Although a home may be beautiful, clean, and well-styled, this is not a substitute for professional staging. Staging a home for sale is not a new concept, but it is a practice that is gaining popularity in the current real estate market. It can be difficult for sellers to detach from their personal items and their ideas of how their home should look. However, professional home staging can take a listed home to a whole new level and appeal to many more buyers. Here are some reasons why we love good staging and what we think it can do for your listed property.
Let Your Home Do The Talking
While your home speaks to you and reminds you of all things pleasant and comfortable you have to ask yourself, what is your home saying to a potential buyer? Our homes are personal. That is okay because we live there. However, how you live in a home is not how you sell a home. Our homes often tell a story of our life – our travels, interests, hobbies, and memories marked everywhere with artifacts and photos. When listing your home for sale you don’t want potential buyers to know the story of your life. You want them to imagine the story of THEIR life fitting into your home.
The main goal of staging is to let your home do the talking. Make your home speak to potential buyers in a compelling and positive way. A well-staged home will let buyers know whether the layout will fit their needs. Whether that extra bedroom would be a good office for them. Or, whether or not the size is right. Staging your home helps to depersonalize it. Although no one wants to live in a depersonalized home, it helps potential buyers to see how they can make the home their own.
Be Memorable For The Right Reasons
Whether we like it or not, buyers and agents tend to recall homes with special labels they create for them. I’m sure you recall your first home hunt. All the names you and your agent came up with for the ones you viewed. The apple house was the one with the apple-themed kitchen and decor in every corner. The musician’s home was the one with guitars propped up on the walls and posters in every room. The cat house was the one where you kept stepping around cat beds, scratching posts, and litter boxes as you navigated the hallways.
A well-staged home will not be free from goofy and entertaining labels. However, the labels received will be memorable for the right reasons – not for the insignificant or distracting ones. Every home and property has special and distinguishing features. This is what you want to accentuate when showing your home to potential buyers. Earning labels such as the home with the grand entryway, the home with an open layout, or the home with the outdoor living space are ones that are sure to get you a second viewing and eventually a great offer.
Why Not Do Home Staging Yourself?
Many sellers ask their agents, why can’t we rearrange and stage the home ourselves? Sure staging has its inconveniences. It costs money. Some of the items you use or like to see on a daily basis will be moved around. And, the home you have grown so used to living in will begin to feel like it’s not your own anymore. Unfortunately, staging is not a DIY activity. Good staging requires an unbiased third party to enter your home with objectivity and neutrality. It requires a good eye for design and natural beauty of homes. Most importantly, it requires the ability to honestly tell you what furniture works for your space and what does not.
Often times homeowners take these suggestions personally but do your best not to. Your home stager is not saying your furniture is ugly or outdated, they are merely letting you know that it doesn’t accentuate the best feature of the room or is drawing attention away from the most noteworthy accents of the home.
Hiring a stager doesn’t mean all your furniture must go. The best stagers can work with what you have, rearranging and relocating your furniture and decor to accentuate the best features of your home. They will most likely relocate some of your belongings to the garage or outdoor storage places, but they can often utilize a lot of your existing furniture. With the addition of a few hand-picked pieces from their collection and some well thought out wall and shelving decor, your home will be ready for showings in no time.
Let Your Property Shine
Staging is by no means a requirement for our listings, and many homes sell just fine and rather quickly without staging. But we have found that a simple and professional staging job can really bring out the best features of a property. For homeowners interested in selling their home in the shortest amount of time, and for the most money possible, appealing to a large variety of potential buyers is important, and that’s exactly what staging can do for your home.
If you are thinking of selling or are in need of professional home staging for your upcoming listing reach out to The Mower Group. Although we don’t provide staging for our clients, we have some great local contacts who are true professionals at home staging and do a beautiful job with the listings we refer them.
