Scottsdale is one of the most beautiful suburbs in Arizona, and it’s a great spot to settle down in if you plan to make the Grand Canyon State your home. Locals refer to Scottsdale as “The West’s Most Western Town” even though their city is northeast of the Phoenix metro area. With plenty of open space, sunny desert landscapes, and a booming economy, Scottsdale retains much of its western spirit from its 1894 founding, though most residents now drive luxury cars and play golf rather than ride horses for work or wrangle cattle.
Home to over 230,000 people, Scottsdale has earned its reputation for low crime, excellent schools, and comfortable resort lifestyles. Though wedged between the Phoenix urban sprawl, the Salt River Native American Reservation, and the Tonto National Forest, the city still has plenty of room for newcomers.
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Living in Scottsdale, AZ: What to Know Before Moving to Scottsdale
Maybe you’ve vacationed at one of the resorts or browsed through shops in the historic downtown district. Or perhaps you’ve only seen Scottsdale on the map. Regardless, you should get to know “The West’s Most Western Town” a little better before you arrive as a resident.
Pros and Cons of Living in Scottsdale, AZ
Scottsdale is an ideal community for many reasons. It has excellent civic services, clean streets, and modern buildings surrounded by natural desert beauty.
Here are the top five reasons to move to Scottsdale:
- Sun in Winter – The mild temperatures in the winter attract many visitors and new residents.
- Low Crime Rates – It’s one of the safest large communities in Arizona.
- Great Schools – The public education system receives plenty of support and funding.
- Lots of Entertainment – Nightlife, restaurants, day spas, and shopping keep you busy.
- Outdoor Activities – Make good use of the excellent weather for golfing, hiking, and boating.
Of course, it’s not all desert roses and honeybees. Scottsdale has a few drawbacks you should be prepared to face.
Here are the top five drawbacks you may want to prepare for:
- Intense Summers – A/C is a must. The heat can lead to dehydration and fatigue.
- Tourist Traffic – The snow birders arrive bringing tourist dollars but also traffic and frustration.
- Spend! Spend! Spend! – The local consumerist economy applies constant pressure to buy.
- Housing Prices – Once a fantastic value, home prices are skyrocketing.
- The Sprawl – It’s tough to get anywhere without a personal vehicle.
Don’t become discouraged. Scottsdale has a growing population because those acclimated to Arizona life see the value. You can adjust and start enjoying this amazing community too.
Arizona residents pay a combination of income, sales, and property taxes to fund state and local governments. Compared to other states, the tax rates are about average. If you move from a high tax region like California or New York, it may even seem like you’re saving a little money.
- Income tax: The top marginal rate for the state’s progressive income tax structure is 4.54%, but the median rate income earners pay is 4.24%. This tax strategy reduces pressure on top earners, which draws in more wealthy residents and business owners to spur economic activity.
- Sales tax: The state’s sales tax is 5.6%, but Maricopa County and the City of Scottsdale each impose additional sales taxes. Expect to pay a combined 8.05% tax on purchases made within the city.
- Property tax: Depends on your location and the characteristics of the property. The typical homeowner pays a rate of 0.802%, which is lower than the national average. Though the rate is low, expect to write a sizeable check due to rapidly increasing property values.
More permanent residents rent their homes than own. Scottsdale has plenty of single-family dwellings available, but condos and townhouses are more popular. No one wants to water a yard or mow the lawn in the summer.
Residents must also compete with vacation property purchases. As Scottsdale attracts more temporary inhabitants, the cost of housing increases. The median home price is $481,200. You can rent a typical two-bedroom apartment for about $1400.
Cost of Living
Once regarded as an outstanding value, the cost of living in Scottsdale has gone up dramatically with the boom in housing prices. It’s now about 50% more expensive to live in the city compared to the United States average.
While most of that expense goes to housing, you must also budget for transportation. Public transit is available, but not widespread enough to be practical. You really should own a vehicle. Expect to drive longer distances and purchase more fuel to run your daily errands.
The median income for the area is $72,000. A family of four moving to Scottsdale should have a household income of at least $91,000. If you’re single and willing to share an apartment, you may be able to get by with only $38,000.
Weather and Natural Disasters
Like the rest of the Phoenix area, Scottsdale has a hot arid climate. On average, residents enjoy 299 days of sun and only experience about 10 inches of rainfall yearly. Sunblock, extra water, and big floppy cowboy hats are the essentials everyone keeps handy.
Famously, summer temperatures reached 122 degrees Fahrenheit in June of 1990. More typically though, summer temperatures only peak at about 105 degrees. The heat remains constant and becomes slightly more bearable in the evenings. The good news is that the heat is dry so you won’t have to face daunting humidity.
