The old adage of real estate is “Location, location, location,” but buying a new home in Scottsdale, AZ is not just about the four walls of a home – it’s also the neighborhood and community.
Home to a little more than 241,000 people, Scottsdale is known for its unique desert landscape, outdoor recreation, resorts and culture. Old Town Scottsdale – the city’s historic core – draws visitors each year to its pedestrian-friendly streets for its collection of restaurants, shops and galleries. If you’ve an avid golfer, foodie or someone who loves to explore the outdoors, Scottsdale might be the place for you to buy a new home.
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But why should you move to Scottsdale? The people who live and work there can tell you best. Livabl asked local business owners, experts and leaders about their thoughts on why you should move to Scottsdale and what the city has to offer.
Parts of the following interviews have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Mayor David D. Ortega, mayor of Scottsdale
Mayor David. D Ortega is the mayor of Scottsdale, and began his term in office in January 2021. An architect, Mayor Ortega has worked on many Old Town Scottsdale buildings and has served on a number of city, county and state commissions.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. As the mayor of Scottsdale, what do you personally enjoy about living in this city?
I came to Scottsdale with a degree in architecture (University of Arizona in Tucson) to apprentice for acclaimed architect, Bennie Gonzales, FAIA, who designed the award-winning Scottsdale City Hall, Library and Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts. I knew absolutely no one and met and married a Scottsdale-raised woman. We were blessed with two children as I established my architect business in Old Town Scottsdale. For more than 40 years, you could say, Scottsdale shaped me, and I shaped Scottsdale.
Do you have any favorite neighborhoods, buildings or landmarks in Scottsdale?
Park Scottsdale is our favorite neighborhood with nearby schools, churches, the walkable 11-mile-long Greenbelt and four grocery stores within a mile-and-a-half. Nearby, McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park is our favorite family-friendly spot and Old Town is just seven minutes away.
In your own words, why do you think someone would want to move to Scottsdale?
Scottsdale is a destination for a day trip, convention and vacation stay, or stay for the rest of your life. Daily, I encounter visitors from across the nation and from around the world who return or are here for the first time. Scottsdale will captivate you.
What elements of this city makes it an ideal place to live and work in your opinion?
Scottsdale has four attributes; Scottsdale is beautiful, Scottsdale is safe, Scottsdale is clean, and Scottsdale is about wellness – personal wellness, neighborhood wellness and business vitality. Twenty-two years ago, when I served as city councilman, I brought a new dog park at Chaparral Park along the Greenbelt. It is one of the best in the country because active and passive dogs are separated, so all can enjoy the fresh air and exercise. Dog-friendly restaurants and services are prevalent here.
If someone were to move to Scottsdale, what would you want them to understand about the city? What are some important need-to-knows? How would you describe Scottsdale to someone who was new in town?
I met a family of five at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, our 54-square-mile enclave, which is accessible by twelve trailheads. They are awestruck and told me they were looking to move here. I met a couple on a clear starry night in the Arts District. It was their first time in Arizona, and they were enchanted. Scottsdale draws visitors and new residents for many reasons. Scottsdale offers job opportunities, excellent healthcare – including the Mayo Clinic – mild winters, and sunny weather activities in our resort atmosphere.
Arizona is one of the fastest-growing states by population. Is this also having an effect on Scottsdale in terms of its economy, job opportunities and housing? How do you see the city evolving over time as more people move to the state?
Leading corporate executives have been visiting and residing in Scottsdale for many decades. Many are deciding to relocate their headquarters here. We are actively recruiting them in the “corporate” corridor with direct highway access and spectacular desert mountain panoramas. Nearby, Scottsdale Airport is the number one business jet single-runway airport with 195,000 operations a year and U.S. Customs service. Scottsdale is the touchpoint for corporate decisions, hosted at our 54 beautiful and challenging golf courses.
Photo: tim / Adobe Stock
What do you think is next for the City of Scottsdale? What do you think new residents can get excited about?
As mayor, within 90 days of taking office, I led the adoption of the Anti-Discrimination ordinance. It serves as a template for the city itself and for businesses to assure that you can be yourself in Scottsdale, have equal opportunities and be treated with dignity and respect. Scottsdale will continue to be an exceptional Sonoran Desert experience and premiere international destination, where our Western heritage is valued. We are a strong, vibrant, and resilient city with the highest bond rating and a $2.112 billion dollar budget.
Scottsdale has the expertise to grow our portfolio of world-renowned events such as the Barrett-Jackson World’s Greatest Collector Car Auctions, WM Phoenix Open PGA Tournament — actually held in Scottsdale; Scottsdale Canal Convergence; hosting San Francisco Giants Spring Training and the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show, and in 2023, the Super Bowl LVII ESPN broadcast in Scottsdale Old Town for 11 days — on the world stage.
