Santa Cruz mountains Real estate market update 3rd Quarter 2018

Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley and San Lorenzo Valley

Real estate market update

3rd Quarter 2018


SUMMARY:  Home prices began to soften in some communities over the last quarter.   Still, prices are higher than this time last year across the majority of areas.    Since there are more homes for sale now compared to this spring, homes are taking about a week longer to sell in Santa Cruz County.   Still, there aren’t enough homes for sale compared to the number of buyers looking.    In addition to location and amenities, buyers tend to be concerned about locking in low interest rates and avoiding unexpected repair costs.

Sellers are most concerned about prices, the timing of buying while selling, and moving to their next house.   Talking to my clients, some people say they would sell, if they could only figure out where to retire affordably.    Call me, I’ve been doing research on this exact question!  VOTE:  Look for a proposition on the November ballot where California homeowners can move their property tax basis across counties within the state.   This could make it easier for people to sell and move.

Q3 18 Housing Inventory Graph


These charts show the region’s inventory is increasing as more homes come on the market across the region with fewer buyers pursuing them.   As an example, two months of inventory means that if no new homes were listed, all the homes on the market would sell within two months.    We’re still in a sellers’ market.    The housing shortage persists: inventory ranges between a low of 2 months in Santa Clara County to a high of 3.5 months in the San Lorenzo Valley.     Although the housing shortage keeps upward pressure on prices, the rate of price increases is slowing as the market transitions into a more normal balance between buyers and sellers.   This trend could continue as we move into the fall and then the holiday season.   A real estate market that’s balanced between buyers and sellers usually has around six months of inventory.

San Lorenzo Valley has about 80 single family homes for sale (up 10 since last quarter and more than double the number for sale at the beginning of the year).     Scotts Valley has 32 homes (down from 37 last quarter), while Santa Cruz, despite having four times the population of Scotts Valley, has just 68 single family homes for sale, (down from 80 last quarter).


As widely expected, the cost to borrow went up again last week as the Federal Reserve steered the economy by increasing Fed rates to 2.25% due to consistent economic growth (4.2% in the 2nd quarter of 2018), and consumer price increases around 2.9%.    The unemployment rate remains low at about 3.9% nationwide.    Wages still haven’t increased as much as workers hope, but are up around 4.5 – 5% this year.

Click here to see today’s 30 year fixed rate mortgages rates, averaging 4.7% at the time of this article.  The Fed is widely expected to increase rates once more in 2018, typically at 0.25% each time, unless there’s a global economic disruption.   Many experts think mortgage interest rates around 5% may soon be normal.    (Historically, this is still considered low).

SILICON VALLEY HOMES  continue to appreciate but at a slower pace lately:  around 3% over the last two quarters, compared to previous quarterly price appreciation rates of 8%.   Home price averages remain around $1.5 million.    To find an affordable home, many buyers have to cast a wider net, yet want to stay within commute distance to the Silicon Valley.   Scotts Valley, Santa Cruz and San Lorenzo Valley areas offer relatively more affordable homes still within about an hour’s commute of the Silicon Valley.   One of my specialties is helping people relocate here!

PRICES    Average home prices remained around $700,000 between Boulder Creek and Felton, (San Lorenzo Valley: SLV).   Even though housing is less than half the cost of the Silicon Valley, SLV remains relatively unknown despite its variety of relatively affordable homes for Silicon Valley’s employees.    Ben Lomond enjoyed the strongest rate of appreciation this last quarter, with 5 home sales over $1 million, while the Lompico region was the lowest.

Prefer city amenities?   Scotts Valley offers a sense of community that only a small city can offer.    Scotts Valley has dedicated express and company buses over to Silicon Valley.   But this location demands higher prices, averaging about $1.2 million.      Both SLV and SV are less than an hour’s commute from Apple or Alphabet/ Google.    The city of Santa Cruz is just 15 minutes further, with beaches, nightlife and shopping, at about the same price range of $1.13 million.   In the city of Santa Cruz, home prices were nearly flat … Similarly, Los Gatos Mountains average prices were essentially flat to slightly lower.

