Area Real Estate News & Market Trends

You’ll find our blog to be a wealth of information, covering everything from local market statistics and home values to community happenings. That’s because we care about the community and want to help you find your place in it. Please reach out if you have any questions at all. We’d love to talk with you!

March 30, 2020

Coronavirus: Santa Cruz County Real Estate News and Resources

coronavirus

For most of us, the past few weeks have been quite a whirlwind. The news on COVID-19 seems to be changing daily, while we all scramble to figure out our new normal, even if temporary. Many small businesses and employees have been left to worry about the long-term impact this pandemic will have on their futures. At the end of this article, we have included some federal and local resources 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 to ensure their own agents and clients were complying with this mandate 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?

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 and hadn't been 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 on the approved list of businesses permitted to operate. 

 

Reactions to this change at the state and county level have been mixed, with some questioning if real estate is truly "essential" during this time. 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, but 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 and 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 will be held and no broker's tours will occur. Most brokerages have closed their offices with all agents and support staff working from home. Home showings should be done virtually 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.

 

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 our elected representatives, licensing bodies, and brokerage are 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, while navigating this new work-from-home culture we've all been thrust in. Property showings are permitted in a limited and vital capacity. However, this only applies to homes that are currently vacant. Occupied properties on the market are limited to 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 resources we thought may be helpful for you or someone you know. 

 

Small Business AdministrationMost small businesses are struggling through this shelter-in-place. Even the businesses still operating are taking a hit due to the large decrease in public traffic. The Small Business Administration is offering low-interest loans to most small businesses and non-profits that have been adversely affected by the pandemic. 

 

NAR Leader Joins President Trump as Proposal to Modernize ...

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. 

 

 

IRS scammers are at work 24/7 | Kitsap Daily News

The Internal Revenue Service has added a page to its website 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

Santa Cruz County Bank is taking pre-applications for small business loans that are soon to be available under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This can help you get a head-start on utilizing the federal stimulus package that was just passed to aid families and small business owners across the country.  

 

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 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 and 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, want to discuss the market in your area, or 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. 

March 23, 2020

5 Tips for Using Your Time at Home Wisely

One of the most common questions we have been getting lately is, "is the housing market at a stand-still?" In short, no - the housing market is not a complete stand-still. Despite the coronavirus pandemic and the statewide shelter-in-place there are still homes going into contract and homes selling. However, we have seen quite a few sellers decide to wait to list their homes until this pandemic is under control. That is okay too! In fact, one of the best ways many of our clients and friends are using their time at home is with home projects. If you were planning on selling this spring or summer, use this time at home to get a head start on preparing to list your home. 

Between the rain and the many vendors who are properly adhering to the shelter-in-place orders, it is likely that outdoor projects are limited for the time being. However, there is plenty you can do inside your home, no tools required, to prepare your home for listing. Staging a home for sale has a lot of benefits for the seller. Many homeowners overlook the home staging process when preparing to sell, but this is a mistake. Home staging can help your home sell faster and it allows potential buyers to imagine themselves living there. Buyers today are used to seeing move-in ready homes everywhere they look. Home improvement shows, virtual tour videos, and even strategically placed and taken social media photos only depict homes in their best light. Therefore, when inviting home buyers to consider your home it is important that you present your home in a manner they are accustomed to viewing. 

Home staging does not need to be a long or arduous process. It is merely the process of strategically placing furniture and decor to accentuate the best features of your home. It is helpful to have a professional home stager assist you in this process if you can afford it. However, if home staging does not fall within your listing budget, here are some helpful tips for staging a home for sale that we are certain will improve your return. 

Declutter! 

Cleaning and purging your home of unnecessary clutter is the most important aspect of home staging. A home with every corner and shelf filled to the max appears smaller and darker. On the other hand, a home with minimal clutter and small areas of open space appears larger and brighter. Therefore, removing knick-knacks, walls of photos, stacks of books and bills, and other areas of clutter around your house is the first and most essential task for staging. 