In a metropolitan area of nearly five million, [and] with a population of 250,000, Scottsdale has, by design, maintained our identity and low-profile silhouette yet high profile reputation. I am honored to serve this spectacular city as full-time mayor using my architect expertise to grow our sustainable future.”
Steven Hensley, manager of advisory at Zonda
Photo: Kit Leong / Adobe Stock
As an advisory manager for Zonda, Steven Hensley is an expert in the Arizona housing market. Hensley provides consulting services and market analysis on several residential real estate types, including single- and multi-family homes.
What can you tell us about the City of Scottsdale?
The City of Scottsdale offers the perfect blend of converging lifestyles. The charming downtown area offers a mix of boutique local storefronts coupled with luxury living in the form of high-end retail and dining. While at the same time, you can also discover world class golf courses and picturesque hiking trails. This mix of offerings makes Scottsdale a great place for all walks of life and demographics.
Whether you are interested in a secluded lifestyle or a vibrant one, Scottsdale offers it all. Scottsdale’s rather centralized location is great for employment commutes and also various entertainment options throughout greater Phoenix. Additionally, Scottsdale features high-performing schools, which are perfect for young and growing families.”
Gerd Wuestemann, president and CEO of Scottsdale Arts
Gerd Wuestemann is the president and CEO of Scottsdale Arts, a nonprofit organization that manages arts and cultural projects for the City of Scottsdale. Scottsdale Arts also operates the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, the city’s public art program and outreach initiatives.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you, and what do you do?
I grew up in small-town Germany and got a guitar in my hands when I was five – it literally changed my life. I started touring at age 12, made vinyl records as a solo guitarist and with ’80s new wave bands (yup, bad hair and crazy outfits), and toured for much of my life.
I came to the United States on a Fulbright scholarship and it felt like I found home. After building an arts center in Louisiana for a decade, I became CEO of Scottsdale Arts in 2018. Scottsdale Arts is an independent nonprofit that provides artist services for the City of Scottsdale. It’s been a fabulous ride with awesome growth so far.
In your own words, why do you think someone would want to move to Scottsdale? What parts of this city makes it a good place to live and work in?
Scottsdale is pretty amazing – a mid-sized, well-managed city that is relatively easy to navigate, but part of one of the largest metro areas in the nation with all the amenities that brings. It is also a very attractive city in which you can still find space and breathing room; our dogs love it. Besides the beauty of the desert, our public art programs add to the urban experience, and our parks, greenbelt, McDowell Sonoran Preserve and canal system provide an incredible platform for outdoor activities. Plus, the weather is awesome. And yes, I’d include summers in that. Then again, my last name translates from German as ‘desert man,’ so I was made for this place.
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If someone were to move to Scottsdale, what would you want them to know about local arts talent, venues and events or attractions?
Art and culture are in Scottsdale’s DNA, and it shows. With a first-class, mid-sized hall at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and more than 200 diverse shows annually — plus outdoor festivals at the new Scottsdale Civic Center starting next year — everybody will find cool arts experiences here. Arts organizations large and small collaborate to provide everything from international stars to community theater. Our own Canal Convergence public art event in November is one of the nation’s finest free art celebrations, with more than 250,000 people annually.
How do you think visual and performing arts have evolved and grown in Scottsdale over time? How do venues such as the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Community Arts Grant Program have influenced the arts culture of Scottsdale?
The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) has been nationally recognized as a leader, focused on exploring where art is headed and often touching on difficult themes around diversity and inclusion. In that role, SMoCA has built a young, vibrant and strong following in the Valley and beyond.
Grantmaking to others has also become a cornerstone for Scottsdale Arts, a tool to build a stronger ecosystem and a better platform for local artists to thrive and build full careers. During the height of COVID-19, we were able to distribute $1.2 million in CARES funds to Scottsdale’s arts nonprofits. As a multidisciplinary organization, with our museum, performing arts center, 120-plus large public art installations, Canal Convergence and other large events, and programs for thousands of students in public schools, we can much more fully serve our full community.
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What do you think is next for the Scottsdale arts community? What do you think new or potential residents can look forward to when it comes to local arts and culture?
We are currently investing $40 million in a new set of indoor and outdoor venues with much more to come. After reopening the new Civic Center around the Super Bowl festivities next year, we will produce concerts, theater, community events, and festivals with these new outdoor venues. After that, we have three other projects lined up to start construction in spring of 2023. Long term, we are planning to build a massive addition to SMoCA — making it the most significant contemporary art museum between Los Angeles and Houston — and to build a state-of-the-art, 2,500-seat hall for bigger shows.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Scottsdale was thriving and was recognized as the place to have cool, new arts experiences in the West. In the 2020s and 2030s, we will redefine ourselves once again as a national leader in the arts.”
