Real Estate Q & A

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH BARBARA

Q:

I have to make a choice between an updated home in an older neighborhood or a newer home in a more modern neighborhood. The home in the older neighborhood has almost everything I want and is much larger, but which makes the most sense as an investment? also wondering if you can set me up with an automatic mls search…

A:

If your goal is to buy a home for it’s resale value and the one you are thinking of buying in the older neighborhood is at the upper end of values for that neighborhood, then it may not be the wisest choice. If it is similar or lower in price to the others, then there should be no problem, because pricing should be considered in relation to the local neighborhood and not compared to homes in other neighborhoods (for the most part) Plus, is it a neighborhood on the decline, or are others going to be fixing things up, too, so that it is a neighborhood that is improving? It could turn out to be a very good deal as long as you don’t “overpay” because of the recent improvements. Remember that you also buy a home for it’s value to you as a “home” and that is something else you should consider.

Q:

I am looking at buying a home in the area soon as I have been relocated by my company. But I have a child to think about, and would like to hear recommendations on schools if you know of any good ones. She is of elementary age-thank you!

A:

Some of it depends on what you are looking for, and whether you want private or public schools. There is actually a Montessori Center School in Goleta (93117) and a Waldorf school in Goleta too (93116). http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/welcome.asp has more information on public schools if you would like to browse there. Experienced Real Estate Agents in Goleta can be hard to find – Call me as I can help you find your dream home in Goleta, CA.

Q:

I am going to be moving there soon, and I am interested in buying a house there. Could you tell me the price range in that area?

A:

It depends on which are you are interested in. Some homes in certain areas cost over a million while some are less then $600, 000 . Many people love the La Mesa / Cliff area. Cliff Real Estate in Santa Barbara can be a great option if you are shooting for the $650,000-$900,000 range. However, Goleta is a great city just north of Santa Barbara that has beautiful spacious homes with lower price tags. Ask me about my Goleta Real Estate Services

Q:

Barbara; I know this is YOUR line of business but I need some honest advice. I don’t have a lot of money and would like to know if I can just go out, armed with some research, and buy the house that I really like, without the additional cost of a realtor’s services.

A:

Blake; Thanks for your question. Yes you can do this on your own BUT there are many reasons why you shouldn’t, ESPECIALLY if you’re a first-time buyer. The fact is, using a Santa Barbara real estate expert WILL save you both time and money. This is what I do and my experience will guide you around the various pitfalls and help you to make the best decision ultimately.

Q:

I am looking to buy a home in the Santa Barbara area but being near a dog park is important for my furbabies. Can you point me in the right direction for where the dog parks are?

A:

Some of the local county dog parks which allow for off leash exercise are the following: Toro Canyon Park Meadow- morning and evening Patterson Open Space (Lawn Area)-morning Tucker’s Grove at Kiwanis Meadow-morning and evening Tabano Hollow (Lawn Area)-evening Isla Vista Park/Sea Lookout-morning and evening There are also some private dog parks and other areas which can be found listed here: http://www.dogpacsb.org/friendly.html Maps and directions can also be found there.

Q:

Hello Ms. Reaume, I’m looking to buy a condo in SB. I am specifically looking for a condo with 2 br, 2 baths. I’d like to be in the city proper. Ocean views are more important to me than proximity to the water. Can you give me some price ranges and what kinds of fees and ammenities to expect before I pursue this further? I will be in SB in March. Thank you, Carolyn

A:

Hello Carolyn, Thank you for your inquiry. There are many beautiful condos that you would love here in Santa Barbara. The prices for 2br/2ba with ocean views typically run from 999,900 – 5,750,000 . The amenities vary from complex to complex, but most include carports, community pools and jaccuzi, and some are gated-entry communities. If you specify what you are looking for, I will draw up a list of properties for you. Please call me when you arrive in March. I will be happy to show you around some beautiful condos that I know you will just fall in love with. I can be reached at (805)610-5403.

Q:

Hi. I’m looking to buy a house on or very near a golf course. Could you please give me some more information?

A:

Hello Rick, Congratulations on retiring! There are many lovely community country clubs here, one that immediately comes to mind is Birnam Wood Golf Club. It’s in Santa Barbara’s beautiful neighborhood, Montecito. The estates there are divine. Don’t be frightened when I mention Montecito; while the residents may include celebrities and billionaires, I assure you there are beautiful homes there at affordable prices. I actually specialize as a Green Realtor Montecito if you have an eco-friendly bent -give me a call, I has some experience in that area.

Q:

I am thinking of buying a house anywhere in Santa Barbara. Could you please tell me what the lowest price is around the city?

A:

The lowest price range that I know of is between $300, 000 and $400,000. It all depends on which area that you would most like to live in. Most inexpensive houses are in terrible conditions.

Q:

Hi Barbara, My husband and I have been born and raised in upstate NY and after years of cold, snowy winters we are ready for a change. It will be hard to leave the many friends we have made here in NY and start fresh so we’ve been thinking that a retirement community may be the best choice for us. Are there any affordable active adult retirement communities in the Santa Barbara area?

A:

Mary, Thank you for contacting me! Just reading about your NY winters has made me thankful for Santa Barbara’s sunny days. There are many active adult communities in this area. Most offer activities such as golf, lakeside walking trails, tennis and other indoor activites. You’re going to pay anywhere from $130,000-$500,000 to get into one of these communities. I would be happy to send you some more information on some of these communities if you are interested. I look forward to hearing from you.

Q:

Barbara; I’m a little bit wary. With all that’s goin on in the economy and the amount of foreclosures that I’m hearing about, is this a good time for me to be thinking about buying a home? Regards, Phil

A:

Hi Phil; You know, if I were to get dollar for everytime someone asked me this question, I’d be a millionaire 🙂 . There is quite a bit of uncertainty in the market at this time and the decision to buy right now depends largely on your credit score and how much cash you have to put up now. Qualifying for a mortgage is more difficult now so if your credit is good, you are in an excellent position to qualify. If you have cash to negotiate, you are also in a good position to get a good deal. I’d love the opportunity to talk to you in greater detail about this and to show you some options. Thanks, Barbara

Q:

Barbara, My company is relocating me from LA up to Santa Barbara. I am especially interested in purchasing a home in the Summerland area. My price range is anywhere from 1-2 million. I will be in the area within the next month or two. Do you have some homes that you would be able to show me?