During the winter, the daytime temperatures might hover in the 70-degree range, but it does get cold at night. Lows dip into the 40s, and freezing temps of 19 degrees do occur on rare occasion. Regardless, snow in Scottsdale is rare, although snow flurries surprised residents in February 2019.
When stormy skies do form overhead, residents experience dramatic lighting, thunder, and torrential downpours in the forms of rain and hailstones. Lighting strikes ignite dry brush, causing fires, and the parched ground does little to absorb rain contributing to flash flooding hazards. Wind storms can be a serious hazard, especially for drivers. Keep an ear on your weather app when weather approaches.
Economy and Job Market
In 2018, Arizona’s GDP ranked fourth in the nation for growth supported by manufacturing, construction, and real estate transactions. In early 2019, the unemployment rate was only 3.2%, and incomes are on the rise.
Many Scottsdale residents commute to jobs in other parts of the Phoenix metro area, but locals find work in tourism, hospitality, and retail. Country clubs, golf courses, spas, resorts, and hotels cater to residents and visitors and provide many employment opportunities.
Scottsdale also has a strong healthcare industry, and its airport supports jobs in travel and general aviation. General Dynamics is the largest manufacturing and technology company in the area, and Healthcare professionals might find jobs with the Mayo Clinic.
Traffic and Transportation
Arizona roads and highways wrap themselves in pretzel loops around Phoenix. Arizona state highway 101 runs north to south through Scottsdale before cutting west and then south again to connect back with Interstate 10.
Highway 202 heads eastward before looping around the other major Phoenix suburbs of Mesa, Gilbert, and Chandler. When you’re tired of urban driving, you can head into mountains on highway 87 to enjoy time in some of the wilderness areas.
Traffic is typical for a large city, but commute times remain slightly lower than the national average. Most residents spend about 22 minutes in their cars per trip. Public transportation is available, but sparse. The Valley Metro bus and rail system can give you a ride if it happens to operate in your area.
While there are plenty of walking trails and sidewalks, the distances between locations can be long. Also, the heat tends to discourage walking during much of the year. To help, Scottsdale provides a fare-free trolley to transport residents between popular shopping centers throughout the city.
The Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is just to the west, but Scottsdale also has a separate airport supporting general aviation and regional travel. You may charter a flight or take advantage of aviation services.
What to Do
With so many days of sunny weather, it’s hard to stay indoors. Scottsdale has lots of outdoor recreation opportunities to lure you out into the open. Pinnacle Peak Park is a 3.5-mile round trip hiking trail featuring favorite rock-climbing spots. The McDowell Soren Reserve is a nature area with trails for hiking or horseback riding.
You should also learn to golf. It’s the thing to do in Scottsdale. With over 200 courses nearby, it’s practically impossible to avoid the sport. Take lessons or practice on the smaller local clubs before trying out your skills at the more challenging courses where the professionals play.
Shopping centers, resorts, and malls litter the map. You can find every major retail chain represented and specialty boutique shops are sprinkled in for good measure. Old Town Scottsdale has the best nightlife and restaurants in the city, and it’s a popular tourist destination as well.
Scottsdale also has unique museums and attractions that bring visitors into town. The Phoenix Zoo is just to the southeast, and the OdySea Aquarium and butterfly exhibit are in the north. Scottsdale’s Western Museum, the Railroad Park, and the Museum of Musical Instruments appeal to the curious.
If you’re a sports lover, Arizona has several professional teams, though you’ll have to leave Scottsdale to watch most of them. Major League Baseball’s Diamondbacks and Rockies both stay in Scottsdale for spring training. The Arizona Rattlers, an indoor football team, play just a few miles away in Mesa.
Schools and Universities
The Scottsdale Unified School District is responsible for educating most of the students in the area. The district boundaries extend to Paradise Valley and parts of Mesa. It has an excellent reputation, and most families are satisfied with the services. Niche.com assigns an overall B+ grade to Scottsdale Unified School District.
The district spends an average of $10,500 per student and assigns 19 students per teacher. High school graduation rates are at 91%, which is much higher than the national average. Student average SAT scores are 1250, and average ACT scores are 28, with many graduates going on to universities in Arizona.
Scottsdale hosts a few colleges and university campuses, but most students, educators, and employees commute to the Arizona State University in Tempe or Downtown Phoenix. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has a facility close by as does Grand Canyon University. For those not yet ready for a university curriculum, Scottdale Community College and Paradise Valley Community College offer transfer credits.
As a border state, Arizona’s law enforcement must continuously confront the fallout of national immigration policy controversies, but drug and human trafficking problems don’t seem to impact Scottsdale much. Scottsdale’s crime rate is lower than the nation’s and the state’s; the area has a reputation for security.
Most crimes are property related, like theft or vandalism. In 2017, researchers estimate 22 out of 1000 residents were victims. For violent crimes, like assault, the rate drops to 1.5 per 1000 residents. The violent crime rate is only one-third the rate of the national average.
