Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The journey from RAMMS to ESPN Broadcasting

Samantha (Sam) Ponder (ne'e Steele) grew up in North Central, attending Madison Simis, Madison Meadows and Central High School. She graduated from Liberty University in Virginia in 2009 and then worked for Fox Sports Network and Fox College Sports as a sideline reporter.
In 2011 ESPN’s Longhorn Network hired her a sideline reporter. In 2012, she replaced Erin Andrews on College Game Day Saturdays and is also on the sideline for ESPN on Thursday Night College Football. Sam married Christian Ponder, who is now the Oakland Raider's quarterback, and the couple recently became parents of a beautiful daughter, Bowden Sainte-Claire, who goes by the nickname of Scout. The Ponders just bought a new home in Central Phoenix very near to where Sam's parents still live. I asked Sam between her hectic traveling schedule if she would answer a few questions for my column.

Q: First of all, congratulations on your job at ESPN. It has been an exciting past two years for you and Christian and now your daughter. I coached both your brothers, Barron and J.J., in Ramms baseball. Rumor has your were the best athlete in the family. Any truth to that?

Sam: Yes, that is true. Just don’t ask them. Actually, my older sister Jaime was probably the best athlete. She has five kids under six now so she probably has the most use for all her skills. I peaked in RAMMS. Ah, the good ole days.

Q: What were your memories of growing up in Central Phoenix and in your wildest dreams did you every think you would be back in Phoenix with your husband and daughter?

Sam: I always knew I’d want to come back to this neighborhood. There are few places in the world where you can grow up in the middle of the city and still feel like you live in a small town. I loved Simis and Meadows and had an incredible time at Central High. It prepared me for so much that has come my way since then. In terms of moving back, I’m not a big fan of the rocks-in-the-yard desert look, so living in green North Central was a must for me. I always kind of envisioned my daughter riding a horse to school down the bridle path. Not sure if that’s still allowed, but my dream is closer to being a reality! If she can’t ride a horse, she can always rough it on the city bus like I did!

Q: What is it like to work at ESPN and to replace such a well know reporter such as Erin Andrews?

Sam: ESPN has been very good to me. I can say that even more than the job itself, the people I get to work with make it appealing after four years with the company. I work with guys who feel like family. The big brothers I never had, I guess. It’s been an amazing experience.

Q: You and I talked about your crazy traveling schedule the past two years between college football and college basketball games. How many games did you cover last year and what are your current plans with ESPN since you now have your beautiful daughter Scout?

Sam: I lost count of games year ago but I do know that my 10-month-old daughter has been on 85 flights. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s been absolutely insane, and though I don’t recommend that kind of travel to any moms out there, I can say it’s been an incredible adventure. I just resigned with ESPN to continue on College Gameday, but I will be scaling back my workload this year. Now that Scout is mobile, travel is a little more difficult. Only two flights a week this fall!

Q: It has to be exciting for Christian to be closer to his family with his new team, the Oakland Raiders, and also a warmer climate. How did you convince him to choose Phoenix over his home state of Texas?

Sam: I didn’t have to! That’s the great thing about this area… it sells itself. His off season is the perfect time to be in Phoenix, January through May. He loves to golf, fish in the Sedona area and walk to all the great restaurants that have popped up. The perfect weather and a mother-inlaw down the street who likes to cook don’t hurt either.

Q: What advice do you have for men or women who are broadcast majors and would like to make a career in this field?

Sam: I wasn’t a broadcast major so that wasn’t the route I took but I’d say figure out who you are before you put yourself on TV. It’s an industry full of insecurities and pressures to be someone everyone else wants you to be, especially in the social media age. A “glamorous” looking life on TV is miserable if you don’t have your priorities straight. Beyond that, enjoy the process and focus on the relationships along the way. There are lots of lonely “successful” people at the top, fondly remembering coffee-getting intern days.

Q. Can you believe how many new restaurants are sprouting up in the Central Corridor? Do you and Christian have a favorite place to go and relax?

