Written by Jesse Miller
There’s quite a lot to love about the desert. From Texas to Colorado to Arizona, homeowners have delighted in the natural beauty, unique ecosystem, and feel of this special environment, and have happily made the most out of everything it has to offer: stunning sunsets, breathtaking storms, and a sense of cultural pride that can only be found in these dry dusty cities and towns. Whether you’re looking to move permanently, buy a seasonal home to flee cold northern winters, or grow an investment managing Airbnb rentals, the American desert offers a range of opportunities for real estate buyers. For anyone looking to make the move to these Southwestern locations, it’s important that investors and homeowners alike are properly prepared. Know what to look for when it comes to housing and how to make the most out of their experience with these simple tips.
The Right Materials
A good desert home will likely be built differently than homes in the rest of the country. It starts with the materials. Wood is one of the most common materials elsewhere, but it’s often no good for the desert. Even the best wood will warp and distort in the intense sun and dry desert air, which is why it’s used so infrequently in Southwestern homes. Keep an eye out for a house that’s built from stone, adobe, or ICF concrete, which help keep indoor temperatures cool and can withstand the harsh environment. Also, your desert property should have windows that are treated and tinted to help keep out heat from the intense rays and minimize cooling costs. Try to invest in homes that already have window treatment to avoid a costly yet necessary expenditure.
Regulating temperature is more important in the desert than in most other environments. Things warm up very quickly. A lot of people in cities like Arizona rely on their AC units running around the clock to keep the heat at bay, but one need not run up the electricity bill to beat the heat. A well designed desert home should have high ceilings and ceiling fans to help circulate and keep heat out of rooms. Also, well positioned window fans can go a long way toward keeping temperatures manageable. A window fan should be faced outward during the hot afternoon to prevent warm air from being blown in while still creating a comfortable cross breeze. Good drapes and blinds further help prevent rooms from becoming overly warm even during the hottest days of summer. It’s also important to note that another feature of deserts is that despite their scorching afternoons, they become quite cold in the evening. Desert home owners may have it hot, but that doesn’t mean they can get rid of their warm blankets, rugs, or cozy slippers.
Possibly the most drastic change a homeowner will have to become accustomed to in the desert is shifting their perspective on what a yard should look like. Though a perfect and carefully manicured green grass lawn is certainly possible, it’s a highly challenging endeavor, and certainly not one that’s conducive for the environment. But that doesn’t mean the backyard still can’t be a comfy destination for the family and their friends alike. Desert landscaping is all the rage, and it offers a fresh take on the traditional American outdoor home space. Vegetation like desert sage, hop bush, and the many varieties of cacti are easy on the eyes, and don’t require much water or maintenance. Laying down deep gravel around the plants is not only cosmetically pleasing, but it helps them retain water. In place of a grass yard, try decorative gravel and rocks and create pathways with cobblestone or brick. A desert home is the perfect place for an outdoor patio for grilling and watching majestic sunsets, and large umbrellas and shade structures will help keep social areas cool. In areas not affected by severe droughts, a pool is the perfect luxury to turn a home into the neighborhood’s favorite desert oasis and a worthwhile investment for fun throughout the heat of summertime. At night, festive lights and fire pits are ideal for nightcaps and setting the mood at a party.
Working the Resources
One major advantage to Southwest homes is that they’re mostly all perfect candidates for solar paneling. With panels more affordable than ever, why not allow the intense afternoon sun to become a money maker? Solar panels can not only bring a power bill down to 0, in many areas municipalities will even pay homeowners for extra power that they pump back into the grid. They also raise a home’s property value making them an excellent long term investment. With many methods available for acquiring them from leasing to loans to purchasing outright, to Google’s excellent Sunroof program, now truly is one of the best times to go solar, and the Southwest is one of the best, most advantageous place to do it.
|Jesse Miller is a contributing writer for JustRentToOwn, a Los Angeles based blog that focuses on sustainable urban growth, housing markets, and finance.|