Whether it’s the start of the new year or the promise of that tax return, many homeowners begin to plan upcoming household projects in January. Proper budgeting and planning the right project for the right season is important. However, the most important part of doing home improvements is hiring qualified and trustworthy tradesmen. By hiring the right tradesman for your project you can rest assured that your project is in good hands. Hiring an incompetent tradesman can come with a slew of problems. Incorrect work, unfinished work, and in some extreme cases even legal disputes. Here are some helpful tips from The Mower Group to consider anytime you plan to hire outside workers for your home projects.
Do Your Research
One of the best ways to start your hunt for a good tradesman is by researching local recommendations in your area. Yelp, Google, and Facebook reviews are a great place to start. Narrow down your list to the top two or three with the best reviews. Many homeowners are now sharing information on Nextdoor which is a great idea! With Nextdoor you can hear directly from your neighbors and people in your community about which tradesmen they use. Ask about their home project results and their personal experiences with them.
Narrow down your list of potential hires to the top two or three recommended. Then, check to see if they are an Accredited Business with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). BBB Accredited Businesses agree to a separate set of standards including honest advertising, fair pricing, trustworthy work, and many others. Additionally, on the BBB website, you can search whether the business has complaints, reviews, and any scam alerts.
Ask For References on Your Tradesmen
You are not obligated to hire a tradesman just because you have contacted them to inquire about a project. One of the first questions you should ask the tradesman is for a list of local references you may contact regarding their work. If they are unwilling to provide you with references or do not have any, this may be a red flag. If they do provide you with references ask them about the services performed and their overall experience with the tradesman and their work. Some other good points to check up on with references is whether the tradesman stayed within the estimated budget for the project and if they completed the work on time.
Get Multiple Quotes
For any home project, we recommend shopping around and getting at least two to three quotes. There are many skilled tradesmen around. Therefore, you will likely end up with two or three that have good reviews and have provided you with solid references. Request a bid from each of them. Ensure each considers the same project criteria when making your estimated quote. Keep in mind that the lowest bid may not always be the best bid. In fact, if one bid is significantly lower than the other two this may be a red flag. The tradesman may intend to cut corners on the project or use lower quality building materials. Having multiple quotes for one project may be time-consuming. However, providing yourself with options is well worth the wait.
Don’t Leave Loose Ends When Hiring Tradesmen
Once you have found the tradesman you want to work with, wrap up all loose ends to the hiring process. Always ensure your tradesman has the necessary license and insurance to accept work in your county. If your project requires work permits, ensure that your tradesman and you discuss this, who will obtain them, and how they will be paid for. Do not allow anyone to do any additions to your home without the proper permits – this can cause huge headaches in the future so it should be avoided at all costs.
Get your quotes in writing, including estimated completion time. Finally, arrange a payment schedule that works for both parties, and ensure you never pay for a large scale project upfront. It is best to stagger the payment plan so the final payment for the project is not due until the project has been completed, giving you ample opportunity to inspect the tradesman’s work on your home and ensure satisfaction.
Doing projects around the house and making home improvements can be a lot of fun. Not only does it allow you to get creative with designs, color schemes, and other personalized details, but it is also a great way to improve the value of your home. However, your home is a very valuable asset so it is important you don’t just let anyone do work on it. Make sure you do your homework and hire qualified people for the job, ensuring your home is treated with the respect and love you would want for it – it is YOUR HOME after all.
The start of a new year is a great time to reflect on your past year’s performance and to establish new goals for yourself and/or your business. Whether your New Year’s goals are personal or professional, the most important part of setting goals is to make them realistic and attainable. It’s a great opportunity to push yourself to do better in some area of your life. Here at The Mower Group, we are excited about the new year ahead and the goals we’ve set for ourselves.
Our Main Priority for 2019
Our main priority for the next year is to give our clients the best real estate experience of their lives, while also ensuring each person who comes into contact with The Mower Group gets a feel for our “secret sauce”. This doesn’t only include our buyers and sellers who are gracious enough to trust us with their real estate needs; this also includes the mortgage brokers, escrow and title company personnel, fellow real estate agents, fellow David Lyng Real Estate staff, inspectors and tradespeople, and everyone else behind the scenes that makes our real estate world go round. We hope to achieve excellent service that is above and beyond expectations. And, we aim to fine-tune the secret sauce of The Mower Group, while ensuring everyone we work with knows exactly what our secret sauce is.