A:

Thank you for contacting me. I have several homes in the Summerland area that would fit your criteria. Let me know a firm date that you will be in town and I would be happy to show you some of them. Barbara

Q:

Barbara, My wife and I are going to be putting our home on the market this summer. Can you give us some ideas of what to look for in a real estate agent?

A:

Hello Jackson, You ask a good question, as often times this is the first mistake a seller can make when selling their home. Keep in mind you may want to interview at least 3 agents before making your decision. Here are just a few questions to ask your Santa Barbara real estate expert: How many years of experience do you have? Do you offer Real Estate Services Santa Barbara What is your availability? (Weekdays, weekends, evenings, etc.) What area do you specialize in? I hope this information is helpful to you and good luck with the sale of your home. Barbara

Q:

I’m looking at purchasing a house or two as investment properties or possibly as rentals. Is Santa Barbara a good area for this type of investing?

A:

Santa Barbara is an excellent area to purchase a home to remodel/fix up and resell or rental units. Despite the current issues in the housing market Santa Barbara properties have still retained much of their value and would allow you to get more for your money. If you are looking for a good Santa Barbara Real Estate Appraiser please let me know, I would be happy to recommend one to you. [email protected]This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it – 805-610-5403 Also, here is a great resource for you Santa Barbara Real Estate Directory

Q:

I am looking to purchase my first home and would like to be able to pick everything out myself. Are there new builds partially finished or lots ready to build in the Santa Barbara area?

A:

There are actually many planned developments with varying degrees of construction for you to choose from. A new home in these developments will run you from 400k-700k assuming you don’t want a marble palace. If you have an idea of what you want in a house feel free to contact me and we can get you started.

Q:

Hi there. I have no choice as to whether or not to move to Santa Barbara as my work wants me to go there and I don’t want to lose my job. I know that the whole of California is at risk of Earthquakes but what is the risk in Santa Barbara? Honestly they terrify me.

A:

Yes there are earthquakes occasionally here, but I can only try and reassure you that it is not like San Francisco. There have been a handful of major earthquakes that I am sure you can read about online. I am sorry that they are such a point of stress for you. I have been through a few earthquakes and while I don’t think I will ever stop being afraid of them, they don’t scare me as much as they used to.

Q:

Barbara, My wife and I are tired of the city life and looking to move more into the country area of Lompoc. Ideally we would like a home with anywhere from 20-50 acres. Can you help us? Pete

A:

Hi Pete, I would be glad to help you and your wife in your search for a home. There are several listings in the Lompoc area with acreage between 20 and 100 acres. I would like to get a few more specifics from you as far as what kind of home you may be looking for. Ranch/farm style, older or newer build and the price range you are interested in. Give me a call and we can talk things over – 805-610-5403 Talk with you soon, Barbara

Q:

I’ve been looking into buying a home for some time now and have chatted with a couple different real estate agents from different realty companies. I get the feeling some may be trying to sell me homes for more than I can afford or saddle me with a longer mortgage. What are some signs I should find a new agent to deal with?

A:

Honest and Experienced Santa Barbara Real Estate Agents can be difficult to find. One of the biggest things to watch for is promises that never made it to the contract. If they promised you a 30 year fixed mortgage at 6% and the paperwork says 40 years at 8% thats a sign they don’t have your best interests at heart. Taking notes is a good way to remember what you agreed to verbally before signing different terms.

Q:

I’m ready to buy my own place but don’t really want a home as much as a condo. Any tips for picking the right condo?

A:

An honest assessment of your needs and wants is key. Real Estate Services Santa Barbara can help you answer this question. Know how many bedrooms/rooms you need and how many you’d like if the price is right. Also what amenities you’d like to have included in your condo association fees. Do you want laundry on site, or a pool? Condos offer a unique community but can vary from site to site.

Q:

Is homeschooling popular in the Santa Barbara region, and are there any homeschool organisations that could help me in my approach to schooling my daughter? She has yet to start school, but we will be moving to Santa Barbara just about the time that she is due to start.

A:

Home school is indeed very popular in this area, and has been for some time. If you are considering purchasing Santa Barbara Real Estate and moving into the area, you might like to contact the Home School Association of California, who has a website here; http://www.hsc.org/ They can help with all issues, from legal to choosing your curriculum.

Q:

I’m trying to figure out how this all works when you are NOT a first time home buyer. How can I make sure that I am in my new home by the time I must be out of my old home?

A:

Thank you for your question. When placing an offer on a home it is imperative that you specify a closing date. Generally the closing date will coincide with the sale of your previous home and the current homeowners will also be closing on a new home on that date. If there everything goes as it should then transfer of possesion should take place within of the deeds being filed. Sometimes problems and delays arise, so you should attempt to be flexible or have a back up plan should that occur.

Q:

Hello Barabra I noticed that some people were asking general questions about the area so I thought I would ask you if you knew of any good daycare centers. Could you tell me of at least 2 or 3 in the LA area?

A:

Hello Lydia, There a number of good day care centers in the area and there are also many that are religion based. private or near schools. Some workplaces also have daycare programs attached to them. My daughter has a 2 year old, and a 1 year old, and she would be a good contact for you.

Q:

Could you please advise me on the state of public transportation in SB. I will be employed by Cottage Children’s Hospital and I would like to take the public transport in when ever possible. What are some neighborhoods I can expect decent travel to and from the hospital?

A:

Dr. Bradley, You will find that Santa Barbara has an excellent public transport system, the MTD (see: http://www.sbmtd.gov/Index.htm for more information). Cottage Hospital is in Oak Park. This is a beautiful neighborhood itself, close to downtown and has easy freeway access. The Hospital is a little more than 1 mile northwest of the transit center, which would give you your choice of neighborhoods from all over Santa Barbara if you are willing to make a transfer.

Q:

I am selling my home and was wondering about some common things the housing inspector should be checking on.

