Property Searches using Maps

Seb FreySanta Cruz Real Estate

The latest craze to sweep the Real Estate Web is the use of mapping technologies to find properties. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could draw a circle on a map, and then say “Show me every 2+ bedroom house in that circle, under $800K?”. It sure would be! Some web sites let you do this already, with varying degrees of ease, and I am looking at bringing that kind of functionality to this web site as well. If you come to my web site and enter a property search, the search is managed by a third party service I pay every month for, called PropertyMinder. I’ve been using PropertyMinder for years – I’m probably one of their longest-running clients, and probably one of their most resource-intensive. The folks at PropertyMinder have just now updated their service to include some kind of mapping – you can now see the properties that match your search request plotted on a Google map. It’s pretty cool as far as it goes – but it’s not quite what I’d like to deliver to my clients. Still, though, it’s better than nothing! So if you have already signed up for a property search on my web site, the next time you log in to see your search results, you will see a new option, which is to view the listings on a map. When you do, you will be shown a screen that may look a little something like this:

Red Tags in Santa Cruz County

Seb FreySanta Cruz Real Estate

Red Tag

It seems that the properties I get the most inquires about are the ones with red tags on them – they tend to be the cheapest of the cheap, and so they get a lot of interest from people. Also, red tagged properties tend to stay on the market a long time, so it’s not uncommon for me to have several buyers write to me about the same property. So what is a red tag? A red tag is a notification that a building or improvement is out of compliance with the county code. It might be a violation of the building codes, zoning ordinances, environmental protection ordinances, or it could be the that the building is hazardous and needs abatement. How does a red tag get to be put on a property? What often happens is that a neighbor will inform the county that he suspects some kind of violation is occurring on a given property, as might happen if someone is building a fence that is too high and might block a view or create some other hazard. Another common way to get a red tag is to convert an area of a home (e.g. a garage) into living space, and then to rent out that living space. Many a disgruntled tenant has informed the Planning Department that their landlords, after having evicted them, has an illegal dwelling unit on their property! And let’s not forget the disgruntled ex-spouse, who, after quitting a property, informs the county of the violations they know to exist. … Read More

March Madness

Seb FreySanta Cruz Real Estate

For those of you who are readers of my Santa Cruz Real Estate Market Trends Newsletter, this isn’t going to come as any surprise…but if you are not a regular subscriber to this free (and worth every penny!) e-zine (sent to you monthly via e-mail), this may come as news to you: Santa Cruz Home Sales surged 53.3% in March 2006, from February 2006.  Yes, February was a dismal month in Real Estate land, but in March we saw a strong rebound in sales.  However, home sales were down 15.9% from March 2005…which was a banner month for home sales, as anyone who was trying to buy a home in Santa Cruz back then will attest. And what about prices?  As compared to March 2005, home prices in March 2006 have increased modestly – from a median of $725,000 in ’05 to $740,000 in ’06 – a gain of around 2.1%.  Phew!  Not what you would call a massive rise in home values, but not a drop, either, as many Chicken Littles have been screaming about.  What’s also worth nothing is that the listing-price to sales-price ratio has dropped to 96.9% – in other words, sellers are taking about 3% less than what they’re asking for.  If you see a home priced at $600,000 you can expect that really, the sellers will end up getting only around $582,000 for it.  Also, days-on-market has risen to an average of 75 or so…if you’re interested in a home that’s been on the market longer than that, you might … Read More

Maps of Santa Cruz

Seb FreySanta Cruz Real Estate

Santa Cruz Maps

I am not sure how many of you have found this yet, but on this web site there is a great resource for Santa Cruz Maps. Anyone in the Real Estate profession in Santa Cruz is a map-hand – Realtors are always looking at maps: streep maps, parcel maps, topographic maps, etc. Whenever I find a cool mapping resource, I put it in the Santa Cruz Maps section of my web site. I mention this because today I discovered a new mapping resource that had heretofore escaped my attention: The Santa Cruz GIS Map Gallery. There is a link to the Map Gallery from the GIS Web Site, but somehow it had escaped my attention all these years. It could be that they added this with the upgrade they did to the GIS system a few months back and that’s why I hadn’t seen it. Anyway, the Map Gallery is definitely worth checking out. They have a variety of high-resolution PDF documents that show a variety of interesting things in Santa Cruz County: the location of every lake, river, and stream, for example, as well as Steelhead and Salmon distribution on a separate biotic resources map. Pretty cool stuff!

A Buying Opportunity

Seb FreySanta Cruz Real Estate

It’s one thing to read national real estate sales statistics, and another thing to read statistics for California. But Real Estate is all really about local markets – what San Diego is doing really has very little, if anything, to do with what’s going on in Santa Cruz. So, how was the Santa Cruz market in March? Today, the Santa Cruz Sentinel had a front page article, saying that real estate sales were at a 10 year low in March: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2006/April/08/local/stories/06local.htm It’s important to read the whole article – it’s a fairly balanced piece, saying that while the sky isn’t falling, there is a lot of inventory out there, and sales are lagging in general. Of course, this could have a lot to do with the fact that while not record-breaking, there was a heck of a lot of rain in March – and February was pretty moist, too! To me, it feels like there’s a lot of strength in the market. To a seller who has had their home on the market a month or two, and remembers how things were last year this time when homes were selling in 7 days with multiple offers, and selling for over asking price…the market may feel pretty weak. A lot of these sellers are going to be feeling antsy, and may be open to considering offers that are significantly lower than asking price. Mind you, there are plenty of properties out there that are getting multiple offers, even today. Please don’t think that sellers of prime, well-priced … Read More

