Santa Cruz real estate outlook 2019

Around this time of year, people start asking what the next year holds for real estate.    Let’s face it – if I had a crystal ball I probably wouldn’t be working any more.    Still, having worked through some peaks and troughs in this industry, and being a constant observer of not only our local market but also the national economy, here’s an outline of some trends.

This chart illustrates the number of homes for sale and the monthly number of homes sold in Santa Cruz County during 2018.santa_cruz_county_sfd_sales_over_time_2019-01-11

Sales – the number of sales is falling as a new trend emerges in home ownership.    On average, people used to stay in their home for about 7 years.    The average has recently extended dramatically to 10 years or longer.     This puts a constraint on the number of homes available for sale.    Meanwhile, the millennial generation – a large demographic – will soon begin turning 30: traditionally a prime age for household formation and home buying.

Interest rates – Mortgage rates rose nearly 1 percent over the past year, putting a pinch especially on first time buyers as their prospective monthly payments rose by as much as 10 percent given the complication of higher home prices too.      Most recently the Federal Reserve sounded like they may not continue to raise interest rates as aggressively as they’d been thinking of doing earlier this year.   On that news, mortgage rates immediately softened from 5% back down to about 4.6% now.    Still, forecasters say if there are any more signs of economic strength, that could cause the Fed to push rates up another ½% over the next six to twelve months, with the first ¼% increase as soon as this month.

Delinquencies – I watch this indicator carefully because rising delinquencies back in 2007 eventually set off the last financial crisis leading to the great recession where real estate prices dropped precipitously.     Recent mortgage delinquencies remain at a ten year low, attributable to stricter loan underwriting requirements, higher down payments, and home price appreciation.    CoreLogic measured August delinquencies at 4%, down from 4.6% last year.   They expect delinquencies to continue to fall due to national home price appreciation, but note some risk in overvalued metros like San Jose, should job growth falter.


The above chart illustrates Santa Cruz County Home Prices over the past 5 years

Prices – after years of double digit growth, we might be in for a healthy period of leveling off.    Normal long term real estate appreciation rates are around the inflation rate, so prices may rise 3-5% give or take.      There have been plenty of price reductions on the multiple listing service lately, but some of that is because those sellers were overly optimistic and initially listed their properties at too high of a price.      Just recently I’ve heard of a few companies issuing layoffs, so the steamy pressure spilling over into the San Lorenzo Valley from the Silicon Valley just might cool down.   On the other hand, with tens of thousands of homes recently lost due to wildfires, and continued job and population growth throughout the SF Bay Area, new homes simply aren’t being built fast enough to meet demand.

Bear Creek Road November 2012
Santa Cruz Mountains

I originally wrote this article in December for the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin.    Here is a link to an article I just read, that corroborates my outlook (always a good feeling!).

Here are major economists’ price forecasts for California as mentioned in that article:

California Association of REALTORS +3.1%

Chapman University                               +3.1%



Regardless of the macro or micro economy, each individual’s circumstances are unique.    Let’s meet to review your situation and see what works best for you.


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

Minolta DSC
Photo Credit John Urwin

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.




Happy first time home buyers in the Santa Cruz Mountains

It all began when I answered an incoming call, even though I didn’t recognize the phone number.     A genteel and intelligent young man began asking me some great questions about purchasing a home in the Santa Cruz mountains.    We agreed to meet soon after…

I was competing with the number one real estate team for these first time buyers’ business.    After many more thoughtful questions and answers, they chose to work with me.     These first time buyers had my complete attention: their trust, happiness, referrals, and eventually their repeat business means everything to me.     The way I look at it, my clients are number one, not me!

And so, the search was on for their perfect home.     Armed with their wants and needs, I set out to tour possible properties.  We toured the leading possibilities together and I refined my understanding of their ideals.

On brokers’ tour one week, I came across two great candidates.   I video taped a candid walk-through.    I went to this extra effort because they are very busy people who are relocating from another area. These videos helped to convey the property setting, which was the main objective: they wanted a property that felt like a retreat from their hectic  work and lifestyle.

