When people think of a “big city” in the state of Arizona, the names of “Scottsdale” and “Phoenix” come up easily, even for non-residents of the state.

Well, there’s actually a third giant in their midst and its name is Mesa, AZ. Mesa can be found less than 40 kilometers from the bustling Phoenix metropole and is a close neighbor of the town of Gilbert. With a healthy population of 400,000+ as of last official census, Mesa is included in the top fifty largest cities in the whole United States.

The city of Mesa has been synonymous with the well-known Arizona State University (ASU).

The territory that is now called Mesa is also notable for being the homestead of an ancient people called the Hohokams who were able to build deep canals that fed water to the Sonoran Desert, making it possible for people to thrive in agricultural endeavors even with the obvious limitations of being in a very dry environment. These ancient canal systems have thankfully been preserved and are considered cultural markers not only in Mesa, but the whole state of Arizona.

Things to Do in Mesa

Visiting a new city without any idea as to what to expect can sap the fun out of your trip. Here are some basic ideas to get you started:

#1, Arts & Sciences – If you’re coming in with your kids, there’s no reason for you not to visit the Arizona Museum of Natural History. Though not ‘one of a kind’ in the strictest sense of the word, it’s always a fascinating experience to view special attractions and exhibits such as prehistoric flyers (flying dinosaur exhibit).

The newly opened Mesa Grande Cultural Park is also open to individual visitors and groups and they’re open from Wednesday to Sunday. As of this writing the admission fee is $5 for adults and $2 for the kids – there’s one more reason to pay them a visit!

Now, if your kids are more interested in creativity and the arts and they want to learn in a fun and interactive environment, your next destination would be i.d.e.a. Museum (formerly the Arizona Museum for the Youth). This place features multiple exhibits and interactive areas such as the Hub and Artville. Kids will be able to create music and sound with their body movements, perform creative art activities and so much more.

#2, Sports & General Recreation – Mesa boasts one of the most complete collections of sports facilities in the state. There are multiple sports complexes for baseball, softball and soccer around the city. There are also programs for volleyball, kickball and senior softball so everyone can get in on the fun. If you’re a fan of swimming, Mesa has public swimming facilities too and just like any other city, you can sign up for swimming lessons any time of the year.

Living in Mesa 

If Mesa sounds like your kind of city and you’re interested in living here, it’s best to familiarize yourself with Mesa real estate conditions first so you can make an informed decision when it’s time to buy a property. Fortunately, every kind of buyer is welcome in Mesa because of the great mix of house prices as of this writing.

The price spectrum is much wider and can accommodate those with a budget of less than $100,000. The really economical properties (less than $90,000-$120,000) are often condo-type units with a floor space of 700-950 square feet.

While it’s possible to find larger condo-type units, this is the average size. With this budget, it’s possible to find a new home with 1-2 small bedrooms (and the occasional ¾ bathroom) plus 2-3 small bathrooms. Some communities have covered parking and a heated swimming pool (such as the community along E. Hampton Avenue). As long as you don’t mind smaller rooms and a plain faux wood interior, you should be comfortable living in a smaller condo unit.

Moving up a notch are homes that fetch at least $160,000 in the market. These Mesa homes have a floor space of at least 1,100 square feet and lot sizes can reach up to 3,500 square feet. Land value tends to increase with standalone private properties. In contrast, the land value of an average condo unit is $95 per square foot while the land value of a $160,000 house in Mesa can reach up $153/sq. ft. Expect to have at least two large bedrooms, a minimum of two bathrooms and a nice, spacious kitchen.

If you have a growing family and can afford a house that’s worth at least $800,000, you can rest easy in a new house with four bedrooms, four bathrooms, granite counters and complete amenities in the kitchen and throughout the house. Homes that fetch this much cash are quite complete and you will no longer worry about purchasing or bringing in a large number of furniture and appliances. Of course, it would still be a good idea to look at the property very closely before closing the sale.

Big Fat Tip: If you are a first time home buyer, let your needs be your personal guideposts in finding the right home. Every home has particular characteristics that respond to individual needs of buyers. For example, if you do a lot of work at home then your new should ideally have a separate office or at the very least, a quiet study where you can move in your hardware and do your work in peace.

You should also strive to conserve your budget especially if you’re planning to buy an ultra-affordable property. The homes with the lowest prices are the ones that usually require the most improvement. Home improvements will of course cost you money. It would be difficult for a new home owner to budget his/her money when a large percentage of it has already been diverted to pay for the house. Be sure to have lots of surplus funds so you easily handle “surprise expenses” associated with buying and moving in to a new city and a new house.

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