A:

Real Estate Appraisers In Santa Barbara would be a great place to start. Call me as I have several that could help in this area. At the very least your home inspector should cover the following areas:plumbing, systems and components, exterior, roof/attic, structure, electrical, appliances, and the garage. This does not include a roof certification, sewer inspection, or many common contaminants such as Radon which are done by a licensed inspector. Housing inspectors in California are not licensed, which is also common in many states.

Q:

What is the crime rate like for the Santa Barbara area? And what is the make ofup of the crime that does occur?

A:

I found the following figures for you; City Population: 90,320 Murder: 1 Forcible Rape: 37 Robbery: 78 Aggravated Assault: 446 Burglary: 634 Larceny or Theft: 2,341 Car Theft: 191 Arson: 43 Murder and robbery are below the national average, and violent crime is about on a par with the national average. The Santa Barbara Real Estate News is not nearly as depressing as Los Angeles news, I can definitely say that.. -Barbara

Q:

What do you think about getting a pre-owned home warranty? Is it worth the money?

A:

Yes! A home warranty is always a good investment. The most common things covered under a home warranty are the HVAC system, water heater, electrical system and plumbing. A home warranty usually lasts one year from the date of closing but in some states the warranty can be renewed annually.

Q:

Do you know of any Jewish daycare schools in the Santa Barbara area?

A:

Yes, there are quite a few in the Santa Barbara area. There is Congregation B’Nai Brith, which is right in the heart of the Jewish community. It is highly reputable – I will try to find a couple and add them to my Santa Barbara Real Estate Directory

Q:

I have been looking at a couple listings in a particular neighborhood but find them way overpriced based on the average sales and the DOM for the listing. I would love to make an offer, but I am worried it will be rejected immediately for being too low. When is it ok to make a low offer?

A:

If the listing is past the average DOM and above the average listing price and sales price of recent sales it may be in your favor to make an offer, even if you feel it would be too low. While it may be rejected you can’t tell if there have been other offers. A motivated seller with no offers may be more amicable to any offer, even if it is below their asking price. The home could also be overpriced without the seller realizing it.

Q:

I have been reading alot about possible infestations and their effect on homes. I have never heard of powder post beetles before until a neighbor mentioned them. Should I be worried about them and how can I tell if they are an issue in a home I am looking at buying?

A:

Powder post beetles bore through wood and mature near the surface before popping through and leaving a tiny hole and sawdust spilling out. They prefer moist wood to dry wood like most insects. They only infest untreated wood however, and can be dealt with by using chemicals or a tent to fumigate them out. Watch for holes and sawdust in beams and joists. While they may not show an active infestation they will give further cause to have the home inspected for structural integrity. A Santa Barbara Real Estate Expert will be able to guide you on critical pest and termite questions such as this. There is nothing worse than buying a home and finding out it has pest issues. This is an area where a Santa Barbara Real Estate Expert can really help in identifying those kinds of issues before you buy a home.

Q:

In making an offer on a house with alot of ornate fixtures and decorative touches what stays with the house and what doesn’t? Is it a case by case basis or can these things be negotiated?

A:

Fixtures are normally considered to be permanently attached to the home. A built-in range, the kitchen cabinets or the central heating/cooling system are examples of fixtures. Many are included on the forms that are printed already and used for the transaction but there are many other fixtures that may not be considered part of the deal unless you make sure to include them. Things such as ornate lighting, garage openers, even he tool shed may not be considered part of the deal by the seller unless you list them as something that the deal is contingent upon. Make sure to note anything you want to stay we well as things you want to go. Make an offer based on what you want, and should the seller indicate that its not possible make a new offer accordingly. Make sure to take the contract on your final walk through to check off the things included before the real estate changes hands.

Q:

Ms Reaume, I would love some assistance. I am a freshly divorced woman with no children and I’m ready to move to Santa Barbara, but I have no idea how much space I need. I have one small dog, and 2 cats. I work from home, so I will need an office. Beyond that, I am not sure what I should do. Any suggestions? Thanks Tina

A:

Thank you for your inquiry Tina. Generally, I recommend having one additional bedroom to what you will need all the time. Since you will need one bedroom for yourself and you’ll need either a den/office or a bedroom for your home office, then I recommend three bedrooms, or two bedrooms plus den. I find that homeowners are always happier with a little extra space as long as it is not too much to take care of; thus one extra room is perfect. You have a place for guests to stay, and a place to store miscellaneous large items.

Q:

My wife and I are planning to relocate in the next few years. Can you give me some tips for qualifying for a loan that I can begin to work at now?

A:

If you have any large debts, such as student loans or car loans, work to pay them off before applying for your loan. Do not buy a new car before qualifying for your loan if it can be at all helped, it can significantly reduce the loan you qualify for. Avoid opening more than 2 credit cards a year between now and then to maintain a good credit score.

Q:

We are an ethnically mixed family and always a little concerned when moving into a new area as to what the make up of the population is, as that seems to affect how well we fit in. What can you tell me about the ethnicities living in the area?

A:

The make up is shifting a little currently, but remains diverse. Currently the make up is; 72.72% White 2.30% Black or African American 1.20% Native American 4.09% Asian 0.18% Pacific Islander 15.20% from other races 4.31% from two or more races 34.22% Hispanic (or other, hence the incorrect total of the percentages).

Q:

What should I do in my home to help it sell faster and for the asking price?

A:

Thank you for your inquiry. If you are still living in your home, you should downsize what you have in there considerably. Rent a storage unit and send off to storage everything you possibly can. Have few pieces of furniture in each room – not so little it looks vacant, but you want to give the impression of a lot of space. Pack up your family photos and put them in storage too; you want potential buyers to be picturing their family photos here, not yours. Clear out clutter in drawers, cabinets and closets to give the feeling of a lot of space. Next you should hire a cleaning crew to come in and do a thourough one-time cleaning. Have them do the carpets and rugs, blings, interiors of cabinets, sinks and counters. If you have stained sinks and can replace them cheaply, do it. Unless your carpet is very worn or stained, try to get by on just the cleaning. Look under your sinks for any signs of water damage and make repairs now, before the buyers come. Avoiding painting, inside and out, if you don’t really need it. If you do need to, choose neutral but not bland colors to make your house stand out in the buyer’s mind.

