If you’re thinking about buying a house in Tucson, kudos on your choice. The second-biggest city in Arizona landed on Bankrate’s Best Places to Live in 2022, and it earned an honorable mention on our roundup of the best places to live as a remote worker. Once you get to Tucson, you’ll enjoy the relaxing beauty of the desert, but buying a house might be a bit stressful. Read on for everything you need to know about navigating the real estate market in Tucson.

Why buy a house in Tucson?

Here’s a simple number to support why planting permanent roots in Tucson makes sense: 96. When you wake up here, it’s going to be a sunny morning 96 percent of the time. While Tucson attracts plenty of people chasing the calm of the golf course (there are more than 40 places to play in the area), the city is ideal for anyone looking for a bigger adventure, too, with hundreds of miles of hiking and mountain biking trails.

It’s a big city with a smaller price tag: Homes in Tucson are more affordable than in Phoenix, Arizona’s other major metropolis. So, if you’re looking for a combination of Sonoran Desert beauty with cosmopolitan energy, Tucson — home to the University of Arizona — is a good pick.

Find a Tucson home for your budget

Buying a house in Tucson has been getting increasingly expensive. Between October 2021 and October 2022, the median cost of a single-family home jumped by more than $42,000 to a current price tag of $380,000. If you can squeeze into a smaller space, though, you’re in luck: The median price of a condo or townhome is just $250,000 here.

It’s not just the dollar amount attached to a listing, though. You’ll need to think about what you’re looking for to meet your lifestyle needs. Do you want an urban feel with plenty of walkable nightlife? Perhaps start your search in El Presidio or Iron Horse. Do you have a bigger budget and a bigger family? Take a look in Shadow Hills or Flecha Caida.

Is now a good time to buy a house in Tucson?

With mortgage rates in Arizona hovering around the 7 percent mark, you might be wondering whether you should buy a house now or wait. While it’s true that you’re going to pay a lot more in interest than you would have in 2021, the jump in borrowing costs is actually creating some good news for buying in Tucson.

First, you’ll have more properties to consider. The inventory of homes for sale has increased by more than 35 percent over the past year. Second, the days of paying more than the listing price are gone. While homes in Tucson were selling for above asking price throughout part of the pandemic, buyers are typically paying 98.5 percent of the list price now. Plus, data from Redfin shows that the changes in the market have been motivating more sellers to drop their prices. If you’re okay with the current mortgage rate environment, you’ll enjoy some extra bargaining power in Tucson.

What to know about buying a house in Tucson

How safe are the neighborhoods?

Tucson isn’t known for its safety. In fact, the city earned an F in CrimeGrade’s latest data set. However, the city isn’t completely crime-ridden. As you move further northeast from the city center, Tucson’s safety element starts looking higher. Make sure you’re reviewing reports from neighborhoods you’re considering to determine if you’ll feel comfortable walking your dog at night or that your home won’t be burgled.

How long will your commute be?

As you look at different neighborhoods around the metro area, make sure you’re thinking about your daily work routine. The average commute time in Tucson is around 25 minutes, but it’s important to note that getting around the city doesn’t have to involve four wheels and an engine. More residents commute to work in Tucson on bikes than they do in Denver, Austin and Albuquerque. As you start your house hunt, think about looking in areas that can help you reduce your commuting costs and increase your amount of physical exercise.

How much will you pay in closing costs?

In addition to saving up for a down payment, you’ll need to set aside money to cover closing costs in Tucson. In 2021, the most common fees added up to 1.2 percent of the purchase price, according to research from ClosingCorp. So, on a $380,000 home, that’s an additional $4,560 to cover. The good news is that Arizona doesn’t charge any real estate transfer taxes, which keeps closing costs relatively low here.

How much will you pay in property taxes?

As you budget for your monthly mortgage payments, make sure you’re considering what Tucson’s taxes will mean for your bills, too. The combined county property tax rate in Tucson will be $506.52 for every $100,000 of value in 2023.

What else will you need to pay for as a homeowner?

In addition to a standard homeowners insurance policy, you may want to look into additional coverage to protect against wildfires, which do occur in the area fairly regularly. And if you’ve always been a renter, make sure you’re setting aside the funds you’ll need to keep your home in good shape. You’re on the hook for all the maintenance costs now, which can add up in a big way. If your air conditioner quits in the middle of a Tucson July, you’re not going to be able to wait to save for a replacement.

Tips for buying a Tucson home

Save for a down payment

In the spring of 2022, the average down payment on a new place in Arizona was $59,000 — a sum of money that can feel overwhelming to anyone on a small budget. However, you can buy a home in Tucson with a much smaller savings account. If you have excellent credit and qualify for a conventional loan, you’ll just need 3 percent of the purchase price for your down payment. On a $380,000 property, that comes out to $11,400.

If saving for a down payment feels impossible, don’t get discouraged. There are some helpful options in Arizona for first-time homebuyers, along with national down payment assistance options for anyone trying to buy a house on a low income. There are local options in Tucson, too. If you earn less than $122,100 per year, the Pima Tucson Homebuyers Solution is the best place to start. The average applicant gets $14,000 of down payment assistance. The best news about the program? If you live in the home for three years, the money is forgiven, and you never have to pay it back.

Find a local Tucson real estate agent

Buying a home is a better process with the right real estate agent at your side. Realtors are professionals who have a sense of the ebbs and flows of the market, and they can help you avoid some of the common mistakes involved in buying a home. In addition to helping you craft a compelling offer, they can introduce you to some of the other crucial parties involved in the process including home inspectors, real estate attorneys and contractors. And if you’re trying to buy a house in Tucson from out of state, a real estate agent is even more critical and can serve as your eyes and ears when you can’t be there in person to visit a new listing.

Get preapproved for a mortgage

The first step to buying a home doesn’t involve looking at properties. Instead, it involves sharing your personal financial information to get preapproved for a mortgage. Sellers need to see a preapproval to feel confident that you will be able to get a deal done. Some lenders will offer preapproval letters in 15 minutes, and others might need to manually review your information.

Understand the playing field

As you begin house-hunting in Tucson, it’s important to understand that you might be competing against other buyers who don’t need to borrow any money to purchase a home. In 2021, more than 35 percent of properties in Tucson were purchased in all-cash deals. Tucson has been a prime market for real estate investors over the past couple of years with Offerpad and Opendoor — two of the biggest names in iBuying — both snapping up properties in the area.

However, the market is shifting. According to figures from the Tucson Association of Realtors, single-family homes are sitting on the market for an average of 30 days — nearly twice as long as one year ago. With fewer buyers entering the market and some real estate investors retreating to the sidelines, you might be able to be in the driver’s seat as a buyer.

Bottom line on buying a house in Tucson

Over the past two years, the real estate market in Tucson felt hotter than the southwestern sun in the middle of August. However, the housing market is cooling off. If you can deal with the impact of higher mortgage rates on your budget, now might be a great time to find a new home in the Old Pueblo.

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