Uncategorized June 1, 2022

7 Home Maintenance Tasks You Might Be Neglecting

the exterior of a house

We all love to have our home clean with its features functioning well. But let’s face it – maintaining a home is hard work. There’s so much to do, so it’s not unusual if you forget a task or two. However, the risks of getting into big financial trouble lie in undermaintaining the property. Houses need constant care to minimize the chances of sudden repairs and surprise costs. Also, real estate experts can have an easier time selling a home in good condition. Buyers notice an undermaintained house quickly, which leads to a lower price or spending more time on the market. This guide will remind you of some home maintenance tasks you might be neglecting. Take a look and include them in your routine.

1.    Cleaning gutters

Gutters are very simple – if they are clean, they will do their job successfully. Otherwise, you risk improper water flow, clogged gutter damage, and leaks. Depending on the surrounding of your home, gutters can be filled with leaves, branches, pinecones, fruits, and more. Be sure to clean the gutters once a year or before and after the winter season.

an owl on a roof

Gutters collect all sorts of things during the year, which block the water from running.

2.    Test the sump pump

We often neglect systems in a home, such as sump pumps, as they ‘always’ work. However, if a problem occurs, it can damage your home, as it can flood your basement. Testing your sump pump is one of the home maintenances tasks you might be neglecting, so here’s a reminder to do it a couple of times a year. The best way to see if everything is working is to fill a bucket with water and pour it around the sump pump. If everything is working correctly, the pump should turn on when the water reaches the right level. If you notice something different, be sure to call a plumber.

3.    A roof inspection is one of the home maintenance tasks you might be neglecting

Probably the most underestimated home maintenance task is the checkup of the roof. Even though it’s protecting our home at all times, we forget about it. Your roof is something to check at least two times a year, before and after the cold days are over. This is when you can truly see if the roof is ready for autumn and winter, but also do the spring checkup to see if there’s any damage after the cold season.

How to check the roof? A visual check is often enough to spot any moss build-up, moved nails or shingles, curved shingle lines, etc. Also, clearing the gutters can show the roof damage and see if any roof parts are collected.

roof in the rain

Roof inspection is one of the home maintenance tasks you shouldn’t forget.

4.    Foundation check-up

A winter season with rain, seismic movements, and other factors can easily damage your foundation. Foundation repairs can cost a couple of thousands of dollars, so on-time checkups are a great way to prevent unnecessary expenses. Even the most minor cracks in the foundation can be a sign of severe damage, so be sure to consult a professional if you have any doubts.

How to check your foundation? You can do several things to make sure your home is standing on a strong and healthy base. Walk around and see if there are any wall cracks or leaning, warped floors, changes in windows and doors, and your chimney. All of these can show potential foundation damage, so invest an hour of your time in preventing severe problems and finding a suitable home warranty service. Be sure to compare different options to pick the best deal for your home and ensure lower repair costs in case of damage. The offers will depend on the age and condition of your home, so take everything into account before making the right decision.

5.    Cleaning fans around the house

Your ceiling fans, bathroom fan, and kitchen exhaust collect a lot of dust and grease over time. However, this dirt is not visible, so it’s often neglected in daily cleaning sessions. Include these items into your monthly cleaning routine to avoid the spread of allergens all around the house.

a vacuum cleaner

Update your cleaning routine with the home maintenance tasks you might be neglecting.

6.    Take care of your fridge

Not cleaning your fridge well can increase your electrical bill and affect the food’s quality. It’s vital to clean condenser coils behind the fridge, as they often collect dust, cobwebs, and more. They stop the fridge from releasing excess heat, leading to overheating and spending more energy than necessary. Also, other tips will help your fridge last longer:

  • Cleaning the seal on the door 
  • Not blocking the vents 
  • Clear the excess ice in the freezer part 
  • Don’t use the highest setting for cooling 
  • Don’t leave the fridge open for too long 
  • Regular cleaning of shelves and other inside parts.

Regular maintenance of your kitchen appliances will ensure they last longer, but they will also be more energy-efficient and won’t increase your bills.

7.    Replacing batteries in all the alarms in your home

If you’ve been lucky not to have any problems setting off your alarms, you probably forget to replace their batteries and see if they work. You never know when an accident can happen, so your smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and other safety gadgets need to be working properly. Check them regularly every couple of months and maximize the safety of your household. Furthermore, experts from consumeropinion.org advise comparing different security companies to get the best security system for your home. Professionals can raise the security levels of your home to the maximum level, installing and maintaining security systems for you.

Conclusion

Taking care of a house indeed takes a lot of time and energy. Cleaning, repairs, and small household renovations are the reality of homeownership, which can sometimes be overwhelming. However, you should know that it’s all worth it. The feeling of belonging to a home and having your own safe place is priceless. Owning a home is the dream of many families, so we shouldn’t underestimate this privilege. We hope this guide will remind you of all the home maintenance tasks you might be neglecting and help keep your home in great condition for a long time.

Ready to Sell? May 2, 2022

How to Stage Your Home for Sale While Living in it

A 'home' mat in front of the door.

Staging is a must when selling a home. It is a must because it helps us sell our homes faster and helps us sell them for the highest price possible. And the best part of staging is that it doesn’t take a lot of your time and money – all it takes is following real estate trends and a little bit of creativity. So, stage your home, move out, and let the real estate agent do the rest! However, we understand that it is not always possible to move out before selling your home, so that raises the question – can we live in a home during a sale? The answer is YES! You just have to know all the tips and tricks on how to stage your home for sale while living in it!

Declutter and Downsize Your Belongings 

Nobody likes decluttering. Nobody wants to get rid of things they have been collecting for decades. But have you used those things lately? Or are you planning on using them shortly? If the answer to both of these questions is negative, then you need to declutter and downsize. Get rid of all the things you are not using which are cluttering your space. You can give them to some of your relatives, donate them to a charity, sell them online, or (if completely useless) throw them away.

And, don’t make one of those common decluttering and downsizing mistakes and try to hold on to something – if you are not using it, say goodbye to it. Doing this will help you stage your home better, and it will help you pack your items with more ease later on. Just think about it – the fewer items you have, the less you will have to pack.

Pack Some Personal Things 

When decluttering and downsizing your home, you will keep all of your personal things. Those will be things such as family heirlooms and memorabilia, travel souvenirs, your family’s photos, etc. It would be best if you hid these! Having a lot of personal things inside the home you are trying to sell will make it hard for buyers to envision themselves living in your home. And in return, it will make it hard for you to sell your home. Thus, depersonalize your home as much as you can. Pack up all your personal items and place them in storage, for example. Or, place them in your neighbor’s garage or family member’s spare bedroom.

You can also hire professional movers to pack these things for you neatly and carefully. Having them pack your precious belongings will prevent damage to your home when moving, and it will protect your floors and walls in the process. It’s essential yet easy to prevent potential mishaps that might occur while packing and transporting – you just need professional assistance. Thus, hire them ahead of time and figure out all the details. You will need all the help you can get when trying to stage your home for sale while living in it.

