Coronavirus: Santa Cruz Real Estate News & Resources

For most of us, the past few weeks have been quite a whirlwind. The news on COVID-19 seems to be changing daily. We are all scrambling to figure out our new normal, even if temporary. Small businesses worry about the long-term impact this coronavirus pandemic will have. At the end of this article, we have included some federal and local resources. These are helpful for small businesses and families in need.

The real estate industry is not immune to the effects of this global pandemic. Coronavirus continues to impact the real estate industry in many ways. When the initial shelter-in-place orders came down from Governor Gavin Newsom on March 19th, real estate was not listed as an essential industry. This nearly put a complete halt on all things real estate. Counties and individual brokerages across the state of California scrambled. We all worked to ensure agents and clients were complying with this mandate. Complying for their own protection and the protection of the general public. Open houses, broker tours, and even in-person showings were halted in most areas. For the next 9 days, many were questioning how homes would now be sold, and even if deals awaiting closing could be completed.

What is Essential During the Coronavirus?

On Friday, March 27th, the California Association of Realtors said that commercial and residential real estate services were newly included on the list of essential businesses for the state of California. Real estate agents and their support staff were no longer on the list requiring them to limit or stop operations and “stay at home”. However, there are many counties in California with stricter guidelines than this change at the state level. For example, the county shelter-in-place guidelines for Santa Cruz, and our surrounding counties – Monterey and Santa Clara, are stricter than the state guidelines. They were not updated to include real estate as an essential business as recent as yesterday. As of April 1st, Santa Cruz County joined the State of California in changing real estate to an essential industry. We are now on the approved list of businesses permitted to operate.

Reactions to this change at the state and county level have been mixed. Some questioning if real estate is truly “essential” during this coronavirus pandemic. However, what we know from our years of experience in the real estate industry is that there are a plethora of reasons why someone needs to sell or purchase a home. These reasons range anywhere from a death in the family or divorce to a necessary job relocation or an exciting addition to the family.

The reasons are often known to only a few. However, most would agree that no matter the timing – life events continue one. Helping people find shelter and a place to call home has always been essential to us. On the other hand, we are also painfully aware of the devastation this virus is causing across the world. We agree that the safety of our clients, colleagues, friends, families and ourselves is of the utmost importance.

It Is Not Just Back To Business As Usual

Entering the sector of essential business does not mean that the world of real estate is merely business as usual. Regardless of your individual county guidelines, even areas that will increase operations still must exercise extreme caution. Until further notice, no open houses and no broker’s tours will occur. Most brokerages have closed their offices with all agents and support staff working from home. Home showings must be virtual whenever possible. Homes that are vacant should have specific showing instructions that comply with all protocols that help protect against the spread of COVID-19, as deemed necessary by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. We are not aware of any counties that are recommending in-person showings of occupied homes.

In fact, here is an excerpt from the county order itself, specifically about property showings at this time: Service providers that enable residential transactions (including rentals, leases, and home sales), including, but not limited to, real estate agents, escrow agents, notaries, and title companies, provided that appointments and other residential viewings must only occur virtually or, if a virtual viewing is not feasible, by appointment with no more than two visitors at a time who reside within the same household or living unit and one individual showing the unit (except that in-person visits are not allowed when the occupant is still residing in the residence)

Each and every real estate licensee must take careful action to protect the health and safety of their clients, their fellow licensees, and themselves. Furthermore, the Association also made it clear that if the health safeguards and protocols set forth by the governing bodies in our state and individual counties are not followed, the rules regarding real estate throughout this pandemic may be changed to stop or heavily restrict all real estate activity.

What Are We Doing About Coronavirus?

Here at The Mower Group, we are doing our best to continue with necessary operations to aid our clients, while still complying with our local county mandates and state and federal guidelines. We appreciate the efforts of our elected representatives, licensing bodies, and brokerage is taking to protect our health and the health of our fellow Santa Cruz County residents. We are still fielding phone calls, working on pending transactions, and providing our clients with A+ service. And, we are navigating this new work-from-home culture. Property showings must be kept to a limited and vital capacity. However, this only applies to homes that are currently vacant. Occupied properties on the market must do virtual tours only at this time.

Useful Resources

There are many individuals and families in need of support and resources during this time. Here are a few helpful resources for you or someone you know.