Sam: It’s so exciting. There wasn’t much at all in terms of restaurants when I lived here growing up, so that has been a huge plus since we moved back. We had part of our rehearsal dinner at The Yard and always have a good time there. We also love Federal Pizza, El Bravo and Pane Bianco. Oh, and I just discovered the Nutella, peanut butter and banana sandwich at Zookz! Scout and I are both big fans! I get most of our food at the Uptown Farmer’s Market at North Phoenix Baptist when we are in town. Walking there on Wednesdays and Saturdays has become one of our family traditions. I’m addicted to the Mama’s Cold Brew Coffee, Bistro burritos and cinnamon bread. What can I say, I’m a super healthy eater...

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions..WELCOME BACK TO

Anytime, Bobby. But why are you yelling? :)

Author's note: I am not YELLING at Sam!! I am just a bad typer...

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Top Performing Valley Realtor Expands Presence to the Biltmore
North Central Phoenix Realtor Bobby Lieb is expanding his geographic focus into the neighboring community, serving clients from Biltmore office. 

PHOENIX (January 22, 2015)—Bobby Lieb, a long-time residential real estate agent, is expanding his successful North Central Phoenix realty business into the Biltmore area. With over 20 years of experience selling homes and consistently being recognized as a top selling associate broker, Bobby is formally taking his expertise into the neighboring community and will be splitting his time between HomeSmart’s North Central and Biltmore offices.

The decision to expand his focus comes on the coat tails of several key Biltmore home closings, where he represented long-time clients as both buyers and sellers in the transactions. These sales, combined with an active year, contributed to 2014 being Bobby’s top career sales year with 176 homes listed and 185 homes sold.

“When my long-time clients and friends asked me to represent them in their Biltmore home search, I was happy to work with them. While I have represented listings in the Biltmore in the past, it was not until these clients highlighted their need for personalize representation in the area that I realized the expansion into a neighboring community makes perfect sense for me and my clients,” stated Bobby Lieb. “Having a HomeSmart office in the Biltmore, where I can spend a portion of my time, made it even more convenient for me to quickly make this expansion happen,” he added.

Bobby is a proud member of locally owned HomeSmart and the founder of the HomeSmart Elite Group. This is an exclusive group of more than 400 HomeSmart agents who each have a proven track record of success in residential real estate.  

“I'm excited to see Bobby expanding his geographic focus into the Biltmore area. Bobby's clients love him across the board and I'm confident he will continue to deliver his high level of service to consumers in the Biltmore area. He's an honest, hard-working Realtor that delivers results time after time,” said Matt Widdows, Founder and CEO of HomeSmart.

Throughout his years as one of the top performing real estate agents in the Valley, Bobby has had over $600 million in sales. For more information on Bobby Lieb, visit:

For Bobby Lieb, HomeSmart Elite Group (Agent/Realtor):  
Patty Johnson, Connections Marketing & Communications
602-402-2965 or

For HomeSmart (Brokerage/Brokers/Phoenix Metro Area):  
Jennifer Kaplan, Evolve PR and Marketing
(480) 242-8001or

For HomeSmart International (Franchisor, National):  
Marissa Leon, ML Communications
602-810-2234 or

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Start Of Another Exciting NEW YEAR... Let's Welcome 2015