The next phase was the offering process.    This was more challenging, because there were about half a dozen offers.     We talked about other properties, their strategy, and the fit of the property for them.    They made informed decisions and won the bidding!

I’ll zoom past the many, many details of the escrow, which was only three weeks long: the sellers’ choice.    Closing day was yesterday, and I’m delighted to say – they’re happy campers.


Top Ten Home Buyer Tips

Top 10 Buyer Tips

Did you know that, nationwide, about 1/3 of home purchasers are first time home buyers?         Since even experienced buyers sometimes make costly mistakes, I thought a top 10 list would be valuable for you.   Some tips may seem obvious, yet, each of these lessons are from the school of hard knocks.


  1. Myth: you need 20% for a down payment

🏡 With mortgage interest rates still near historical lows, waiting to save a 20% down payment might not make good financial sense.   Rents in some areas are so high, it may cost more to rent than to own.  Rent payments vanish, leaving you nothing to show but cancelled checks, while a mortgage payment may help you build equity for your future.

🏡 There are several zero to low down payment loans (just 3-3.5% down).

🏡 Find out from a lender if a Home Ready, USDA, FHA or VA loan might work for you.

🏡 First time home buyers may use gift money from family, apply for grants, borrow from certain retirement accounts, or benefit from employer assistance programs.


  1. Invest your time in getting pre-approved   Give your lender all of the documentation to get pre-approved before you start shopping for a home.

🏡 Save time: a pre-qualification letter may not be taken seriously by sellers.   Sellers prefer to work with a buyer who has put in the effort to get pre-approved.

🏡 Save heart ache: falling in love with a home it turns out you really can’t afford.

🏡 Save stress: you’ll be prepared to focus on the property itself when making an offer, not scrambling to submit loan paperwork too.

🏡 Save money: you may qualify for a lower interest rate after cleaning up credit issues you may not even know about.


  1. Location Although features of a home can be changed or repaired, location is set in stone.   Yes, neighborhoods may gentrify over time (mine sure has!),   school districts can improve, etc., but in general these are factors outside of your control.

🏡 Consider buying a cosmetically challenged house in the best neighborhood you can afford.

Welcome Bear🏡 Cast a wider net: you may find a new community where you can buy more home for your money.   That’s how I ended up living in Boulder Creek in the idyllic San Lorenzo Valley!    More and more companies allow telecommuting, now that we have  video conferencing and better on-line work collaboration tools.

🏡 Visit your potential new neighborhood at different times and on different days.   Talk to the neighbors, visit the stores and places you’re likely to go.   Chat people up!   Ask about the weather, schools, services.   Ask people why they like living there.   Listen to your intuition.


  1. Myth: buyers get a better deal by working with the listing (sellers’) agent   Reality: the sales commission  was already negotiated between the sellers and their agent before the buyer came into the picture.   While “dual agency” -representing both sides-is legal in California, I feel any merits are debatable.   This is a sensitive topic for some agents, since a “dual agent” makes more money.  It can get challenging for an agent to stay completely neutral to both parties so negotiations remain “arms’ length.”

🏡 There’s no extra fee to hire a dedicated buyers’ agent 98% of the time.

🏡 A dedicated buyers’ agent will let you know about all properties that may work for you, not just try to sell their own listings.

🏡 Buyers’ agents owe you their loyalty, and, during difficult negotiations, they will advocate on your behalf.


  1. Hidden Gems “Something must be wrong with that home. It’s been on the market for months!”   Stale listings, tenant occupied, and ugly ducklings may offer hidden potential.   Don’t be afraid to consider old listings!   You just might find your hidden gem.

🏡 Sometimes, the seller just missed the right price in the beginning.

West Park exterior.JPG🏡 Tenant occupied homes can be tough to show, and may be messy or dirty.    If that’s all that’s wrong, you may have uncovered a diamond in the rough that’s easy to polish!

🏡 When photos are dark or unappealing, fewer agents and buyers visit the property.   But, it might be a winner.  These often turn out to be some of my favorite hidden treasures.

🏡 Being clever or handy, having vision, or being able to afford some repairs down the road may allow you to open more doors than a buyer who’s only chasing pretty new move-in-ready home listings.