Q:

Can you please tell me-the local fire department, is it volunteer or a paid brigade? I currently volunteer but am looking to train for a paid position if they exist locally when we move.

A:

The Santa Barbara County fire department is a paid force, and so you should be able to apply to train. Good luck!

Q:

I am hoping someone can tell me-what are income levels like in the Santa Barbara area?

A:

The average family income in Santa Barbara is $65,661, rising by about $10K in the best areas. For less than a year experience, professionals may bring in an average $45k potentially.

Q:

Barbara; I know this is a kinda general question, but what should I start lookin for when I approach the home market? Leslie

A:

Leslie; Many thanks for asking. A lot depends on what is the pupose of this purchase are you going to live there? Long-term etc… Whatever the case, the main things to look for are a safe neighbourhood (check the police department for crime stats.), access to parks, the school and so on. If you have any further questions, I’d love the opportunity to answer them for you.

Q:

Barbara; I’m thinking of investing in some property to make some money. What would you suggest? Keanu

A:

Hi Keanu; There are several optoions open to you here but generally speaking, multi-family properties and/or apartment buildings are best. If you lose one or some tenants, you still have a source of income from other tenants.

Q:

I’m looking to get out of Kansas and move to somehwere with a nice view. I’d really like the house to have a pool, but am worried about the added cost. How much can I expect a pool to add to the average cost?

A:

It can depend on the area. If its a region thats warm year round it can add around 8% for an in-ground pool. Above ground pools may add some value but most likely not half as much. In climates where the pool can only be used in the summer it will most likely not add any value. But if a pool is important to you it may well be worth the extra. It might be wise to consult with a good Santa Barbara Real Estate Appraiser on this for more specific information.

Q:

In Santa Barbara, do you need permits to have a pool?

A:

Yes, in Santa Barbara, you would need a permit and legal permission to have a pool built. If the pool was part of the home you bought, then the seller should have given you the permit details

Q:

Hi Barbara; I’ll be moving my practice to Santa Barbara before the end of the year. My mom, who lives with me is an asthmatic. Can you say what the air quality in the Santa Barbara region is like? Thank you. Sharon

A:

Sharon; I can assure you that both you and your mom will love Santa Barbara. California has very very strict air quality standards which generally exceed the federal standards. Santa Barbara’s air quality meets all the state standards with the exceptions being ozone and respirable particulate matter.

Q:

I recently moved from DC and am moving again, to Santa Barbara soon. I am concerned though because in DC the building heights are limited, and it gives it a rather more open feel than most cities. Does Santa Barbara have anything similar or is it built up?

A:

There are indeed building height limits, to for protection and enhancement (the official line) of solar access. You can find more information here; http://www.youplansb.org/docs.php?oid=1000000154&ogid=1000000006 30 feet is the maximum single family residence height.

Q:

What are the largest industries, supporting the Santa Barbara economy?

A:

There are others of course but two of the biggest industries in this area is education (with all of the additional jobs that a university has) and the tourist industry, including hotels, restaurants and resorts. I am sure there is plenty of work to be found. http://www.calmis.ca.gov/file/majorer/countymajorer.cfm?CountyCode=000083

Q:

I’ve been looking at some home, some that have features I want, and some that could be remodeled to include those things. Which is more economical, buying something already there, or adding on myself to a house after purchase?

A:

This depends on a number things. If you want something very specific and uncommon, you should plan on doing it yourself once you own the home; unless you find someone who has already done it. It’s generally cheaper to buy an already remodeled home than to hire a contractor, buy supplies, and make the remodels. If you can do it yourself, you will save money that way. Often it is better to just buy a house that has the features you want to avoid the hassle of permits, contractors, and renovation mess.

Q:

What are the differences between condos, townhouses, and co-ops? Are there real differences or are they just marketing terms to make them sound more appealing?

A:

A condo owner owns the unit only, not the land beneath it so that condos can be stacked on top of each other. Access is granted to common areas such as pools, land, exteriors, hallways, roofs and other areas used by all owners. Owners pay taxes on their individual units and a condo association collects fees for the upkeep of common areas. A townhouse owner owns the unit as well as the land so townhouses are linked next to one another instead of stacked on top and next to one another. Like condo owners they also pay tax on their individual units and pay a fee to a committee for use and upkeep of the common areas. A co-op is owned by a corporation and each person purchases stock in the corporation and is considered a shareholder not a property owner. The shareholder holds the lease on the property for the life of the corporation. All taxes and mortgages are paid by the corporation and shareholders pay a fee for operation of the building. So while they are sometimes used in ways that sound similar they are indeed different.

Q:

This may sound odd, but we are planning on staying in SB for only about 12 years, so I want a house to have a good resale value. Can you offer some tips on what would give a house good resale value in your city?

A:

This is an excellent question, and I commend you on your consideration of future value! It is wise to consider the general population of the city when you are buying a house for the short term. In Santa Barbara, many of our home buyers are people entering or already at retirement age. So, a one-story home is a good idea for them. Also, buy a house with more than one bathroom; having only one greatly devalues your home and I only see that increasing in the future. Trends seem to be heading towards split-bedroom homes, homes with lots of light (sky lights and sun tunnels). These are all things you will enjoy for the next decade, and will help you sell your home in the future.

Q:

I have a house in Santa Barbara that is just not moving . I’ve heard from walk throughs that it is out-dated. What are some things I can do to make my house seem better to buyers without spending a lot.

A:

Are you trying to sell this house without an agent? I strongly suggest using an agent to sell your house: you will get closer to your asking price, and we know the best ways to market your house and connect you with potential buyers. That said, when a house seems outdated, I often suggest a fresh coat of interior paint and new appliances in the kitchen. This can make a world of difference to a potential buyer. I also suggest you declutter the house as much as possible, to make it feel roomy.

Q:

I am a single woman looking to purchase my first home. Are there any features I should be looking for, or any things I should be watching for in the neighborhood to help me stay safe?

