Before buyers ever set foot inside a Santa Cruz home, the very first thing they notice is its curb appeal. As autumn approaches and plants start to die, it becomes harder to keep your yard looking fresh. Take advantage of this warm weather to prep your property for the fall with the tips below.

1. Keep your lawn in tiptop shape. Adding grass seed, fertilizing your lawn and using some old-fashioned elbow grease may be all that’s necessary to set your house apart and signal to buyers that you care about keeping it well maintained.

2. Declutter your yard. The same advice you’ve always heard about staging the inside of your house is also true when it comes to your yard. Pick up the toys, pack away the yard gnome collection and store the boat or RV…

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When looking at Santa Cruz homes for sale, buyers prefer high-end features and upgraded appliances — even in houses that are modestly sized. If you’re selling soon then it’s understandable that you don’t want to overspend on renovations. Fortunately, using some of the following money saving tips, you can make upgrades and get a high-end look without breaking the bank.

• Don’t overlook recycling and salvage centers. You could get a significant discount by purchasing second-hand kitchen appliances. Just make certain that you get them inspected by a professional before putting them in your kitchen.

• Buy smaller plants and trees. You may be tempted to buy full-sized plants with burlap root balls. However, those can come at a steep price. Instead, buy…

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If you’re considering selling your Santa Cruz home, you may have heard rumors that there is a new tax going into effect in January, 2013. Here’s the rundown on what the tax really is – and isn’t. 

The new tax is called the ‘‘Unearned Income Medicare Contribution.” It is a 3.8 percent tax on the net investment income of high-income taxpayers. The tax will apply to those with an adjusted gross income of more than $200,000 ($250,000 for joint filers), with no indexing for inflation.

The Good News
Odds are that you will never pay this tax. 

Why You Most Likely Won’t Pay the New Tax
The tax will apply to capital gains, not sale proceeds. Because of the current exclusion of gains on home sales — up to $500,000 (joint) or $250,000 (single) on a primary…

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When it comes time to sell your house, you want to do everything possible to sell quickly and for top dollar. An aggressive marketing strategy can help drive showings and generate offers. However, potential buyers can become annoyed if Santa Cruz homes for sale don’t live up to their advertised images. Below are some common mistakes sellers make and how to avoid them.

• You don’t post any photos online. Almost all buyers start their searches for Santa Cruz homes for sale online. If you don’t have any photos, many buyers will skip your house entirely. Instead, ensure you at least take photos of the major rooms and outside front, and post them online.

• Your marketing photos don’t match the house. Nothing upsets buyers like deliberately deceptive…

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In these times of tighter controls on mortgages, making sure your Santa Cruz real estate appraises at an accurate value is crucial. Mortgages have fallen through because of low real estate appraisals.

Here are three tips to help you get an accurate appraisal on your home:

1. Give the Full Story – If you and your Santa Cruz real estate agent have done the research on comparable properties in the neighborhood, be sure to have your agent pass that information along to your appraiser. Also send along information about upgrades you’ve made on your home and amenities that might be overlooked. No one knows your home better than you do.

2. Stay Calm and Out of the Way – Having the sellers at his elbow during the appraisal can be distracting for the…

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If it’s time to hire a contractor to add onto or remodel your Santa Cruz home, you need to ensure that you’re hiring a professional you can trust. Here are some important questions to ask when you call:

• How long have you been in business?
• Are you bonded and insured?
• Have you completed a job like this before?
• Do you have a list of references I can contact?
• When can you start my project?

If you find the contractor easy to talk to, set up a time to meet in person. When that time arrives, if the contractor does not show up, or if he or she is late and does not call you, this is a red flag; don’t work with him or her.

When meeting in person with contractors, ask for their permanent business address; if it is a PO Box, ask why. Find out if they…

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If so, you could ask for more money when it comes time to sell. In California, a green certified home carries a price premium of 9% over a conventional home. With energy prices increasing, along with awareness of environmental issues, green buildings are the wave of the future no matter where you live.

If your Santa Cruz home has many of the following features, it might make sense for you to look into getting it certified as a green building.

• Oriented to optimize passive solar
• Highly energy-efficient windows
• ENERGY STAR appliances
• Water Sense fixtures
• High indoor air quality
• High-efficiency HVAC
• Well insulated
• High percentage of local materials

There are national certification programs such as the National Green Building Program, which…

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If you’re a first-time Santa Cruz home buyer, you may be looking at the process, scratching your head and wondering exactly how this works. Here’s a quick checklist of the major steps involved in your new purchase:

1. Hire a real estate agent – A professional real estate agent will guide you through the entire process from finding a home to closing on the home.

2. Find a Santa Cruz home – Your agent can help with this. Talk with him or her about the price range, neighborhood and amenities you’re interested in.

3. Consider disclosures – By law, the home seller must disclose flaws in the property and other details about the area (e.g., if it’s in a flood zone). Carefully review the disclosures and consult with your agent to determine if anything…

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When it comes to buying Santa Cruz real estate, people focus on the basic questions: Are there enough bedrooms? Is it in a good neighborhood? How is the school system? While these are important points, you also need to focus on the quality of the house itself.

The quality and maintenance of a house can be overlooked when buyers get excited about investing in a home. Fortunately, there are a few areas you can check to get a quick idea of how the Santa Cruz real estate was built and how well it’s been maintained.

1. Look at the foundation. A few small cracks may not be a big deal, but multiple cracked areas could spell trouble. Also, try to see the home on a rainy day, so that you can look for water pools that could turn into basement leaks.


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If you’re putting your Santa Cruz home on the market, you know you want to make it irresistible to buyers. Here are five updates to consider:

1. Replace or paint garage doors. If you have an attached two-car garage, it is a very prominent feature of the front of your Santa Cruz home. You probably don’t even notice the garage doors anymore, but buyers will. If your garage doors are showing their age, consider painting or even replacing them for a new look.

2. Replace old windows. If your windows are single pane, this is a must. New double-pane windows will not only look great, they will increase the comfort and energy efficiency of your home significantly. In these energy-conscious times, buyers are not interested in a home with drafty old windows.

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