  1. Know the market Understand the nuances of the different neighborhoods, and recent price trends, particularly differences between asking versus selling prices.

🏡 There was a time when a seller would be lucky to get even one offer (2009, 2010).   Fast forward to 2018, now it’s the opposite – a buyer would be lucky to be the only offer.   Right now, buyers won’t get anywhere by low-balling a property when it first comes on the market.

In a hot market, like many parts of the San Francisco and Monterey Bay Areas right now, consider shopping for homes that are listed at prices 10-15% less than what you can afford, so you have negotiating room if necessary.


  1. Write a Winning Offer   In many parts of the country, there are more buyers than sellers.    Yet, even in these competitive markets, there are still ways to write an offer that will stand out for the sellers.

🏡  Do not rely on real estate website values!    Computer algorithms calculate property values based on unrefined mega data – no one at that website has been inside the house nor seen any of the homes around it.     An experienced local agent can guide you about an offering price that considers this refined market intelligence, as well as the current direction offers are moving in your market.

🏡 Consider letting the sellers know why you want heart stone path.jpgto buy their property.    In a crowded field of anonymous-feeling offers, a personal touch like a letter may help.


🏡 What is the likely psychology of competing buyers?     Understanding strategies likely being used by other buyers may give you an edge.

🏡 Figure out what you have to offer the seller that may be unique.   What is important to this particular seller?   What might make your offer rise to the top of the stack?   Usually it’s price, but, not always…there are many terms to consider when crafting a great offer.


  1. Contingencies Contingencies are protections that are built into the purchase agreement, giving buyers time to investigate and get their loan.   Recently around the Silicon Valley, we’ve seen buyers waiving their contingencies – their protections – just to win the bidding when there are multiple offers.   It’s understandable to be frustrated after losing a few houses, but is it wise to waive your protections?

🏡 Be sure you really understand the pros and cons before you sign an offer waiving contingencies.


  1. Inspections The seller may provide existing inspections; that’s good information.   septic lid under stairsStill, consider getting your own, and plan to be there to talk with the inspector.       This is your big chance to learn about your property’s condition before you buy it.   People who go on vacation or stay at work during their inspections are less likely to truly understand the property’s condition.

🏡 A buyer (not mine!) relied on the sellers’ report; the inspector said he couldn’t see behind all the occupants’ belongings.   Even though the buyer was susceptible to molds, for whatever reason she didn’t get a mold inspection.   Turned out there was mold on the walls behind the furnishings in multiple rooms.   Cost to repair was in the tens of thousands of dollars.

🏡 Invest the time and effort to get contractor bids for repairs suggested in the inspections, so you have a grasp on the likely costs.

🏡 A buyer (mine) didn’t think any inspections were needed because the home was newly built.   I encouraged investing the time and money, since many contractors use sub-contractors who may have missed completions or may have even done things incorrectly.   The inspectors found quite a bit wrong – in fact the summary of problems was several pages, dozens of items.     The buyer was able to require the seller/contractor to fix all the issues before closing escrow and moving in.


  1. Don’t make big changes! Don’t change jobs, quit your job, invest in a new business, open a new credit account, or make any large purchases!

🏡 If you plan ahead, a lender can often assist you through the process of getting a home loan, even when you are relocating for a new job.

🏡 Even if you are expecting a nice big down payment for your home purchase from selling a property, your lender needs to see a stable income source to qualify for a loan, so don’t quit your job just because you’re moving anyway.

🏡New credit cards or last minute financial changes can delay your property purchase, cost you extra fees, and add unnecessary stress to your move.

Did you find these tips helpful, but have more questions?   Just text or call MC at

(831) 419-9759, or,Minolta DSC

I’d love to help you buy your home – because

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.

San Lorenzo Valley real estate prices August 2017

San Lorenzo Valley home prices, Scotts Valley home prices and Santa Cruz home price changes through August 2017:


PRICES   Feeling like the cooler weather and yellow leaves dancing in the light breezes of fall, average single family home prices across Santa Cruz County seem like they might level off a bit this fall.      The county’s affordable price range, $600,000 and under, is still sizzling like a summer bar-b-que, with multiple buyers pursuing just a handful of homes.     The San Lorenzo Valley has some of the most affordable homes in Santa Cruz County: home prices run about 67% of the county average.

