Matt and Sarah Long brought their pop-up camper and plenty of supplies to buy a new house in Mesa on Saturday.
The couple’s new three-car garage will likely be big enough for their camper, but that’s not why they hauled it with them to purchase a house in a development called Mulberry. The Longs and more than a dozen other people camped out for days to get one of the first of 30 houses in the new community, near Signal Butte and Baseline roads.
Camping out to buy a new house is a phenomenon endemic to booming Sun Belt areas such as Phoenix and Las Vegas. Buyers wanting to get the first and best lots before prices rise in well-located Arizona developments have been lining up and sometimes camping out for decades.
The trend started in Arizona during the early 1960s, when people waited in lines overnight to get a house in John F. Long’s Maryvale development and Del Webb’s first Sun City.
But it has been several years since people have camped out to buy new houses in metro Phoenix because of the housing market crash and stalled homebuilding recovery. In January, more than 250 people lined up in Buckeye to buy a house in Victory at Verrado.
Some housing-market watchers say the line of campers at Blandford Homes’ Mulberry community is another sign demand for new homes is finally rebounding.
“How great for the housing market to see folks willing to camp out to buy new Valley homes again,” Arizona housing analyst Greg Burger of RL Brown Reports said .
Jim Belfiore, a new home analyst in metro Phoenix, calls the line of buyers willing to stay overnight at Mulberry “big” for the area’s homebuilding market. He recently tracked a 12-percent increase in new home orders across the region.
Getting homebuyers to line up is a clever marketing move for homebuilders because it draws more buyers.
Matt Long told me he and his wife, who have two daughters, have wanted to buy a 2,000-square-foot house in Mulberry for more than six months. They were attracted to the development after seeing a sign that listed prices starting in the low $200,000s. The median price of a new Valley house is $300,000.
“Our sales guy told us it would be first-come, first-serve to buy a lot in Mulberry,” Long said. “Then earlier this week, we heard another buyer was going to camp out Thursday and Friday. We decided pack up our camper and get in line Tuesday.”
The Longs had three people in front of them, and two wanted the same house.
Homebuilder Blandford has had buyers camp out to purchase in its communities before. This time around once the line formed, Blandford employees began offering meals and even tents for those potential buyers who didn’t bring them and were sleeping in their cars.
A few other big housing communities are about to open in metro Phoenix. Sales at Mulberry and those other developments spanning from north Scottsdale to Buckeye are key indicators whether the Valley’s homebuilding recovery is back on.
People camping out for those homes is a pretty good sign that it is.