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If you’re thinking about buying a house in Tucson, kudos on your choice. Arizona is a popular place to move, ranking in the top 10 of U-Haul’s annual Growth Index in 2002. Residents of Tucson, the state’s second biggest city, enjoy the relaxing beauty of the desert — but navigating the real estate market might be a bit stressful. Read on for everything you need to know about buying a house 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. Tucson attracts plenty of academics — it’s home to the University of Arizona — and golfers looking to enjoy the more than 40 courses in the area. But 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 town with a smaller price tag: Homes in Tucson are more affordable than in Phoenix, Arizona’s most major metropolis. So if you’re looking for a combination of Sonoran Desert beauty and cosmopolitan energy, Tucson is a good pick.
Find a Tucson home for your budget
The housing market in Tucson has been cooling off a bit. Between March 2022 and March 2023, the median cost of a home dropped by 1.6 percent to a current price tag of $315,000, according to data from Redfin. However, if you can squeeze into a smaller space, you can get a better deal: The median price of a single-family home is $330,000, while for a townhouse it’s just $233,500.
The dollar amount attached to a listing isn’t all there is to consider, though. You should also think about 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 family — and a bigger budget? 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 still high, as they are all over the country, you might be wondering whether you should buy a house now or wait. While it’s true that you’ll pay a lot more in interest today than you would have in 2021, the jump in borrowing costs is actually creating some good news for Tucson buyers.
First, you’ll have more properties to consider. The inventory of Tucson homes for sale has nearly doubled over the past year, according to data from the St. Louis Fed. Second, the days of paying more than the listing price are gone. While homes in Tucson often sold for above asking price during the pandemic, buyers are typically paying 98.7 percent of the list price now, per Redfin. Plus, more sellers are dropping their prices — 23.9 percent of homes sold in March lowered their prices. So buyers have more bargaining power these days than they used to.
What to know about buying a house in Tucson
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 getting around the city doesn’t have to involve four wheels and an engine — many residents commute to work on bikes.
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. Arizona’s closing costs average around 1.2 percent of the purchase price, according to ClosingCorp. So, on a median-priced $330,000 home, that comes to $3,960. The good news is that Arizona doesn’t charge a real estate transfer tax, which helps keep closing costs relatively low.
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. And if you’ve always been a renter, make sure you’re setting aside funds to keep your home in good shape. You’re on the hook for all the maintenance costs now, and if your air conditioner quits in the middle of a desert summer, 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, it’s possible to buy a home in Tucson with a much smaller outlay. If you have excellent credit and qualify for a conventional loan, you could need just a 3 percent down payment. On a $330,000 property, that comes out to $9,900.
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 a good place to start.
Find a local Tucson real estate agent
Buying a home is easier with the right real estate agent at your side. Realtors are professionals who understand the ebbs and flows of the market. 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 from out of state, a local agent will serve as your eyes and ears when you can’t be there in person.
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 feel more confident in a buyer with a preapproval in-hand. This step also helps you budget more accurately, as you’ll know exactly how much you’re likely to get a loan for.
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. Tucson has been a prime market for real estate investors over the past couple of years, and Opendoor — one of the biggest names in iBuying — actively buys 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 47 days — compared to 23 one year ago. With fewer buyers entering the market and more time to make a decision, you might find yourself in the driver’s seat.
It’s still a seller’s market in Tucson. In real estate, five to six months of housing supply is considered a balanced market, and anything less than that tilts the power in favor of the seller. As of March 2023, the city had just 1.8 months of single-family housing supply, according to the Tucson Association of Realtors. However, homes are spending longer on the market now, and more sellers are being forced to drop their prices, so buyers are reclaiming a bit of bargaining power.
Living here is relatively affordable compared to the cost of living in many other cities in the Southwest. And home prices are cheaper than the national average: The median price for a home in Tucson is $315,000, while the nationwide median, according to the National Association of Realtors, is $375,700.
The overall cost of living in Tucson is very slightly lower than in Phoenix — about 0.58 percent cheaper, according to Bankrate’s cost of living calculator. Buying a house is definitely more affordable in Tucson, though. The median sale price of a home in Tucson is $315,000, per Redfin data, while in Phoenix it’s $410,000.