What is The Mower Group “Secret Sauce”?
The secret sauce of our business is the unique touch we put on every transaction; it’s what sets us apart from all the other professionals in our industry. Business expert Tim Berry calls the secret sauce of a business the magic, the differentiators, the competitive edge, and our personal favorite – the heart of the plan.
We want our clients to have an unforgettable experience when they work with us, and for each person to get a bit of our secret sauce along the way. Real estate can be the most stressful and challenging transaction of a person’s life, and here at The Mower Group, our aim is to ease that stress and make everything run as smoothly as possible. What is the heart of our plan? What exactly is our secret sauce? When you experience it you will know the answer to that very important question!
It’s the way we work together, the way we work with others, the care we put into each home we list or help someone purchase, the understanding for each unique situation, the time devoted to making the lives of our clients easier, it’s the very reason we are in the real estate business in the first place.
Our Hope for 2019!
Of course, we hope to help as many people as we can to buy their dream homes, or to sell their home in order to embark on the next chapter in their lives. More than that, our hope for 2019 is that we leave every person who works with The Mower Group with that inexplicable feeling you get when you know things are just right. The feeling that you are cared for, the feeling that you belong with this group of people, the feeling that you made the right decision, and trusted the right people. Our hope is that you will each have the opportunity to experience the feelings that are associated with The Mower Group’s secret sauce!
Here’s to wishing you all good health, happiness, and prosperity to add to your own secret sauce in 2019 and always!
Happy New Year,
Joell, Joe, and Jarah!
The Mower Group
Despite our sandy shores and predominantly sunny weather, we still know how to get in the holiday spirit in Santa Cruz. Check out this list of five great holiday activities you must do this season. These attractions have all the traditional holiday feels, with that classic Santa Cruz twist.
A Celtic Christmas
While many families have a holiday tradition of seeing Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”, why not switch it up a bit? Check out Tomaseen Foley’s “A Celtic Christmas”. For the past twenty years William Coulter, a professional and lecturer in guitar and a UCSC alumnus, has directed and performed in “A Celtic Christmas”. This performance features Irish music and storytelling. The stage for this piece is set in rural Irish farmhouse on a winter evening in the 1940s. It brings the Christmas spirit to viewers with traditional Irish Christmas carols, traditional Irish dance, and old stories. You can check this performance out on Wednesday, December 19th, at 7:30 pm at the UCSC Recital Hall.
Winter Art Market
Located at the Tannery Arts Center this annual winter market is a must-see in Santa Cruz. Featuring handmade ceramics, jewelry, clothing, and art this is a great way to support our local artisans while also checking some things off that holiday shopping list. You can check this winter market out Saturday, December 1st, and Sunday, December 2nd from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm.
Lighted Boat Parade
One of our favorite holiday traditions in Santa Cruz is the annual Lighted Boat Parade. What better way to celebrate the holiday season in Santa Cruz style than to decorate your boat and sit seaside to take in thousands of Christmas lights? Located at the Santa Cruz harbor, this family-friendly event kicks off at the beginning of December every year, rain or shine. Bring snacks, lawn chairs and grab a spot early, or watch the parade from The Crow’s Nest if you make a reservation in time. This year’s boat parade will be Saturday, December 1st at 5:30 pm.
Jingle Shells Arts & Crafts
The Seymour Marine Discovery Museum hosts an annual holiday celebration that embraces all things, Santa Cruz. Local artists display their ocean-inspired gifts while visitors can enjoy live music and simple refreshments with an ocean view. This event is family-friendly with a crafts table and activities for your kids. You can browse and buy jewelry, art, photography, and ceramics. Again, this is a great way to shop local and support your local Santa Cruz artisans. This year’s Jingle Shells event will be on Sunday, December 9th from 12:00 pm – 5:30 pm.
