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Fall Home Maintenance Checklist – Santa Cruz Mountains

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Regardless of whether you rent or own your home, these tips can save you money, keep you warmer, help you breathe cleaner air and even keep you safe.     Even though today it’s a warm late summer day, the first day of fall is right around the corner on September 22nd!       Make good use of the wonderful weather while it’s still light after work, and over the next few weekends as you check things off this list.

brown beside fireplace near brown wicker basket
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

If you use a chimney cleaning service, call early to schedule this annual maintenance before the rush.    Creosote build-up is dangerous.   Use the sun’s remaining warmth this fall to make sure your wood pile for the winter is dry: burning dry wood reduces unhealthy smoke for everyone.   Check your wood pile covers and tarps for gaps and tears and replace or repair if necessary.

 

Check your heater thermostat batteries & change the filter.    If you have pets, plan to change filters every 60 days; if not, every 90 days.    If you turned the pilot light off for the summer, you may want to relight and test it before the first cold snap.   If you haven’t had your heater serviced recently, consider calling a professional in before the rush.

Check to see if any outdoor safety light bulbs have burned out.   The days are already getting shorter, and the time change will be on November 4th this year.

Gutter cleaning Free C21 Online shutterstock_215924530-900 092418Make sure debris is swept off the roof.  Clean out gutters and downspouts before the first rain, which is often sometime in October in the SLV.    Meanwhile, a clean roof adds a measure of fire safety.   While some homeowners do this themselves, others prefer to hire the task out – in either event be extra cautious around power lines and risk of falling.

Some overhead fan blades’ direction can be switched twice a year.   This can save on heating or cooling bills.

Insulate exposed water pipes.    While it’s not likely to freeze for several months, once it gets cold you may not be outside as often to notice which pipes could use insulation.

Trim any tree limbs that have grown to overhang the roof, chimney, power lines or walkways.   This helps with fire safety throughout the year.   Keep in mind that limbs will droop a lot from weight once they get heavy with rain.   During the winter this extra weight and winds can cause some limbs to break and fall.

Stock up early on flashlights, candles, water and emergency rations.

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Autumn Road

If you have a generator, perform any routine maintenance, change out the gasoline, and fill up a few gas cans.

Sharpen up your chain saw blade so you can pitch in if storms drop a branch in your street.

Form a neighborhood work party to check and clear fall leaves and other debris out of road culverts and drainage ditches so water doesn’t back up, flood or even wash a road out.

Decks will last a lot longer with maintenance, including cleaning out the debris lodged between surface planks, scraping off mosses which can retain water, and treating with a water repellant sealer.

Check the weather stripping around your windows and doors and replace what’s come loose.   This will cut down on drafts and heat loss.    Well placed caulking can help prevent rain leaking in when the storms start blowing sideways, and is a relatively easy do-it-yourself maintenance task.

Living in the Santa Cruz mountains is a wonderful experience that can be especially rewarding when you’ve taken time to prepare.     As my dad is fond of saying, “Winter’s coming!”

Fall Snowball bush

July’s CA statewide median home price was $591,460, down 1.9% from June, up 7.6% from July 2017.

San Lorenzo Valley July median home price $680,000; up 6.25% over July 2017

 

MC Dwyer (CA DRE#01468388) is affiliated with Century 21 Showcase REALTORs

Whenever you have real estate questions,    just text or call MC at (831) 419-9759, or, 012_Fireplace by Michael Eckermane-mail me at mcd@mcdwyer.com

I’d love to help you buy or sell your home.

Click here for a free market value of your property..

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.

Santa Cruz County Safe Structures Program: LIAP

In an effort to provide safer, affordable housing, Santa Cruz County Building and Planning Department just released a new program called the Safe Structures Program.    (The program used to be called LIAP: Limited Immunity Amnesty Program.)

Boulder Creek Fixer Upper
Vintage 1949 redwood cabin sold by MC Dwyer

This program lets property owners who have unpermitted housing structures work with County officials to add health, habitability, and safety features.    In exchange, the County will consider certified structures as a low priority for future code enforcement actions: “limited immunity amnesty,” even if the structures are unable to meet current building code requirements.

Here are some of the advantages of the program:

  • Lower costs
    • Reduced county fees for: permits for modifications, reduced impact fees, and waived penalty fees
    • Some potential tenant relocation costs are eliminated
  • Any future complaints about the unpermitted structure would be answered by the County with the certification that the structure is safe and habitable, and that the County considers it a low priority for enforcement
  • County Staff Assistance
    • Specialists can help property owners work with the Safe Structures Program
    • Specialists can also help property owners who’d like to fully legalize their structures through the permit process
  • If the property owner decides not to finalize the process, the County won’t pursue enforcement action “unless an imminent hazard affects health and safety.”

