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Cottonwood stands out among healthiest housing markets

Victoria Harker

In a new study of the healthiest housing markets in Arizona, nine of the top ten are in large urban areas. But there’s one standout: Cottonwood.

Cottonwood, which dubs itself the “heart of wine country,” earned Arizona’s ninth top spot this year in the 2019 Healthy Housing Markets report from financial tech company, SmartAsset. The company’s popular website receives about 45 million visits each month to use its free tools like the “How much house can I afford” and “Rent vs. Buy” calculators. 

For the report, SmartAsset used Zillow and U.S. Census data to measure four factors in more than 2,400 cities: stability, affordability, ease of sale and risk of loss.

“A healthy housing market is both stable and affordable,” the study states. “Homeowners in a healthy market should be able to easily sell their homes, with a low risk of losing money over the long run.” 

Cottonwood is the only rural area in top ten 

Eight of Arizona’s healthiest housing markets are in metro Phoenix and one in Tucson, Catalina, that topped the list.

Cottonwood, that has around 12,000 residents, is the only rural city in the top ten. 

That’s no surprise to Cottonwood’s economic development director, Richard Faust, who likens the region to Sonoma County in California. 

“We had two or three wine tasting rooms at the beginning of the change of the century in 2000,” Faust said. “Now, we have 124.”

Wine and climate lure visitors and residents 

Cottonwood lies in the center of the Verde Valley Wine Trail, a trail of scattered wineries and tasting rooms in the area that is drawing tourists of all ages. A 2017 Northern Arizona study showed tourism generated $56 million into the region that year. 

The Mediterranean climate, which is perfect for grape growing, is cooler than the Valley in the summer, rarely reaching 100 degrees. 

Cottonwood has a charming historic downtown packed with restaurants, quaint shops and wine tasting rooms. Nearby is hiking, kayaking, birdwatching, and golf. Cottonwood is close to Out of Africa, Montezuma’s Castle, and Cliff Castle Casino. Slide Rock and Sedona are less than 20 miles away. Historic Jerome is 8.

Along with tourism, housing construction is ticking up. Developers are coming in to build including the On the Greens and Vineyards at Cottonwood projects. Vineyards is expected to construct 100 to 200 homes a year for the next five years, Faust said. 

There’s a need for more affordable housing for younger residents wanting to move to the area, he said. Nearby is Yavapai College that is graduating students from its viticulture program that also need housing as they move into careers in the region. 

Currently, the median home price in the city it $230,000 with an average $157 per square foot, according to Trulia. The average median rent is $1,295. 

Affordability most heavily weighted in the study 

To rank cities, SmartAsset used data from Zillow and the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey five-year data (2009-2017).

Affordability, the most heavily weighted factor, was determined from the monthly cost of owning a home as a percentage of household income in each county.

The company measured stability from the number of years people remain in their homes and the percentage of homeowners with negative equity. To account for risk, it used the percentage of homes that decreased in value. To determine housing market fluidity, it looked at data on the average time a for-sale home stays on the market. 

With SmartAsset’s interactive Healthy Housing Markets map, users can locate the healthiest housing markets among America’s cities. Users can search for the overall healthiest markets or look specifically at one of our four healthy-housing indicators. 

According to the analysis, Arizona’s top ten healthiest housing markets are:

  1. Catalina
  2. Sun City West
  3. Sun City
  4. Tempe
  5. Glendale
  6. Mesa
  7. Chandler
  8. GIlbert
  9. Cottonwood
  10. Peoria

Sedona City Council OKs decorations


Council approved a three-year rental agreement with MK Illuminations for holiday decorations in the amount of $283,046.29, which includes delivery and installation. The city will then have the option of purchasing the decoration for $1 after the three-year agreement is complete.  The price includes installation in 2020 and 2021 as well. After that the city will have to pay to have it done. In the meantime, the city has agreed to store the decorations following this year’s holiday season. 

Since 2013, the Sedona Parks and Recreation Department has been responsible for decorating the city during December for the holiday season. Decorations and events during this time have taken on many iterations and been displayed in many different areas through trial and error, public feedback, and experience. “The decorations are going to be gorgeous and will abso­lutely get people’s attention,” Parks and Recreation Manager Rachel Murdoch said the day after the meeting. “We have ideas of where we would like them to go, and they will be in the city’s right-of-way but we still need to reach out to busi­ness owners and ask for permission to plug in for electricity.

That has not been a problem in the past and I hope they are supportive again this year and appreciate the attention it will bring to their business front.” Mudoch said she feel’s the city is getting a good bang for its buck.  “Owning the features after three years will be huge,” she said. “Then a large portion of that money can be spent else­where. We will always need some money for installation and refurbishing but that is to be expected.”  In order to fit within the city’s allotted budget for decora­tions, Murdoch said the $283,046 has been spread evenly over the next three years. The most expensive decoration, at just over $14,000, will be a custom 30-foot-high struc­tural tree, which is filled with lighted spheres and wrapped with a red ribbon.

This will not replace the annual tree lighting in Uptown. The Sedona Chamber of Commerce and Tlaquepaque will again be hosting that popular event.  In 2018, believing in the benefits of having quality decora­tions in Uptown, the Uptown Parking Advisory Committee recommended that $40,000 be allocated from the Uptown paid parking funds to supplement the budgeted amount the city already had to spend on holiday decorations, a city report states.  For 2019, the committee increased its support to $80,000. Murdoch’s department now has $100,000 to commit to “creating a beautiful display of holiday lights for community to enjoy and visitors to travel to see.”