Holiday Lights Train
If you’ve lived in Santa Cruz for a long time then you have most likely ridden the Holiday Lights Train featured by Roaring Camp at least once. If you are new to Santa Cruz or haven’t checked this out yet, we recommend you try it out – and for many local families, its become an annual holiday tradition. This train ride features decorated train cars, complimentary apple cider, and holiday cookies, and Santa and Mrs. Clause make it a point to visit each and every child on the train. The times and pick-up locations vary depending on the day of the week and time of day you wish to ride so check out Roaring Camp for details.
If you are like most of us the thought of hosting a large Thanksgiving Day celebration can be a little overwhelming and sometimes stressful. Here are some helpful tips from The Mower Group on how to pull off a successful Thanksgiving Day dinner with your loved ones, while leaving you with some extra time on your hands to spend with the ones you love.
1. Plan Simple Thanksgiving Decorations
There is no need to spend a lot of time and money decking out your entire home in fall decorum. A simple table cloth and vase of fresh flowers is all you need to make a picture-perfect dining space. However, if you are going for a little bit more this year try going edible with your table centerpiece. Simple and popular fall decoration is to get a glass bowl and fill it with edibles such as fresh fruit, nuts, and small pumpkins. Not only will this look perfect for the occasion but you can encourage your guests to grab a handful of fruit or nuts while they wait for that slow-roasting turkey to bake.
2. Get Your Appliances And Serving Dishes Prepared
Do not wait until the morning to get your baking dishes prepared. Hosting a large meal such as Thanksgiving dinner often requires serving platters, toaster ovens, and extra tables and chairs. Don’t wait until the morning of to pull these things out of storage. Also, wash and label your serving platters beforehand with what dish you want each to hold. This will save you a lot of time and confusion the day of, especially with all those helping hands in the kitchen.
3. Go Store-Bought Where You Can
The less time you are stuck cooking in the kitchen the more time you have to spend with your family. Although many of us like to use the holidays as an opportunity to try the newest trend on an old classic or to show off our homemade cooking skills, we recommend you go store-bought where you can. Some Thanksgiving Day staples such as rolls, cranberry sauce, and pies are just as good from the store, and buying these things rather than making them from scratch can save you a lot of time.
4. Use Your Oven Space Wisely
If you are like most of us, trying to figure out how to cook the sides while your turkey takes up all your oven space is one of the biggest headaches of hosting Thanksgiving dinner. If you don’t own a toaster oven buy one! These are a great way to get a little extra oven space for big events, but they can easily be stored since most of us do not need a double oven more than a couple of times a year. Also, plan out what you can do on your stovetop. Dishes such as mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts, and other vegetables can be done on your stovetop.
5. Travel-Friendly Thanksgiving Dishes
If it’s not your turn to host the big event this year you can still contribute to the meal by bringing a tasty side dish. However, some sides travel better than others. If something as simple as a store-bought pie is not an option we recommend dishes such as sweet potato mash or green bean casserole for the travelers. These dishes can be prepared in a baking dish, keep well in a brief car ride, and can be baked in the oven in the same dish they were prepared in. However, don’t forget to ask the host about that coveted oven space we talked about in number 4 if you plan to bring a side dish that requires baking.
6. Keep the Kids Busy
If your Thanksgiving holiday is like ours there are plenty of kids running around the house. Waiting on that bird to come out of the oven can feel like a lifetime for a kid, and when at a home that is not their own there is most likely not a lot of toys to keep them occupied. Setting up a craft table with some simple crafting supplies is a great way to keep the kids occupied on Thanksgiving Day. Also, decorating the kid’s table with a bucket of coloring books, crayons, board games, and trivia cards is another sure way to keep them happy and entertained while the adults cook and mingle.
7. Get Creative With Thanksgiving Leftovers
Once all is said and done you will most likely be left with quite a few dishes of leftovers. Often the host is the only one able to enjoy these tasty leftovers, but why not share these with your guests? Buy a package of disposable Tupperware and encourage your guests to pack a to-go bag for themselves. Also, a fun way to get your guests to take and enjoy leftovers is to print and hand out some fun Thanksgiving Day leftover recipes for them to try out. We recommend a turkey-potato soup or cranberry-turkey roll-up recipe as great ways to recreate those classic dishes the next day.