Small Business AdministrationThe Small Business Administration is offering low-interest loans to most small businesses and non-profits that have been adversely affected by the pandemic.
www.nar.realtor

If you are a realtor and are unsure of how to proceed, the National Association of Realtors has put together a guide regarding coronavirus. This guide covers open-house guidance, transaction advice, and updated shelter-in-place information.
The Internal Revenue Service has a webpage strictly dedicated to coronavirus tax relief and federal stimulus information. Here you can find updated information on extended tax deadlines, stimulus payment checks, and other frequently asked questions and answers.

 

Santa Cruz County Bank is taking pre-applications for small business loans that are soon to be available under the Santa Cruz County BankCoronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This can help you get a head-start on utilizing the federal stimulus package. It passed to aid families and small business owners across the country.
The Mower Group! Please consider us as one of your resources. We will be providing you all regular updates regarding real estate news and developments in Santa Cruz County. We are here to answer any of your questions about the market and the COVID-19 guidelines. And, we are following the changes that are continuously coming out.

Contact Us – We are Here to Help! the mower group

The Mower Group! Please consider us as one of your resources. We will be providing you all regular updates regarding real estate news and developments in Santa Cruz County. We are here to answer any of your questions about the market, the COVID-19 guidelines, and changes that are continuously coming out. Or, let’s discuss anything else you may be wondering about.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to us during this time of transition and uncertainty. We are closely following our county guidelines for the shelter-in-place. We are happy to share our knowledge of developments at the county and state levels. Whether you have questions about whether it’s a good time to refinance your home. Maybe you want to discuss the market in your area. Or, perhaps you merely want to chat about life in general. You can reach out to us! The Mower Group is here to help our clients, our friends, and anyone in need in our community, and hope that you will also use us as one of your resources.

Posted on April 3, 2020 at 10:58 pm
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Choosing a Realtor

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.

Posted on November 15, 2018 at 9:29 pm
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Searching for Your Dream Home Shouldn’t Be an Expedition

dream home

Today’s online listings offer customers a way to tour neighborhoods and even houses virtually. Searching for your dream home in your pajamas sounds much better than visiting a list of open houses on the weekend. Sometimes, you can find your dream home within a week of scouring listings of houses in the neighborhood you desire. But sometimes searching online listings can be exhausting. There are so many homes to choose from. Where do you start? What neighborhoods have the qualities you’re looking for? There are some things that you cannot find online even though there are a plethora of options and filters on MLS websites.

At times, you’ll come across listings that are old and the information such as the price or status are erroneous. This leads to a monumental waste of time especially if you went to the trouble of driving by the property.

Another pet peeve when searching online listings is the “featured” real estate agent pictured beside the property slideshow. You call the agent and he or she knows absolutely nothing about the property. That’s because they paid to be a featured agent.

After a few misses in your home search, you may wonder if your search for the perfect home is as elusive as the search for the Loch Ness monster or some other cryptic creature. The dream home is in reach if you contact the right professional and follow these easy steps to keep your search focused and productive.

Obtain a Pre-Approval Letter

Many customers lose motivation after doing a few dreamy drive-bys homes they’ve seen online only to discover that the home in question is out of reach because you cannot get a mortgage. That’s why it’s important to know your budget and learn what lenders want before setting out on your search.

Find a mortgage broker and ask them to write a pre-approval letter for you. They will need to run your credit scores. Make sure you bring W2s and paycheck stubs to document your income. Ask the mortgage broker what documentation they need for a full pre-approval letter to be administered. They may request bank statements in order to verify you’ll have enough money for a down payment. This could take a week, so make sure you do as much as you can to answer all the lender’s questions up-front to avoid a longer process.

Even though online MLS search engines offer “pre-qualification” letters, that doesn’t mean you can circumvent the process of obtaining an official pre-approval letter from a mortgage broker. A pre-qualification letter that you print out online doesn’t hold water because the answers you fill out through the online questionnaire have not been verified.

A pre-approval letter from a lender says that you’ve been verified and meet underwriting guidelines.

Remember, most home sellers will not consider an offer without the pre-approval letter. This shows that you are a serious buyer, not someone who will waste their time.