The City of Scottsdale handles the water, sewer, trash, and recycling services. Expect high water prices in the desert and be prepared to learn new conservation habits. You can establish services through the online tool on the city’s website.
Two electrical utilities provide power for residents. Most depend on the Arizona Public Service (APS) Electric Company, but a few get power from the regional Salt River Project (SRP), a local hydroelectric provider. Contact APS online first to start your service. If you happen to be in SRP’s coverage area, you should call the utility and speak with a customer service representative.
If your home has natural gas service, Southwest Gas is the provider. Use the utility’s online tool to check for coverage, report gas leaks, and pay your bill.
Cox and Century Link are the two largest highspeed internet and entertainment service providers. They frequently offer bundled deals which may save you some money. You can also find most major wireless providers represented in the area.
Best Neighborhoods in Scottsdale
Even if you tried your hardest to pick a bad neighborhood in Scottsdale, you couldn’t, but these eight are particularly desirable areas to call home. Check them out.
Do you love luxury and convenience? Downtown is for you. This area has the largest concentration of million-dollar condos and premier shopping in the city. The Arizona Canal cuts right through the middle of Downtown, and landscapers maintain the banks with beautiful garden walkways, fountains, and artwork.
For nightlife, the famous Old Town district is a short walk to the south. You’ll find more entertainment, dining, and shopping at the Fashion District and Civic Center Mall to the north. The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and Historical Museum are both close by.
Parks, schools, and healthcare facilities make this a good place for families, but the housing costs are extreme. Units on the affordable end of the market do not offer much in the way of space.
- Median Income – $54,000
- Entry Level Home Price – $330,000 to start condo living Downtown.
- Rental Rates – $2300 for a two-bedroom condo or apartment.
- Employers – Retail and customer service jobs at the Fashion Square and Waterfront shopping centers, Scottsdale Unified School District, HonorHealth Scottsdale Osborn Medical Center
- Schools – Hohokam Elementary School, Navajo Elementary School, Coronado High School, Scottsdale Community College
Something to Try: Stroll along footpaths through El Dorado Park and go fishing at of the annually stocked ponds just south of Old Town.
This high-end suburb is full of public parks, shopping centers, restaurants, and recreational opportunities. Spacious single-family homes dominate the carefully planned residential zones, but condos, townhouses, and apartments are available for rent.
The Scottsdale Airport is in the southwestern corner of this district surrounded by Scottsdale’s industrial businesses. Manufacturing and construction trades support the local economy. If you can’t find work close to home, Highway 101 takes you to employers in other parts of the Phoenix area.
Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous architect and designer, established Taliesin West in this neighborhood to study and promote the natural beauty of the Arizona desert. Now managed by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, this school of architecture still influences the entire region’s aesthetic.
- Median Income – $103,782
- Median Home Price – $530,000
- Rental Rates – Two-bedroom apartments start at $1200
- Employers – Costco, Walmart, The Scottsdale Airport, Anacala Country Club
- Schools – Desert Canyon Elementary, Copper Ridge School, Redfield Elementary, North Central University
Something to Try: Get to know the flora, fauna, and natural terrain at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Gateway Trailhead.
Find this community to the north of the downtown area along Highway 101. A little older than developments on the farther edges of the city, this neighborhood has pleasant, yet moderately priced homes suitable for families. Even so, it’s still possible to spend over a million dollars on housing.
Waterways, greenspaces, and golf courses mingle among the homes in the neighborhood. The McCormick Ranch golf club acts as the de facto civic center with many local amateur golfers gathering to socialize and play their favorite sport.
McCormick Ranch also has convenient access to local shops, healthcare, and good schools. Unlike much of Scottsdale, you can find most of what you need close enough to home to avoid venturing far to run errands.
- Median Income – $81,000
- Home Prices – Modest three-bedroom homes start just under $400,000
- Rental Rates – Two-bedroom apartments start in the $1350 range.
- Employers – McCormick Ranch Golf Club, shops at the Scottsdale Fiesta Shopping Center and Mountain View Plaza, Honor Health Scottsdale Shea Medical Center
- Schools – Cochise Elementary, Brighton College
Something to Try: Catch the Major League Baseball spring training practice for the Arizona Diamond Backs and Colorado Rockies at the Salt River Fields.
While a separate community, Paradise Valley is so tightly integrated with the rest of Scottdale that the distinctions between the two are easy to overlook. This affluent neighborhood has the best golf and resorts in the area. The entire local economy focuses on the tourism generated by these area draws.
Housing is costly here. Often large mansions and expensive luxury condos belong to part-time residents who only frequent the area in winter. Vacation properties are also common. Living in Paradise Valley costs about five times more than in the rest of the United States, though a few affordable apartments do exist.