A:

There are quite a few things you can look for and take into account when shopping for a home as a single woman. First pay attention to the community. Pull crime statistics and look at the types of housing in the area, mixed neighborhoods can be more dangerous as you cannot control who may be loitering from surrounding apartment structures. Consider a gated community instead of an open one. Gated communities often change the pass codes regularly and do not allow for a second car to get in the gate. Look for homes with attached garages and fenced in back yards that aren’t on an alley as these will allow you to secure your yard and not get out of the car where someone may sneak up on you. A fenced yard is also perfect for a dog which may afford you extra protection as well as companionship. Look at where lighting is and consider a home with a security system or have one installed after purchase. Check the locations of door jambs and the type of windows, double paned glass is harder to smash and door knobs located away from smaller windows lessen the chances of breaking in. Also consider the bedroom location, as a second story bedroom may not allow you to hear someone breaking into the bottom story.

Q:

Barbara, We are getting ready to put our house on the market this spring. Our kitchen is a little out of date and I’m afraid this may deter buyers from purchasing our home. How can we give the kitchen a quick facelift without spending thousands of dollars? Your advice is appreciated, Jerry

A:

Jerry, You’ve asked a great question and I’d like to give you a few ideas. First, replacing the fixtures on the sink and hinges/knobs on the cabinets can help give a fresh look to any kitchen. Also, I’ve seen some homes where the owners gave the cabinets a fresh coat of paint and they looked brand new. Hanging some nice, new window treatments can also help with the “look” of a kitchen. Good luck and if I can help you with anything else let me know. Sincerely, Barbara

Q:

What is the approximate rate of unemployment for the Santa Barbara region?

A:

The approximate unemployment rate is 7.2%, which is lower than the rest of California, and is consistently so. A break down of this rate can be found here; http://www.city-data.com/housing/houses-Santa-Barbara-California.html

Q:

Is it better to calculate the cost of furniture into my asking price?

A:

Calculateing the cost into your asking price can be good. Most home buyers want a place that willl require minimal effort. If your furniture went well with the house it will most likely sell very well

Q:

I will be moving to Santa Barbara with my elderly grandfather. He is wanting to go to a retirement home as I am starting college and he doesn’t want me worrying about him being alone at home. Could you tell me a good home for him where I’d be able to visit him all the time?

A:

There are quite a few nursing homes in Santa Barbara, so it would be very likely that you could find one near the place that you will be living. Try the yellow pages website.

Q:

Could you tell me of at least five spas that are in the Santa Barbara area?

A:

There hundreds of spas in the Santa Barbara are. I will name a few that I know fo or have heard of. First off there is one on 423 N Quarantina St called Dimension spas. Others are Pool Masters, Softub, 23:4 productions, and A S A P Pool and Spa

Q:

Should I rent or own a home?

A:

It would depend on your needs. Are you looking for a permanent home? Or will you only be there temporaliy? If you are looking to settle down then it would be better for you to own, if it is the last one then you should rent

Q:

I am considering a move to Santa Barbara but I want to know if there are any decent fishing locations before making my choice.

A:

Santa Barbara has many fishing clubs and areas that you could join upon your move. There are at least five fishing charters that would be happy to take you out to the best fishing locations

Q:

Barbara; How do I know how much I can afford to pay for a house in your area?

A:

Hi; Sure you can. I’m going to help you make it happen… The best way to know is to get prequalified for a loan. A real estate professional like me, will be able to refer you to a qualified mortgage broker, who with the answers to a few basic questions will be able to determine how much you can afford to pay for your home or investment property.

Q:

If someone died in the house I am looking at purchasing do they have to tell me? Or can they legally hide this fact from me?

A:

California law states that a death within the last three years needs to be disclosed to buyers, if the death is due to AIDS the nature of the death is allowed to be kept confidential. Most listing agents would suggest disclosing a death that is fairly recent, even if its past the three years required. Chances are if you are looking at an older home someone has died in the house. The real question is what the nature of the death and does that matter to you.

Q:

I keep hearing about the Fair Housing Act and how it relates to every house sale. But what is it and how does it relate to me buying a home.

A:

The Fair Housing Act is legislation that protects the buyer from unfair discrimination when looking at homes. It gives all potential buyers fair chance, and should keep you from being steered toward certain neighborhoods unfairly. http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/housing/title8.htm

Q:

Dear Barbara, We just put our house on the market a couple of weeks ago. So far it has been shown 3 times. My husband thinks that when the house is being shown we should not be there. But I don’t like to disrupt our schedule so I prefer to stay home while it is shown. Who is right?

A:

I may have to agree with your husband on this one! Most potential buyers prefer to see the house without the owners around. Often it can be a little uncomfortable for them to be looking through your house while you are working on supper, doing laundry or putting a baby down for a nap. Ultimately, it is your decision but the potential buyer will enjoy looking through the home more if no one is around.

Q:

My parents want me to go to catholic school when we move to LA but I get to choose. Could you tell me the names of some of the schools?

A:

There are quite a few catholic schools in the LA area. There are some that depends on your age, such as the All Saints Children Center. Search through the Yellow Pages and you will find lots of information

Q:

With a little one in tow, we like to spend a lot of time out and about. What is there for little ones in Santa Barbara?

A:

To begin with there are the usual things; parks, playgrounds and the beach. There are movie theatres too, and for a more special day out there is the Santa Barbara Zoo which houses a wonderful collection of animals. They have a website too, that you could Google.

Q:

What are some tips/rules for going to an open house as the buyer? Is there anything we shouldn’t or should do or that would be considered rude or forward?

A:

First don’t be afraid to just go in. An open house means you don’t need to knock or wait for an invitation so long as the door is unlocked just walk in like you already own the home. If noone is around, try calling out for them, if they aren’t to be found walk around until you find them (hopefully). If you already have an agent tell the person showing the house, especially if it is the seller’s agent. They should ask, but sometimes t slips the mind. Many listing agents (or whomever they might have sent in their stead) have information about the house and may even walk around with you to point out things and answer questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, or stop in to an open house in your neighborhood.

Q:

It’s been many years since I sought a home loan. Now I see you can pre-qualify or be pre-approved. What is the difference, and which should I seek? or should I just deal with the seller’s agents of the houses I’m interested in?