Clean and Keep It Clean 

You can spend thousands of dollars on renovating and staging your home, but it will all go to waste if it is dirty and messy. Thus, to get your home ready to sell, you need to clean it deeply and thoroughly. Clean from top to bottom, and don’t leave any cabinet or corner behind. A clean home will show the buyers how well you take care of it and how much potential it has. So, make cleaning a top priority when selling your home.

However, it is hard to clean and stage your home for sale while living in it. Pets will bring the dirt inside, your children will mess up all the decorations, dishes and laundry will pile up, etc. All of this is bound to happen, so don’t worry. You have to make sure your home is deep cleaned (professionally) at least once before putting your home on the market. And, of course, you need to make sure everything is in its place right before the open-house event starts.

Keep Your Cabinets, Closets, and Drawers Organized 

You are wrong if you think that buyers will not peak into your cabinets, closets, and drawers. They are not doing this because they are nosy, no. They are doing it to see how much space you have in there. That is, they want to see whether their stuff can fit there. So, if you don’t want to shock them with your mess, organize these places. This is one of those things you can do when still living inside your home during the staging phase.

Moreover, if you have too many items inside cabinets, closets, and drawers, items that you plan on taking with you to your new home, consider packing some of them. That is, have those same professional movers pack them and store them. And, while they are packing the things that you don’t plan on using right now, use this time wisely to organize what is left inside those areas.

Fix the Little Things

If you want to stage your home for a successful sale, you should avoid big projects such as kitchen and bathroom renovation, replacing the roof, upgrading the floors, etc. It is almost impossible to live in a home undergoing such significant transformations. But, this doesn’t mean that you can’t make some of those home improvements that add a little value. For example, you can repaint room by room. Or, you can upgrade lighting fixtures, replace the hardware, landscape, fix what is broken, etc.

As you have seen, it is more than achievable to stage your home for sale while living in it. So, don’t exclude staging just because you still have to live in that home. Just think about how staging can increase the value of your home by up to 15%! And, if you don’t know how to start staging your home, consider asking professional stagers or real estate agents for some advice – nobody can advise you better than them.

Real Estate Development April 29, 2022

Santa Cruz County to Extend Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Fee Waiver Pilot program through June 2023

Santa Cruz County CA Agenda Item DOC-2022-401
Consider adoption of resolution to extend Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Fee Waiver Pilot program through June 2023, and approval of proposed new ADU Incentives Program, and related actions as outlined in the memorandum of the Interim Director of Planning

Board Letter

Recommended Action(s):

1)              Adopt Resolution (Attachment A) to extend the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) fee waiver pilot program to June 30, 2023;

2)              Approve proposed ADU Incentives Program as described in Attachment B; and

3)              Authorize the Director of Planning to enter into a contract with a qualified program administrator for administration of the proposed ADU Incentives Program as described in Attachment B, in fiscal year 2022/2023.

Executive Summary

The County Board of Supervisors (Board) launched two ADU pilot programs in 2018 to incentivize and assist in the development of ADUs and directed staff to report back at the conclusion of the pilot period with an evaluation of the effectiveness and results of the programs. Staff provided that report on December 7, 2021 and consulted with the Housing Advisory Commission (HAC) on January 12, 2022, and March 2, 2022. Staff recommends extending the current fee waiver program for one year and creating a new ADU Incentives Program for a three-year period.

Background

Board of Supervisors Actions

The County initiated two ADU pilot programs in 2017-2018: a pilot ADU fee waiver program for ADUs of 640 square feet or less, and an ADU forgivable loan program. These pilot programs were intended to increase the local affordable housing stock by incentivizing and supporting the development of ADUs. Due to the concurrent enactment of several new state laws streamlining the development of ADUs and decreasing the cost of permits, and historic decreases in mortgage interest rates, the impact of these County programs has been limited and/or difficult to evaluate, as detailed in the staff memo to the Board dated December 7, 2021.

On October 30, 2018, the Board approved Resolution 241-2018 authorizing a three-year pilot program starting January 1, 2019, to waive certain permit processing fees for ADUs of 640 square feet or less in floor area. The purpose of the program was to encourage the development of smaller ADUs, which are considered “affordable by design.”  The fee waiver did not have an income or needs-based test and did not require that ADUs be deed-restricted as affordable units. The loan program was also implemented, offering loans of up to $40,000 that were forgivable after 20 years.

The Board requested a status report on the performance of these programs, which was provided on December 7, 2021 (Item 85, see link attached). At that time the Board directed the Planning Department to review and develop, in consultation with the Housing Advisory Commission (HAC), a recommendation for alternative ADU Incentive Program(s), and report back to the Board no later than April 27, 2022.

Housing Advisory Commission (HAC) Actions

On January 12, 2022, the HAC heard a presentation by nonprofit agency Hello Housing on ADU incentive programs operating in the San Francisco Bay Area. Several other agencies and members of the public involved in ADU programs participated in that meeting. The HAC heard public comment and provided the input to staff to retain the fee waiver program, allow the loan program to sunset, and launch a new technical assistance program. Minutes of the meeting are provided in Attachment D.

At the March 2, 2022, HAC meeting, the HAC considered staff’s proposed new ADU Incentives Program (Attachment C) focused on technical assistance and containing a version of the fee waiver program, now targeted to moderate-income homeowners and those willing to build ADUs that would be deed restricted for affordable rents. The proposal was developed based on input received from commissioners at the January HAC meeting and recognition that the need for design, construction and permitting assistance was a significant hurdle to potential ADU builders that was not being addressed. The HAC considered the proposed program, heard public comment, and voted unanimously (excluding one absent commissioner) to make the following recommendation to the Board (Option 2,as listed in the Staff Memorandum to the HAC):

2. Approve ADU Incentives Program as described in Attachment III, to be funded and launched in Fiscal Year 2022/23 as a three-year pilot program, with the following modification specified by the HAC:

Continue the current ADU fee waiver pilot program, and increase the allowable ADU size for the fee waiver to 750 square feet (consistent with the size threshold for impact fee waivers).

Draft Minutes of the March HAC meeting are provided in Attachment E.

At both of its 2022 meetings, the HAC expressed strong support for the existing fee waiver program and the new proposed technical assistance (TA) program, and agreed that it made sense to sunset the loan program, for the reasons provided to the Board in December. Members of the public also expressed interest in the proposed technical assistance program.

Analysis

Technical Assistance (TA) Program

The proposed program included outreach and education available to the general public, and TA for homeowners wishing to develop an ADU. Homeowners would have to meet eligibility criteria to join the TA program, as described in Attachment B, in order to focus the program on those properties most feasible and reasonable for ADU development, and on affordability criteria to enable the program to target less-resourced homeowners and homeowners willing to create deed-restricted ADUs that would be offered at affordable rents. Affordability criteria would also allow the program to be funded with special Housing Funds, rather than the County General Fund.

