes avoid inhabited areas for the most part, although caution should be taken, particularly with pets.

Scorpions are more often found in newer subdivisions, where their desert habitat has recently been disrupted. However, scorpions can nest wherever they feel comfy, so it’s important to keep your property clear of wood piles and debris that could invite squatters of the 8-legged arachnid variety. Contrary to what you may have heard, pest control services can get rid of scorpions.

Myth #3:  If your house has a termite problem, there’s no getting rid of them

Fact: False. Some out-of-state buyers are reluctant to consider a house that has been treated for termites because they’ve heard it’s an incurable affliction, but the truth is that most homes in Arizona are susceptible to termites at one time or another. Proper treatment can ensure that your house will remain termite free for the long-term.

Myth #4: Your air-conditioning bill in summer will cost a fortune

home energy auditFact: Not necessarily. While air-conditioning in an Arizona summer is as vital as heating in a northern winter, there are ways to mitigate air conditioning costs. Solar panels are becoming increasingly popular as retrofits and in new home construction, and Arizona is the perfect setting for them. If you’re looking at a home that is not already outfitted with solar panels, consider having a whole-house energy audit performed to learn what cost-saving improvements you can make. Some companies offer these audits for free.  Adding insulation, upgrading air ducts, installing sunscreens on the exterior sides of windows, upgrading interior shades, and installing new weather stripping if it’s an older home can help cut energy bills drastically.  Landscaping with shade trees and vegetation is another great energy-saving fix.

Myth #5: You don’t need a home inspection in Arizona

Fact:  While they’re not required, home inspections before buying are highly recommended. A home inspection is the best way to avoid costly surprises after you’ve moved in.  In the case of lender-owned homes, the bank might not be aware of any problems the house is concealing. Whether the house is new construction or resale, a home inspection is a good idea. Make sure to have a contingency in place that states you can back out of a contract if the inspection turns up any serious problems.

Myth #6 Thanks to the dry climate, your roof should last forever.

Fact: Roofs in Arizona need to be repaired and even replaced just like anywhere else. While the sun shines 85 percent of the time here, and rainfall is generally low, it may be easier to take a roof for granted, which is a mistake. Arizona roofs do need regular maintenance and repairs. For example, a pitched roof with tiles may appear to be in great shape, but the underlayment hidden beneath the tiles will still need periodic replacing.

Myth #7: Your desert landscape plants never need watering.

Arizona desert native plants

Photo: Audubon Arizona

Fact: Even desert native plants need water, especially due to Arizona’s low annual rainfall.  Native desert garden landscapes are beautiful, colorful, and thirsty. Not only the succulents, but the cactus, mesquites, and paloverdes too. Consider a drip irrigation system if one isn’t already installed.

Resist any temptation to rip out the existing native landscape in favor of a lawn, unless you’re gung-ho to take on a ton of maintenance, including heavy watering in summer and the necessary over-seeding in winter to keep the lawn green. Not to mention mowing in 110-degree heat!

Learn about low-water, low-maintenance desert landscape design. If you’re patient and give these native plants time to grow, the results can be spectacular, as well as eco-friendly.

Myth #8:  Arizona is teeming with wildlife, which is awesome. But common sense precautions are in order.

A gila woodpecker dines on a suguaro cactus bloom

Fact: This is true. Depending on how far from an urban metro area you live, and how much open space surrounds your home and community, you’re bound to see plenty of wildlife in your yard and neighborhood.  You may discover bobcats lapping water from your swimming pool, coyotes shadowing you on a hike, and javelinas dining on flowers and succulents in your garden.

Wild Stallions photographed by Griffin Roeger at Salt River, Phoenix

It’s wondrous to view the array of desert wildlife from a distance (or from your kitchen window), but it’s important to never feed them. Not only does feeding wildlife interfere with their essential natural foraging skills, they will keep coming back to your property, which can cause all sorts of trouble according to the Arizona Game and Fish Department.  You can scare them away by making loud noises and throwing small rocks their way, but never throw anything at them in an attempt to harm or injure them.

If you own a very small dog or cat, keep it inside your house when you aren’t outside with it, lest a predatory creature mistakes your pet for dinner. Always walk your dog on a leash to prevent him or her from darting up to a wild animal. Keep your pet’s food dish inside the house—even a 6-foot high fence won’t protect your pet’s food or your small pet from coyotes, bobcats, or large predatory birds.

8 myths and facts about Arizona