Don't just relocate things in your home to closets and hidden shelves. Most likely, the majority of potential buyers coming through your home will open bedroom and hallway closets. During the decluttering stage of preparing your home for sale, take your time to really sort through the things you want to keep and the things you are willing to part with. Consider making donations to a local charity organization such as Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity. Hold a garage or yard sale and put any money earned back into pre-listing preparations for your home. 

Keep it Light and Bright

Bright rooms look bigger and more inviting. When staging your home for sale, take care to make the rooms in your home appear as bright as possible. There are many ways to brighten up a room, most of which don't require any money at all. Open curtains and blinds. Thoroughly clean your windows so they are sparkling and let all the outside light in. Clean all lightbulbs and fixtures so they really shine. Ensure there are no bulky or oversized furniture pieces blocking windows. 

If there is room in your budget for lighting improvements, consider upgrading any fixtures that are dated or dingy. Also, switching out bulbs to a brighter color temperature or a whiter light can also help to brighten up a room. Finally, make sure that before every showing or open house you take the time to open all your blinds and curtains and turn the lights on in each room. This will make your home light and bright as buyers walk from room to room, without them having to turn anything on and off themselves. 

Pick Your Rooms Wisely

Home staging often requires some furniture changes. Whether you are renting some key furniture pieces or moving some of your existing pieces to storage, determine which rooms in your home need to be staged and which can be left alone. If your home will be vacant at the time of sale, you don't have to stage every single room. If you will be occupying your home while it is listed, some of the rooms in your home may be fine as is.

The top priorities when staging a home should be the living room, the kitchen, and the master bedroom. Surveys and studies have shown that these three rooms are the ones buyers spend the most time in. The last priority when staging your home is extra bedrooms. If you have an extra bedroom in your home that is empty, that's okay - don't spend time or money there. However, make sure that any extra rooms in your home have not been turned into the storage space for the items you've decluttered. 

Don't Forget the Curb Appeal 

Curb appeal is the appearance of your home, when you pull up to it, at first glance. It is one of the most important aspects of staging a home for sale. The outside of your home is the first thing every buyer and agent will see when they arrive. And while landscaping and outside improvements may seem overwhelming, there are quite a few very simple things you can do to improve the curb appeal of your home. 

Clean your windows, front door, and any light fixtures around your door. Ensure that you remove any dust, dirt, and cobwebs from these areas of your home. Ensure your lawn is mowed, and consider planting some simple and tasteful flowers if your front yard has a space for them. Invest a small amount of money in a new welcome mat, and consider some potted plants for your front porch. Make sure any overgrown areas of your yard are neatly trimmed and not obstructing walkways or the driveway. If you have concrete or brickwork around your home, powerwash this to remove built-up dirt and give it new life. Finally, strategically place any outdoor furniture you have in a way that invites outdoor living and entertaining. 

Add a Little Something Extra

Small touches around your home will take your home staging to the finish line. These little extras don't have to cost much or take much time. Put some fresh flowers in a vase in your kitchen, or a bowl of fresh and colorful fruit such as oranges and lemons. Add some folded hand towels and fresh handsoap in your bathrooms. Place a welcome sign near your front door or something similar that is inviting for buyers. 

Selling a home is a big deal. It often comes about when there are other big life changes happening such as a marriage, a new child, a divorce, retirement, or relocating. The Mower Group is well versed in the Santa Cruz real estate market and what it takes to sell your home for the most money possible in the shortest amount of time. We know that recent events have many of you feeling anxious about our future. Please know that we have full faith that we will come out of this pandemic on the other side together and stronger. Let's all use our time at home in a productive and constructive manner, keeping busy with worthwhile home projects and spending time with our loved ones. Don't hesitate to reach out to us if we can be of assistance to you in any way. We love what we do and we are here to help! 