 

The program does have certain qualifications:

  • Construction was completed before January 2014
  • The structure can’t qualify for complete legalization under normal rules and processes
  • Current cases already involved in code compliance may qualify on a case by case basis
  • Accessory dwelling units (ADUs), remodels, additions, and recent construction may qualify
  • The structure is maintained so it continues to meet those health and habitability standards

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The process:   There’s a 60+ point county inspection of the property, including safety criteria for stairs and railings, lighting, locks, septic system, carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms, water heater earthquake bracing, GFCI or AFCI electrical outlets where needed, sufficiently sized compliant electrical panel, potable water supply, emergency routes from bedrooms, safety features for gas appliances and heaters, widths of doors and halls, etc..    Habitability features include hot and cold water, a heater  (not just a woodstove), cooking and refrigeration, lockable windows without cracks, and lack of infestations (molds, bugs, vermin, etc.).     Other portions of the structure won’t have to be brought up to current building codes under this program, as long as the overall structure is determined to be safe and habitable.

 

Expect to pay about $800 in initial fees.   Unlike other compliance issues where fees can be doubled for illegal unpermitted structures, owners may simply pay normal permit costs to bring structures up to current code on the items identified on the 60+ point inspection checklist.   There are many nuances and each situation is unique, so for more information, visit http://sccoplanning.com/LIAP  or e-mail LIAP@santacruzcounty.us.  Property owners can also go directly to the Building Counter at the Planning Department at 701 Ocean Street, 4th Floor.    Tip: Consider parking in a two hour visitor space, not a one hour space, as parking time is enforced.

 

San Lorenzo Valley July median home price $680,000; up 6.25% over July 2017

California June median home price $602,760; up 8.5% over June 2017

MC Dwyer (CA DRE#01468388) is affiliated with Century 21 Showcase REALTORs

Whenever you have real estate questions,   

just text or call MC at (831) 419-9759, or, e-mail me at mcd@mcdwyer.com

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

photo credit: John Urwin

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

Santa Cruz County home prices and trends: Market Update 1st Quarter 2018

Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley and San Lorenzo Valley real estate market update

1st Quarter 2018

Q1_2018_Average_Prices

Silicon Valley Homes continue to appreciate – just look at that bottom line up over 20% since last year at this time.    Consequently, many buyers have to cast a wider net to find affordable homes near 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!

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Ben Lomond; photo credit John Urwin

With an average home prices around $650,000, the small towns that make up San Lorenzo Valley are a little known secret, offering a variety of relatively affordable homes for Silicon Valley’s employees.  We are less than an hour’s commute from Apple or Alphabet/Google.    Los Gatos mountains offer an even faster commute, Scotts Valley has dedicated express and company buses,   The city of Santa Cruz is just 15 minutes further, with beaches, nightlife and shopping.

PRICES      If you’re shopping in the $800,000 to $1 million range, you can buy a lovely home on property anywhere in the San Lorenzo Valley: from Boulder Creek to Ben Lomond and Felton.   In our lovely small city of Scotts Valley home prices are holding steady at an average of $1.1 million.   In the more populous city of Santa Cruz home prices rose again…while Los Gatos Mountains home prices dipped slightly: a short term anomaly as the mix between higher end and average properties changed briefly.    As you look at the chart, remember some of these micro markets (Lompico and Brookdale) have so few home sales, that percentage changes aren’t statistically significant.    And Felton home prices simply reflect a rare quarter where there was only one Felton home sale priced over $1 million.

DAYS ON THE MARKET   The Silicon Valley housing market is fast paced with an average of less than two weeks on the market before going into escrow with a buyer.   Santa Cruz County homes are on the market between a month and 45 days on average.   Some of the million dollar plus properties may to take a bit longer to sell.      Most Santa Cruz County home sellers who intelligently price their properties will see faster results.    Many Santa Cruz County homes receive multiple offers within the first 2-3 weeks, especially the more affordable homes priced below or near the average.

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Castle Rock State Park – photo M.C. Dwyer

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY’S APPEAL   Many people from the Silicon Valley are enchanted when they discover Santa Cruz, with all our parks for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking!    There are dozens of beaches, from crowded to serene.   The Santa Cruz lifestyle is informal and we cherish the slower pace.   There’s more room to spread out, and consequently lower stress, crime rates and smog.   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.

