The purchase of a large custom estate in a desert community north of Phoenix has set off a wave of speculation that the buyer might be former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
The fascination with all things Sarah brought a steady stream of media to the rural north Scottsdale area on Monday, including a number of television news trucks parked near the home. An anonymous Delaware-registered limited liability company paid nearly $1.7 million cash for the 7,900-square foot property earlier this month.
The unconfirmed reports that Palin may have bought the house were first reported online by The Arizona Republic. Neither Palin's political action committee nor her lawyer responded to inquiries, and the Arizona lawyer who handled the deal declined to comment.
If she did buy the home, it won't be the first for the Palins in Arizona. Daughter Bristol Palin bought a five-bedroom, 3,900-square-foot home in a community about 40 miles south of Phoenix in December.
The woman who lives across the dirt lane from the home told The Associated Press that she welcomes new neighbors _ whoever they might be _ but worries about possible disruptions to the neighborhood.
"It concerns me just because we have a very peaceful neighborhood and I won't want it to get all messed up," said Monica Rahman, who trains show jumping horses on her large property. "Other than that, it's just `welcome to the neighborhood.'"
U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona picked Palin for his running mate during his 2008 presidential bid. There has been talk in Arizona political circles that she may move to the state to anchor a presidential run or try to win the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Jon Kyl next year.
A state Republican Party official said Monday that it's entirely possible that Palin is establishing an Arizona home for family reasons, but he doubts Palin plans a political future centered on Arizona _ either in the state's 2012 U.S. Senate race or to base a presidential campaign in Arizona.
"I can't imagine that Gov. Palin would give up residency in Alaska where she's lived most of her life," said Bruce Ash, one of the state's two Republican National Committee members. "She has a persona. She has a story. She has a personality that is sort of woven around the majority of her life having lived and worked and served in Alaska."
Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake has already announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat, and Ash said he presumes Palin is considering a possible presidential bid rather than an entry into Arizona's Senate race as a transplant.
If Palin bought the house, it could be just as a part-time winter residence like tens of thousands of others from cold states who keep a second home in Arizona.
The home bought by Safari Investments LLC on May 13 sits on more than 4 acres of land, about half of it still raw desert and featuring huge saguaro cactus and palo verde trees.
The two-story house itself has 5 bedrooms, 6 1/2 baths and a 6-car garage. A huge swimming pool sits out back, and a freshly installed jungle gym is installed on the back lawn.
The home was bought last year by an investor for just over $800,000. He did a major renovation before selling it for $1.695 million.
Real estate agent Jeff Sibbach of John Hall & Associates specializes in high-end properties in northern Scottsdale. He says the price is about right for a move-in ready home of that size in that particular area, which is one of the few with large acreage properties.
Sibbach also said it is common in Arizona for the wealthy or famous to use an LLC to buy property, because it conceals ownership and keeps their name out of public records and the press.
Since Saturday, about a dozen no trespassing signs have been posted around the home, plus signs for a local security company.
Sibbach said he and a local television crew were told to leave the area on Sunday by a man driving a van with Alaska license plates. The same van was spotted entering the property on Monday.
"To come out and chase me from the property, I've never ever had that happen before," he said. "That was kind of interesting."
Associated Press writer Paul Davenport contributed from Phoenix.