 

March 16, 2020

Coronavirus and Today's Market: 3 Things You Should Know

We can all agree that things have been a little crazy out there lately. Some people may even say these times have been scary. The rapid spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), and the impact that this health crisis is having on our day to day life has been stressful for all of us. And while concerns over our health, the health of our loved ones, and everyone's safety has been the main topic of conversation - we have also had a lot of clients and friends reaching out with questions about what impact this crisis is having on today's housing market. 

While we aren't sure exactly what the future holds, we know what is happening in the market for us currently - today. There are three things that we think you all should know, and that we want to share with you. 

The Market is Still Moving 

While many people feared that the Coronavirus would have a detrimental effect on the housing market, we have not personally seen this to be the case yet. With the help of the California Association of Realtors (CAR), the Santa Cruz County Association of Realtors (SCCAR), and our brokerage David Lyng, we have all been working hard to ensure that home buying and home selling is a safe process for our clients through this time. And with proper precautions in place,housing market we have seen both buyers and sellers continue to move forward on real estate transactions. 

Santa Cruz County, like many other California counties, is on a mandatory shelter-in-place order. With this order naturally, some aspects of buying or selling a home are going to slow down. Activities outside the home should be limited to essential activities only.

Therefore, if you are already in contract on a home purchase it is considered essential to continue with routine inspections and due diligence, per the timelines laid out in your Residential Purchase Agreement. If your home is already listed on the market, it is okay to continue to engage in essential duties required for your listing agreement between you and your agent. 

We do not currently recommend in-person showings or open houses, but this does not mean our buyers are not still actively looking for their next home. The Mower Group, along with many of our colleagues, are now aiding buyers with virtual tours of homes. This and other creative avenues help to pass the time in a constructive manner and still work towards reaching that end goal - a new place to call home. 

Interest Rates! Interest Rates! Interest Rates! 

While interest rates may be the last thing on the minds of many, this is actually a very applicable and important topic in regards to the real estate market. The Federal Reserve has been working hard to shield the economy from the coronavirus health crisis. Their stimulus plan included quite a few policies to aid financial markets, and one of these was another slash to interest rates.

Mortgage rates are low right now - but don't worry about rushing to refinance immediately. Many economic analysts think they will go even lower, but this is not certain. The Federal Reserve just cut borrowing costs to nearly zero on Sunday. However, it will take time for the lower rates to filter through the economy.

This doesn't mean mortgage interest rates will be zero. However, the Federal Reserve's key short-term rate affects 30-year mortgages and other long-term rates indirectly. Mortgage rates are low right now, and if they do end up going even lower, this is significant for home buyers.

Whether you are looking to purchase a new home, or refinance your current mortgage loan, now may be the right time. Many people are already taking advantage of this, with reports of mortgage applications surging in the past month.

If you are wondering if you are eligible to refinance, or want to know what purchase price you could qualify for under these new mortgage interest rates, don't hesitate to reach out to The Mower Group. We work with an amazing mortgage broker who we are confident can help any of our clients and friends with their lending needs. 

Spring Cleaning = Listings That are Gleaming! 

All of this time required in our homes is a perfect opportunity to catch up on those household chores and projects we've all let slide. Are you planning on listing your home this spring or summer? Now is the perfect time to spend your days cleaning out closets, organizing garages and sheds, and even working on some landscaping and gardening. The more effort you put into keeping your home clean, safe and esthetically pleasing, the bigger your reward will be when you decide to sell.  

Our homes are our safe havens, now more than ever! They need our love and attention too, and we think this is a perfect opportunity to invest your time and energy into your home. Whether you are planning to sell or you intend to stay where you are for many more years to come, we hope you can find a way to use this time to improve your most valuable asset - your home. 

We're All In This Together

We know that this time is filled with uncertainties. Change can be scary, but it is important to remind ourselves and each other that we have all dealt with and survived change before. We have never encountered anything quite like this before, at least not in our lifetime. However, we have all weathered many "storms" together and we would like to remind you of a few.