The most important part of Thanksgiving Day celebrations is to have an opportunity to get together with family or friends, enjoy each other’s company, and give thanks for what you have. The less time you spend in the kitchen stressing over the small things the more time you will have with your loved ones, and that is what really matters.
So with all that being said, we wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving from our families to yours!
Buying and selling a home is commonly the biggest monetary transaction a person will make in their lifetime. Although the process and the end product is exciting, the journey to buying and selling can come with ups and downs. Choosing a realtor that is right for you can make or break your real estate experience. Here are some useful tips on how to choose a great real estate agent.
Do Your Research
In most areas, there are plenty of qualified real estate agents to choose from. So what sets one agent apart from another? Taking the time to do your research on an agent can really pay off in the long run. The first thing you should do to research your potential agent is to verify their credentials – ensure the agent is in fact licensed and also check to make sure they have no disciplinary actions against them.
Another great way to study up on an agent is to talk to some of their recent clients. Find out how they felt about their experience with the agent. Was the agent available and accessible, knowledgeable about their area, and did the transaction go smoothly and end up the way the client hoped it would? Finally, checking to see if an agent has received any professional awards or recognition in their industry is another great way to set certain agents apart from others.
Interview Your Potential Realtor
There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking the real estate agent you are interested in hiring a whole slew of questions, and in fact, you should do this. Find out how experienced the agent is. If they are new to real estate ask about their professional background prior to working in the real estate industry and how they carry this experience over to their current career. Ask the agent to show you some of their current or past listings and determine whether you like the way they marketed the property.
Some great questions to ask yourself are: do I like the photos they chose? Do I like the description of the property they compiled? Was the time on the market reasonable for the current real estate market?
Finally, gauge the agent’s knowledge of the area you are selling in or wish to buy in. Find out what they know about the neighborhood, the school district, the crime rate, the current real estate market and trends for that area, and whether they have represented buyers and sellers in that area before. If selling, inquire about their marketing strategy and find out what they will do to ensure every qualified buyer in your area will see YOUR house.
Maybe We Can Help!
Having the right real estate agent is vital to a smooth buying and selling process so there is no such thing as too many questions or a stupid question when interviewing potential agents. The Mower Group is certain that we embody everything it takes to represent buyers and sellers in our area well. In fact, we are so confident in our abilities to help your real estate transactions go smoothly that we encourage you to interview us and throw all of the above questions at us, and more!
But even if The Mower Group is not your choice for real estate agents in your area do not hesitate to reach out to us for help on locating an agent that is right for you. Our mission is to help people attain their real estate dreams, and we want to do that even if it means putting you in touch with someone who better suits your needs.
Preparing to sell your home? If you are like many other homeowners who are thinking of selling their home it most likely seems like an overwhelming task. Many homeowners outgrow their home or dream of a change but don’t know where to start. Here is a simple guide to preparing for your next home sale.
Run Your Numbers
One of the first things you will want to do when preparing to sell your home is to figure out exactly how much you need to sell your home for. You may already have the perfect replacement property in mind. Perhaps you plan to search for your next home with the help of a realtor. Or, you want to take your profits and run to the nearest retirement beach. Each of these scenarios requires a set amount of money you will need for your goal. Figure out what this amount is so you go into your selling process with a minimum number in mind of what you can accept for your home to still move forward with the transaction.
If you plan to buy a new home you should find a reputable mortgage broker and see what loan amount you pre-qualify for. You should figure out exactly how much money you need to sell your property in order to provide you with enough money for your next down payment and moving costs. This may take a few days and you should be prepared to provide current pay stubs and bank statements in order to get the most accurate pre-approval letter.
