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Before you buy a house there are a number of things you may want to check out, including schools, local transportation, crime rates etc. But those are all pretty obvious no matter where you buy a property. When you are looking at buying a house in the desert there are a number of items that may not be so obvious to the first time desert buyer. I’ll start by collecting some of the topics we took into consideration before buying our house in the Sonoran desert. Not that our choices may be the right ones for you, but it should get you started. Most of these considerations can be researched by using some online tools.

Check out this article for more on the tools themselves: The best real estate tools for Scottsdale properties. (upcoming)

Things to look for include:

  • Distance from highways and freeways – consider what noise level you are willing to tolerate. 100 yards may be more than enough if you are used to a busy city, but 1 mile may not be enough if you are looking for absolute tranquility. We set our goal on being at least 1/2 mile from a busy road. While we don’t mind some background noise we didn’t want to hear every vehicle passing.Desert Community
  • Distance from horse or cattle properties – while a neighing horse may add to the ambience, you may not appreciate the flies that are abundant around horses, donkeys and cattle. Scottsdale is famous for its Arabian horses and they are gorgeous to watch, from a distance.
  • Large electricity pylons across your backyard – while the verdict about their health impact is unclear they can definitely ruin an otherwise open and beautiful view. The poles can be a bit hard to see in the Google and Bing maps but after you have discovered them the first time then they get easier to spot. You mainly see them through the shadow they throw on the ground.
  • Gravel roads – you may, or may not, appreciate being on a gravel road – dust is a problem in the dry desert and if you have through-traffic on gravel it can become a real annoyance.
  • City water or well – this can be a bit trickier to figure out unless it is listed in the property advertisement. If you have your own well and it has been cleared for quality and consistency then you should be fine. We went as far as  deciding that we wanted to have city water, just because we felt that was the most predictable way of ensuring a steady supply of water. There are two more alternatives quite common in the desert. They are shared well and hauled water. We definitely didn’t want to go with a shared well, in particular since we wanted a pool. The big question we asked ourselves was “what will happen if the well dries out and we cannot fill our pool, or our neighbors asks us to stop filling the pool?”. That made us go for city water. All that said, it isn’t uncommon for households to have water hauled by tank trucks to the house. Though we felt that was too      foreign for us since this is our first house in the desert.
  • HOA or not – this is a question that is debated hotly. A home owners association will set rules to keep the neighborhood within certain parameters. E.g. they can decide what house colors are allowed, if horses or chicken are permitted, if street parking is okay and what plants you can plant in your garden. Some people absolutely abhor having rules inflicted on them, while others want to be sure their neighbor doesn’t start farming smelly chicken or keep dilapidated cars in their yard. HOAs definitely come with good and bad      sides. Make sure to understand if your favorite property has a HOA and if you agree with its paragraphs.