Love it or hate it, winter is here. If you’re having a hard time appreciating that fact, there are some things you can do to make your Santa Cruz home more comfortable this winter, without running up your heat bill. Here are some to try:

• Check and lock windows. Even if you think your windows are shut, go around and check each one to make sure it’s snug - and lock it.

• Use ceiling fans. Consider adding ceiling fans to every room; they truly make a difference. Set them spinning in the correct direction to pull air up this winter so they displace warm air at the ceiling and send it down the walls. Set on the lowest speed, a ceiling fan evens out indoor temperature without creating drafts.

• Invest in insulated window treatments. Stop the costly…

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Is there anything cozier than enjoying a warm fire inside during the winter months? There is something primal about watching the flames of a contained fire that reaches back into our ancient human past.

If you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace or woodstove in your Santa Cruz home, please follow these precautions:

• Call in a chimney sweep. Every year, you should have your chimney cleaned to remove creosote buildup. This keeps air flow unobstructed and prevents a chimney fire, which would be devastating to your Santa Cruz home. A professional chimney sweep should also check for cracks in the flue liner and proper functioning of the damper.

• Inspect your chimney cap. The chimney cap keeps the rain and snow out of your flue. It also prevents…

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As the new year starts, pursuing your dream of buying a Santa Cruz home may be on your list of resolutions. Prices and interest rates are extremely low, which means 2012 could be the perfect year to buy a home. As exciting as that is, I bet it can also feel a little overwhelming.

One of the best ways to attack a big goal is to break it down into smaller goals. So here are four smaller goals you can tackle to accomplish your larger goal of buying a home:

1) Prepare for battle: Before you begin looking for a house, look at your financial situation. Do what you can to clean up any credit blemishes, pay off debt and save toward a down payment.

2) Check your qualifications: There's no sense looking at million dollar mansions if that's not in your…

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There are hundreds of real estate blogs and property-selling advice articles that tell you to stage and clear clutter before putting your Santa Cruz home on the market. However, you can’t just throw everything into the closet like you might be tempted to do, because buyers will open those doors.

If you’re about to put your house on the market, take advantage of this opportunity to not only clean up the clutter — but get it out of your house for good! Then you’ll have less mess to move to your new house. You might even make a little money on the side.

• Give sentimental items to family and friends.  Set aside valuable goods, still-useful furniture or family heirlooms to give to dear friends, family members and children. These are the items that…

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If you need (or want) to sell your Santa Cruz real estate this winter, you’ll have to step up your game a bit. People tend to be less likely to buy in the winter because the weather keeps them indoors rather than out house hunting. And let’s face it, most homes just don’t look as good in the brown, drab winter as they do in the spicy spring and summer.

If you’re one of the lucky owners with a home for sale in an area that stays beautiful all year long, you can still find a few tips here to help get your home ready to sell.

Six tips to help you sell your home this winter:

1. Keep it cozy. You want your home to be warm so people can comfortably take their time viewing your Santa Cruz real estate. Saving money on heating costs isn’t worth it if it…

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Here is a painless way to reduce your energy use and your heating bill: Set your thermostat to go down 5 to 10 degrees while you’re gone all day and while you sleep at night. This could reduce your heating bill by 15% without compromising comfort.

Programmable thermostats cost anywhere from $30 to $150, so they quickly pay for themselves. By programming your thermostat to return to  your comfort level before you arrive home or get up in the morning, your Santa Cruz home will be just as comfortable as what you’re used to, and you’ll reduce your carbon footprint.

Here is how easy it is to install a programmable thermostat:

• Turn off the circuit breaker for the thermostat. Since you will be handling wiring, you must cut off the electricity going to…

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Many people are downsizing these days, either because they're empty nesters and no longer need the room, they’re getting older and want a smaller space to maintain, or they’re reducing their financial burdens or environmental impact.

If you’ve made the decision to downsize to a smaller Santa Cruz home, here are five tips to help you make the transition:

1. Start early: Downsizing to a smaller home is much less stressful if you have plenty of time to sort through your belongings to figure out what you’re getting rid of and what you’re keeping. Plan to do this at least a month before you put your home up for sale. (Bonus benefit: it makes your house less cluttered and more desirable to buyers.)

2. Evaluate your needs: Take an honest look at your…

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Appraisals are final when it comes to securing money from a bank, so don’t let a poor one ruin your Santa Cruz real estate plans. Be proactive to ensure your appraiser is competent and has all the information he or she needs, because your purchase, sale or refinancing goals could be wrecked with a low-ball appraisal.

Minimize the risk of receiving an inaccurate appraisal by …

• Meeting the appraiser at the house. Show them around your Santa Cruz real estate, just like you’d show a potential buyer. That way you can highlight some of your home’s unique features that they might otherwise overlook. Also, if they have any questions about when things were updated or replaced, you’ll be there to share all relevant information — instead of them just taking…

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Happy New Year! Now that the champagne corks have been popped and Auld Lang Syne sung, the clean slate of a fresh year may have you busily writing up resolution lists of 2012 goals.

Top of the list for my goals is to continue providing exceptional customer service to my clients!

Whether you’re a long-standing client I've seen through several purchases or a first-time home buyer considering taking the plunge, I want to make sure you're as happy as you can be with your Santa Cruz home.  I always welcome suggestions on how I may be of more help, so please connect with me and share your thoughts.

If you're like many Americans, your resolutions probably involve ways to become healthier and happier. Buying your first Santa Cruz home or moving to a…

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Have you been considering downsizing your Santa Cruz home? You are not alone. According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), 60 percent of buyers are considering downsizing to smaller, more efficient homes.

There are many benefits of downsizing your Santa Cruz home:

1. Reduce your impact on the environment: Your home will use less energy when you have less space to heat and cool.

2. Simplify your life: Simplifying your life reduces stress, improves creativity and increases joy.

3. Save money: When you buy a smaller, more energy-efficient home, you’ll save money on your utility bills. You’ll also reduce your maintenance expenses.  You will most likely have a smaller mortgage. When you have less space to fill, you need less…

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