TA would include the following services:

•              Feasibility assessment of the property, review of local codes

•              Coordination and guidance with all aspects of ADU planning and construction: design, cost estimating, contracting, insurance, budgeting, and financing

•              Support with permit applications and permitting process

•              Construction management

•              Landlord training and tenant matchmaking

As presented to the HAC in March, the proposed program included a version of the fee waiver program, in this case combining the waiver with the TA program and extending the waiver only to income-qualified property owners and those willing to deed-restrict their ADUs. Following the March 2, 2022 HAC meeting, staff revised the proposed ADU Incentives Program to remove the needs-based fee waiver component, based on the HAC recommendation to extend the existing fee waiver program instead, as explained below. Please see Attachment B for further details on the final proposed TA Program.

Fee Waiver Program

At the March HAC meeting, staff recommended allowing the existing ADU fee waiver program to sunset on its current end date of June 30, 2022, for several reasons, and that a modified program that includes a means test for eligibility be substituted. A modified program would be targeted to the homeowners for whom the waiver would make the most difference in the financial decision of whether to construct an ADU and could be funded by affordable housing funds rather than the County General Fund.  The existing program cannot be funded with housing funds because it is available to all property owners for ADUs smaller than 640 SF, regardless of income and assets, and because the resulting ADU is not required to be deed-restricted to guarantee it will rent at an affordable level. Please see Attachment C for further details on staff’s March recommendations to the HAC.

During the March HAC meeting, commissioners expressed strong support for the existing fee waiver program in its current form, without any income-screening or affordability restrictions on the new ADUs. That strong support was articulated in the HAC’s recommendation to the Board, excerpted above.

Following the HAC meeting, staff further explored the HAC’s recommendation in light of the performance of the waiver in incentivizing small ADUs relative to the cost of the program. Staff understands the HAC support for the current fee waiver program. Nonetheless, most ADUs built today, particularly new detached units, will cost $400,000 and up, depending on size. Conversion ADUs and JADUs can cost less, however those can still cost several hundred thousand dollars, depending on how much retrofitting of the existing structure is required to meet current codes.

The Planning fees waived through the fee waiver program represent a very small percentage of the total cost to develop an ADU (1% to 5%), so it is unclear, based on limited data available, whether these fee waivers are making a key difference in the property owner’s financial decision about whether to construct, and at what size. Further, the pilot period of the existing program coincided with passage of new state laws that significantly streamlined the process for ADU development and expanded the situations in which new ADUs could be developed. The number of ADU applications increased during this period, but it is difficult to attribute this increase to the fee waiver program alone, given so many other changes to the process.

For this reason, staff is now recommending a modest revision to the HAC’s recommendation, which is to extend the fee waiver pilot program in its current form for one more year, after which the effectiveness of the waiver and the cost of the program can be re-evaluated. Staff also recommends that the ADU size threshold that qualifies for a waiver remain at 640 square feet, rather be increased to 750 square feet. Staff initially recommended the increase to 750 square feet so that the County fee waiver program would use the same size limit as is used in state law for various fee exemptions and other incentives, to minimize confusion. However, upon further analysis, it is recommended that the threshold not be changed, so that permitting trends in ADUs within this size range can be tracked consistently across the 4-year period of the program. Maintaining the 640 SF threshold would better reflect any impacts of the fee waiver program, which is the only incentive that uses that 640 SF size limit.

Financial Impact

The recommendation to extend the current fee waiver program for one year will cost the General Fund an estimated $76,000 in waived fees for Planning Department permitting services. This amount may be higher or lower, depending on how many ADU permit applications in the applicable size range are received during the year.

Staff estimates that the recommended new ADU Incentives Program (Attachment B) will cost approximately $711,000 for a three-year period. The program goals include assistance in completing development of 18 to 20 ADUs through partnership with participating homeowners. Funding for this program is available in the Affordable Housing Impact Fee (AHIF) and Subdivision In-lieu Fee funds, as shown in Attachment B. Staff requested a total of $711,000 in appropriations for this program, including costs for administration of the contract, in the Planning Department’s FY 2022-23 Requested Budget.

Body

Strategic Plan Element(s)

2. Attainable Housing: A. Affordable Housing and C. Local Inventory

The recommended actions implement Strategic Plan elements 2A and 2C by providing incentives and assistance for the development of ADUs by and/or for lower- and moderate-income households, and/or small ADUs that are affordable by design.

Working From Home April 26, 2022

Online Office Safety: 11 Work At Home Security Tips

Online Office Safety: 11 Work At Home Security Tips

For the past few decades, as the digital revolution expands, more and more people are working from home than ever before. In fact, the percentage of American workers who did their jobs from home has been growing steadily since 2000, reaching an all-time high of 5 percent just last year.

However, as we know, the year 2020 has prompted rapid growth in the number of people working from home as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced millions to abandon their offices and turn their dining rooms or spare bedrooms into workspaces.

Yet even as some businesses start to open back up, including offices, many companies are electing to allow their workers to continue working from home at least through the rest of the year. This may still extend further even after the virus is successfully contained. Recent estimates indicate that around 20 percent of companies will make their pandemic work-from-home policies permanent, representing a significant change in how we work.

For many, this is welcome news. But working from home comes with some risks, as your home network tends to be less well protected against cyber criminals than a corporate one. Implementing the right defenses is essential to keeping yourself and your company safe, and below, you can find out everything you need to make sure your home office is fully secure.

Cyber Security Threats in 2020

Before going into the specific things you can be doing to maximize your home office’s security, we wanted to discuss the various threats that are out there so that you can better understand why these measures are necessary and what they do.

There are many different dangers out there, but the most prevalent include:

Hacking and Data Theft

Hacking just means that someone who does not have the authorization to access a system manages to get into it, which almost always leads to data theft. Hackers want things such as credit card numbers, bank information, login details, social security numbers, and anything else valuable they can get their hands on and then sell for a profit.

The typical line of thinking is that hackers tend to go after larger companies as that’s where the useful data is (and also because they can get more information with one hack, increasing their efficiency). But these large companies also tend to have the strongest defenses, making them the most difficult to hack.

As a result, small businesses are increasingly becoming the preferred target for hackers and other cybercriminals, mainly because their defenses tend to be weaker, yet they still hold valuable data. In fact, around 43 percent of all cyberattacks are aimed at small businesses. The logic is that it takes the same amount of effort to hack several small companies, and produces more results than trying and hack into a big company.

If you thought you were safe because you work for a small company, “no one would bother to hack,” know that this is no longer the case, and you need to be taking cybersecurity as seriously as everyone else.

Identity Theft

Identity theft occurs when a cybercriminal assumes your identity and then does things on your behalf. In a worst-case scenario, they get a hold of your social security number and other personal details. They then use this information to withdraw money from your accounts, make charges to your credit and debit cards, and even open up new credit lines that could get you into real trouble with creditors.