As a county, we have battled flooding and most recently severe storm damage and mudslides in 2017. As a state, we have battled California wildfires, and have all come together many times to support those displaced and in need. As a nation, we have battled hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and the devastation of the September 11th attacks in 2001. In each of these instances, we experienced fear, panic, and distress. But in each one, we also experienced love, comradery, and humanity.

We are confident that as a county, a state, a nation, and a world - we will overcome this global health crisis too. Everyone, please do your best to keep your head high, your spirits up, and please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you need any help during this time. 

March 9, 2020

The Mower Group Weighs In On Their Favorite International Women's Day Quotes

international womens day

International Women's Day is a globally recognized holiday that has been celebrated across the world since 1909. It has become a focal point in the movement for women's rights. The day is aimed at helping nations worldwide eliminate discrimination against women, helping women gain full and equal protection under the law, and improving women's participation in global development. 

Women In Real Estate

The Mower Group knows all too well what it is like to be a working woman in today's modern world. Currently comprised of three women, The Mower Group is proud of the experience and knowledge this helps us bring to the table. Joell Mower, our lead agent in The Mower Group, has been a working woman in real estate for over 32 years. With shelves of awards and years of accolades to boast about, Joell proves that it is not only possible to balance motherhood and womanhood with a successful career, but it is possible for both to thrive. 

Corin Mower Routh brings an interesting background to her real estate career and The Mower Group. With over 15 years of experience as a Human Resources Director, Corin is experienced at working with others, problem-solving, and ensuring that all parties in each transaction are delighted with the results. 

Jarah Sakamoto began her career in real estate and with The Mower Group with a strong marketing and legal compliance background. With over a decade of experience working in legal compliance in the healthcare field, Jarah is adept at combing over contracts and reports with efficiency and a careful eye. 

The Mower Group and David Lyng Real Estate are also proud to share that our very own Morgan Lukina is the 2020 President of the Santa Cruz County Association of Realtor's Board of Directors. Morgan is another prime example of a powerful and successful woman in real estate that is paving the way for the rest of us and proving that women truly can do it all. 

Some Powerful International Women's Day Quotes 

There is no better way to uplift your mood or start your day than with a powerful quote. Inspirational quotes can inspire, incite reflection and change, and help to unite us across generations. Here are some of The Mower Group's favorite International Women's Day quotes. 

“Here’s to strong women: May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.” –Unknown 

 

“To tell a woman everything she cannot do is to tell her what she can.” –Spanish Proverb

 

“Well-behaved women rarely make history.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

 

“A charming woman doesn’t follow the crowd; she is herself.” –Loretta Young

 

“The best protection any woman can have is courage.” –Elizabeth Cady Stanton

 

“Where there is a woman, there is magic.” –Ntozake Shange

 

“There’s nothing a man can do that I can’t do better and in heels.” –Ginger Rogers

 

“Above all, be the heroine of your life. Not the victim.” –Nora Ephron

 

“Girls should never be afraid to be smart.” –Emma Watson

 

“Life is tough, my darling, but so are you.” –Stephanie Bennett-Henry

 

“A strong woman looks a challenge in the eye and gives it a wink.” –Gina Carey

 

“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” –Katherine Hepburn

 

“She believed she could, so she did.” –Unknown

 

“We realize the importance of our voice when we are silenced.” –Malala Yousafzai

 

“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.” –Margaret Fuller

 

“We all have a ‘Wonder Woman’ inside of us.” –Unknown

 

“I can and I will. Watch me.” –Carrie Green

 

“There is no force more powerful than a woman determined to rise.” –W.E.B. Dubois

 

“The most beautiful thing a woman can wear is confidence.” –Blake Lively

 

“A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do. A woman must do what he can’t.” –Rhonda Hansome