Elaine McGinn, chief experience officer at Desert Botanical Garden
Photo: desertsolitaire / Adobe Stock
Elaine McGinn started working at the Desert Botanical Garden in 1997 and is the chief experience officer. The Desert Botanical Garden, located on the Phoenix/Scottsdale border, welcomes over 450,000 visitors a year and is home to more than 50,000 plant displays across its 140 acres.
As chief experience officer, tell us a little more about what your job involves and what you do?
I oversee all of the visitor-facing teams, so that includes events. We have a lot of festivals, especially in the fall. We have food and music and art, so we really try to capture fun things for people to do. For instance, we have our annual Días de los Muertos festival, which is very popular. And these festivals go on for the weekend. We also do exhibits. Right now we have the Dale Chihuly exhibition. He’s a glass artist that’s very popular, and then we do smaller exhibitions as well with artists from Arizona or the southwest. We have two seasonal butterfly exhibitions, which are very popular.
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Why do people come to the garden, and what do they love about it?
Cactuses are very popular mostly because they’re unusual to many, especially to the tourists. We’re close to the airport, we’re close to major interstate highways, and it’s a lot of fun to watch people come and be amazed at how many cacti there are. When I first moved here, one of my first thoughts was to go to the [Desert] Botanical Garden. I literally had no idea there were that many cacti.
The work we do is not just for displaying cactus. We also do a lot of work in conservation and research, and we are an accredited museum, so our plants are a living collection. We try to find ways to appeal across generations. We have a cactus kids club, a nature-based area where children can run around and play. There’s certain activities for them to do, music they can make and climbing. They can build nests – we give them branches and natural materials to play with.
What do you think makes Scottsdale an interesting place to move to?
It’s wonderful. I moved here from the East Coast. I’d never been in the desert before and just fell in love with it right away. It’s sunny. It’s getting warm [now], so people talk a lot about the heat, but for the first part of the year, we have seven to eight months of incredible weather and sunshine, and a big sky.
We have a lot of activities and miles and miles of hiking. There’s a grange base that goes through the center of Scottsdale for bicycling and walking. People can be outside here. You can be out into the open space within 20 minutes from my house. I can be in the Tonto National Forest, and I’m an hour-and-a-half from Sedona, two hours from Flagstaff. If the heat gets too hot in July, we head up to Flagstaff where it’s a wonderful 70 degrees. There’s really something for everyone to do here. There’s fantastic shopping, and great restaurants. It’s really a very wonderful place to live, and it’s affordable.
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Can you describe some of the unique plants and landscape in Scottsdale?
The first thing you notice when you come to Scottsdale or southern Arizona is really the vegetation. We have Saguaros that are 15 to 20 feet tall and they only grow in the Sonoran Desert, so they’re unique and they’re iconic.
When I first moved here it felt a little bit like I just landed on the moon and everything seemed very new and strange, especially coming from the East Coast. Strange in that it was foreign to me. I didn’t know that the plants were; the landscape was rocky and the mountains are kind of craggy and rocky, but you’ve got this beautiful, big open sky that is the most blue sky I could imagine. When you get further out and up to the mountains it’s even more spectacular. It’s a magical place, the desert.
Kirk and Monica Nicodemus, co-founders of JoyridesAZ Scottsdale Tours
Co-founders of JoyridesAZ Scottsdale Tours Kirk and Monica Nicodemus have been operating their open-air vehicle tour service since 2013. Visitors to Old Scottsdale can take a ride through most of the area’s nine districts on one of the themed excursions offered by JoyridesAZ Scottsdale Tours, from the Margarita and Taco Tour to the Instagram and Mural trip.
Who are you, and what is JoyridesAZ Scottsdale Tours?
Kirk: We are a tour company based in Old Town Scottsdale. We’ve been doing this for about nine years. We’re a micro-business. It’s Monica and I. We offer a variety of tours. We have the Margarita Tour, Sip and Shop Tour. We have a Wine Tasting Tour, Native Art Tour, Western Immersion Tour. Most of it is centralized in the Old Town Scottsdale area.
Why did you start JoyridesAZ Scottsdale Tours?
Monica: We live here in Old Town Scottsdale, and we noticed that there were other transportation carts in the area, and we talked about offering something even more educational and elevated. So we ended up purchasing golf carts, started out giving rides, and noticed a lot of people were wanting to learn about the city. Because we live here, we wanted to share the reasons why we moved to Old Town Scottsdale. The restaurants, the galleries, the museums — all of the things that make it special down here. We wanted to be able to share that with our guests, and hopefully they would come back either with their families, friends or even their business.
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How do you build out and design your tours so people get a taste of Old Town Scottsdale?
Monica: So because we have so many great relationships with the businesses located in Old Town, we share the love. Say for instance we’re doing the wine tasting, we’re going to go to different wine tastings in different districts and share information, shout out the local businesses so that the folks are getting a better idea of what there is to offer in this area.