If you’re working from home, identity theft becomes even more of a concern because if your identity is stolen, cybercriminals may be able to gain access to your company’s servers, compromising its data and potentially costing a lot of money.

Viruses, Malware, Ransomware, and Worms

While all slightly different, these are all programs that make their way onto your computer, usually because you click a bad link or open a dangerous spam email. They do various things to your computer. For example, ransomware will literally hold your device “hostage,” shutting it down until you either hand over sensitive data or give money.

Malware is more common and can often go undetected. It slows down your computer, and at best is a nuisance that can get in the way of your productivity. At worst, it can take personal information off your device and send it to people who will use it to steal from either you or your company.

Cyberbullying

Not typically thought of as a cyber threat, cyberbullying is quite prevalent in our society, and, contrary to popular belief, it’s not just something that kids do. A study by Pew found that around 40 percent of adults have experienced some sort of online harassment, and 75 percent of adults have reported seeing it taking place around them.

If you’re new to working online, it’s essential to be aware of how you’re interacting with others. Comments or jokes that might have gone unnoticed, or were better contextualized, when spoken in the office, can seem aggressive or harmful when typed out in a message.

Being aware of this is vital to protect yourself (cyberbullying is a crime, and even if you’re not convicted in a court of law, it can lead to termination) and those you work with. Both are important aspects of keeping your company moving forward.

The Reality of the Threats We Face

Now that you have an idea of the threats that are out there, here are some numbers that should help drive home just how serious this issue is and why it requires so much of your attention.Cyber Attack Facts 1[1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7]

Whether you’re new to working online from home due to the pandemic, have been at it for a while, or plan to continue to do it moving forward, all of these numbers should be concerning. However, the last four are particularly troublesome. They point to the massive expense a cyber mistake can force your company to incur, and they also indicate that you, as an employee, are the one most likely to be responsible for such a mistake.

Don’t let this strike fear into your heart. If you take the proper steps to protect yourself in your new home, then you can be sure that you won’t be the one who brings on this data breach that could have catastrophic consequences for not only yourself but also your employer.

11 Work at Home Security Tips

Now that you are aware of the threats that you face when working from home, as well as their prevalence and potentially catastrophic consequences, it’s time to look at what you can do to make sure your home office is secure.

1. Review Company “Work From Home” Policy

When you begin to work from home, the very first thing you should do is review the company’s existing “work from home” policy. This should include all the information the experts have deemed necessary for you to know about the dangers you might face, and there should also be plenty of information about best practices you can use to make sure you’re safe.

These policies will typically provide instructions about passwords, data sharing, access, authentication, and more. If you read through it and come across things that aren’t entirely clear, then make sure to speak up and ask for clarification; your entire company’s cybersecurity might be resting on it.

A copy of this policy should be given to you once it has been established that you’ll be working remotely. If it’s not, ask for it. If it doesn’t exist, then you should speak with your manager about making one since a document like this is often essential to making sure employees are educated and informed about what they need to be doing.

2. Make Sure Everything is Password Protected

Although they seem simple, passwords are a huge component of cybersecurity. They act as the first line of defense against potential hacks or other unwanted access attempts, and not using passwords is equivalent to leaving the front door of your house unlocked. Ignoring them means cybercriminals will be able to get past your first safeguard without much issue, significantly increasing the chances of a full-on hack and data breach.

When we say password protect everything, we mean everything. This means your computer, laptop, smartphone, and all of your accounts. Make sure you’re mixing up the passwords you’re using, i.e., you’re not using the same one for multiple accounts, and that you are practicing good password habits, which include:

Four Aspects of Good Password Habits 1

  • Overall, setting passwords and following good habits is easy to do, but it is one of the most significant defenses you can use against hackers and other cybercriminals.

3. Lock Computers Not in Use

One good habit to adopt is to make sure that you’re locking your computers when you’re not using them, especially those you’re using for work. This means either turning them off or using the lock feature found by pressing “CTL + ALT + Delete.”

For those who have lots of experience working in an office, this is probably not something new, but it’s reasonable to think you don’t need to do this when you’re at home. Getting into this habit will ensure that you never leave your devices vulnerable to attacks from hackers and other cybercriminals.

4. Improve the Physical Security of Your Home Office

Now that you’ve moved into a home office, you need to accept that there might be additional threats you didn’t face before, such as a break-in. Of course, we all don’t want to think this is possible, but there is no limit to what cybercriminals will do if they’re chasing after what they perceive to be valuable information.

As a result, you will want to take some steps to ensure the security of your office. This includes making sure there is a working lock on the door, installing locks on desk drawers and filing cabinets, and making sure computer screens are not visible from the outside.

Of course, if you live in a secluded area where there’s no chance someone sees inside your home, this last step might not be entirely necessary. Still, those living in bigger cities where there are more prying eyes would do well to ensure they’re working in privacy while in their home office.

5. Enable Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication is a security feature offered by lots of companies and organizations providing online services. All it means is that you need to go through two identity verification stages to gain access to your account. Usually, this means entering your username and password and then providing a code that is sent to your phone or email (which you have provided) to confirm you are indeed the person you claim to be.

This is particularly effective because while hackers might be able to get past your password if they are really savvy, it’s almost impossible for them to guess this second part, making it that much more difficult for them to get access to your account. It’s also a great way to detect when your account is under attack; if you get a code sent to your phone when you haven’t tried to access that account, you know something is up and can take swift and effective action.

However, while many places are now offering this service, it is often not put into action until you yourself activate it, so you will need to seek it out and actively set it up, which we cannot recommend more that you do.

6. Train Yourself to Detect Phishing

As we’ve already mentioned a few times, phishing is one of the main ways hackers and cybercriminals do their dirty work. For those who don’t know, phishing is when hackers use emails or other disguised messages to look legitimate so that you will willingly hand over sensitive information. Other forms of phishing, such as spear phishing, target specific individuals and are often much more personalized, making them more effective.

Some good examples of phishing attacks can be found below. One is made to look like a message from Netflix, and another is designed to look like something from Amazon. They show just how good hackers can be at what they do and why they can dupe so many people into handing information over that they should be safeguarding.

Netflix Phishing

Amazon Phishing

[Image Source]

  • As a result, you need to learn how to be extra vigilant so you can spot phishing attempts and keep yourself safe. Some things you can do to spot phishing include:
    • Double check the sender address in an email. Fake emails will often come from somewhere different and not from where communications from that company typically originate.
    • Hover over links you’ve been asked to click on to see if they really lead where they say they do.
    • Look for spelling mistakes or other errors; hackers are notoriously lazy.
    • Do a quick Google search to see if the claim being made in the email is real. If it’s not, there’s a good chance that the company in question will have issued a statement.
    • Familiarize yourself with the different policies being used by the services with which you have accounts. Some say they would never ask for credit card information in an email, so if that’s happening, you know it’s fake.