March 20, 2019

Your Guide to the Best Santa Cruz Dog Parks

leash-free dog With the arrival of Spring and the lessening rain, most of us are eager to get back outside! If you have a four-legged furry family member who enjoys the outdoors as much as you do, finding a great place for them to run and play is important. Santa Cruz's beaches are becoming off-limits for off-leash pets, one by one banning off-leash dogs and handing out stiff penalties for offenders. Luckily, there are many great dog parks in Santa Cruz county. Many factors go into finding the right dog park for both you and your dog; the amenities, location, maintenance, safety and disposition of other regular visitors all play a huge role in finding the perfect fit. Here is our guide to three of the best dog parks in Santa Cruz county. 

Chanticleer Dog Park

Chanticleer is rumored to be one of the county's best dog parks, and it's no wonder why. Chanticleer is privately owned and both the parking areas and the park itself are well kept. Chanticleer Park Neighbors, a local volunteer group, work hard to maintain the park and are always improving it's features and adding in new amenities such as sitting areas, picnic tables and well-shaded areas. The park and its' dedicated volunteers make sure to take care of their furry frequenters with free poop bags, toys, tennis balls, water bowls and water fountains. Located on the East Side of Santa Cruz, right down the street from the beach, we recommend you check out Chanticleer dog park where you are likely to see your pup happily roaming free. 

Aptos Dog Park

Aptos Dog Park is unique in the fact that it is actually two dog parks in one. With a mini park for smaller dogs, and a larger main park for bigger dogs, this dog park is perfect for furry family members of any size. Located in the Polo Grounds of Aptos, this park is well maintained and full of great amenities for both two and four legged visitors. Aptos Dog Park is equipped with plenty of trash cans, clean restrooms, water pumps, benches, fountains, sitting areas, and secure gates. Visiting pups will often find a multitude of toys and tennis balls donated by park regulars, volunteers and the Santa Cruz County Parks Department. With a great local community and friendly neighborhood vibe, this dog park is a favorite of many local Santa Cruz residents. 

Mitchell's Cove Beach

mitchells cove beach If you are looking for a beach play-date with your pup, Mitchell's Cove Beach is the place to go! Officially a State Park, Mitchell's Cove is the only beach left in Santa Cruz County where your dogs are permitted to run around leash-free. Even their off-leash perks have some limits, requiring dogs to be on leashes during the day but permitted to run free before 10am and after 4pm. Some things to consider regarding Mitchell's Cove is that it can get pretty crowded during the off-leash hours and there is no separate area for smaller dogs and larger ones. But if crowds of beach lovers and a healthy mix of pups don't bother you, we recommend you check out Mitchell's for a fun-filled afternoon of sand, water and leash-free fun. 

March 13, 2019

Staging Your Home

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, but professional staging can take a listed home to a whole new level and appeal to many more buyers. Here are some reasons why we love a 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, and that is okay because we live there, but 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. But 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, if that extra bedroom would be a good office for them, and whether or not the size is right. Staging your home helps to depersonalize it, and although no one wants to live in a depersonalized home, it helps potential buyers to see how they can make the home their own if it is not full of your personal items and photos. 

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 and 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, and 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, but 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, and this is what you want to accentuate when showing your home to potential buyers. Earning labels such as the home with the grand entry way, the home with 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 Stage it 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, a good eye for design and natural beauty of homes, and the ability to honestly tell you what furniture works for your space and what does not. Often times home owners 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. 

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. 

Posted in Staging Your Home
Jan. 8, 2019

Hiring Good Tradesmen

carpenter

Whether it's the start of the new year or the promise of that tax return, many home owners begin to plan upcoming household projects in January. While proper budgeting and planning the right project for the right season is important, 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 such as incorrect work, unfinished work and in some extreme cases even legal disputes. Here are some helpful tips 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, narrowing 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 for their home projects and their experiences with them. 