Find a Realtor That Can Sell Your Home
Choosing a good realtor is one of the most important aspects of selling your home. Although buying and selling a home can be exciting, it can also come with some ups and downs and in some instances, it can be a stressful transaction. Therefore, it is imperative you choose a realtor who is experienced, knowledgeable about the current real estate market, and who will work hard to get you the most money for your property.
Once you have chosen a realtor you can ask them for a comparative market analysis on your property. This will provide you with a breakdown of the current market values of properties, comparable to yours, which then serves as a helpful tool for determining the current market value of your property. You should also go over the figures you worked out with your mortgage broker with your realtor, and then work together to determine a listing price that fits the parameters you are approved for and helps you achieve your next property goals.
Prepare Your Property!
Once all of the above is done its time to prepare your property. Making even small changes and improvements to your home can go a long way in getting you the most bang for your buck. Although this list of recommended preparation actions can seem exhaustive, we highly recommend you take the time to do these tasks around your home because they will pay off in attracting more potential buyers and improving the aesthetic appeal of your home.
- Declutter your living areas
- Depersonalize your spaces
- Repaint any bold walls to more neutral tones
- Touch up worn or scuffed paint
- Touch up scuff marks along your walls and baseboards
- Change light bulbs and update outdated fixtures
- Clean all your windows and screens
- Spruce up your front yard for some great curb appeal
- Thoroughly clean your carpets and floors
- Organize and spruce up your backyard
- Make sure your house smells good
- Get a home inspection
Making the decision to sell your home is exciting – its the start of the next chapter in your life. If you would like a comparative market analysis for your home or are in need of a realtor for your next listing contact The Mower Group. We are always honored when we are chosen to represent a seller on such an important life event, and we take great care to ensure we deliver the best listing services possible.
This week the California Association of Realtors (CAR) put out a simple guide of unique ways for potential buyers to come up with down payment funds for a home. This reminded us that this is often a dilemma for many first time buyers. Figuring out how to get your foot into the housing market with that seemingly hefty down payment is a concern for many people. It is often one of the main reasons many renters never take the leap to become first-time homeowners. So we want to pass along to you below a few of our favorite tips and tricks on finding that down payment money, as reminded to us by CAR this week.
The First Misconception
The first misconception a lot of potential buyers have is the idea that your down payment must be 20% of the purchase price of a home. Although this is common with many home purchases, it is not always a must. In fact, an FHA loan, a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration, only requires a buyer to put down 3.5% of a home’s purchase price. This is a significantly lower amount of cash than a traditional home loan requiring 20% down!
Of course, FHA loans come with a list of their own requirements. The most common being a minimum credit score of around 580 as well as the buyer paying a special mortgage insurance premium each month. But if you can afford the additional monthly cost of mortgage insurance, these loans are a great way to save you a lot of upfront costs. This offers a significantly lower down payment requirement and is one of the main ways many of our clients have been able to take the leap into home-ownership.
Can Your Employer Help?
The recent shift among many large companies from employer centered views to employee-centered views has helped to boost Employer Assisted Housing (EAH) programs. Employers are working to remain competitive and appealing to job seekers. These EAH programs help low to moderate-income workers obtain home-ownership through the help of their employer. Most of these programs consist of help with closing costs or assistance with down payment funds. They will vary from company to company.
Check-in with your Human Resources department to see if your employer is part of an EAH program. If you are job hunting, make employer participation in an EAH program part of your search when looking for a new potential employer. Not only does this show you that your employer is working to help better your life in the long term, but it is also a sign of commitment to their employees. Most EAH programs help employees find and fund homes near their employers. This makes participation in such programs a promising sign that these employers are committed to keeping you around as long as you are committed to sticking with them.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers a vast array of homeownership programs. These programs offer assistance for a variety of reasons. They range from one’s profession – such as law enforcement, firefighters, and teachers – to programs based upon income, socioeconomic background, veteran status, and many more. These programs vary from state to state. All of the applications to see if you qualify can be easily done online. For a full list of programs check out the website for The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Search which programs are offered in the state which you hope to buy.