    Learning how to spot phishing is a bit of an art, and it takes practice. Luckily, to help you, Google has put together this tool to help teach you to spot phishing. Play around with it so that the next time a suspicious email comes through, you can spot it.

    We should note that your email client’s spam filter should catch a lot of this, but plenty of stuff still sneaks through. Don’t think that having spam filters activated is going to completely protect you from the many different threats out there.

    7. Use Anti-Virus Software

    Anti-virus software is pretty much a no-brainer when it comes to keeping your home office secure. It will identify threats as they come up, guide you to safe websites by alerting you when you’re visiting one that isn’t secure and help you remove milder versions of malware while minimizing the damage they can do.

    For PC users, the need for anti-virus software is even greater, but this doesn’t mean Macs are entirely safe. In this case, it’s probably best to speak with someone at your company. They may have a preferred software they want you to use, and if this is the case, they should be able to provide it for free or at the very least at a discounted rate.

    8. Ensure Your WiFi is Protected

    The security of your home WiFi network is a key part of your overall home office security strategy.

Ensure Your WiFi is Protected 1

9. Download a VPN

One thing you may want to consider is installing and using a virtual private network (VPN). These programs encrypt your WiFi connection, which puts up another layer of security and also hides your online activity, helping to improve privacy and keep hackers away.

Depending on the size of the company for which you work, doing this may be a requirement to be able to work from home. But even if it’s not, it still might be something to consider as it will make your network that much more secure.

One thing to note is that using a VPN will likely slow down network performance, so you might not want to use it constantly, or you may want to look into upgrading your connection so that using this security feature won’t slow things down.

10. Ask About Data Encryption

Encrypting data on your computer means that it can only be accessed by those who possess the key that unlocks the encryption. It’s typically used as a safeguard in the event a device is stolen; the person who has it would be unable to access the information stored on the device.

For those using a company device, there’s a good chance this is already installed and activated, but you may want to ask if there is anything you need to do to make sure it’s appropriately set up. If you’re using your own device, there’s a good chance it does not have this feature, so you may want to find out if this is something you should set up to make sure you’re fully protected from any possible threat.

11. Back Up Files Regularly

Losing files is frustrating and can be dangerous if they happen to fall into the wrong hands. If your computer does come down with a virus, sometimes the only thing you can do is wipe the hard drive and start again. All of this means that if you haven’t backed up your files, this can be catastrophic.

So, set up a system to make sure everything is regularly saved somewhere else. You can either do this manually using an external hard drive or by using a cloud service. If you do it manually, set up a reminder on your calendar to remember to do it frequently. Should you choose to use a cloud service, you can usually automate this, but maybe speak with someone at your company to ensure you’re using a service that meets their security standards.

Enjoy the Security of Your Home Office

Working from home provides tremendous benefits to those who have the opportunity to do it. However, as we’ve established here, it can also expose you and your company to a wide range of threats. But this shouldn’t be used as an excuse not to take advantage of the many perks of remote work. Just implement the security strategies discussed here, educate yourself about newly emerging threats, and remain vigilant at all times.

Ready to Sell? April 8, 2022

8 Home Improvements That Add Little Value

: Big home improvements that do not add value.

If your house isn’t brand new, you probably have a list of improvements you’d like to make. Renovating your home can increase its usability, coziness, and aesthetic appeal. And if you ever decide to sell the property, all of these criteria are critical. While some renovations are worth your time and money, some aren’t, and if you decide to sell your property, you may be dismayed to realize that you won’t recoup your investment. There is nothing wrong with making your ideal home a reality. But you have to be aware of the home improvements that do not add value.

1 Upgrades on utilities

You can’t ignore the maintenance that comes with owning a home. It is critical to upkeep the boiler, plumbing, and electrical wiring in a home. You should invest some money in repairs, especially if they require hiring a professional to help you out. However, upgrades of these systems do not add value. They only keep it at the average comp. It’s better to save your money and do something else, like getting a new coat of paint, if the systems in your house are already in good working order.

2 Massive Landscaping Projects

If you go overboard with landscaping, you’ll waste your money and lower the value of your home. Spending on exotic plants, flowers, and trees will not add more value to your house. Instead, aim to remodel your backyard on a budget and find cheap ideas to spruce it up, as that’s all you need. For example, you can lay down sod to make your lawn look lush and beautiful. Add some splashes of color with simple decorations, or paint your fence. These small details will surely add value to your property and attract potential buyers.

3 Lighting

When you’re selling a house, you might think that it’s okay to splurge out on things such as lights. After all, when you’re preparing your house for sale, you’re most likely doing it according to your own perception of what the buyer might want. And you’re right to think about lighting! Buyers want homes with lots of light, especially if it comes from windows that face the sun. However, they will not pay for your pricey lighting enhancements. There is no need to spend large sums of money on fancy lighting fixtures that will not increase the value of your home. Replace expensive chandeliers and high-tech lights with more affordable options- pricier isn’t always better!

4 Garage conversions

It can be tempting to upgrade the garage into an additional useable room, such as an office or another living area. In most cases, however, this isn’t a worthy investment. Adding a room at the expense of a garage isn’t something everyone wants to do. It might also be a huge undertaking. The number of other renovations you will have to do will be stressful enough. And what you want to do is make home renovation simpler, not more complex. You should find ways to ease the process with more straightforward and affordable touch-ups. Garage conversions are costly and lengthy home improvement projects that do not add significant value.

5 Incorporating a sunroom

Most of us love the spring season and the sunshine it brings. And if you’re someone who likes getting their home ready for spring, building a sunroom might seem like a good idea. However, adding a sunroom won’t be worth it in most cases. A sunroom addition is one of the projects with the most negligible influence on resale value. An aesthetic sunroom can help you attract buyers, but it’s just one of those home improvements that do not add value. Instead of building one, brighten your walls and remove any drapes or curtains. This way, you will brighten up your home without an expensive sunroom construction. Not to mention how much time and energy you will manage to save by forgoing this time-consuming renovation project.

6 New floors

New floors can be pricey, and buyers may not like your material of choice. If you have wood flooring, have them sanded and coated instead of refinishing them. If your tiles are cracked, and you need to replace them, play it safe. Remember that your taste won’t necessarily match the buyer’s taste. So it’s best to go with a neutral pattern without any flashy colors.

7 Wall-to-wall carpeting

Even though new carpeting is still a selling point in real estate listings, homebuyers may be put off by the prospect of having all of their rooms covered in it. Due to its ability to trap allergies and the chemicals used to manufacture it, carpeting is becoming less popular among families with children. Excessive carpeting in your home might lower the value of your property. Most buyers nowadays prefer the shine of hardwood floors. That being said, restoring or installing hardwood flooring is almost always preferable.

