I'm at the opposite end of town in Chandler. AZMojo is right, housing prices are skyrocketing. One thing to note when comparing housing vs. back east is that most houses here don't have basements. When appraisals are done, basements aren't included in "livable space" so you may not be comparing apples to apples when you look at square footage of houses in Phoenix vs NY.
To give you some comparison, I have a small, 1200 sqft house, 3br,2ba, 2 car garage. As I said, no basement. Bought in 1996 for $96,000. Neighbor just sold their identical house for $250,000. Sounds good on paper, but since everything else in the area has risen at an equal pace, my equity does me no good when trying to 'upgrade' to a bigger house.
You mention wanting to have some distance between you and your neighbor. Unfortunately, since land and house prices are up so high, most of the new developments I've seen are craming the houses in. Very small yards, barely 5 ft between houses. Unless you move literally into the middle of the desert, chances are you'll be surrounded by new homes in the next few years, even at 30 or 40 miles out from the city.
But hey, the weather is great, allbeit a little on the warm side.