Give Us a Call
If you are looking for additional information on any of the above reach out to The Mower Group. We are happy to answer questions and are here for guidance and advice. We are here to help renters make the leap into first-time home-ownership as well as help current homeowners figure out how to afford that forever home they’ve been dreaming about.
Santa Cruz County is known for some of the best hiking trails in the Bay Area. There is a vast terrain to fulfill any hiker’s desire here, one of the reasons we love this area. With coastal trails that overlook the ocean and endless redwood forests stretching in every direction of the county. Whether in search of breathtaking views or solace in the silence of the forest, Santa Cruz’s hiking trails make for a great hike.
The Ocean Views
Some of the best hikes in Santa Cruz can be found right along the coastline. Old Landing Cove Trail, located in Wilder Ranch State Park, is a loop that features various wildflowers. There is also an array of local birds. Furthermore, depending on the time of year a chance to view passing whales. This trail is a little over two miles long and is fitting for hikers of any skill level.
Natural Bridges State Park is one of the most popular and beautiful places to hike in Santa Cruz. There is a five-mile loop that spans from Natural Bridges to the Lighthouse Field Loop. It offers the opportunity to explore tide pools, a natural preserve for Monarch Butterflies, and breathtaking sunsets. This trail also good for hikers of any skill level and is often utilized by both locals and tourists for hiking, running, leisure walks, and nature trips.
For a more nontraditional hike with all the Santa Cruz feels check out West Cliff Drive! This is not a traditional in the sense of remote hiking trails hidden away from the traffic and the bustling noises of Bay Area life. However, this six-mile round trip hike offers all the seaside views and some great Santa Cruz landmarks. You can start your trip around the Santa Cruz Dream Inn near the famous Boardwalk. Continue on foot entirely along the coastline. Along the way, you’ll find Steamer Lane, the Lighthouse Field State Beach, and the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum. These are must-sees at least once for any Santa Cruz local or visitor. And being nontraditional does have its plus points. Because this trail is paved rather than rocky or dirt terrain it is stroller, wheelchair, bike, dog, and jogger friendly.
Hike Among Giants
Fall Creek offers beautiful redwood forest views and a chance to sneak away from the traffic and crowds of the city. Located in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park this seven-mile loop trail features river views and is usually accessible year-round, although you may have to navigate around fallen trees according to many of the trail’s reviews. This trail is rated as moderate, so ensure you pack in enough water and snacks for a full and adventurous day.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park offers one of the densest and vigorous redwood trails in Santa Cruz. Named Skyline to the Sea, this trail is over 13 miles long and offers both ocean and forest views. Some of the redwoods found along this trail are rumored to be some the oldest and biggest around, truly making any hiker feel tiny in comparison to these giants. Due to the length of this trail, there are outlets where many hikers will leave a car, so make sure you plan ahead and plan your route before embarking on this epic trail.
Nisene Marks State Park offers some of the most family-friendly hiking trails in Santa Cruz County. Located in Aptos this park offers a densely wooded redwood forest. It stays cool year-round, has ample parking, bathrooms – which any parent knows are a must for children and a plethora of hiking trails. The Maple Falls trail is an appropriate hike for older children who are able to walk several miles on their own in fairly easy terrain. Nisene Marks known for its’ beautiful redwoods. Also, your children may also have an opportunity to spot deer, frogs, cougars, raccoons, owls, and many different birds in this state park.
Hiking Tips & Tricks
Check out these helpful hiking tips and tricks to ensure you and your loved ones have a fun and safe hiking adventure every time you embark on a new trail:
- Wear comfortable shoes and socks.
- Ensure you bring a pack, but also keep it as light as possible.
- Dress in layers.
- Pack enough water and food to last you and any companions throughout the day.
- Bring along a small first aid kit in case there are any slips or spills along the way.
- A flashlight, sunblock, and a compass or map are recommended by any avid hiker.
- Ensure you exercise caution around cliffs, rivers, and dilapidated bridges or buildings.
- If hiking alone, tell a family member or friend which trail you plan to use and estimated return time.