8 A swimming pool

Swimming pools are among the most common home improvement projects that do not add value. Pools are costly to install but no less expensive to maintain! A pool may deter prospective purchasers due to the additional costs and the safety hazards it presents. Buyers with pets or children, or older couples looking to retire will rarely go for a pool for these reasons. It’s better to use the backyard space as a blank canvas for your potential buyers. Some of them will want space for their dogs or children to play. Others might wish to create a barbecue area to hang out in. Nevertheless, they will imagine the kind of space they want, which might increase their will to buy.

Final words

Some things you might think are desirable when, in reality, they do not add value to your home. We hope this guide has helped you identify those home improvements that do not add value. Think about that when you want to sell your house and before making any home improvements. If you plan to sell your home soon, it’s best to keep it neutral. Do a minor touch-up here and there rather than splurge on unnecessary features. Happy remodeling!

 

Working From Home March 17, 2022

The 12 Best Work From Home Gadgets And Accessories

If you’re reading this, we assume you already have a computer and basic desk for handling your work, but what else might you need? What can help you get through the day and make sure you are doing your job well despite perhaps being in a different environment from normal? While you need to bring focus and discipline to the table, fortunately, you can also order other parts of the equation online.

We aren’t here to pick out specific products for you: you know your aesthetic and tastes better than anyone else, and you might have slightly different needs than other people. We do not even know how much space you have in your home office.

What we do hope to do is give you some new ideas about what you can put in your home office (or makeshift home office) to make your days just a bit brighter and a bit more stress-free. There are all sorts of products made for the work-from-home professional. With greater numbers than ever before in the last year or so, companies have focused on providing for the needs of this growing class of people.

So, without further wait, here are 12 options and product types you might enjoy getting for your workspace or home to make things just a bit easier:

1. An Ergonomic Office Chair

You probably have a chair. In fact, you might be sitting in it now, but is it a good chair? Is it a chair you are comfortable sitting in for eight hours each day, even with breaks? Because sitting constantly is not good for the back or your health in general , and sitting in a poorly constructed or shaped chair is only going to have consequences down the line. Therefore, perhaps before anything else, we recommend you take care of yourself and invest in an ergonomic office chair built to last and built to support you.

A few clear brand names will stand out, such as Herman Miller and Steelcase. While you may think paying more than a few hundred dollars for an office chair is a little ridiculous, think about how many hours each day you spend in your current chair. Isn’t lessened or removed back pain (either now or a decade down the line) worth $1000 or so? The best chairs come with long warranties and are sturdy, so you will likely not need to get another one for yourself anytime soon, making it an excellent investment.

Outside of getting a good model, you will want to make sure that your chair is suitable for your height and weight, is adjustable to at least some degree (this should be the case with nearly any high-end office chair), and will be good for your flooring. You do not want your chair’s wheels digging into your floors, though there are mats that can help with this.

If you think a good chair is out of your price range, you have a few options:

You could get a cushion or other accessories to make your current chair a bit more bearable or comfortable. You will likely need to adjust it frequently, and the benefits will not be as substantial, but your back will still thank you for it after the end of a long day at the home office.

You can search the used market to see if there is something available. People might replace perfectly good chairs regularly. Just make sure to give it a test sit and adjustments first before handing over your money.

While you might not have the customization options found on a specialist site, you can often find quality chairs on a site like Amazon or eBay that are new but pre-built. You might not get exactly what you want, but you will pay several hundred dollars less and get a fantastic chair.

2. A Standing or Adjustable Desk

While we are confident you already have a workspace set up for yourself, have you considered a standing desk? Either at home or in the main office? As mentioned, sitting all day is not good for your health, and just standing while you work can make a world of difference, reducing the resistance to get moving when you feel the need. Additionally, some people might feel like they have more energy and get more done as a result.

We do not suggest that you get a standing desk that only operates as a standing desk. This is rarely practical, and there will be points where you will need to sit down to get work done. On top of this, standing all day is not necessarily healthy either . Instead, we suggest that you get an adjustable desk and rework your setup to make sure all is well with it (this will be easier for people with laptops), and you can change positions a couple of times each workday.

When getting one, make sure to measure your height and the desk space you will need, as many adjustable desks are on the smaller side. Make sure it is easy to adjust (or else you will risk not doing so), and ideally, make sure it fits well into your home office décor. Since their surge in popularity, we find that they are easier to come by and more affordable for the average person.

3. A Second Monitor

We cannot stress enough the usefulness of getting a second or even third monitor for your home office. While you might have been getting by just fine with just a single monitor, you can drastically increase your productivity with one. Writers can keep their notes and research on a second screen, anyone working with art and design can keep up a reference, and anyone who might need to work with multiple spreadsheets or calendars at once can make quick comparisons, improving job efficiency.

Whether your workplace thinks you need a second screen or not, you will never want to go back once you set yourself up with one. It does not even need to be of the same quality as your current one, though note that massive differences in resolution or size might be disorienting to some. A best-case scenario is one in which you have multiple of the same monitor.

Alternatively, switching to a sufficiently large monitor can perform the same relative task if you can split the screen up properly (easier with modern operating systems, though you probably need a desktop setup). It might not be as easy to use, and it is not as natural as splitting things between several monitors, but it’s an option.

While some would say that putting up something on a second screen can be distracting, all you need is the self-discipline to turn it off when you aren’t using it.

4. Wireless Charging Stand

Keeping your phone and other devices plugged in while working can be a hassle, and you might not have all the wires needed to keep everything in reach. Also, having an arsenal of cables for every device seems like a pain. Instead, invest in a wireless charging station for your home office so that you can use your phone and take it with you when needed, and it can charge on the pad otherwise. You can answer calls faster and look up information more efficiently. As for the time to maximum charge, the difference will be hardly noticeable considering how quickly all options charge phones and equipment these days.

When getting one, make sure that it is compatible with as many of your devices as possible. While you should choose your devices on other criteria, and you certainly shouldn’t needlessly replace them, keeping this compatibility in mind when picking your next upgrade might be something to keep in mind as well.

They come in the form of pads, actual stands, and other shapes and sizes, depending on whether you want to charge multiple devices at once or keep it as compact as possible.

5. Compact Fitness Equipment

While the standing or adjustable desk might be one step, sometimes fitness might require a little more. Getting out to the gym can be a tricky prospect for many, even before lockdowns temporarily closed them. There is probably not adequate room or aesthetic desire for a full treadmill in your home office, but you can put in some well-designed workout equipment in there or think about bringing it in. You do not want to let yourself go just because you aren’t leaving the house so much!

