Santa Cruz Real Estate just got a little more expensive

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I love Twitter. No, not really. It’s OK. I think it may be a fad. Or not. But it does have some cool benefits. Like some guy posted a tweet when the iPhone 2.01 firmware was released. I got right on the case and updated my iPhone (glad I did). The Santa Cruz Sentinel also has a twitter feed, and some news just came across:

[From Swath of sandhills saved – Santa Cruz Sentinel]

The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County has purchased 189 acres of sandhills between Scotts Valley and Felton.

The sale, announced today, completes a years-long effort to buy and protect a rare sandy-bottom forest and scrub habitat. At one point, plans to develop homes on the property off Mount Hermon Road, between the old Hanson Quarry and Geyer Road, were drawn up.

Awesome! I love it. That’s one thing that makes Santa Cruz really special, is the amount of natural open space we have here, and it’s definitely worth protecting. That’s good news if you already have a house here – your property values have just gone up.

sandhill.gif

Why? Scarcity, my friend – scarcity. Scarcity is one of the four elements that drives real estate values. There’s only so much of it – and now, there’s a little less in Santa Cruz. As you can read in the quote above, this land had once been slated for development. Not now, not ever. The supply has now shrunk, forever – and demand? Well, you want to buy a house here, don’t you? You see my point.

I just wasted a good 20 minutes scouring my hard drive for this awesome pie chart I got after attending a presentation at the Santa Cruz Association of Realtors a year or two ago. It showed how much land in Santa Cruz county is actually available for development as housing. About 50% of Santa Cruz is parkland – it will never be developed. The next biggest chunk is agricultural land – unlikely to be developed. And it goes down and down, until you get to residential land – and it’s about 2% of the county.

My next question is, how many acres are in Santa Cruz county? Thanks to the Wikipedia entry for Santa Cruz county, I see that there are 607 square miles in the county – not too big, second smallest only to the city and county of San Francisco. As any Realtor should be able to tell you, there are 640 acres in a square mile (Townships and Ranges, anyone?). That means there’s 388,480 acres in Santa Cruz, and if 2% of those can be used for residential purposes, that means there’s just 7,769.6 acres available for housing.

And I hate to bore you with the math, because I sure ain’t no math whiz like my brother, but if 700 acres of land that could have been used for residential purposes just got preserved as open space forever, why, that’s almost 10% of the available land in Santa Cruz county! Ye gods!

So clearly, my numbers must be off here somehow. Probably not all of those 700 acres could have been developed (too steep, or soil was inadequate, something). Or I’m mis-remembering, and it’s more than 2% of the land is available for residential purposes. Or, Wikipedia has it wrong and Santa Cruz county is larger than 607 square miles. Though I’d be willing to bet, dollars for donuts, that there really are 640 acres in a square mile.

But one thing is clear – there’s less land that might be used for housing available today than there was yesterday, and what do you want to bet that the population of California has grown just a tad since yesterday? Exactly. So if you want my advice: buy now while the buyin’ is good. We’re in this rare period where actually, it is getting cheaper to buy here. But it can’t last, and today we’ve had another reminder why.

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