Once you have narrowed down your list of potential hires to the top two or three recommended, 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

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 so it is not unlikely you will end up with two or three that have good reviews and have provided you with solid references. Request a bid from each of them, ensuring 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 but providing yourself with options is well worth the wait. 

Don't Leave Loose Ends

Once you have found the tradesman you want to work with ensure you 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 an estimated completion time. Finally, arrange a payment schedule that works for both parties, and ensure you never pay for a large scale project up front. 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, colors 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. 

Dec. 31, 2018

New Year - New Goals!

New Year 2019

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 for 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 trades people, 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"?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 smooth 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, Stephanie, and Jarah!

 

The Mower Group

Posted in new year goals
Dec. 18, 2018

Holiday Home Improvements

holiday home

The holiday season can be busy enough as it is, but it is also a great time of year to get some easy home improvements done. As most people prepare to entertain friends or family for the holiday season, it's a good excuse to get some annual home chores done. Check out these simple yet important home projects you can do each holiday season to keep your home clean, safe and updated. 

Service & Fix Home Appliances

The holiday season often calls for a lot more cooking, a ton more dishes, and house guests resulting in extra laundry. Even if you aren't entertaining, the winter weather usually calls for more clothing and therefore more washing, taking a toll on your appliances. Keeping a checklist to service your appliances each winter season is a great way to stay on top of their maintenance and keep your home safe. 

Getting your dryer serviced and professionally cleaned out once a year is a great way to lengthen its' life but is also an important fire prevention chore. Some companies will even run a special during the winter season to do professional lint removal and dryer cleanings. Use this opportunity to get your dryer cleaned and your washer serviced while they are out there; both should be done once a year. 

Another annual chore for fire prevention and safety is to have your heater serviced. Heating systems are often under the house or in a dusty attic, making them prone to dust and debris build-up. Having your heater cleaned and serviced once a year is an affordable and important annual maintenance chore. Additionally, annually cleaning out and servicing your dishwasher, stove and oven are simple and affordable home improvements you can do each holiday season. 

Fireplace Maintenance

Whether it's the cold weather or the holiday traditions of gathering around the fire, the fireplace in your home is sure to get extra use each holiday season. Proper inspection and repair to a fireplace is important for ensuring safe operation and preventing home fires. Hiring a chimney sweep once a year is an affordable way to do this. They will check your fireplace and chimney for flammable build-up and soot or blockages such as bird nests, rat nests, or low hanging branches. They will also clean the fire-place and chimney and give you an estimate for any necessary repairs such as malfunctioning dampers, damaged bricks, or damaged flue caps. 

Gutters & Gardens 

Preparing for the winter weather and ending your long summer gardening days are great ways to stay on top of annual gutter and garden maintenance. Cleaning out your gutters before winter storms is a great way to prevent improper water build-up outside or inside your home. Clogged gutters can cause roof and ceiling damage so it is important to clean out fall debris before winter rainstorms. 

Storing away your seasonal patio furniture, outdoor rugs, and winterizing your garden goes a long way in improving curb appeal during the winter months and keeping up on your home maintenance. Rake and mow your lawn regularly during the fall and winter months, drain your sprinkler systems so they don't freeze, and cover any outdoor pools. All of the above will lengthen the life of your outdoor systems and make your spring cleaning much easier. 

We know the holidays can be busy and your time limited, but doing some simple and affordable maintenance projects go a long way in keeping your home updated and safe. It is also often a time where people work less resulting in time off around the house - the perfect chance to catch up on those home improvement chores. 

 

Nov. 29, 2018

5 Holiday Musts in Santa Cruz

Christmas 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 and 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, and 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 7:30pm 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 11:00am - 5:00pm. 

Lighted Boat Parade Lighted Boat Parade Santa Cruz

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 5:30pm. 

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 12:00pm - 5:30pm. 

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. 

Roaring Camp Holiday Lights Train