Some Ideas Might Include:

  • Adjustable free weights can conveniently be stored away when not in use. They might be a little more expensive than a pair or two, and you might need a little time to get used to them, but a good set can last you a lifetime, keep you challenged, and not take up too much space.
  • If you have a little more space, you can get a foldable exercise bike. Some of them might not have all of the features or options that a more dedicated bike would, but you can store it easily and still give yourself a good workout during a break (or while listening to a call if you can keep yourself from getting winded.)
  • Depending on what you wear to the home office, you might not always be dressed for it, but rolling up a yoga mat and keeping it handy can help you relax and stretch if needed.
  • If you want to get a little workout in while you work, you can get an under-desk elliptical. The smaller it is, the better, so you do not bump your knees and have plenty of space left under the desk.
  • There are plenty of smaller devices and equipment that take advantage of your body weight, allowing you to do pushups against the wall, use your door as a frame, and more! There are full-on suspension training kits that only require a door, a bit of setup, and your personal strength.
  • Above all else, the internet is your friend if you are looking for a short workout in your home office. Just search for what you have in mind, and you can get a full workout with the above tools if you so desire.

6. Improved Lighting

Sometimes your home office is not in the best-lit of places. Perhaps it is in a repurposed basement or a room with only one or two windows. Maybe you start work before dawn or after sunset. In any event, good lighting results in good work and less of a headache later.

We would note that you should be cautious about its use at night if you want a good sleep schedule, as some lamps and bulbs can trick you into thinking that it is still daytime out.

If lighting is important to you for webcam reasons and you want to look your best when making a presentation, try improving your space with something like a ring or selfie lamp. They are designed to make you look your best in different conditions on camera. With it, you will not look shadowed or overlit, making presentations and talks easier for you.

Alternatively, if you want to splurge and have complete control over the situation, having adjustable lighting and smart lighting installed in your home office (or home in general) can be a great choice. With an app or included remote, you will likely be able to control the brightness and warmth of the light, turn on or off everything without even getting up from your seat, and even change the color of the lights in your office if you have the correct bulbs. It’s a bit of an investment compared to cheaper bulbs, but they tend to last long, and you will notice the difference if you experiment.

7. Blue-Light Blocking Glasses

While some apps and programs can block blue light from your computer on the inside, a pair of blue light glasses might help you keep your eyes healthier and less stressed while you continue to work, even into the evening. The blue light from your computer might be stressing your eyes. People simply aren’t meant to be exposed to it all day, especially if you are taking more computer time due to the ongoing pandemic (it can be difficult to think of things to do that are not related to a screen in some way).

These glasses are not too expensive; you can probably find a basic pair for less than $20. They come in plenty of designs and styles so that you can easily find a pair that fits well (and perhaps over the pair you already need. Their design has gotten better over time, so you can still see what you need to when working. At the very least, try them out and see how you feel after a week or two.

8. A Fan or Air Purifier

The air quality at home might not be like that at the office, and sometimes that means it is worse in one way or another. Having a dedicated air purifier for your office, especially during allergy season, can make work much easier. Even if it is not a severe problem, breathing in cleaner air will make a difference over the day and make you feel better.

This is another case where you get what you pay for. We suggest that you make sure not to get the cheapest model and pick something out that will be good for the room you are in, ideally quiet enough to not be distracting, and that uses a HEPA filter . Other factors might come down to personal preference and needs, as well as space concerns.

You might want to invest in a nice fan outside of an air purifier if you do not already have one or do not have an air conditioner installed in your office. The summer is coming, and working while cooking is no fun. Keeping fresh air available can keep you from getting tired or easily distracted, and some people might like the white noise a fan can provide.

9. Noise Cancelling Headphones or Earbuds

Whether you have noisy kids in the other room, a neighbor who always seems to mow the lawn at precisely the wrong time, or you, unfortunately, live near an airport or some train tracks, you know that loud noises can be incredibly distracting and ruin your workday. For these situations, we recommend noise-canceling or noise-dampening headphones, which can effectively put you in your own little world while you keep them on.

You might be able to find a model with a microphone attachment if using them in meetings is a concern. However, we recommend getting a dedicated microphone if you are looking for the best sound quality for whatever reason. As far as sound quality is concerned, many models have excellent sound quality (perfect for chill music while working). Just remember that you are getting what you pay for.

If you do not like the bulkiness of headphones or are on the move more often, then perhaps some noise-canceling earbuds might do the trick. In most cases, they will not be as effective, but you will be able to move around more easily and not feel like they are burdening you.

10. A Coffee Maker, Tea Maker, or Blender

If you know the virtues of coffee, this one is self-explanatory. You might have one already set up and use it every morning. How often do you use it? Could you get a better one now that you are spending more time at home and less time at coffee shops? If your coffee maker is older, now might be the perfect time to get something with smart features (wake up to hot coffee every morning), additional settings or controls, or just the ability to make more coffee at once for the true addicts.

If you want something a little fancier, there are espresso machines and latte makers available as well. While they might be pricey, using them to replace going out for your drinks will quickly make up the difference. A little bit of research, and you can be your own barista.

For something a little milder for any time of day, you can invest in a tea maker or electric kettle that can prepare and keep warm some great tea. Tea is easy to order online, and investing in some great blends or options can genuinely give you something to look forward to alongside work every day.

If coffee is not your thing and tea is just not to your taste, perhaps healthy smoothies (or less than healthy ice cream milkshakes) are perfect for you instead. While you might want to source some nice ingredients for yourself, you can use frozen fruit when needed in the summer. There are tons of recipes online you can use, and while you might not keep it in the office, you’ll quickly turn it into a daily necessity. You can even make them a pitcher at a time if you don’t want to spend time every day making them.

11. A Mini Fridge

While you are working from home, you might not think about getting a mini-fridge for your home office or workspace, but it can be an excellent option if you are trying to stay focused and want to keep your lunch or snacks chilled for when you need them.

We understand your workspace is sacred, and if you leave it, opportunities for distraction are more likely. By keeping yourself away from other people and loading up the mini-fridge each morning with your intended options (or perhaps a few cold beverages of choice), you can keep on task and get done earlier.

Alternatively, if you are just looking for some cool water, perhaps getting a water cooler might be your best option. If you drink bottled water anyway, getting larger refillable jugs by delivery can save you money and have less environmental impact than getting many smaller disposable bottles. You might even be able to get hot water out of them for tea or for soothing your throat after a long meeting.

Whatever you pick and whatever size you get, just make sure to maintain and clean it regularly and to use it to make healthy choices if at all possible.

12. A White Board

Having a physical board or sheet that can display your goals, ideas, or major to-do items can be extremely helpful and keep the most important things at the forefront of your mind. Even the act of writing these things down every day can help you focus and be part of your morning ritual. While a sticky note or two can often do the job, we find they are too often ignored and that they can constantly get in the way, big enough to cause a nuisance but small enough to be easily lost. Similarly, digital notes and reminders can be all too easily canceled and forgotten.

Yet a giant message to yourself hanging right in front of you and visible whenever you lookup? That might be a bit more effective.

What size of board you get and where you put it is up to you. Ideally, you can find one that you can mount on the wall with no hassle, and you can keep it clean as needed (so keep it within easy reach).

