Written by Frank Aazami with David M. Brown
Until 2020, the luxury spec home market in the Phoenix area was standing still. Then real estate changed, the world changed. The pandemic transformed the way we design homes, build and live in them.
When professionals started abandoning dense work spaces and working at home –– a lifestyle change many of us might have chosen as soon as the internet made office presence not universally necessary –– they wanted additional amenities such as dual offices and more sophisticated work-out rooms and spas. Why not incorporate multiple services into the live/work space if your home is going to be used more?
Then the cost of money dropped for the well-credited, and income for many considerably improved. Executives found working at home beneficial: You don’t have to duel with traffic, and pajamas or work-out clothes, rather than business suits, allowed comfort and productivity at the same time.
The luxury home market expanded, in particular for spec homes, which began to appear on high-quality properties before willing and able buyers saw them.
Prior to 2020, the numbers were not penciling for investors and builders to build luxury specs north of $8 million. Often, they ended up carrying the bare property because of a down market or they didn’t finish building the home or they lost money when it finally sold to a savvy low buyer watching it sit for an extended time.
Now with a robust home market, particularly in Arizona, investors and builders are investing money in premier properties. That’s because quality buyers are there and willing to purchase specs on premium land built by superlative builders.
“A few years ago, people were downsizing, but now it’s a good time for entrepreneurs who want larger custom homes,” says Bill Bulaga, my colleague at Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty in Scottsdale in our Private Client Group.
“They want those multiple offices, an attached or separate guest house, they want the luxury amenities, the smart homes, because they’re at home more and don’t want to spend the time building it themselves. They learned during the height of the pandemic they could use that time making money and enjoying their homes and their families.”
He cautions, though: “Buying a luxury spec successfully depends on the builder you are going to. Do your due diligence and homework on what builder you are purchasing from. It’s crucial to find someone who has a great reputation and has been building quality for years. When you step into high-end luxury specs and you are spending this kind of money, you want a builder that will stand by their work –– not a face that will take your check and disappear.”
During the last year, style preferences have also shifted. Modern European has significant increased in popularity, and interior surface colors, fabrics and styles shifted toward lighter palettes. Smart home systems have become a necessity, with new versions of high-definition audio, video, security and lighting systems taking precedence.
The new exterior and interior look, open floor plans and those cutting-edge components are what today’s buyers are looking for. Let’s call it a supply and demand issue: It simply started to make sense for builders to build them. The more special its location, with acre-plus lots, unobstructed mountain views, high-quality finishings, the better money the specs are achieving.
Our most recent spec offerings are two single-level spec homes in premium Paradise Valley locations, both under construction by Legendary Homes. “We’ve been building luxury homes in Arizona for 35 years, about 125 homes, mostly in Paradise Valley,” says Greg Stanford, president of the Scottsdale-based company. “None of our homes are the same. They are all unique.”
5089 North Wilkinson Road: Camelback Mountain & The Phoenician Resort
Unrivaled craftsmanship, high-end finishes, seamless indoor/outdoor spaces and views of landmark Camelback Mountain and its Praying Monk formation: Due for completion in May 2022, this 10,200-square-foot Soft Desert Contemporary estate is prestigiously located across from the world-famous Phoenician Resort. You can walk to the golf course, the restaurants and the spa or the trailheads.
The privately gated home on a deep 1.13-acre lot has five bedrooms and five-and-a-half bathrooms; two home offices; a detached casita on the south side and, on the east, an attached casita with a full kitchen, living space and a separate bedroom. With covered parking for clients, this could morph into a third office. Adjacent to this is a temperature-controlled, extended-length garage, which will accommodate four cars and lifts, bringing the total to eight for car collectors. Adding to the capacity are four carport spaces and covered and uncovered parking.
From the Wilkinson entrance, a driveway split by palm trees allows ease of access for people to proceed to the main house entry on the south side or to the detached casita. To maximize views, Stanford has switched the traditional home alignment, so the 45-foot pool and spa face west toward Camelback Mountain. Flanking the pool/spa and entertainment patio are the master suite and the detached casita.
A 20-foot automatic sliding wall of glass opens up to the patio area from the expansive great room. Constructed with deep overhangs to protect the windows from hot spots, the patio includes a kitchen, a rock waterfall, a 14-foot firepit, built-in barbecue and gas heaters. “You could live on the back patio,” Stanford says with a smile.
The home-sized 2,200-square-foot master wing features a two-way fireplace, master sitting area, his and hers walk-in closets and water closets, two showers flanking a tub, double sinks and space for a workout or yoga room or another office.
This is also an entertainer’s home, with a 16-foot linear fireplace in the great room, formal dining area, butler’s pantry and a 12-seat theater.
