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New strategy targets Maricopa home market
By Jonathan J. Cooper

March 18, 2006

When Stephanie DiMaria was in the midst of her 18-year career in the semi-conductor industry 10 years ago, she hardly expected that today she’d be in the final stages of opening a real estate office in the once distant, dusty town of Maricopa.

But then again, she hardly expected to be thrust into her role as owner and broker of one of the area’s largest real estate offices, which happened when she took over for her husband after he unexpectedly passed away in 2002.

Now, she is expanding her Century 21 All Star real estate franchise which she and her husband purchased in 1996 and which her husband ran. Next week, DiMaria will open a second branch of the firm in the rapidly growing community of Maricopa, south of the Valley in Pinal County.

There, she says, DiMaria hopes to tap into a lucrative housing market by providing a “brand name” real estate agency to a community that is largely devoid of corporate home sellers.

Buyers and sellers benefit from big name Realtors because of national advertising and the well-trained, career real estate agents that they employ, she said.

The city of Maricopa was incorporated in 2003 and growth immediately exploded as young families and first-time homebuyers who had been priced out of Tempe and Chandler and began looking beyond the established Valley suburbs.

“You can get more house for your money out there,” DiMaria said. She also said the population is today around 15,000 residents, with 3,500 new home since incorporation.

“It literally just grew up overnight,” she said, adding that she expects it to grow as high as 400,000 over the next 20 years.

Rapid residential growth, however, can often outpace infrastructure development and retail growth. Maricopa is noticing some of that now, but is making strides to keep up, DiMaria said.

Water, for example, is provided by private companies.

“At this point, there’s been no issue with water, but I think as they grow with more people it would have to be a topic that they’ll have to eventually address,” she said, also noting that Pinal County has higher property taxes than Maricopa County.

With so many young families making the move to Maricopa, education is a key concern for many buyers in the region. The Maricopa schools are struggling to keep up with the growth, DiMaria said, particularly at the high school level.

The website for the Maricopa Unified School District notes three school construction projects already in the works, including one new elementary school and a junior high school scheduled to open this fall.

The Kyrene School District currently sends buses to Maricopa to pick up elementary and middle school students.

Karin Crider, Kyrene’s director of federal and community programs, said the district transports about 250 students from Maricopa to Lagos Elementary and Akimel A-al Middle schools.

Crider also said that most of those students moved to Maricopa from within the Kyrene boundary areas and did not want to change school districts. Arizona’s open enrollment law allows parents to enroll their children in any public school, regardless of boundaries, provided that school has the capacity to accept the student.

“As the community has grown we have seen more families who move to Maricopa choose to enroll their children in Kyrene schools,” Crider said.

“Many of these families were previous Kyrene community members who have moved to the community and wanted their children to remain in KSD schools.”

One former East Valley resident, recently married and pregnant with her first child, looks forward to raising that child in Maricopa.

“We were looking for a house here in the Tempe, Chandler area and it was significantly cheaper for us to move farther away,” said Amy Ahlstromer, a six-month Maricopa resident.

She said she enjoys living in Maricopa; that the area is quieter than the Valley, but she doesn’t feel isolated. New shops, restaurants and entertainment venues are slowly cropping up, with many more in the works, she added.

Still, it is semi-rural life. Not all the benefits of living in the city are easily accessible.

“It makes you think before you go anywhere,” Ahlstomer said. “You can’t just run to target if you need to.  Going to Target is an hour-long process minimum, because it’s a half-hour to Target, a half hour back, plus the time you spend there. So you just have to be thoughtful about what you do, make all your stops on your way home from work.”

Getting to and from work is itself an ordeal, Ahstromer added, calling the traffic into the Valley “horrible.” She spends at least an hour commuting to work in Tempe each morning, but most of the backup begins once she hits the Valley, usually around the I-10 and Ray Road. 

Ahlstromer would recommend a move to Maricopa if someone is “looking for a different pace, a different lifestyle.”

“If they’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle, then yes, I’d suggest moving out there,” she said.

DiMaria’s Maricopa office will open with 10 agents, a branch manager and an office staff. She eventually hopes the office will expand to 25 or 30 agents who will serve Casa Grande, Gila Bend, Stanfield and other area communities as the growth radiates further.

Beyond that, she hopes to eventually open an additional office or two in locations yet to be determined. She did, however, emphasize her intention to keep the comparative size of her franchise small, so she can continue to provide a strong, supportive atmosphere for the agents.

“I keep the office’s population small, because we have a closeness in our working relationship with each other,” DiMaria said.

“And I think that when you’re in real estate, when you’re in this business you can kind of be just a number amongst a lot of real estate agents, and its nice to be a part of an office where we all care about each other.”



























































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