PHOENIX-The wide expanse of the Sonoran Desert surrounding metropolitan Phoenix has become prime fodder for speculative land buyers who are scooping up the desert’s far reaches in hope of making huge profits as the valley’s population soars.

“Wherever there are no houses and no sewers there are speculators,” John Finnegan, an associate in Phoenix with CB Richard Ellis Inc. tells

Land 50 miles beyond the city’s core, particularly around planned transportation corridors in the southeast and west valley, is of prime appeal, Finnegan said, as speculators realize the potential for doubling their investments within just five or 10 years. “The freeway corridors will just make those areas wide open,” he said, noting that cheap land and planned freeway access in Pinal County just east of the valley, is increasingly gaining speculator interest. Land around Florence, about 35 miles south of Phoenix, also is catching the eye of speculators due to the planned development of three master-planned communities, he said.

Along the valley’s western reaches, land speculators are buying up property hundreds of acres north of Sun City and west of both Surprise and the White Tank Mountains, Josh Cameron, a sales associate with CB Richard Ellis tells “You have to go pretty far out to be a land speculator these days,” said Cameron, noting that expensive infill parcels have driven the speculator about 50 miles into the barren desert.

With the metropolitan area adding 4,000 new residents every month, the speculative push, said Cameron, is following the region’s planned transportation corridors. “Transportation corridors are very important,” he said, “but normally, by the time the transportation corridor is in place, it’s too late. By the time the pavement is on the ground, the value has been created.”

Still, that hasn’t stopped the rush to buy up desert land as speculators keep an eye on the future. Earlier this month, 80 acres near the proposed Loop 202 freeway in Mesa sold for $2.7 million. A retail business or industrial park is expected to go on the site once freeway construction is completed in 2006. “It’s possible within the next 10 years you will see that sphere of development expand even further into the 55- to 60-mile range,” Cameron said.

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