Plus, it’s helpful to know how much home you can afford before starting your search. Also, consider other expenses in the home buying process such as homeowners’ insurance, HOA fees, and property taxes.

Wrong Place, Wrong Dream Home

Drilling through hundreds of homes is about as fun as looking for a contact lens at a holiday party. Your best bet is to search a local real estate website. Big national websites such as Zillow expand your search too far while local real estate sites focus on your truly local market. The information on a local real estate website is more trustworthy and up-to-date.

When using an MLS board either national (Zillow, Realtor, etc.) or local, ask yourself these questions to make sure you’ve chosen the right search tool.

  • Is it easy to navigate and use?
  • Can you save your searches and mark your favorites?
  • Is the site mobile-friendly? In other words, can you see it clearly on your phone?

The favorites selection tool is handy when driving around to see houses. You can simply drill down your favorites. You’ll never lose a listing page again if you’ve marked it as a favorite. Also, this is useful if you happen to drive by a home for sale that interests you. Simply pull it up on your phone and mark it as a favorite.

Shop for a Dream Home in Your Price Range

Don’t waste time looking in luxury neighborhoods unless your budget allows for that price range. Again, this is where the pre-approval letter comes in handy. Once you know your price range, you can narrow your search down to select neighborhoods within that range. We all are tempted by the HGTV shows featuring luxury homes. Decorating ideas come to mind and we start daydreaming about that dream home. But looking at homes above your price range can tempt you to go over budget. No one wants to be “house poor.”

Here are a few things to consider when choosing neighborhoods to target:

Commute

How far is the commute from your job? The ideal commute is 20-30 minutes. Your commute is a critical deciding factor in choosing a home because it can affect your quality work/life balance. To determine the commute, simply type the property address into Google and follow the instructions for obtaining the directions. The direction results will list how long the commute is.

Dream Homes in Your Price Range

You’ll want to learn what houses are currently available on the market in your price range. This is easy to find. Most MLS boards will list related listings or those in the same area and price range. Make sure these homes are similar to yours in size and amenities. If there are little or no results for that neighborhood, expand your search to those nearby. After you see a few similar homes, you’ll get an idea of how much you can afford in that area and whether these neighborhoods fit your budget.

Assigned Schools

The school assignment is an important factor for families. Some schools are magnet, which means they offer specialized classes and activities. This may be important to you and your children. Most local MLS websites list the assigned base school for the home’s address. Once you know the name of the base school, you can look up reviews online. You may even want to check out “Next Door” website for insider reviews on everything pertaining to the neighborhood that interests you.

Time Frame

Do you need to find a home quickly? If so, you’ll want to eliminate short sales from your search results. Short sales are notorious for taking months to close.

Home Age

Are you open to buying a fixer-upper? If you’re not into renovations, you’ll want to eliminate homes of a certain age from your search. You might want to limit your search to those built in the last five years.

Home Owners Association Fees

HOA fees may be a turn off for some buyers. You’ll always owe something, but HOAs do protect your property value from neighborhood nuisances such as the occasional hoarder who collects rusty rat-nested cars in his front yard. The downside of HOAs besides the financial obligation is the limitations on what you can add and do to your property. You must verify that a renovation or addition is in line with the HOA standards.

Don’t Narrow Your Search Too Much

You may miss the big fish if your search filter is too narrow. Keep an open mind. For instance, if you want a pool and there are very few results showing homes with pools, then you may want to consider neighborhoods with community pools. It’s a compromise, but you may end up finding your dream home as a result. The desire for certain flooring, counter-tops, and appliances can also be areas where a compromise and a little open-mindedness could lead to your selection of a dream home. Some upgrades are not as expensive as you’d think. Ask your lender about an FHA 203K improvement loan.

A local realtor is your best guide to finding your ideal home. This realtor will know the neighborhoods that fit your requirements. If your preferences are unrealistic, a local real estate professional can help you narrow down amenities to fit your budget. Afterward, you’ll feel better that you placed your search in the hands of a knowledgeable professional. Finding your new home doesn’t have to be as elusive as a Loch Ness monster search.

For help finding your dream home, contact The Mower Group. We are dedicated to helping all of our clients achieve their real estate dreams while providing A+ service.

Posted on July 9, 2018 at 12:38 am
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