How can today’s first time home buyers find unique, character filled, architectural-homes on a budget? It’s a tall order for sure, however, if you have the right buyers who have a bit of time and lots of patience it is still totally possible. First, buyers need to be realistic, creative, resourceful and understand the market- all of which happens over time searching, viewing and refining their goals. Second, you have to go search the homes that have been on the market for a while, the ones that don’t photograph well or have photos at all!! Our latest Neighborly story focuses on the fantastic couple Ryan and Katie and the purchase of a fantastic Ralph Haver home in Starlite Vista of North Central Phoenix- the right couple, patience, timing and their creativity came together to bring this house back to life.
Katie, an AZ native, super creative, ambitious entrepreneur and model is the founder of Grow to Be Botanicals, an organic skincare line that she researched and formulated over years of refining her own skincare routine. Ryan, basically a native but originally from MN, is an energetic, art collecting, furniture and music enthusiast and works as a loan officer with Movement Mortgage. Truly the perfect couple combo to find this unicorn and make something seriously stunning out of it. We spent a Sunday morning, records spinning, tea brewing and picture snapping in their artfully curated space reminiscing on their home buying experience.
N: What made you start the home search?
C: We really wanted to invest in our own home instead of paying someone else’s mortgage. The opportunity to create our own ideal home wasn’t possible when we were renting. We also knew that the longer we waited to purchase a home, the more we were going to have to pay due to the steady rise in home prices, as well as the inevitable rise in rent.
N: What was on your list of must haves for the home?
C: Coming from a loft, we still wanted to keep the feeling of an open space for entertaining. On the other hand, we also wanted bedroom walls. We knew we would have some out of town guests so having an extra bedroom was important. I don’t believe there was a ton of specific criteria that we were looking but, but more so a feeling we wanted to have when we would walk in the door every day. Our new home as well as the neighborhood gave us a great feeling that we were stepping away from the desert and into our little paradise.
N: When you started looking, were you surprised, disappointed or excited about what was on the market?
C: All of the above. It was fun trying to play out all these scenarios of your life in different neighborhoods, some that you haven’t seen before. We knew ahead of time that we wouldn’t be able to check off all the boxes of our ideal home, but it did make us really think about what was the most important. We originally thought we might only be in the house for a few years and were looking for a nice starter home just to start building some equity. That thought went away pretty quickly and now it’s hard to see us ever wanting to leave this place. Our lease was up in August so even though there was less inventory on the market, there were a lot less buyers so we werent competing against a sea of other people for the same homes. I was definitely surprised this house was on the market for so long. I believe it was 75~ days on the market when we put our initial offer on it.
N: What made you want a Haver?
C: We weren’t specific in our search for just a Haver. There were a few Havers in Rancho Vista that we looked at because they were closer to our price range. We also looked at a couple great Spanish homes. Our original focus was a little bit closer to downtown and this house was never in the price range that we were looking for. We were out looking at a couple homes one day and threw this on the list kind of last minute even though it was above our price range. Once we viewed this house we knew that once we added some of our own personal touches, that this was the exact house we were looking for. We immediately fell in love with the house and we were sitting in the living room trying to figure out how on earth we could make this work. We asked our realtor what the lowest offer we could make would be, without being so low it would be offensive and they would just ignore it. Our offer was kind of our first and only offer and we were at the max of our price range and we noted that in our offer.
N: What was your first impression of your home? Did you know right away?
C: We were in awe. The use of materials mixed with the modern updates and original details was what really impressed us. Some of the Haver’s had smaller rooms that separate living, dining, and kitchen, so the fact that this was so open seemed perfect. The next 24 hours this house is all we could talk about. The potential pool parties, different raised bed gardens, making ceramics on the wheel in the back, the activities seemed endless.
N: Did anything come up during the process that threw you? Any hiccups
C: The inspection is never the most fun thing in the world. You’re about to make one of the biggest financial decisions of your life and the inspector kind of just walks around and says, ‘that’s broken, that’s about to break, and I don’t have any idea what that is.’ However, the house is 65 years old, and we knew we would run into things like that, we just had to plan which were the most important right away. I’m a residential loan officer so I have been through the process for other people many times so it was nice to have a tight grip on the financing aspect as well as the timeline and what to expect.
N: What advice would you give others about the house hunting process and purchasing your first home?
C: Find a realtor who really understands what you’re looking for and is well versed on the neighborhoods you are looking in. Be patient and be willing to check a few things off the dream list. First time home buyers specifically, but really everyone should sit down with a lender and go through all the different loan programs out there. There are tons of first time homebuyer programs that offer grants to help with down payment and closing costs. A lot of other programs offer no mortgage insurance with less than 20% down. Also there are a few great renovation loan programs so that if the home doesn’t have a few items on your list, you can have them done and roll them into the loan.
N: What has been the best and worst part of home ownership thus far?
C: I think the worst is both the unexpected repairs you have to make, as well as the inevitable large ticket items you’ll have to get done at some point. The best is just coming home to it everyday knowing it’s ours. The great memories we’ve already had here and the unknown ones that are in our future. The feeling of relaxing in your own pool is pretty great.
N: What is your neighborhood like?
C: We’re in North Central Phoenix and it has very quickly become one of our favorite areas in the valley. There are still a few homes in the area built around the 1900’s and the mature landscaping makes it feel like we aren’t in Phoenix at all. Biking the bridle path and through the different neighborhoods to get to friends houses or restaurants is always an enjoyable cruise. We feel like we aren’t too far from downtown and a lot of activities, but there’s also some hobby farms with sheep and donkeys, it’s a pretty strange mix and it’s perfect. Our Haverhood is called ‘Starlite Vista,’ and there are a ton of great Haver’s around here ranging from relatively original to very modern.
N: Where are some of your favorite spots in your neighborhood?
C: Royal Palms park is one of our favorite places to just relax and we’ll bring music and bocce ball and have a little picnic. We’re near all the restaurants and local shops on 7th St so we make our way over there quite a bit. Melrose is close by as well and that area has a ton of exciting things happening. Some of our favorite shops in the area are Phx General, Framed Ewe, Stinkweeds, For The People, and Local Nomad. For eats and drinks we really like fa’me, Mora, and Lon’s at Hermosa Inn.
N: Why do you love living in Phoenix?
C: Phoenix feels like so many different cities all bundled up into one randomly spread out area. We’ve both lived here, left, and then moved back. It’s very easy to go hike or golf in the mountains, eat some of the best food, and catch a great concert in the same day. In the summer it’s easy to get away for a day or two to cool down. And comparatively to other large cities it still seems affordable. We really enjoy it here.
Ryan and Katie’s home was just featured on the Modern Phoenix 2019 home tour to rave reviews. So many mid century enthusiasts were impressed with the space and decor. The couple still has big plans for the home and landscape but they are taking one project at a time and enjoying their space every day. We are so happy for them to have found their dreamy Haver home in the beautiful neighborhood of Starlite Vista in North Central Phoenix.
Written by: Misha Renteria
Photos by: Jesse Miller