Here’s an example of an affordable San Lorenzo Valley home I sold.   This two bedroom home received three offers, selling for $429,000.     Within the next week I expect to have a larger two bedroom home listed – please call for details.114_Roble_ext

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.

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

SILICON VALLEY The housing shortage in the Silicon Valley is a systemic problem.    In Santa Clara County, the average price of a single family home in August was $1.4 million, holding steadily over the past year.    Santa Cruz County is a great option when high tech workers look for reasonable housing prices within commute range.    One of my specialties is helping people relocate here!

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY’S APPEAL People from the Silicon Valley are understandably enchanted by Santa Cruz, with our beaches, many parks, smaller cities and towns.     The Santa Cruz lifestyle is less formal with a slower overall pace.   There’s more room to spread out, and consequently lower stress, crime rates and smog.   People tell me they enjoy driving through the mountains to work, rather than sitting in traffic and spending more money to live “over the hill.”

INVENTORY    If you’re considering selling your home – early fall conditions are still ripe!     The market still doesn’t have enough homes for sale in the under $1 million price range.   San Lorenzo Valley has about 70 homes for sale – about 20 more single family homes than at this time last year – but this year, 10 are priced over $1 million, twice as many as last year.

Scotts Valley has about 40 homes for sale, stable, nearly ¾ of which are priced over $1 Million.     Santa Cruz – a far larger city –  has just 40 homes for sale, again, ¾ of which are over $1Million.

DAYS ON THE MARKET Overall, Santa Cruz County homes are on the market about 45-50 days on average before going into escrow with a buyer.   This is about 2 weeks longer than last year.  I think this is because recently, some sellers have been tempted to price their homes too high, but then have to adjust downward after waiting but getting no offers.    Competitively priced and affordable homes are still selling quickly with multiple offers.   Right now, Santa Cruz County has 378 homes for sale (versus 396 around this time last year).

REAL ESTATE MARKETS ARE LOCAL!   The advice of a knowledgeable local REALTOR® who can show you the trends in your neighborhood and your specific kind of property and price range is invaluable.   Different communities and different price ranges don’t move in synch.  The price a buyer should offer, or the price a seller should list their property for, takes not only in-depth research but also field knowledge.   Buyers or sellers should choose their REALTOR® carefully: consider if an agent will have enough time to dedicate to you, in addition to someone who knows the area well and perhaps even lives nearby.

INTEREST RATES    The Federal Reserve met this week;  their meeting minutes say the economy is on track for modest growth with minimal inflation (under 2%).   ¾ of voting officials appeared to be in favor of raising interest rates in December.    30 year home mortgage rates rose ever so slightly to about 4%, depending on personal factors.

Sources: (Single Family Residences), Reuters, Inman News,,, Mercury News.     Month to month home sales prices fluctuate widely in small communities and cities, especially where property values can range between multi million dollar properties and fixer upper sales.  Because of this,  percentage and average price changes aren’t statistically meaningful for a static 30 day period.      *All stats as of 9/15/17, single family residences only.



San Lorenzo Valley Real Estate market update – 1st Quarter 2014

San Lorenzo Valley Real Estate prices 2014

The average price of a single family home was $438,476 during the first quarter of 2014, up about 3.8% over the average of $422,468 in the 4th quarter of 2013.   SLV home prices are  about 26.5% higher than the $346,460 average during the first quarter of last year (Q1-2013).

How does this compare historically?   The Q1-2007 average price was $589,165!      Q1-2013 turned out to be a “second bottom,” if you will, after Q1- 2009 when prices dropped to an average of $380,763.      Keep in mind, each and every home value does not rise and fall to this degree!    What this means is that more expensive homes are selling more often now.

52 homes sold in the San Lorenzo Valley during the first quarter.   Average days on the market is pretty stable – 73 days this quarter– however– over half of homes sold within 40 days – and a quarter were in escrow within 2 weeks*.