   It is hard to believe but another year has come and gone and lets welcome 2015. I really am so appreciative for all of you for hiring me to list 167 homes and sell 154 homes in 2014 making me the tope selling North Central Realtor for over the past 14 years. In 32 sales in 2014, I represented both the buyer and seller which can be delicate since that makes me a dual agent but after 24 years of selling homes, I have learned how to deal with this situation. Being a dual agent can be beneficial to the seller because I am more in control of the sale and helps to prevent delays from lack of communications.
   Approximately 4 months ago, a female real estate agent was murdered in Arkansas and the death sent a shock throughout the real estate world. Our profession can be very dangerous because we never know what strangers will show up at our open houses or sometimes what strangers we are meeting at showings. I contacted my good friend and North Central resident, US Marshall David Gonzales, who agreed to speak at 3 of our HomeSmart's regional meetings and my HomeSmart Elite meeting( we meet at North Phoenix Baptist Church) which consisted of 140 HomeSmart agents at that meeting. David made all the agents aware of that we should be careful of our surroundings and do not take things for granted. I appreciate all the time he spent with our agents. Obviously, no matter what you do for a living or how you conduct your daily lives, David reiterated that you cannot be predictable in your daily routine.
   I also was very appreciative for another North Central resident, David Karstadt, who is the owner of Karstadt Taekwon-Do, which is located at 7th Street/Rose Lane, for teaching a self defense class for our realtors and even some of the realtor's children. I asked David's son, John, who also teaches at his dad's studio, to write a bio on his dad and their company.
   Growing up in Central Phoenix, Master David Karstadt began his Taekwon-Do training in 1977. After earning his 2nd degree black belt he opened his first school in 1986. Since that time Master Karstadt has taught thousands of Phoenix area families while developing leaders in the community. He has also hosted women's self-defense seminars, works with the freshman P.E. class at Xavier College Preparatory teaching self-defense, awareness and empowerment, holds yearly fundraisers feeding families for the holidays, has donated thousands to Phoenix area schools through his after-school programs, has been coach of the U.S. Taekwon-Do Team and has produced numerous Taekwon-Do World Champions. I hope you guys will sign up for his classes which deal with all ages.. Tell him you saw this article and he will give you a discount on your classes.
   Since my dad and I owned the Jockey Club Nightclub, first located at 2110 E Highland from 1976-1985 and then a second location at 52 E Camelback from 1989-1996, which was once Navarres and now is Sweet Tomatoes, I am very partial to North Central Businesses. I am excited and proud to welcome a new location for Orangetheory Fitness, which will open at the Safeway Center, 7th Street/Glendale in January. I contacted the owner, Bobbe Ariano and asked her for a write up on her company:
Orangetheory Fitness is coming to Central Phoenix! It has been mentioned by FOX news, ABC, NBC and the New York Times as "The best one hour workout!" Orangetheory Fitness is group personal training that focuses on five zones of your heart rate. Through interval training combined with weights, men and women can burn up to 1000 calories in one hour. This workout is proven and is designed for all fitness levels from beginners to elite athletes.

The workout at Orangetheory Fitness is lead by experienced and certified personal trainers. They bring fun music and energy to every workout. The equipment used consists of TRX, Water Rowers, Treadmills, Bikes, Weights and more.  We are excited to become a part of the Central Phoenix community. Our new location will open February 1st.  Now is the time to sign up and receive the founding rate at our pre sale location. It is located at 742 E Glendale Ave, suite 172. It is on the NEC of 7th and Glendale. Pre sale rates aren't here for long, so don't miss out! Stop in and say hello.
   Thanks Bobbe..Let's make 2015 a healthy one for all of you and your loved ones.
   Please see below some of my new listings for January and new homes under construction that are not listed for sale yet.
   Thanks again for all of your support the past 24 years. We have sold almost 2000 homes in that time frame and many of the same homes 2 or 3 times! Remember I am also expanding my business to the Biltmore area, having sold over 50 homes there ranging from $200,000 to $5,850,000. My current web page is and in January, I will have a second web page,

This beautiful home in North Central has an amazing history. Thanks to renovations by the previous and current owner, it's even more impressive with 13 bedrooms, two guest houses, a fully-remodeled kitchen with upgraded appliances and finishes, Olympic size pool not to mention the 6-car garage on a beautifully manicured 2-acre lot - it's ideal for a car collector, large family or family who enjoys entertaining....if you or someone you know is looking for a little more living space, please contact me.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Celebrating the Holidays, a Family Tradition

