Scottsdale, Arizona is a 180-square mile city of 250K residents, bordering the east side of Phoenix.
Over the last 125 years, man has engineered this area of the Sonoran Desert into a town now known for its luxury resorts, luxury homes, and luxury golf courses.
Overall, Scottsdale is ranked the second-best suburb to live in Arizona, behind only Cataline Foothills. And the city has been ranked the number one city to retire to in America.
In the following, we will describe all of the things that make Scottsdale so great, as well as a few things that may make you think twice about living there.
The Benefits of Living in Scottsdale – Pros
1. Perfect Weather for Half of the Year
There is one main reason people flock to a desert — to avoid any hint of a winter season. Scottsdale has some of the best weather in America from November through March with an average high of a perfect 72 degrees. If you like things a little warmer the 85 degrees average of April and October may also be nice for you.
Being a desert, there is hardly any rain in Scottsdale. The city gets only 11 inches of rain per year, compared to the US average of 38 inches. It receives some form of rain on just 3 days of each month, giving the city 299 sunny days each year.
Scottsdale’s desert location provides gorgeous weather for half of the year; we’ll talk about the other half of the year in Con #11 (spoiler: it gets ridiculously hot).
2. Luxury Living
Scottsdale attracts tourists with its luxury accommodations. The City has one of the highest number of AAA Five-Diamond hotels and resorts of any city in the country. The city is also home to a AAA Four-Diamond restaurant.
The city’s residents enjoy many of the same luxuries as the tourists. Scottsdale has ranked in the top five cities in the country for luxury homes. At any time there are over 700 luxury homes up for sale. One of these glorious homes can be yours … for a few million dollars.
3. A Short Drive to Phoenix Jobs
The City of Scottsdale borders the eastside of the City of Phoenix. They are so closely integrated with each other that it is sometimes difficult to know where one city ends and the other begins. This puts Scottsdale residents very close to all of the jobs available in the Greater Pheonix area. Over the last decade, 86% of jobs created in Arizona have been in the Greater Pheonix area.
The average commute for a Scottsdale resident is 22 minutes each way which is slightly better than the national average of 26 minutes.
Consistent with the Luxury Living discussed in Pro #2, the average income of a Scottsdale resident is $51K per year, nearly double the national average of $28K. The median household income is $72K per year versus the US average of $53K.
4. A Few Hours Away From Some Great Destinations
Scottsdale is in a great location with several major destinations just a car drive away. Traveling south will take you over the border with Mexico and in 4 hours you can be on the waters of the Gulf of California. A 5-hour drive West can lead you to LA or San Diego. Las Vegas is 5-hours away to the north, and the Grand Canyon is about 3 hours away.
If you are looking to get away a little further, downtown Scottsdale is just 15 miles away from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
5. There Are Beaches in the Desert
Scottsdale may be in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, but that doesn’t mean residents can’t enjoy some water sports. City developers have brought the beach to the desert by creating “sand pools” — imagine a nice pool surrounded by sand that has been transported in. There is also an artificial surfing pool and an 11-acre wave pool.
Folks looking to experience natural water can take a kayak or tubing ride down the Lower Salt River. An hour’s drive away there is also Bartlett Lake. This 2,000-acre lake provides plenty of boating fun, as well as multiple swimming coves.
6. The Best Desert Golf
The City of Scottsdale has built more than 300 golf courses since the 1960s. It has become a major destination for serious golfers and the city’s golf vacations are considered some of the best in the world. Six of the city’s courses made the Golf Magazine Top 100 list, by far the most in any one city. Some would argue this makes Scottsdale America’s golf capital.
Related: Living in Green Valley, Arizona
7. Top Rated Schools
The City of Scottsdale has 31 public schools and nearly all receive top honors in state testing. Overall, the city’s schools are in the Top 10% of public schools in America. Its student math and reading proficiency levels are well above national averages.
This is interesting considering Arizona continues to rank nearly dead last in America for spending per pupil. Perhaps Scottsdale’s success is due to the more affluent status of the city (Pro #2) or the high education of the parents.
According to Census figures, Scottsdale has highly educated residents with 97% having a high school degree and 83% having some form of a college education.
8. Top Rated Hospitals
The Phoenix area has two “5-star” hospitals in its area; HonorHealth in Scottsdale and the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. The Mayo Clinic is ranked the number one hospital in Arizona, ranked 16th in the country, and ranked highly on 11 different medical specialties. To meet increased demand, the Mayo Clinic is undergoing a large construction effort to double its size by 2029.
Scottsdale has also been rated in the Top 10% of American cities for Healthiness. It is attracting visitors who see the city as one of the top places to rest and recharge. The city is home to several luxury spas, natural wellness clinics, and much more. If you ever wanted to do some yoga while watching the sunrise over a desert, Scottsdale is the place for you to go.