A:

You  may want to contact Dan Marchiano at Paragon Mortgage regarding real estate financing in Santa Barbara. He is always willing to have you bring in your existing loan documents, and go over them with you to clarify exacly what type of loan you have. His website is www.yourbestinterest.com and his phone is 805-886-0581. Email is [email protected]This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Q:

I am wrapping up my affairs ready to move and am starting to look into banking. Given that banks tend to be regional, I am unsure what will be available when I get there. Can you please tell me what banks there are locally?

A:

There are a good number of banks to choose from, including Bank of America which is of course national and hence you might already have. Others are; Washington Mutual, Wells Fargo, First Republic, Bank of the West, Santa Barbara Bank and Trust, and the Bank of Santa Barbara.

Q:

Why do I have to have my loan preapproved before putting in an offer on the house? Shouldn’t I get the loan after the offer is accepted? – Shannon

A:

Shannon, The reason for this is really quite logical. Take, for example, buying a new furniture set. While you may start looking around for one a while before buying, when you become serious about buying a new set you sit down and look at your finances and figure out how much you can afford to pay for a set, and how you will pay for it. The same is true in buying a house. You will probably look around the city you are considering, and then go to your lender to get preapproved for your loan. Once you know how much your lender will give you, you can start looking at houses in your price range. Having your loan ready is advantageous for a buyer: it can be used as leverage to say that you can absolutely not go over a certain price. It also helps your agent find homes for you that are within your budget, saving both of you time. While many people do just deal with the seller’s agent, it is to your advantage to seek out a buyer’s agent. Your agent will help you find homes in your price range, can point you in the direction of lenders with lower rates, and will be negotiating with you in mind, not the seller. I highly recommend hiring your own agent during the process of homebuying. Being prequalified for a loan simply means that you have filed out preliminary paperwork for a loan and based on the information you have given, you have the potential to be given a loan at the quoted amount. When you have a preapproved loan this is essentially the same as being approved: your financial information has all been verified by the lender, you have just not taken the final step of requesting an actual amount. The lender gives a figure for the maximum they would be willing to loan you. Most sellers prefer to work with preapproved buyers, because they know that there will be fewer hold ups when it comes time to close. I hope comments are valuable to you. Barbara Reaume

Q:

Is there a certain formula to follow when deciding what percentage of income to spend on housing?

A:

It all depends on your budget but the basic formula is as follows: take all your monthly expenses, and other recurring bills, add in some money for entertainment and other miscellaneous items, now subtract them from your pay. Then you should be able to see how much you would be able to spend on housing . Generally banks will want you to stay below 40% DTI (debt to income).

Q:

I recently moved to Santa Barbara and am not sure where everything is. Could you tell me some clubs or entertainment venues that are near Figueroa St?

A:

There is a lot of night life activity in Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara Real Estate is typically higher priced than other areas, because of the diverse nightlife and ecclectic array of day time activities. State Street can be very fun for a night on the town. On your street there is a lounge called The Sportsman and it has a very good rating.

Q:

What is the traffic load like Santa Barbara-are the roads congested? When are the worst, peak times?

A:

There are no really severe problems. As with every where, rush hour is worse than other times, and additionally holidays and weekends experience a higher traffic load, but other than the highways the roads move pretty well. Funny you should ask, that is usually one of the major reasons I typically hear from people relocating from Los Angeles – to get away from the traffic!

Q:

How large should a down payment be? Can you offer something different that what the ad requests?

A:

Generally your down payment is 10-20% of the total cost of the home. It’s of course better to offer more, as you will end up paying less (less interest) for your home in the long run. If you offer less than 10% you may be required to carry additional insurance on your mortgage which can be quite costly in the long run. -Barbara Reaume

Q:

I work full time, and have to provide a safe environment for my child whilst I finish up work for the day. Where I am now there are many after school programs that keep her busy, yet are productive. Does Santa Barbara have these-she’s in junior high.

A:

Santa Barbara does indeed have after school programs, both sporting and recreational. They are sponsored by the Santa Barbara school district and city of Santa Barbara.

Q:

I’ve been told by friends I should be extra careful about protecting my privacy as well as my valuables while selling my home. Is there anything behind this (the valuables is a given) or are they trying to scare me?

A:

There is definitely something to be said for protecting your privacy as well as details about your personal life that could be used against you while selling your home. Sometimes details such as your family size, marital status and job can effect an offer even if you have not disclosed you need to move because of a new baby, being fired, or getting divorced. Things such as mail, photographs, and framed awards can telegraph these details without you realizing it.

Q:

Should I check my credit report before applying for a loan/preapproval when buying a home? Can I get these free or will I pay for them?

A:

It is always a good idea to check your credit report before applying for a loan or opening a new line of credit. Some states give their consumers rights to free credit reports they are Colorado, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Vermont and normally allow a free report from each of the three major reporting services yearly. Federal laws make it easy for anyone in the US to receive theirs however. By going to http://www.annualcreditreport.com you can receive your free credit report safely and securely. Be wary of sites that charge or offer “free trials” as you can obtain a copy of your credit report without them. You are also usually entitled to a copy of your credit report if you are turned down for a loan and this information is on the correspondence you receive with the refusal. In my opinion the best is http://www.truecredit.com and if you need credit repair – check out http://yourcreditattorney.com

Q:

I am used to being able to cycle almost anywhere that I go. How cycling friendly is Santa Barbara?

A:

I am not a cyclist but I can tell you that there are cycling clubs locally. You can find them in the yellow pages and contact them with your enquiry. There is also an advocacy group who are pressing to increase the use of cycles in the city to reduce the number of cars. So I think you’ll be fine.

Q:

We are very fond of going to the theatre and lucky that within commuting distance we have a good selection. Are there any theatres in Santa Barbara?

A:

There is a very arts and cultural community in Santa Barbara, with a number of theatre companies to chose from. You can find a list of them here; http://www.santabarbara.com/community/art/sb_theater/

Q:

We are interested in purchasing a home on Goleta Beach in Santa Barbara. We are really concerned about beach erosion in the area. What step’s is Santa Barbara taking to prevent the erosion from worsening?

A:

Goleta Beach is a beautiful place to live! However, your concerns are well-founded as the beach has had a long history of struggling with erosion. Right now the strategy to prevent the erosion is “beach nourishment”. Basically, they have been depositing sand on the beach to expand its width. Hopefully, this will diminish some of the erosion. Let me know if I can help you with anything else. Barbara

Q:

Do sellers have to diclose the terms of other offers to prospective buyers?