   Now that Thanksgiving is over, we’re looking ahead into the holiday season. There’s a lot of fun events going on in the Valley this month and it all starts with Hanukkah!
   Hanukkah or Chanukah, begins this year at sundown on December 16th and lasts through December 24th. There are a few events across the Valley that celebrate Hanukkah including a nightly menorah lighting at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess and the Phoenician in Scottsdale.
   If you’re looking for traditional Chanukah foods, head on over to Chompie’s. For eight days, Chompie’s will offer Potato Latkes, Brisket of Beef, Matzo Ball Soup and Chanukah cookies from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
   When looking to celebrate the Christmas season, there’s no better place to get in the holiday spirit than the Arizona Biltmore. The entire hotel is decorated for the season and would make the perfect backdrop for your holiday card. Enjoy a 60-foot Christmas tree, menorah, gingerbread village and twinkling lights!
   One of the most unique holiday traditions to the Arizona Biltmore is holiday tea. It’s been a tradition there for 85 years and includes a special menu that inquires the flavors of the season. In addition to delicious tea, there are also sandwiches, pastries and desserts.
   There’s also some holiday fun for the kids at the Arizona Biltmore. There’s a letter writing station set up just for the little ones so they can write letters to Santa. Also, every Saturday evening in December, Mrs. Claus pays a visit to the Arizona Biltmore to read her favorite holiday stories, along with hot cocoa and cookies!
   If you’re not looking to cook an extravagant dinner this holiday season, you can get a delicious meal at Wright’s at the Biltmore on Christmas Eve or even Christmas Day. In fact, if your dine at Wright’s on Christmas, you’ll enjoy an extravagant five-course dinner! Be sure to check with your favorite restaurant because many of them are open for the holiday season, making your holiday meals delicious, easy, and carefree.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thank you for 2014!

   Unfortunately for all of you out there in North Central land, I expanded this column for just this one month. I PROMISE I will not do this again ... but I've got lots of thanks to shout out. First and foremost, I want to thank all of my loyal clients who allowed me to sell more than 150 homes in 2014. In 35 of those sales, I represented both the buyers and the sellers, which can sometimes be a little challenging. Because I really enjoy what I do, it makes it fun even though it takes working crazy hours to be organized and to do all that is necessary to help my clients through a sale.
   I am very appreciative of the North Central sellers who trusted me to list 167 homes this year. Thanks also to Porchlight Homes for hiring me to list and sell a new gated 15-home subdivision on 7th Avenue between Bethany Home and Maryland as well as a new 10-home subdivision just near Northern and Central avenues called Sendero Villas. I am proud to say that we closed out both subdivisions and the reaction and demand for new homes was incredible.
   For many years my North Central clients have asked me expand my business into the Biltmore, whether it be North Central friends or clients who have decided to downsize, upsize or are just looking for a change and want to stay in the same general area or have family members who want to sell their Biltmore homes. I appreciate their trust and have been willing to help them. In fact, I've sold more than 50 homes in the Biltmore ranging from a $200,000 patio home to a $5.8 million dollar sale on the Biltmore Estates golf course. Thanks to your encouragement, I am excited to be making the Biltmore part of my ‘hood beginning in 2015. Take a look at my new
website that highlights the I will continue to have my North Central website at Terry and Alan Bandler, who have lived in North Central
for many years, are my first clients to support me in my business expansion. They are buying a home that I listed in The Biltmore Hillside Villas, located on Glendale/Lincoln just west of 32nd Street. The beautiful guard-gated home was owned by Mary DeConcini. Once Ms. Bandler works her her magic, the home will look brand new.Thanks also to Lisa Walker, the Bandler's family member who also decided to move from a beautiful North Central home that I sold a few years ago. She also trusted me to find her new home in The Biltmore Hillside Villas. Look for the Bandler's trophy home located on West Frier to go on the market in the first quarter of 2015.
   I also want to thank Leslie Phillips for allowing me to sell her parents’ Biltmore home, located at 5048 N 25th Place, which I sold to them nearly 14 years ago. Finally, many thanks to the Pattersons for allowing me to sell their Biltmore home at 3039 E Stella Lane. The support from my North Central friends and clients has been overwhelming as I embark on this exciting expansion opportunity!
   I want to also thank Patty Johnson of Connections Marketing & Communications for guiding and structuring the Biltmore expansion for me. Patty and her husband, former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson, have been longtime friends and clients of mine. She is the best person to organize the marketing of The Biltmore.
   Thanks also to the 26 North Central and Biltmore area businesses who allowed me to place my sports magnets (D-Backs, Cardinals and Suns) in their stores. We are all so lucky to have such an eclectic and supportive mix of retail, restaurants and specialty stores. Just look around. There is lots of construction and expansion of more new businesses that plan to open in 2015. Why live anywhere else? If you would like to have the magnets in your stores, please give me a ring.
   Another thank you goes to the incredible HomeSmart agents –– not only those in our Central and Biltmore offices but each of you throughout the Valley (we have nearly 5000 HomeSmart agents here). I was reminded how amazing our entire team is about three months ago when I received a call that one of our agents almost lost his wife during a scary and tragic incident. He let me know that as his wife was getting into her parked car in their own driveway, she was shockingly yanked out of the car in a car-jacking. Unfortunately, her head hit the concrete. She was in the hospital with severe brain and head injuries for weeks and although she is now back at home, she will never be physically the same again. Hearing the story, I felt the need to try to help the family defer some medical costs but the husband said all he wanted was some good old Italian food because he had been eating McDonalds for three straight weeks. With help from HomeSmart's own Carol Perry, we brought him some of his favorite Italian food and we launched a non-profit charity called We Care HomeSmart. Through We Care HomeSmart, the funds we raise help HomeSmart agents whose immediate family members have suffered a serious medical setback and the family needs a little help. At our various HomeSmart regional meetings, we collected $13,000 in just four weeks. This is an amazing testimony to the camaraderie that our HomeSmart agents and partners share. Thank you to the many good people at HomeSmart and thank you to our chairman, Matt Widdows, for matching a significant portion of our donations. Anyone who would like to donate is also welcome to participate. Just let me know.
   I certainly cannot end this year without thanking this paper, the North Central News. I have been advertising here since it was founded 15 years ago and it has been an incredible boost for my business. The circulation is 22,000 issues mailed to North Central homes and businesses and another 4,000 copies that are distributed in area news racks. There is no better vehicle to reach all of you with important community information, whether it's about the new companies, real estate or community activities. Please do not tell the North Central News how much I appreciate them or they might increase my advertising fees!  
   Finally, I want to thank my family beginning with my two dogs –– Jakki, a 13 year old Weimeraner and Layla, a 3-year old Boxer rescue. Oh yeah ... I also want to thank my 23-year-old daughter, Juliann, a Xavier High School grad, who graduated from Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University with freakin’ HONORS and just began her master’s in sports psychology, and my 25-yearold son, Sean, a Brophy grad,who recently started with one of HomeSmart's partners who help to sponsor our meetings, Homeowner's Financial Group. Sean is currently a business and marketing partner for the company and studying to be a loan originator. I hope to be able to refer him business within the next few months. Congratulations also to Jesse Milleson, who jut graduated from the University of Memphis.
   And, finally, my former disc jockey at the Jockey Club, who never listened to her boss
(ME) for five years (sometimes even cussed at me when I asked her to play certain songs or to
turn the volume down) ... my beautiful wife of 28 years, MaryAnn. She often tells me how
lucky I am for having to put up with my family for so long ... and you know? She is right!
   I also truly appreciate my assistant, Kathy Wright, who has tolerated me for 15 years. I
owe a lot of my success to her hard work.
   Thanks to my family and thanks to all of you for making 2014 such a successful and healthy year. I cannot believe another year is just around the corner. Cheers to 2015.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Past Becomes The Future