Related: Top Arizona Cities to Retire To
9. An Awesome Nightlife
Scottsdale is branding itself as a luxury party destination for travelers and Phoenix-area residents, hoping to compete with the likes of South Beach, Las Vegas, and Palm Springs. The Old Town (a.k.a. Downtown) area is “home to more than 100 of the city’s best restaurants, craft cocktail bars, swanky lounges, and high-energy nightclubs. You’ll even find a high-tech bowling alley and chic pool parties where the locals go to see and be seen.” Words often used to describe the Old Town nightlife are “energetic, lively, touristy, fun, hip, and fresh”.
10. Reasonable Property Taxes
Arizona has one of the lowest property tax rates in the country at 0.60%. Folks from high-cost states like NY, CA, and NJ are making the move south in search of lower housing costs and lower taxes.
Here is a comparison of Scottsdale property taxes versus other major locations
|City||Tax Rate||Median Home Price||Total Tax|
The above shows property taxes in major cities are 2-3 times that of Scottsdale.
The Downsides of Living in Scottsdale – Cons
11. It’s Super Hot for the Half of the Year
In Pro #1, we bragged about the perfect weather Scottsdale experiences from October to April. But now we need to discuss the other six months of the year in a desert. It can get really, really hot. The average high temperature for May through September is a whopping 101 degrees. It is not unusual for temps to hang around 110 degrees for much of the summer. That is a fry-your-brain heatstroke kind of hot.
12. Arizona is in a Record Drought
Receiving 299 sunny days and just 11 inches of rain is great for your hiking adventures, but not so great for human survival. The last year was the driest in the 126 years of Arizona record-keeping. Scientists believe the state has been in a record drought for the last 1200 years.
Scottsdale’s primary source of drinking water is the Colorado River. Unfortunately, this is the same river system that is used to irrigate 5 million acres of farmland and supplies the water for 40 million people across seven western states, including major cities from San Diego to Las Vegas to Denver.
Due to climate changes and increased human demands, the water supply within the Colorado River has shrunk by 20%. The giant reservoir lakes like Lake Mead and Lake Powell are at their lowest levels ever.
Folks that move to Arizona retirement locations need to understand that the state has very little water that is under its complete control; The desert has very little water to offer its own residents. This makes the state highly dependent on decisions made in states upstream of the Colorado River.
Related: Living in Yuma, Arizona
13. Housing Prices
Given how many times we used the word “luxury” in the Benefits descriptions, it should come as no surprise that these luxuries are not going to come cheap. The average home price of Scottsdale is $469K, more than double the US average of $245K.
However, keep in mind that the most desirable locations in Scottsdale are going to have prices well above average. There are plenty of houses on the market in the $3 million range. Some of the new luxury apartments are being rented at $4,000 per month, which is very similar to the rent in the best parts of NYC. This has led some to called Scottsdale the “Manhattan of the desert”.
14. The Annual Flood of Snowbirds
An estimated 300K people fly into the Greater Phoenix area to avoid the winter months of the North; a group of folks, mostly retired, affectionately called “Snowbirds”.
Many of these folks are headed to the golf courses and resorts of Scottsdale. Reminder, Scottsdale has a resident population of 250K. So the surge of snowbirds causes a noticeable increase in the population of the city.
While the town and businesses absolutely love the estimated $1 billion in spending produced by snowbirds, the local residents start to lose patience with this large and often slowing-moving crowd. For those six months with gorgeous weather, the town’s roads, restaurants, shops, and attractions become congested by folks who have no problem driving 35mph in the left lane and sitting in a restaurant booth for four hours.
15. Lack of Public Transportation
Scottsdale has limited public bus options; there aren’t many routes and the buses can be far apart. The residents, especially in the north of town, are not big fans of proposals to bring in light rail and more buses.
Besides, have you ever tried standing outside for a bus in 115-degree heat? Most who try barely live to tell the cautionary tale to others.
Bottom line: You will need a car, with working air conditioning, if you live in Scottsdale.
16. Lack of Diversity
The City of Scottsdale population is 80% non-Hispanic white; that is well above the neighboring cities:
- Phoenix 42%
- Tempe 56%
- Mesa 61%
From a political perspective, the city is a well-balanced 50/50 split between Democrats and Republicans.
17. Major Dust Storms
This shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for anyone but it is worth a note of caution. A few times a year the Phoenix area gets hammered by huge dust storms, also called “haboobs”. The primary risks of these dust storms are:
- Visibility while driving suddenly drops to zero, similar to a blizzard white-out
- Winds can reach up to 70 mph, causing damage
- Breathing in the dust can cause asthma attacks and sometimes an infection called Valley Fever.
Final Thoughts on Living in Scottsdale, AZ
Scottsdale is a great, beautiful luxury town if you can afford it, and if you can tolerate the summer heat.