The percentage of short & bank owned sales declined to just 21% (compared to 28% last year), reflecting the national trend of rising home equity.

The least and most expensive home sales were both in Boulder Creek: $150,000 for a fixer on about ½ acre, and $1,000,000 for a stunning estate – a 9 year old custom 4,800 square foot home, situated on 3+ acres.

In case you missed it, here is an overview of 2013 SLV home prices, by community:

Town Price Change Average Price Days on Market Sales Price vs. List Price
Boulder Creek +28% $398,003 71 99.5%
Brookdale +59% $394,160 66 101.2%
Ben Lomond +13.3% $447,354 36 100%
Felton 20.2% $430,719 42 98%

San Lorenzo Valley home prices – 2011 through 2014

SLV Real Estate
San Lorenzo Valley Home Prices


If you are thinking of selling your house this year, check with me – your home may be worth more than you think!     Multiple offers are really common! –Especially for homes priced under $500,000.

In this strong market, buyers really need a dedicated agent to help them through the process.   There still aren’t enough homes on the market for everyone, but I have strategies to help buyers so home buying goes as smoothly as possible.


Concerned about how to buy when you have a home to sell?   I’ve several strategies I’d be happy to walk you through.   There are ways to make the timing of your transaction less stressful.   E-mail or Call me soon so we can talk about your particular situation and create a plan you’re comfortable with.

SLV Housing Inventory
SLV Housing Inventory


Although more people are putting their home up for sale, we have barely 4 months of housing inventory right now: under 6 months is considered to be a sellers’ market.


What are people saying about buying / selling with MC?   Click here to find out! Call MC Dwyer, Century 21 Showcase REALTORs, (831) 419-9759.

*Source: single family homes sold through, as of April 25, 2014, zones 34-37


POSTED BY M.C. Dwyer, MBA, REALTOR    call/text (831) 419-9759

Century 21 Showcase REALTORS copyright 2014


San Lorenzo Valley Real Estate Prices – 2012 in review

San Lorenzo Valley Home Prices and Sales – 2012

The real estate market in the San Lorenzo Valley turned in a solid performance for 2012, with an average home sales price of $338,238, up 5% on average for the year.

SLV Home Prices

The key factor affecting home sales right now is a lack of inventory – the number of homes for sale is at an eight year low!    Yet, there are many buyers, including cash investors and first time buyers who want to lock in great interest rates.     The imbalance of supply and demand leads to competition, and that supports increasing prices.

A new home listing, priced properly and marketed well by your agent, is likely to get multiple offers, even over asking price.    There just aren’t enough homes on the market to match buyer demand.  Another measure of demand: Days on the market (before the house goes into escrow) is about 2-3 months, putting us solidly within what’s known as a sellers’ market.

SLV housing inventory 2012 by month

If you are contemplating putting your house on the market, there’s pent up demand right now!    Look at the typical upward swing in inventory during the summer months in the chart– is there really a reason to wait to list your property?    To find out what your San Lorenzo Valley home is worth now, click here

The Santa Cruz Mountains and San Lorenzo Valley are influenced by the hectic Silicon Valley and greater Bay Area markets which experienced rapid appreciation in the range of 20% during 2012.

Felton fields and clouds, photographed by John Urwin
Felton fields and clouds, photographed by John Urwin

With gas prices a bit lower lately, more working people are willing to make the 30-45 minute commute from the San Lorenzo Valley.   They feel it’s a great trade-off because they can come home to more affordable homes and a more relaxed lifestyle, with less crowding and more open spaces.  For the average price of $340k, buyers got a 3 bedroom, 1200 square foot home on lots averaging 1/4 acre or more!

Santa Cruz Mountains: Location, Location, Location!

Earlier this week I took the day off to enjoy a walk along Pleasure Point, dropping

Pleasure Point Egret
Pleasure Point Egret

occasionally down to the beach to look at the tide pools, then back up to street level where people were skateboarding and walking their dogs, enjoying the sunshine.   During dinner on the wharf in Santa Cruz, we watched the pelicans diving for fish, against the amazing backdrop of sunset and ocean.   Returning back home to the San Lorenzo Valley in the evening took less than half an hour, and I again felt so blessed to be living in such a diverse and gorgeous place.