     I just got back a few weeks ago from going to my high school reunion in Atlanta and it was really amazing to see how my old neighborhood and the surrounding areas had changed. I have written a few times in this article how changes in Central Phoenix are inevitable and the changes have increased our values and brought in new people. I grew up in an area where our apartments, which were over 40 years old but always felt like a million dollar neighborhood, were pretty amazing to our family. My parents were divorced, my dad was here in Phoenix so my brother and I lived with our mom in a threebedroom apartment surrounded by a lot of our friends. The old apartments were torn down a few years ago to make room for a new apartment complex that was ultra modern. At first seeing the new structures was very weird to me but I was proud that my old ‘hood was worthy of some developers seeing potential in it and that made me smile.
     My old public high school is located in Buckhead and even that had changed: It is now a private arts school with an astroturf football field. I found out the school was featured in the Sandra Bullock movie, The Blind Side. Yes, it was strange seeing the additions and modernizations in a 60yearold school but I realized that it was a necessary venture for survival. All the homes that surrounded the school have now tripled in price even though they look the same as they did 40 years ago. Ok, I certainly must be driving a point here–I am letting you know that it is essential for neighborhoods to change and, in the long run, we all benefit from the changes. North Central is an amazing area with new businesses, including a myriad of restaurants and stores, moving to our area in the past few years as well as many new housing developments that increase our values and bring in new families. Change not only is good for all of us but it is essential for longterm growth.
     I just listed a home that has been owned by Maryann McCullough and her husband, Bill, for many years. Ms. McCullough was a longtime math teacher at Brophy and Xavier and she wanted to hear from those of you who had her as a teacher. Please email me at and I will forward your emails to her. My son and daughter never had the privilege of having Ms. McCullough as their teacher but I know many of you were fortunate to have learned your math skills from this incredible person.
     I am featuring local businesses in this monthly column, so if you want to be written about here, email me your information. I am very bullish on businesses that have survived the tough times and have been around for more than 20 years. This month I want to congratulate Desert Song, which specializes in yoga, massage, meditation and other healing arts for the Phoenix community. Independently owned by North Central residents Mary Beth and Vince Markus, Desert Song has always called Central Phoenix its home. They started off with a little rented space at the Phoenix School of Ballet in 1981, then moved to the Cannedy Dance Center. Next it was Campbell Crossing and eventually another space just north of the Valley Commerce Center on 7th Street and Camelback. In 2012, Desert Song found a permanent residence, which is a midcentury modern building located on 20th Street just south of Osborn. Come see for yourself what a difference Desert Song can make in your life by calling 602-265-8222 or visiting
     Have a great Turkey Day as this year starts to come to an end.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