Q1 18 Housing Inventory Graph 041818

Inventory Blues dissipated a bit as spring rains give way to sunny skies.     Across the board, more homes have been listed in each area.    Still, these charts show between a few weeks to a couple of months of inventory.     A real estate market that’s balanced between buyers and sellers usually has around six months of inventory.    A month of housing inventory means that, if no new homes were listed, all the homes on the market would theoretically get sold within a month.    This keeps upward pressure on prices.

CURIOUS WHAT YOUR HOME IS WORTH?   Visit www.HomeValues24-7.com  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.

 

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Recent Boulder Creek home – sold for a wonderful repeat client

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!

REAL ESTATE MARKETS ARE LOCAL   The advice of a knowledgeable local REALTOR®,  who can intelligently discuss neighborhoods and price trends, is invaluable.  Select someone you can trust, who has enough time to dedicate to you!  

INTEREST RATES & ECONOMY    The San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley job market continues its brisk expansion, with  two to three dozen new residents per day according to the Mercury News, while new housing construction falls farther behind   The unemployment rate of about 2% locally (4% nationwide) has finally translated to higher wages for some.   Housing affordability isn’t getting any better though, since earnings growth is slower than the increase in home prices across most of the region.

The economy grew at a rate of about 3% during both the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2017.   Inflation is still low (2 to 2.5%), but the Federal Reserve’s concerns led them to increase the base interest rate for the sixth time in March.   30 year fixed rate mortgages rates rose to from 4% to 4.5% over the past few months, still historically low.   While that ½% increase, plus rising home prices, pressures entry level buyers, the mid and luxury markets are still strong here.

Tax reform changes are working their way through the system…the new limits on mortgage interest, sales tax and property tax deductions will affect whether some California homeowners decide to sell their homes to upgrade or downsize.    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!    While many of us were concerned the SALT cap on tax deductions might inhibit luxury home sales, there’s been little sign of any slowdown.

Whenever you have real estate questions,   

Minolta DSC
photo credit John Urwin

just text or call MC at (831) 419-9759, or, e-mail me at mcdwyer@century21.com

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:  MLSListings.com (Single Family Residences), Reuters, Inman News, REALTOR.org, ActiveRain.com, 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 April 18th 2018:  MLSListings.com single family residences only.

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:

Aug_and_Q2_2017_Santa_Cruz_County_SLV_SV_SC_stats

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 www.HomeValues24-7.com  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:  MLSListings.com (Single Family Residences), Reuters, Inman News, REALTOR.org, ActiveRain.com, 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, MLSListings.com single family residences only.

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Santa Cruz Real Estate Prices 2016

Here are the latest real estate prices around Santa Cruz County for the first quarter of 2016

Santa_Cruz_Real_Estate_Q1_2016

On average, single family residence prices in Santa Cruz County rose about 10% during the first quarter over the last quarter of 2015.  As you can see in the above chart, each micro-zone is moving in a different direction.   Scotts Valley had an unusually high number of million dollar plus sales in the first quarter, so I believe the 20% figure is an anomaly.   Brookdale only had one sale – a foreclosed home.     Ben Lomond got off to a very slow start in 2016.    San Lorenzo Valley had far fewer upper end home sales during the first quarter, on about half the sales volume of the 4th quarter 2015.     Why?

The most widespread problem is that there are very few homes for sale!     Right now, San Lorenzo Valley only has 48 single family homes for sale.    Scotts Valley, 41.   Los Gatos Mountains, 29.   City of Santa Cruz 26.    Only 288 homes are for sale in Santa Cruz County!   The following chart shows the problem clearly.    A normal market, balanced between buyers and sellers, has about 6 months’ worth of housing inventory.   We have about 2 months of inventory.     You can also see in the charts below that this is one of the factors that is driving prices upward.

SCC_Sales_Prices_5_years_as_of_2016-04-14SCC_Months_of_Inventory_2016-04-14

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Santa Cruz County is influenced by real estate conditions in the Silicon Valley, where prices continue to rise.    In Santa Clara County, single family homes started the year 2015 at a median sales price of about $850,000…rising to about $945,000 by December 2015.   By March 2016, the average sales price was $1.38 million.      One of my buyers was interested in a San Jose home that got multiple offers, over $100,000 above asking price – about 12%.

Fortunately for buyers in Santa Cruz County, while multiple offers are still common, the amount the average buyer has to pay above asking price is far less, on average:

Santa Cruz County                                                     Santa Clara County

SCC_Sales_Price_to_List_Price_2016-04-14.pngSanta_Clara_Sales_to_List_Price2016-04-14.png

The question of how much a buyer should offer is tricky: here’s where an experienced local REALTOR can really help you!   Choose an agent who knows the inventory well and can knowledgeably compare the desired home’s asking price to other recent home sales.