Saving to buy a home can often be an overwhelming task, or seemingly impossible, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many ways to start saving for a home. It is easier than you may think and lighter on your pocketbook than you are probably expecting. Here are some helpful tips to get you started on building your home savings.
The Basics on Saving for a Home
There are a few very basic yet very important ways to jump-start those home savings. Although this may sound like an obvious one, the first thing to do is start transferring a fixed amount of money into your savings account every pay period. This doesn’t have to be a large amount of money. It just needs to be a consistent amount of money that you can stick to.
Here is how to figure out how much you can afford to transfer. Make a list of all your monthly expenses, ensuring you include gas, food, and miscellaneous spending money. Then make a list of your total monthly spendable income. This is the income you take home after taxes, insurance, and any other deductions. Figure out the difference between these two numbers and from this amount figure out what is a realistic amount of money you could do without each month.
You may decide you can put away 10% of your monthly income. Or, you may come up with a fixed number such as $100 every two weeks. Again, the number does not matter. Come up with something realistic and you stay consistent with transferring that amount each pay period.
Handle High-Interest Rates
Reduce your interest rate debt! This is such an easy way to save yourself money each month, and it is often overlooked. The concept is simple – the more interest you are paying on a car loan, credit card, etc. the more it is eating into your expendable income on a monthly and annual basis; so pay off the highest interest debt first and work your way back towards the lowest.
For example, if you have a credit card with an interest rate of 15% and a car loan with an interest rate of 5% than tackle paying off your credit card debt before you pay off your car loan. You still must pay your minimum payments on all your debt, but throw any extra money you have at paying off your highest interest rate debt first, and once that one is paid off move to the next highest and so on until you are DEBT FREE!
Trim Down Expenses When Saving for a Home
One of the best ways to trim down your expenses is to start with all your monthly expenses and try to whittle each one down as much as you can. Set aside some time to make phone calls to all of your regular vendors and see what you can do to trim your bills down.
For example, call your cell phone provider, cable company, home security company, insurance company, etc., and let them know you are shopping around for better prices on similar services. Most of these companies run promotional discounts for six months to a year, offer bundle discounts or other various ways to keep your bill low, and they are eager to keep your business – but you have to call and ask! I do this at the beginning of each year in January and usually find that I save our family a combined $150 – $200 a month simply by communicating and negotiating promotions or cutting down our bills with all of our regular vendors.
Another way to trim your expenses down is to cut out things that are not necessary. That $2.00 cup of coffee every morning on the way to work adds up to $10.00 a week; this may not seem like a lot but multiply that by 52 weeks in a year and it adds up to over $500.00 a year!
Here is a list of some easy ways to save small amounts of money each week which can add up to significant amounts of money over the year:
- Cut out daily routine visits to coffee shops and instead brew your morning cup of coffee at home.
- Pack a lunch to work rather than eat lunch out.
- Limit the number of times you eat dinner out each week; buying groceries and cooking at home is much cheaper!
- Eat leftovers! Not only does this keep you from going out to dinner it also makes your groceries last longer.
- If you are able, do self-maintenance and personal care techniques on yourself rather than pay to have them done. Thins such as: painting your own nails and trimming your own hair can save you a lot of money annually.
- Use your gas wisely. Plan errands outside of your regular commute in advance. This ensures you are traveling to places on the way to somewhere you were already headed.
- Minimize your shopping and only buy necessities.
- Utilize public bartering and selling forums such as LetGo, Nextdoor, and Craigslist to sell items you are no longer using or to purchase used items you may need.
We are Here to Help!
By following some or all of these simple tricks and tips you can build up that savings account. Here at The Mower Group, we are always willing to share advice on ways to save for a home. Also, we know the most economical ways to get into your first home. We are happy to share what some of our other first time buyers have done to get into the housing market. Additionally, if you are interested in sitting down with our mortgage broker we can help with that. This way you can see exactly what kind of mortgage you could qualify for, inquire about how much savings you would need to purchase a home or seek advice on any other related area. Please reach out to our team.