In the large kitchen are double islands and premium appliances such as gas range/oven and cooktop. A linear fireplace is next to the bar area and walk-in wine room.
Other features include no interior steps; a ficus tree-lined periphery; smart home automation; central vacuum; water filter system; dual-pane windows; spray-foam insulation; and a tankless water heater.
“This one-of-a-kind masterpiece is located in an established luxury neighborhood in the heart of Paradise Valley,” says Bulaga, the co-broker and listing agent. “From every room there are beautiful views and access to the outdoor living spaces. This home defines luxury.”
5532 East Palo Verde Drive: Camelback Mountain & Sanctuary Resort
Also scheduled for completion in May 2022, this clean-lined Contemporary-style home at the southwest base of Camelback Mountain and Praying Monk also provides unparalleled city lights views and seclusion. To the east is Mummy Mountain and to the south Clearwater Hills.
“With some of the Valley’s most sought-after luxury residences nearby on Nauni Valley Drive, Cameldale Way and Yucca Road –– this is one of the top-tier neighborhoods in Paradise Valley,” explains Bulaga, the listing agent for the Private Client Group at Russ Lyon Sotheby’s
“It’s definitely one of the most private homes in this part of town with all of its established trees,” he adds. “You are completely secluded and it feels like no one is around you, yet you are in the middle of all the action in Paradise Valley.” He notes that the owner planted the citrus years ago, providing the buyer with mature trees and great Arizona fruit just for the plucking.
On a large 1.2-acre cul-de-sac lot, the 9,436-square-foot one-level home has six bedrooms and seven-and-a-half bathrooms, a four-car garage, a 2,000-square-foot attached guest house and an office. “If you need more work space, you can take one of the bedrooms for a second office,” Bulaga says.
Phoenix architect Jim Blochberger, who has participated in the design of the Royal Palms Hotel and Casitas and its Alvadora Spa in Phoenix and the Silverleaf Clubhouse in Scottsdale, collaborated with award-winning residential interior designer, Claire Ownby, principal of Ownby Design in Scottsdale, to create the home. And, the build quality, landscape layout and pool and spa finishes all demonstrate why Legendary Homes has been one of the most trusted luxury builders for decades in Paradise Valley.
In response to the Arizona-desert lifestyle, the home centers on outdoor living. The master suite opens out to a 55-foot swimming pool, a spa and in-your-face views to the southwest of the famous mountain and Praying Monk. In addition, you can add a sport court or badminton area to the expansive backyard area. In addition, the home features an indoor/outdoor bar, kitchen and fireplace.
Adjacent to the property is the Sanctuary Resort and its mountainside elements restaurant. Nearby are other world-famous resorts such as the Camelback Inn and Mountain Shadows, and within a few miles are world-famous Scottsdale restaurants, boutique shops and Scottsdale Fashion Square, the largest shopping center in the Southwest.
Cultural attractions including the Scottsdale Center for the Arts, the Southwest Museum of Contemporary Art and the Western Spirit Scottsdale Museum Of The West are also in bustling downtown Scottsdale. Sky Harbor International Airport is less than a half hour south, and the Scottsdale Airport, accommodating private jets, is even closer. And, the Echo Canyon trailhead for that area of Camelback Mountain is just a short walk away.
“With its open floor plan, it’s awesome for entertaining or for a large family, but its coziness makes this home excellent as well for an empty-nester couple who hosts family and friends overnight or for longer periods,” Bulaga explains.
The kitchen features top-quality appliances such as SubZero, the great room is anchored by a 20-foot fireplace and game and media rooms add to the enjoyment.
This is a smart house, allowing complete control of cameras, security, HVAC and the pool. Additional amenities include a central vacuum system; gas heat; a rooftop deck; sprinkler system; and a water softener.
Here is a home with all of the luxury boxes checked: unobstructed mountain views, a prestigious location and total privacy. And, you don’t even have to design it or build it. Just move in and enjoy it.
Please look for our $28-million spec on Yucca Road, also in Paradise Valley. All of these homes can be previewed as they are being built. Frank Aazami, RLSIR Brand Ambassador, is at 480.266.0240, frank@PCGagents.com, PCGagents.com, and text “SIRFAAZAMI” to 87778. Bill Bulaga can be reached at 480.815.3326, BBulaga@PCGAgents.com. SIR Frank Aazami is offering a new mobile download link for your Android, iPhone or iPad. Preview our Global Listings anytime, anywhere, in 18 languages: app.sir.com/sirfrankaazami. Also see PrivateClientGroupAGENTS.com
Photos courtesy Private Client Group