While amazing for retirees and tourists who can afford the Paradise Valley lifestyle, families might struggle here, and high housing costs are only one issue. Schools are some distance away, and all that fancy shopping and dining does little to satisfy the basic grocery needs of most households.
- Median Income – $170,000
- Median Home Price – $1,300,000 for a luxury condo or townhouse
- Rental Rates – $2000 for a modest apartment
- Employers – Camelback Country Club, Paradise Valley Country Club, Omni Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Montelucia, JW Marriot Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort and Spa
- Schools – Camelback High School, Paradise Valley Community College
Something to Try: Hike to the top of the Piestewa Peak and enjoy the beautiful desert views.
This district is at the very northern end of Scottsdale’s city limits and faces toward the Arizona wilderness. Though somewhat removed from the greater Phoenix area, the open spaces allow for bigger homes and more distance between neighbors.
Pinnacle Peak gets its name from the main geographic feature at the southernmost edge of the neighborhood. This hiking trail is popular with rock climbers, and those who scramble to the top enjoy the desert scenes of the sweeping surrounding area.
Though Highway 101 clips the southern edge of the neighborhood, this area is best for the self-reliant or those who don’t mind longer commutes. Drive north or to the east to enjoy convenient access to more outdoor recreation spots.
- Median Income – $130,000
- Median Home Price – $750,000
- Rental Rates – $2500 for a single-family home
- Employers – Four large golf clubs, local retailers, and restaurants
- Schools – Desert Sun Elementary, Lone Mountain Elementary, Foothills Academy, Bella Vista College Preparatory
Something to Try: Drive half an hour to the Bartlett Lake reservoir and rent a powerboat at the marina for water skiing.
The Gainey Ranch Golf Club is the central feature of this small neighborhood. Residential streets meander around the fairways, and many of the condos and townhouses overlook the manicured green spaces. Members of the club enjoy access to three separate nine-hole championship courses.
A pair of resorts, shopping centers, and the Scottsdale Rotary Park balance out the offerings of this smaller district. What sets it apart is the financial and business center only a few blocks away from the club, where banks, mortgage lenders, and advisors employ local professionals.
While there are some single-family homes, condos and apartments dominate within the Gainey Ranch gated community. The area is close enough to Highway 101 and public schools to make it suitable for commuting and families with children.
- Median Income – $79,000
- Entry Level Home Price – Small townhouses starting under $300,000
- Rental Rates – Condos are in the $2000 range
- Employers – Financial service providers at the Gainey Ranch Corporate Center, the Gainey Ranch Golf Club, Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch
- Schools – Chaparral High School, Cochise Elementary, Merit Business School
Something to Try: Participate in a club hosted tournament and compete against your neighbors on the golf course.
Do you like to swim? Just about everyone has a swimming pool here. If you move to Grayhawk, you’ll likely have one too, or at the very least live in an apartment community with access to a pool. Cooling off in the backyard on hot summer days is the cultural norm.
This small neighborhood is north of Highway 101 where the road bends to the west. It’s convenient to travel to jobs in either western or southern directions making this an excellent choice for families with two working parents.
Grayhawk has two major shopping centers, and like all of Scottsdale, there’s plenty of golf to go around. Thompson Peak Park, in the center of the neighborhood, offers public green space and recreation facilities. Walking trails connect to Grayhawk Park near the elementary school.
- Median Income – $120,000 per year
- Median Home Price – $670,000 for a large single-family home
- Rental Rates – Two-bedroom apartments start at $1400
- Employers – The Scottsdale Grayhawk Center, HonorHealth Scottsdale Thompson Peak Medical, Grayhawk Golf Club
- Schools – Grayhawk Elementary, Copper Ridge School
Something to Try: Take a short trip a few miles to the west and visit the Musical Instrument Museum
The Kierland Commons is a large shopping center next to the Scottsdale Airport. After you land and park your private jet, cruise a few blocks west to find this district. If you’ll be driving to Kierland, start in the middle of downtown, and head north on North Scottsdale Road.
Kierland Boulevard wraps around the commercial zone and connects with the surrounding residential streets. Housing is reasonable in this area. Many who work in the trades near the industrial regions of the airport have homes in this neighborhood.
Tourists fly in from all over the country and frequently pass through Kierland. Retail businesses and restaurants capture some of their business, and the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa anchors the local economy while also serving as a gathering place for events.
- Median Income – $91,000
- Median Home Price – $420,000
- Rental Rates – $1400
- Employers – Retailers, restaurants, and services providers at the Kierland Commons, aviation services at the Scottsdale Airport, Westin Kierland Golf Club, General Dynamics
- Schools – Sandpiper Elementary
Something to Try: Attend a daily golf clinic at the Westin Kierland Club to improve your game.
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