Get your Ommmmmm on

Seb FreySanta Cruz Real Estate

It’s 3:06 AM here at my office, and I’ve just finished putting together a mailing to the lucky owners of the Villas of Capitola, a condo complex on 46th Avenue – just down the street from where I sit now, actually. Outside, it’s raining – water is pooling up in the parking lot, it’s looking kind of like a lake. This is some kind of crazy weather we’re having, isn’t it? Climate change? What, me worry? I’m writing to the owners of the Villas (most of them, anyway) because I want to see if they’d like to sell their condos. They’ve probably been asked this a million times – most property owners are deluged by solicitations from Realtors, like myself, asking if they’d like to sell their property. There are tens of thousands of housing units here in Santa Cruz, though, so how is it that the lucky owners of units in the Villas were chosen to receive this batch of mail from me? I had the good fortune to sell two units in the Villas recently. I helped two different buyers find homes there, both in February, and the sales closed in March – the last one a week or two ago. So, I thought it appropriate to write to the owners there and let them know that not only can I list their property – I can also find them the buyer! Let’s see what happens. I’m sending out 142 letters; if I get even one or two responses, that will be a pretty … Read More

Best Home Improvements

Seb FreyHome Care Tips, Santa Cruz Real Estate

It’s springtime, the time when many home owners fancies turn to thoughts of selling their property and repeaping a huge reward.  The big question many of them have is:  what can I do to my home so as to sell it quickly and get the best price, without pouring a king’s ransom into the property first? That’s why we now have a list of the Best Home Improvements for the money. I’ve been asked this a few times lately, so I thought I’d write about it in my blog.  Here is what it comes down to: 1) Curb Appeal:  your home should look magnificent from the street.  Many times when I’ve been out with buyers, if the home appears to be dilapidated or “junky” in any way, that’s enough of a turn-off to make buyers say, “Forget it, let’s drive on to the next one.”  To enhance curb appeal, you might consider doing the following: a) Pressure wash the exterior walls, including driveway, sidewalks, porch, decking, etc.  Don’t forget the windows, although you might want to do this by hand if possible. b) Paint the exterior of the house – if that seems like too much work, re-paint the trim, and the door.  While you’re at it, replace the doorknob and other hardware if it appears dull and can’t be polished up. c) Trim the grass, trim the hedges, pull weeds, plant flowers, add some ground cover if you don’t have a lawn (e.g. redwood bark) 2) Remove clutter:  when a buyer enters your home, he … Read More

Thursday, Muddy Thursday

Seb FreySanta Cruz Real Estate

Today is Thursday, and it’s “Broker’s Open Tour” day. This is the day that Realtors hold their new listings open – an open house just for Realtors. The public is welcome to see these homes, too – but it’s during a time when most folks are at work. I have several buyers who are looking up in the Boulder Creek area, and I will be listing a property up there in May. I had good reason for a foray into Boulder Creek, driving up and down the hills, through mud puddles, bottoming out on un-paved roads – all to educate myself on the market to better serve my clients. I brought along a colleague with me, and we had a pretty good time, chatting about life, liberty, and the pursuit of real property as we rattled and bounced over potholes and gravel roads. I don’t know if any of you have seen it, but there’s a TV show called Hot Properties. I have only seen it one time, so maybe I’m rushing to judgement, but it looks to be about several lovely lady Realtors who sit around in a fabulous office, swap gossip, preen, and meet rich folks waiting to buy multi-million dollar properties with gigantic commissions. Oh, and then there’s Two and a Half Men, with Charlie Sheen, who’s mom is a Realtor down in southern California. On TV, being a Realtor looks like a pretty kick-back gig – can it be any surprise that there are now over 1,800 Realtors in Santa Cruz county? … Read More

Scenes of Santa Cruz

Seb FreySanta Cruz Real Estate

This web site, and this blog in particular, receives a lot of traffic from folks who don’t live in Santa Cruz. Many people from outside the area may be wondering: “What’s so special about Santa Cruz that a simple 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom home can go for upwards of $700,000?” Wonder no more! Santa Cruz is a very special place, and I’ve posted a Flash video created from some of the pictures I’ve taken over the (recent) years. I invite you to view my Scenes of Santa Cruz video. Let me know what you think!

Home Sales Surge!

Seb FreySanta Cruz Real Estate

Well folks, it seems that the sky isn’t falling quite yet! It’s all over the internet, and probably TV screens and newspapers, too: Home Sales have had the biggest jump in 2 years! This, in spite of the fact of the fact that interest rates have also hit a 2.5 year high? Read the article on CNN Money. The above-linked article has a nice activity graph, so you can see what’s been going on for the past year or so. Part of the reason we’ve been able to have such a big jump in sales is that in January and the preceding months we experienced a…OK, I’ll say it…a precipitous sales drop. Now we are well on our way to recovering from that and are surging back to a high level of sales activity. What’s different this March from last March? The good news for buyers is that this year, there is a LOT more inventory available than last March. Last March – all last spring, summer, and early fall, in fact – was a bad time to be a buyer. It was a white-hot seller’s market. Now, though, we have a much better balance of supply and demand. When you see a property you like and are interested in making an offer on it, you stand a much better chance of actually being able to buy it at close to the asking price – quite possibly even less, particularly if the property has been on the market a while. The bad news for buyers is … Read More