A:

No they don’t have to as the buyer does not have a legal right to that information. However, they can tell if they want to and it could help them increase their price

Q:

I am selling my house and would like some tips on negotiation. Have any tips?

A:

Negotiations can be difficult and take up time which is the main reason homebuyers and sellers hire real estate agents. The most important thing to remember is that negotiations are not competitions. Another tip would be to understand the motivation of the buyer .

Q:

I’m an avid swimmer and love to swim in the ocean particularly. Can you tell me what the water quality is like in the Santa Barbara area?

A:

Water quality is generally very good, with all tests being hugely below the allowable amounts. You can see a summary chart of the results through this page; http://www.sbcphd.org/ehs/oceanmn.htm

Q:

What exactly is a stager, should I hire one, and how fast can I expect my house to sell after being staged?

A:

A stager is a person you hire to come in and set up your house in a way that will make it look inviting to buyers. They are professionals who have lots of experience and can really help your house sell. They generally cost $2000/day around here, plus materials (some have furnishing you can rent). It does tend to sell houses faster and for more money, though how fast depends on many things besides the staging.

Q:

Should I be wary of subprime mortgages? I’ve heard mixed things about them being good for buyers, and about them being bad.

A:

You are right that they can be both good and bad. A subprime loan offers you a reduced rate for a set period of the loan, but then usually a significantly higher rate for the duration. If you are planning on flipping a home in a booming market, a subprime rate can be advantageous. If you are buying a home to live in long term and don’t have great credit or a lot for a down payment, when your subprime period is up, your rates skyrocket and could be too much for you to handle. It greatly depends on the buyer, the market, and the situation to determine whether it is a good choice.

Q:

Should I use the same agent for selling my current property and buying a new one?

A:

The answer to this one is “it depends”. It depends on where the house you’re selling is, and where you are buying. An agent may be very familiar with one neighborhood, but know little about one across town. If you are buying and selling different property types, you need either an agent who is an expert in both or two different agents.

Q:

Well be marrying in Santa Barbara not long after moving there and so have to make arrangements now. We are not religious people, and are looking for a secular but unusual location. Is there anything you could suggest?

A:

The courthouse itself has a rather wonderful mural room that can be pre-booked for weddings. There is the women’s club too, a wedding garden at the music academy, numerous parks throughout Santa Barbara, and even Zooalogical gardens, but my favourite has to be the Ty Warner Sea Center. This is a magnificent location, with choices of renting just a part of the venue, the whole place without staffing for the exhibits, or even having staff there too. There is lots to choose from! I work for Coldwell Banker Montecito and I would be happy to show you around town.

Q:

Barbara; Right now, time is a scarce commodity for me. Most times I’m running around like a headless chicken but how much time should I dedicate to finding a home? – Rodney

A:

Hello Rodney; We understand that your time is valuable; which is why we do all the research for you. A real estate professional has access to multiple property listings of Santa Barbara Real Estate, and is familiar with local areas and homes, and will spend the time necessary to research, preview, and select only homes that match your criteria, saving you precious time. I can also send you Santa Barbara Real Estate Updates that help keep you on the pulse of the housing market here in Santa Barbara. Regards, Barbara

Q:

Hello Barbara – I’m on a REALLY tight budget and I would like to know if I should be concerned about property taxes when purchasing. Thank you. Tyler

A:

Tyler, It’s good that you have a budget – at least you know where it’s at. The property taxes on your property will have an effect on your monthly payments, so it is an important factor when deciding how much to spend and where to purchase your new home. A real estate professional will be able to guide you in finding you a home in the neighborhood of your choice that is also in your budget. Barbara

Q:

We are looking for a holistic realtor, one that is culturally sensitive and fun to work with. We were referred to you and we would love to know more about you Barbara.

A:

If you’re looking for a Holistic Realtor Montecito I would be happy to help! I am culturally sensitive, and approach both my real estate practice, and my life from a holistic vantage point. When we are connected with mind body and soul, we all communicate much easier and in general the process is a bit more fun when we work on that level. I have read many books on holistic life approach and admire such teachers such as Eckhart Tolle, Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, Thic Nat Hahn, and others. I recognizes the importance compassionate communication not only in my life, but also in my real estate practice. I think that has been a large part of the reason I have been successful in real estate. I always try to keep the larger context of environment, family & culture in mind. I am here to help you. I will always be transparent, honest and straightforward. My real estate transactions are fun, easy & a win win for all of us!

Q:

We would like to put our house on the market within the next year so I am thinking of remodeling the kitchen and the master bath. How much of the money we put into the remodel will we recoup in resale?

A:

It is true the most money-making remodels are kitchens and bathrooms. You should expect to recoup anywhere from 80-95% during resale. If you plan to to do the work yourself you would save even more money! Good luck!

Q:

What percentage of income should my mortgage payments be? what will the lender use to make their decision?

A:

Generally your lender will assume you can afford up to 36% of your gross salary, but you must be careful, because this is where many people get into trouble. The lender will not figure your property taxes and insurance into that equation, and being based on your gross salary, you could end up with a payment that is a much larger chunk of your net salary. I recommend that you calculate roughly how much property taxes and a monthly mortgage will be, and that should be no higher than 33% of your net income. I hope that helps.

Q:

We are looking at buying our first home and although we have good incomes we have little saved. It would take time to raise a large downpayment that we don’t want to wait. How much of the value is normally expected?

A:

There is no exact or set percentage that is required, however there are preferences. If you are able, 20% is a good amount. But if you go as low as 10%, or lower then you will be required to have mortgage insurance current at all times. But this will not stop you getting a mortgage.

Q:

I currently live in a very high radon area and have had to have remedial work performed on my home to lower internal levels. I would like to be prepared rather than shocked if I have to do the same when relocating, so what are the levels like in Santa Barbara?

A:

The household average is 4.5piC/l. However, 72% of the county is under 2, and another 15% is between 2-3.9%, so the majority of the county is safe. That said, a test is definitely advisable to research this kind of stuff before purchasing Santa Barbara Real Estate.

