Are you ready to make the leap to having a place of your own in Arizona? The hunt can be daunting in the state’s booming real estate market, which is why it’s vital to arm yourself with knowledge before you start the search. We tapped team roper and long-time Arizona realtor and general contractor Lyle Delp to line out the ins and outs of the property search in team roping’s winter mecca.
TRJ: How much has team roping changed your business over the years, and what percentage of your clients are team ropers?
LD: When I first started selling real estate in 1990, we worked pretty much all in town because that’s where the money was. There weren’t enough team ropers and/or horse properties to make a good living. Now I’d have to say 95% or better of my business is selling to horse people in general. Most of them are the snowbirds.
TRJ: How do you recommend finding a realtor?
LD: Word of mouth will be the best way to find a good one. If you know some-body who bought, use their realtor. And choose your realtor based on the region you’re looking to buy in. A lot of realtors try to work the whole valley, but that doesn’t work. All realtors can’t know everything about every area. There are some who list a property in an area they don’t know, and even show properties in areas they don’t know. Your best bet is to find a realtor in an area you like, and then stick with him or her.
TRJ: Can you shop on a budget, or do you need to be ready to break the bank?
LD: The biggest problem with looking on a budget is getting into seedier areas. Most snowbirds want to stay at their Arizona property for six months at the most. Those people have to keep in mind what is around them, because thieves know that ropers aren’t around in the summer. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but if you try to save money when it comes to the area you buy in, you might run into trouble.
TRJ: Where is the best region, then, for ropers to shop for property?
LD: Any place in the Wickenburg area is the best—but, of course, that’s where I sell! The Maricopa and Casa Grande area is growing, and Queen Creek and the South Valley are growing, too. Of course, the most high-end stuff is Cave Creek and Scottsdale. Those start at $700,000 and up for what I’d call a starter property for that area. You’ll get maybe an acre to two acres with a house and pens.
TRJ: How much land does a roper need to have a house, arena and pens?
LD: You can get everything you need on 2.5 acres. Five acres or better is great, but the cheapest you’ll find that for is $100,000–$150,000 for flat, raw ground.
TRJ: If a roper is looking to build, aside from the land price, what else does he or she need to take into account?
I work in the Wittman area a lot, and the wells are 700 feet deep. I tell every-body to plan on $30,000 to $40,000 to get water to the surface of the ground. Arizona also allows shared wells. To get financing—conventional financing—you can go up to an eight-way split on a well. That’s state-mandated. If you go FHA, which a lot of people are starting to do now, you can only go with a four-way split on the well.
You also have to watch out for counties that make it hard for you to own just a piece of ground with water and electricity. They want you to build a house there to get the electricity. A lot of ropers just want a place to plug in their living quarters trailer, a place to rope and a place to keep their horses. But that’s virtually non-existent. Also, legally, you need to have permits on every building, pen, arena and fence on the place. Now, does everybody do that? No. But you should, or it could be a bigger headache in the end.
TRJ: I hear the word ‘casita’ used a lot to describe homes in Arizona. Is that a good option if ropers aren’t concerned about owning a big home?
LD: It is an option, but the smaller you get, the more it costs per square foot.
If you build a 1,500-square-foot home, that’s about the breaking point. If you build a small casita, it will be darn near as much as the 1,500-square-foot house. I just built a spec house on an acre of ground. It’s a 1,600-square-foot house, and I built an 1,183-square-foot house for a team roper on another acre, and they were darn near the same numbers, within a few thousand. Everyone tries to get that small little casita, and it’s nice. But you end up with as much in that as you do a bigger house.
TRJ: If ropers plan to build an arena, what types of materials have the best value in Arizona?
LD: Pipe is king. There are a lot of continuous fence arenas and pipe arenas. Wood doesn’t last in the desert, so you have to go with the pipe. The continuous fence is cheaper than pipe. Some people like the look, some people don’t.
TRJ: How long does closing on a place usually take?
LD: If you can find a house, you can get it done in a month. You can get it done quicker than that if you’re paying cash. If you’re going to build from scratch, you better figure a year to make that all happen. By the time you pull the permits and close on the ground, it will take at least a year.