North Central is indebted to developers

I want us to flashback five or six years ago and remember the pain in our guts when our home values were at an incredible low value and about 60 percent of our home values were under water.  Unfortunately, some of our friends and family members lost their homes to the banks. There was
doubt about how long it would take to recover but the North Central area had a strong turnaround
and although  e are not back at pre-2005 prices, we have come back a long way.  We certainly are in a great location with excellent schools, tremendous restaurants and top retail stores. I feel there is a common factor as to why our home prices have almost doubled in the past 3-4 years and we owe a large thanks to the home builders/ developers who believed in our neighborhoods as much as we did. Back in the 1970s, the restaurant Willy and Guillermo's at Central and Missouri was torn down for new homes, as was the Ambassador Hotel at 4th Avenue and Maryland, which is now a luxury gated subdivision.
In the past few years, two of my clients, Porchlight Homes and Magee Builders, have built more than 30 new homes in the corridor ranging in price from $370,000 to $780,000 and increasing the per-square-foot price to close to $250. Just a few years ago we were lucky to get more than $175 per square foot but now we are creeping up to the $300 per foot prices, thanks to two incredible homes built on Central Avenue and Lamar by Starion Custom Residences, who tore down an old home that sat on an acre. I have not confirmed the exact square-foot price with the builder but I feel the masterpieces he created are worth every bit of a $300-plus-per-foot price. Another new builder in our area, CE Residential, currently has two new homes under construction on Myrtle, just east of Central Avenue, for around $1.5 million. An old home was demolished, making way for these
fabulous homes. CE Residential also built a new home at Lamar and 2nd Street that sold for $980,000.
Another project that I will be involved in will be located at 325 E Maryland, which replaced a 70-year-old home that should have been condemned many years ago. There will be three new homes, soon to be under construction, at that location. There are many new clients of mine who want new homes and are moving here from other parts of the Valley only to buy a new home. I know I mentioned in another one of my monthly articles that change is good, especially when it pertains to our Central Corridor. I will be representing more than 25 new custom homes in our area over the next 18 months. I am seeing more and more buyers moving here from Paradise Valley and Arcadia in order to be closer to work and schools. These buyers will only move here for homes in the $550,000 and higher range that are brand new or remodeled throughout.
 Please be supportive of these  developers as they take us to a newer financial level. Remember CHANGE is good for a  neighborhood and please know that these builders are building homes that have current zoning in place and they want their homes to conform to the neighborhoods in which they are being built.

The Lieb Group
Bobby Lieb
Associate Broker
HomeSmart Elite Group Manager/Founder
5225 N. Central Ave., Ste.104, Phoenix, AZ 85012
Mobile: 602-376-1341
Fax: 602-996-9141