Q:

Do you have any tips for writing a purchase offer? I know I need to work on it myself and make the decisions and not my agent, but are there things I should keep in mind while looking at a home to write in the offer later?

A:

Thats a great question and one that often leads to issues. An poorly written purchase offer can lead to the seller backing out, or other issues you don’t anticipate. Some of the key things to pay attention to are buying the right form, picking a price, making a deposit, disclosing your down payment, naming financing terms, addressing possession date, including contingencies, who pays fees, requesting reports and a clear offer expiration. By making sure you have covered all the points which can be interpreted wrong you will save yourself fighting over the possession date or trying to get out of the offer if the house comes back with a cockroach infestation.

Q:

I’m looking to sell my home, but have friends who suggested hiring a professional home stager to help with the open house. Are there any reasons why I should do this?

A:

An open house is about more than no dirty dishes in the sink or cobwebs in the corner, its about creating interest in your home. Stagers use lighting, accessories and other tools to create interest in your home naturally. Adding plants, mirrors, accent pillows, and other “pretty” touches can make the home look pleasurable and more than just functional. People buy with more than just the intention of putting a roof over their head so you need to appeal to their emotions as well. Bowls of fruit in the kitchen, baskets of bath soaps/salts/towels in the bathroom, and potted plants on the patio allow a potential buyer to imagine the home’s potential. Some people go as far as to bake cookies during the open house to give off the “homely” smell.

Q:

Hi Barbara, My wife and I have been renting for several years and we are now ready to take that big step of buying a home. We have so many questions as first time buyers. In your opinion, what are the top 3 questions we should ask ourselves as we enter into this home buying experience?

A:

Hi Benji, First of all, congratulations! I hope you and your wife can really enjoy the house hunting “experience”. Here are 3 important things to consider before you begin: 1. Where do you want to live? 2. What kind of home and home features are you interested in? 3. How much can you afford? I would recommend you start with that and then go from there. If there is anything else I can help you with feel free to give me a call. Barbara

Q:

If a home is co-owned can one person list it as a primary residence while the other lists it as a investment property?

A:

The owner who actually lives in the home is the owner-occupant. If both owners live in it, they are both owner-occupants. Both would have to list it as a primary residence

Q:

What is BPO?

A:

BPO stands for Broker Price Opinion. It is like a drive-by appraisal. They can be exterior or interior types but you must be specific about which one you want.

Q:

how does a forclosure effect my credit score?

A:

Forclosure can have a negative effect on your credit score and to make it worse it can stay on your credit for 5 to 10 years. It is detrimental to your credit. You should get free credit counseling. I usually send my clients to http://yourcreditattorney.com as they always come back happy – very affordable and effective..

Q:

How low should I make my initial offer? Is there a way to guess what the seller will accept?

A:

I suggest setting your price about 5-10% above market value in your area. Ignore the value the appraiser set for now: it’s surprising how different appraisal values can be depending on who does the appraisal and who hired them. It’s best to start knowing the general market value, in case you need to come down in your asking price. Or you may be lucky and hook just the right buyer willing to pay most of your initial asking price. – Barbara

Q:

I recently had my house appraised and I was suprised it was much lower than the market value is for my area. Which do I use to set my asking price?

A:

I suggest using a buyer’s agent to help you determine what the market value for the home you are considering is, how long that home has been on the market, and whether the seller has already dropped the price and by how much. Then, I suggest offering 80%. You can always negotiate up, but once you set your low bar you aren’t going to get any lower. Also, remember when the price isn’t very negotiable, other parts of the contract may be, such as closing costs, appliances, fees, etc. – barbara

Q:

where can i find short sale leads?

A:

You can find short sale leads by searching though legal notices in your area to find people who already have a pending foreclosure proceeding on their property . Or you can email me and I will send you a weekly list…

Q:

How does rent to own work for real eatate?

A:

The usual scenario would be a lease option. This is when a property owner does not want to or can’t sell the property at the moment but will in the future.

Q:

Barbara; What is your opinion on opting for a fixed or variable interest rate?

A:

Hi Carson; With the market being what it is now, my advice is to go with a fixed interest rate right now. If interest rates change in your favor later on, you can refinance. Always start by forecasting how long you plan to stay in the home. If you know you will be there only 1 year, well then it doesnt make much sense to get a high 30 year fixed rate when you could get a much lower rate for 1 or 3 year fix rate mortgage. However, if there is some uncertainty – I recommend 5 or a 10 year fix. If you know you will be in the home for 30 years, then of course the 30 year fix rate mortgage is the best option. 40 year fix rate loans are the same as 30 year fix rate loans, except that they spread the payment terms over 40 years instead, so you enjoy a slightly lower payment. Watch out for negam loans, commonly referred to as Pay Option Loans, Cash Saver Loans, Pick A Pay loans. These are negatively amortizing loans that give you the option to use your equity to make your payment each month. This is a great option for investors who are fixing and selling properties, but not so good for traditional folks because you have to be very diligent with your money and most end up spending the extra cash flow on non-home related things. If you are building a business, yes, the extra cash flow might help as well, but just remember, you are at the mercy of the market, and the value of your home could drop. If you loan balance is increasing that could be a potentially dangerous mix. – case in point – the majority of homeowners last year! Email me if you need further details regarding Real Estate Financing In Santa Barbara, I have a great lender I can put you in touch with that works with myself, and other lenders at Coldwell Banker Montecito. – Barbara Reaume 805-453-9674

Q:

Barbara; What is the difference, if there is any, between being pre-approved and being pre-qualified? Thanks. Marcia

A:

Marcia, Thanks for asking. People often get this confused. Being pre-approved is when a lender has investigated your credit history and verified your income with a view to telling you the maximum loan they will offer and at what rate. A pre-qualification is not as in-depth but more of a short analysis of your ability to afford a mortgage at the particular time. -Barbara


More great articles by Barbara Reaume

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  • Holistic Realtor Montecito
  • Real Estate Agents in Goleta
  • Santa Barbara Real Estate Agents
  • Santa Barbara Real Estate Directory
  • Real Estate Appraisers In Santa Barbara
  • Real Estate Financing In Santa Barbara
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