If you’re looking in the under $600,000 price range, (often a 2 bedroom home on about a ¼ acre of sloped land, or perhaps a condo in the cities),  expect to compete with investors and first time buyers.  If you’re my client, I’ll share a few tips with you – things you haven’t thought of – to help you compete.    It’s still possible to find a 3 bedroom home: look in Boulder Creek, Lompico, or the upper hills of Ben Lomond.     If you’re shopping in the $1 million range, you can buy a lovely 3 bedroom, 2 bath home on a larger property anywhere in the San Lorenzo Valley: Boulder Creek to Felton.

As you look at the chart, remember some of these micro markets (unincorporated areas like Lompico and Brookdale) have so few home sales, that percentage changes aren’t statistically significant.

DAYS ON THE MARKET   Homes across the Silicon Valley spend an average time on market of about three weeks now (compared to under two weeks last quarter).   Santa Cruz County homes are on the market about a month before going into escrow (versus 3 weeks last quarter).  The Santa Cruz area still experiences overflow pressure from the Silicon Valley.   Affordable Santa Cruz County homes receive typically offers within the first 3 weeks, unless there is an unusual characteristic not accounted for by the price.   On average, million dollar plus homes are taking longer to sell across Santa Cruz County: up to 7 weeks (compared to 4 weeks last quarter).      Still, Santa Cruz County home sellers who price their properties intelligently compared to their competition will see faster results.

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY’S APPEAL   Many people from the Silicon Valley are enchanted when they discover Santa Cruz, with all of our parks for hiking, climbing, horseback riding and mountain biking, and skateboarding.    There are dozens of beaches, from crowded to serene, walk-in to hike-in.   The Santa Cruz lifestyle is informal, and we cherish our slower pace.   There’s more room to spread out, and consequently lower stress, crime rates and smog.   Imagine experiencing the spaciousness of just 440 people per square mile here, compared to more than 3 times the density: 1400 people per square mile in Santa Clara County!   So many people tell me they enjoy driving through the mountains to work, rather than sitting in traffic and spending a lot more money to live in Santa Clara County.

CURIOUS WHAT YOUR HOME IS WORTH?   Visit  for a quick and easy estimate!    If you’re thinking of selling, I’ll help you evaluate cost effective ways to make your home appeal to the most buyers.    My customized marketing plan is exceptional: contact me to discover why I have so many repeat clients like these.

LOOKING FOR YOUR DREAM HOME?     Click here!   I’ll help you secure financing, negotiate with the seller, attend inspections with you, review disclosures and potential red flags, and…hand you the keys!

REAL ESTATE MARKETS ARE LOCAL   The advice of a knowledgeable local REALTOR®, who can intelligently discuss neighborhoods and price trends, is invaluable.  Hire a REALTOR® you can trust, who has enough time to dedicate to you!    Experienced Realtors can help you untangle the maze of decisions, preparations, negotiations, inspections, title and disclosures as you buy or sell your home.    I can also give you referrals to trusted agents if you’re relocating.   My goal is to make the entire process easier to understand, less stressful, and as cost effective as possible for you.

Minolta DSC
Photo Credit John Urwin

Whenever you have real estate questions,    just text or call MC at (831) 419-9759, or, e-mail me at

I’d love to help you buy or sell your home. Your home is your castle; I’ll treat you like royalty!

Click here to look at homes for sale or sign up for your own custom home alert.


Sources:, Reuters,,, Mercury News.     Month to month home sales prices fluctuate widely in small communities and cities, especially when property sales range between million dollar estates and fixer upper properties.   Because of this, percentage and average price changes often aren’t statistically meaningful for short time intervals.      *All stats as of October 1, 2018: single family residences only.


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