You’re not a hoarder, but you definitely need to get rid of items cluttering your Santa Cruz home.  If the thought of having a garage sale makes you run screaming, never fear.   Here are four websites that will help you clear out unwanted items, without having a garage sale or throwing them in the trash.

1. Craigslist.  No matter what you think of Craigslist, it works for getting rid of unwanted items.  Just be sure to stay safe by having a friend or family member with you at your Santa Cruz home when someone comes to pick up the items.  Here are a few more tips to help move your stuff fast using Craigslist:
a. Include a photo. Buyers want to know what the item looks like.
b. Add as much detail as possible.  Include dimensions and sizes and be honest…

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Private mortgage insurance (PMI) is a term many Santa Cruz home owners have heard but few understand.  Unfortunately, even more home owners have paid PMI premiums long after it was needed because they didn't know they could cancel.

Here are answers to questions I am most frequently asked about PMI:

What is Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)?

As its name states, PMI is insurance.  Like all insurance, it protects someone against the loss of something.  For example, car insurance protects the car owner against the loss of his car.  In this case, PMI protects lenders against the loss of their money if borrowers fail to repay their mortgage. 

If you buy a house and make a down payment of less than 20%, lenders require that you pay for PMI insurance.  Let’s…

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When you own a home, you have to pay your homeowner’s insurance and the tax on your Santa Cruz real estate.  Depending on the state in which you live and your lender, you may be required to make monthly payments into an escrow account so your lender can pay your taxes and insurance, or you may have the choice to pay them yourself.

Escrowing homeowner’s insurance and Santa Cruz real estate taxes has advantages and disadvantages.  If you have a choice, here are several things to consider when deciding whether to escrow or not to escrow your real estate tax and insurance.
Advantages to Escrowing

• No lump sum to pay.  The biggest advantage to escrowing your real estate tax and insurance is knowing that the money is there when it’s needed.  Your monthly…

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The Santa Cruz home which you’re preparing to buy (or the land on which the home was built) was most likely owned by several other people before you. If there was ever a problem with the property title, it could cause you trouble. 
Avoid ownership concerns down the road by understanding problems that may occur with the property title and how to protect your property.

Title Problems

Problems with property titles include forged signatures, unpaid real estate taxes, other liens on the property, undisclosed heirs and errors or omissions in deeds.

Property Title Search

To uncover problems with the property’s title, have a title search done after your sales contract has been accepted.  If any problems are found with the title, they can be fixed before you…

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Now that the weather is improving, potential buyers will once again head out to shop for new Santa Cruz homes. Make sure all your spring cleaning is finished and everything is spruced up to get ready to sell.

To help you prepare, here are some spring-cleaning tips for Santa Cruz homes:

• Be objective: Think of your house as a product. If you distance yourself, you’ll be able to recognize and correct its faults that you’ve gotten used to.

• De-personalize: Pack up your family pictures and personal mementos. Remember, you want buyers to imagine they live in your house, and pictures of your family everywhere won’t help.

• Clean: Scrub, dust and vacuum like you haven’t in years! Nothing makes a better impression than an immaculately clean house. Buyers…

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If you’re preparing to buy a Santa Cruz home, you may already be thinking about the stress of interviewing real estate agents, searching for homes and getting a mortgage.

Here are 7 ways to reduce the stress often associated with buying a Santa Cruz home:

1. Hire a real estate agent who fits your personality.  Find someone who you trust, who communicates well with you, and who you feel comfortable being around.

2. Listen to your agent.  Once you’ve hired an agent you trust, listen to her advice.  Don’t stress yourself out by second guessing her.  You hired her because she’s an expert, so relax and take her recommendations.

3. Have it your way.  Make decisions based on your needs and desires, not those of your parents or friends.

4. Get early…

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Buying a Santa Cruz home for sale by owner (FSBO) has benefits and drawbacks. Analyzing the pros and cons of buying a home directly from the homeowner can help you decide whether this is the best move for you.

Pros of buying a FSBO

• You get the house you want.  If the home of your dreams happens to be a Santa Cruz home for sale by owner, don’t worry.  You can still have your real estate agent represent you while buying the home.  That way you get the home you want with a knowledgeable agent looking out for your best interests and helping you get the best price and terms.

• Sellers may price their homes too low.  In their eagerness to sell their homes, sellers may offer their homes at prices lower than the market value.  But, don’t count on this…

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Flopping is a short sale scam in which investors hire brokers to assess Santa Cruz real estate for less than its market value and convince lenders to sell the home for far less than market value.  Then, the investors quickly turn around and sell the property for a profit to a buyer they already have lined up.

This type of short sale "flopping" is on the rise, and it is costing lenders millions of dollars.  The greater the losses for lenders, the more difficult it becomes to make new mortgage loans available.

Here are the basics you need to know to prevent your Santa Cruz real estate from becoming a flop:
What makes flopping a scam?

The crime is in the fact that the lender was not made aware of the other, better offers.  Instead of the lender getting a…

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With the wide array of Santa Cruz homes on the market today, how do you narrow your search without missing out on that perfect home?

Here are 4 steps you can take to narrow your search for Santa Cruz homes.

Step 1:  Decide on your top priority.  Is it location, price, number of bedrooms or something else?  Once you’ve decided on the most important feature, concentrate your search there. 

Step 2:  Search for homes.  Most people start their search online.  There are many real estate web sites you can browse through.  Unfortunately, there are two big challenges to searching online:

1. Home listings quickly become out of date and may have incomplete or inaccurate information.  Overcome this challenge by enlisting the help of a real estate agent.  Your…

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The Santa Cruz real estate market is still a buyer’s market which means, as a buyer, you can get a good price on a home.  However, if you know what to look for, there are properties on which you can get a great price.
Here are three areas of the Santa Cruz real estate market that generally offer the best prices:

1. Homes that have been on the market for several weeks (or months!) -  Have your real estate agent send you homes that have been on the market for several weeks or months.  These property owners are more motivated to sell than the owners of newly listed homes.  They’re more willing to negotiate for lower prices or even give you extras such as home warranties or paying a portion of your closing costs.

2. Bank owned properties.  Bank owned…

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