Mortgage rates for a 30 year fixed loan continue to average well below 4%, allowing people to secure their future housing costs.   First time buyers are a big portion of the market, because renting costs just about the same as owning.   Investor buyers are a big factor as well, often defeating first time buyers in competition, because they are putting down a lot of cash – often buying homes with no loan at all.   Understanding the challenges involved in getting a loan, many sellers will choose a cash buyer if they have the option.   Buyers making a down payment of 3.5% or less may find themselves loosing in competition to buyers with a larger down payment, if the seller can choose amongst multiple offers.

2012 –year in review

299 homes sold in the San Lorenzo Valley – from Boulder Creek to the town of Felton (according to the Multiple Listing Service, areas 34-37).    The volume of sales is up about 16% this year compared to last, and the average sales price is up about 5% to $338,238.     (vs. $321,555 average price on 256 sales in 2011.)

In 2012, 46 homes sold for over $500,000, almost double the number in 2011, when just 26 homes had sold for over $500,000.

At the high end of the spectrum, two homes this year sold for $875,000 – one in a good Boulder Creek neighborhood and one in Felton – both were on acreage.

At the bottom end of the spectrum, 8 homes sold this year for less than $100,000 – all had serious deficiencies and would not qualify for a loan.

Distressed sales were still a big factor in the 2012 housing market in the Santa Cruz Mountains, particularly dominating the lower price range.  75 short sales and 76 foreclosures (REOs) caused about  50% of sales to be distressed properties.   It’s possible that there will be more short sales and fewer foreclosure sales in 2013.   This is in part because lenders have learned that unoccupied homes fall apart – loosing value quickly-  so they are seeing short sales as more advantageous.   For buyers, short sales are taking less time to get approved, so the risk is less than before.


Tax Season Blues? Owning a home can lower your tax bill!

Its income tax season again – a big expense nearly all of us complain about.    Many of us just got our W-2s and 1099’s and are working on filing our tax returns.    If you are a renter, you can’t deduct any of your rent from your taxes.   But if you own a home, chances are very good that you can write off all of your mortgage interest and your property taxes.   

For example, a first time home buyer buying a Santa Cruz County home for $250,000

home sold by Century 21 Showcase REALTORs
A Boulder Creek Home sold by Century 21 Showcase REALTORS

might be able to deduct $20,000 or more – and this deduction comes right off of your gross income.     So if your household income was $70,000 – almost all taxable, in this example, your taxable income falls to $50,000.    I’m not licensed to offer tax advice, but this is like the government paying you back, instead of you paying them.

Here’s a great article you can read: or, if this stuff makes your eyes roll back into your head, just contact me and we’ll go over it together.

Have you noticed that the price of food is going up?    It is no secret gas prices are way up too.   But, the government excludes food and energy from their “core inflation” calculations.   Rents are going up too.      So, while the government says inflation is low due to the fact the economy is growing slowly, these higher energy costs are working their way into the cost of virtually everything we buy.

The Federal Reserve’s primary goal right now is to stimulate the economy by keeping interest rates low, and they are not paying much attention to inflation.   Consequently, mortgage interest rates are the lowest they’ve been in generations – hovering around the 4% mark for a 30 year loan.

But soon after the economy begins to recover, the government is going to have to come to terms with inflation…and interest rates will go up then.   When interest rates go up, businesses borrowing costs go up, and they pass that right on to all of us.    When there’s inflation, home prices go up too.   Home ownership as a hedge against inflation isn’t getting much attention now, but I bet it will in the next few years.

Combine the inflation hedge aspect of home ownership with low prices and tax benefits, to see if this feels like an opportunity to lock in an affordable home for your family.     My latest buyers often discover their mortgage payments are cheaper than rent.    With prices so low, this is a great time to be a buyer.   But, the process of getting a loan can be challenging.   Just let me know if you’d like help getting pre-approved for a loan.

Click here if you’d like help finding your dream home.

M.C. Dwyer, Copyright 2012