We could go from point A to point B to point C, but that’s why we’re different, is because we want to share a broader area of Old Town with folks so that once they are done with our tour, maybe they’ll venture off to Old Gypsy Boutique, maybe they’ll go up to the waterfront, maybe they’ll go into Porter Saloon and have a drink. It’s more of an educational tour and informational tour so that they’re more familiar with the area.
What makes Scottsdale a great place to live?
Monica: It’s beautiful here. It’s clean here. The weather is fantastic. The people are friendly. Ninety-seven percent of the business owners are micro-businesses, which means these are mom-and-pop [shops] or their kids are part-time employees.
Photo: John / Adobe Stock
What are some important needs-to-knows for anyone moving to Scottsdale?
Monica: Definitely the lifestyle. Where else can you go where you literally have millions of dollars worth of art on two blocks? The Arts District is fantastic. They have an art walk every Thursday from 7pm to 9pm. They invite the local artists out. There’s live music. The weather is fabulous. There’s restaurants, wine tasting rooms, gelato, every Thursday night. And then just alone with our fabulous restaurants, we have very casual restaurants to very top, high-end restaurants.
What are some must-see sites or landmarks of Scottsdale?
Kirk: It’s under construction now, but we have a three-and-half-acre city center park in the middle that has beautiful art. We have a rodeo museum, we have the Old Adobe Mission, we have the Historical Society Museum, all within historic Old Town Scottsdale. In the outer parts of Scottsdale, you have Taliesin West. The Sonoran Desert — it has more acres than we have built right here in Scottsdale.
Thinking of moving? Here’s what new homes you can buy in Scottsdale
One of the crucial steps on the journey to moving to Scottsdale will be buying a home that best fits your needs. For the homebuyer who prefers to purchase brand new, the City of Scottsdale is home to several different new construction projects. According to data from BuzzBuzzHome, there are currently 29 new home projects in Scottsdale across all stages of development.
If you’re thinking about making the move to Scottsdale, here are five new home communities you’ll find in the city.
Photo: Storyrock Capstone Collection by Taylor Morrison via BuzzBuzzHome
Location: 13127 East Sand Hills Road
Developer: Taylor Morrison
Size: 4,082 to 4,333 square feet
Prices: From $1,402,990 to over $1,419,990
Located in Dynamite Foothills, Taylor Morrison’s Storyrock Capstone Collection is under construction right next door to the McDowell Mountain Regional Park. These single-family homes feature one-storey layouts with up to seven bedrooms and four- to six-car garages. Future residents will also be a short drive from golf clubs, parks and the Four Seasons Resort.
Photo: Wildhorse Estates by Pulte Homes via BuzzBuzzHome
Location: 12339 North 93rd Way
Developer: Pulte Homes
Size: 3,142 to 4,767 square feet
Prices: From $1,414,990 to over $1,798,990
In Sweetwater Ranch Estates, Pulte Homes is currently building Wildhorse Estates, a 40-unit single-family gated community near N 94th Street and E Cactus Road in North Scottsdale. Residents will have access to a range of on-site amenities, including a playground, cornhole boards and outdoor seating around gas fire pits.
Photo: Scottsdale Heights by K. Hovnanian Homes via BuzzBuzzHome
Location: 7247 East Camino Rayo De Luz
Developer: K. Hovnanian Homes
Size: 2,090 to 2,294 square feet
Prices: From $835,990 to $868,990
Scottsdale Heights is a 55-plus community in the city’s Boulders community. Buyers can choose from four single-storey home designs with two- and three-bedroom options. Each residence is completed with stainless steel kitchen appliances, ceramic tile flooring and recessed lighting. Scottsdale Heights will be minutes from everyday conveniences like Target, Safeway and CVS.
Photo: Skye View by Camelot Homes via BuzzBuzzHome
Location: North Alma School Road and East Happy Valley Road
Developer: Camelot Homes
Size: 4,190 to 5,932 square feet
Prices: From $3,049,900 to over $3,549,900
This limited collection of 21 homes on half-acre lots by Camelot Homes is under construction in Troon Village. When complete, this gated community will bring future residents closer to golf courses, Pinnacle Peak Park and McDowell Mountain Regional Park. Homes in this collection feature four to six bedrooms with three- to five-car garages.
Photo: Reserve at Black Mountain by Toll Brothers via BuzzBuzzHome
Location: 8366 East Old Paint Trail
Developer: Toll Brothers
Size: 3,236 to 4,981 square feet
Prices: From $2,069,995 to over $2,386,995
The luxury homes at Reserve at Black Mountain feature award-winning design with a combination of modern, contemporary, prairie and mission-style architecture. Built on three-quarters of an acre, these homes deliver backyards with mountain views, a bonus room with a wine area and sliding doors for indoor-outdoor living spaces.