Our more affordable housing continues to attract Silicon Valley commuters, as well as second home buyers, investors, and retirees.    The lifestyle here holds appeal for people who would rather live closer to beaches and mountains, parks and recreation, amidst a lower population density which conveys benefits like lower stress, crime and smog.

Given the weakness in the global economy, many think the Federal Reserve will pause and let the market absorb their first increase in interest rates in a decade.    Right now the market is expecting one more increase this year, although some Fed Board Members are still talking about multiple rate increases.      December’s 0.25% increase in the Fed Funds rate has not affected the 30 year mortgage rate significantly, most likely because the increase was already factored in by the market.     Most buyers are still able to get mortgage rates in the low 4% range.

I’ll close with comments about the new consumer disclosure laws that went into effect in October of 2015.     “TRID” (TILA RESPA Integrated Disclosure, also known among agents as “The Reason I Drink”) has delayed closing schedules for months now, as lenders and title companies get used to the new requirements and adapt their internal software systems.     Many of the escrows I’ve closed were affected by delays ranging from a few days to as much as two weeks.

Curious what your home is worth?   Visit www.HomeValues24-7.com  for a quick and easy estimate!    If you are considering selling, I’ll help you evaluate cost effective ways to make your home sparkle.    My customized marketing plan is exceptional: contact me to see why I have so many repeat clients.

Looking for your dream home?     I’ll help you find financing, negotiate with the seller, inspect what concerns you, and hand you the keys!

*Statistically, some communities had too few home sales for the percentage changes to be meaningful.

Sources:  my independent research using MLSListings.com (Single Family Residences), Reuters, Inman News, REALTOR.org, ActiveRain.com, Mercury News

 

LAPP – How to legalize home additions or improvements done without a permit in rural Santa Cruz County

Want to legalize home additions or improvements done without a permit in the San Lorenzo Valley?

At an early January 2015 town hall meeting in Felton, Santa Cruz County Planning Department officials presented their new streamlined process for homeowners to address additions, modifications, and improvements that were done without permit in the rural areas of Santa Cruz County.

Called “LAPP” – Legalization Assistance Permit Program – the program is new.   It represents a  departure from the past, based on progressive thinking from the County Board of Supervisors and Kathleen Molloy Previsich, the Director of Santa Cruz County Planning Department.

Opening remarks by 5th District Supervisor Bruce McPhearson felt like the County really wants to make the process user friendly for people.   They’d like to see health & safety improvements, and more conformity to building standards, while making the process as streamlined and inexpensive as possible.

Kathleen Molloy Previsich, Planning Director, said, they realize the situations that exist and want to help by making the process more practical, streamlined.   That they’ve removed some of the obstacles.   Program is good through the fall of 2016.   LAPP applies to the unincorporated areas only, not cities.

Staff members Tony Falcone and Ken Hart both made presentations.     I felt the presentations and question and answer session was a success.      They’ve chosen a dedicated member on staff to answer questions – without an appointment – at two different times per week.

Bottom Line: They said after you prepare your paperwork, apply, and pay the $470 cost, an inspector will come to the house.     Then if it seems to difficult or expensive, the home owner can drop their application without fear of being “turned in” for non-compliant issues!

What each speaker reinforced was that this isn’t about code enforcement – the individual property owner holds control over the process.   It’s confidential and there’s no downside – if it doesn’t work for the property owner, they can back out of the program.    The County won’t keep a record of what they found or follow up with enforcements.

I’ve typed up pages of notes on how the process works, as well as the Q&A session.    I’ve got all of the hand outs.     Feel free to call 831-419-9759 or e-mail me for copies: mcdwyer@century21.com

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Here are some of the benefits mentioned:

o   User friendly

o   CUREC fees – if you come in voluntarily these fees don’t apply

o   Reduced impact fees – if your construction happened before ’83 these are waived

o   If you decide to pull building permit fees – inspection/plan check fees are about 75% of normal costs

o   Designated LAPP staff –  knowledgeable, creative, problem solving

o   They picked their best and brightest to be the public’s first contact person

o   Can also apply for other additions / improvements during the process

o   Previous violations might need to be cured under other programs but not LAPP

o   Focus on legalization

o   The inspection results can document there are no life-threatening issues – this can be good for insurance / resale purposes as well as rentals

o      Security in your home – insurance companies are interested in permit history for paying claims

o       Helps get full market value for the property at sale

o      Great reach-out from county with cost savings

o      Expedited timeline for this program – it mostly comes down how long it takes the home owner to prepare the necessary documentation

Like any new program, the proof will be in the pudding.  

Your comments are welcome – particularly if you have any direct experience with LAPP –  I’d love to hear it!