Conclusion

There are, of course, so many other trinkets and gadgets you can look into, with similar lists to this reaching more than 50 products. We wanted to provide a closer focus on the soon-to-be essentials and items that can improve your quality of life on a day-to-day basis. We hope that at least a few of the things or item types here piqued your interest and that you will go shopping (online or otherwise) for them soon.

Remember that investing in yourself and your work is absolutely worth it. If you are still working from home now, you are likely in it for the long haul. We wish you the best of luck and hope you can keep your workplace fresh and productive!

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Ready to Sell? March 17, 2022

Is Your Home Ready to Sell? Tips to Get Your House Ready for the Market

open house

Image via Pixabay

You’re starting a new chapter in your life, and you need to change where you live. That’s exciting, but it’s also stressful. How are you going to sell your existing home? What can you do to prepare your house to sell quickly? Everything seems to need an update, a repair, or a touch of inspiration. How do you choose where to focus your time and money?

Here are a few tips from David Lyng Real Estate.

Ask a Realtor

Local real estate agents know your housing market; they know what is selling and what is not. With their knowledge, they can tell you the best staging options to help your home sell quickly. They can also help you decide on the right updates to improve the market value of your home.  Use these tips to start a list of possible updates and staging options to review with your agent.

To get a head start on the process, you can use online real estate listings to see how other homeowners in Raleigh have staged their homes for the market. This can give you a good idea of which trends are attracting buyers so you can focus on what’s working.

Start with Curb Appeal

Begin on the street. You need to take a critical look at your landscaping. Have the shrubs become overgrown? How does your lawn look? Maybe you aren’t a flower person, but it is a good idea to plant flowers for those pops of color that make a house feel like home.

Also, take a close look at your doorway and the path leading up to it. Everything needs to sparkle and shine. Maybe a new coat of paint or new door hardware? Placing solar-powered outdoor lights along the path to the front door gives a warming glow. Finally, put out a new welcome mat that invites potential buyers into your home.

Exterior repairs and general maintenance are a must for selling your home. A poorly maintained and messy exterior sets a negative tone for potential buyers. They begin to wonder how well you’ve taken care of your home’s interior before they even open the door. Check your gutters and downspouts, and ensure windows and screens are clean and in good repair.

Declutter and Depersonalize

Cluttered spaces give the impression of insufficient space. If that’s the case for your home, then you need a plan to get organized — and that often begins in the entryway. If your entry is a dumping ground for shoes, boots, backpacks, and briefcases, create a place to put them or find a place to stow them. Do you really need three pairs of boots in your entryway?

Today’s buyers want organized closets and drawers; they don’t want to see clothes tossed on the closet floor or an overflowing laundry hamper. Messy spaces can leave an impression of poorly organized spaces and careless ownership. Consider renting a storage unit for excess items if you don’t have sufficient storage space in your home.

Also, remove personal items such as family photos and knick-knacks. You want potential buyers to see themselves in your home, and that’s often hard to do with pictures of you and your family on mantels, walls, and display shelves. The same holds for those cherished knick-knacks. Your collection of teapots or farm animals may be the envy of your friends and family, but they only intrude on your buyers’ vision of themselves in your home.

Decluttering your home is also a wonderful opportunity to introduce your child to an allowance. By helping you with this project, you could reward them with money, treats, or a fun activity. You can even use helpful allowance apps to let you slowly introduce the idea to your kids.

Create a Blank Slate

After you’ve removed all those personal items and clutter, create a blank slate that is still warm and inviting. Getting that balance right requires a careful assessment of your interior space.

Take a serious look at your floors and walls. To get that blank slate, you need to neutralize (or at least tone down) your color scheme. Changing paint colors is an inexpensive way to update your home and create a backdrop for buyers to imagine their possessions in your space.  Painting removes the signs of pictures on your walls or other personal items you’ve removed.

Clean everything. From ceiling fans to baseboards, it is essential that your home shine. Consider hiring a cleaning service to keep your home spotless. Also, don’t forget the trash. Be sure to clean all trash cans and remove trash promptly to keep odors at bay. Use odor neutralizers and scented candles to make your property smell fresh.

With your interior and exterior list of repairs and updates, you’re ready to sit down with a realtor to set priorities. Real estate professionals like Paul Burrowes know what buyers are looking for in your area and can recommend where to focus your energies when trying to sell a house.

Uncategorized March 10, 2022

7 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Spring

Flowers on the table – a great way to prepare home for spring.
We have stepped into March, and that means only one thing – spring is around the corner! Now is the perfect time to de-winterize your home. So, say goodbye to warm sweaters and cold weather and let in the warm fresh air of spring in your life. We’re talking beautiful flowers, a colorful palette on the walls, and refreshing scents – everything that screams life and blossom will do the trick. In the spirit of things, in today’s article, we will talk about seven ways to prepare your home for spring. Grab yourself a cup of coffee, and let’s scroll!

Reorganize your closet

Let’s start with the most dreaded chore – closet reorganization. This is a task most people love to put off, and we understand why. It takes your valuable time and bores you out of your wits – we get it. However, putting the winter clothes in the back and the spring ones in the front of your closet is an incredible mood booster. Once you see all these light pieces in beautiful colors, you’ll feel much happier. And, once the spring jitters overwhelm your body, you’ll actually feel good about completing this chore.

And, this is a perfect time to declutter. The best way to do this is to look for things you can get rid of, donate, or even recycle. If you have many winter coats and jackets that you won’t be wearing until next winter, we suggest that you think about renting a storage unit.

There are many reasons to rent a storage space, and you should definitely opt for this solution if you want to keep all your winter clothes safe but don’t have enough room in your home. This way, you’ll both prepare your home for spring and make extra space for other stuff.

Give your bed a makeover

Next, you’ll have to make some changes to your bedroom. For instance, those flannel bedding and faux fur blankets may seem snuggly in the winter, but now the weather is warming up. We recommend you use sheets that are made of a more breathable percale or sateen. Additionally, replace bulky throws with something lighter and thinner. This should be one of the first signs of spring in your home.

Add a pop of color

Leave the winter’s dreary behind and let the sunlight in with a pallet of bright colors to welcome the spring season. Giving your space a fresh coat of paint makes everything feel brighter and healthier right away – much like spring mornings themselves. Pastel colors are perfect for interiors and give off a cheery springtime vibe. They go with many different colors in the home and are a terrific way to revitalize a worn space, ranging from mild green to soft yellow. If a full room makeover isn’t in the cards, adding color through soft furnishings like rugs or pillows is a good alternative.

Additionally, if you’re into wallpapers, now it’s a perfect time to make them a part of your home decor. Going with cheery spring prints and bright colors is a great way to prepare your home for spring and refresh your home!

Bring refreshing scents into your home

Spring scents can help you emerge from your winter slumber and get your home ready for the spring season. Lemongrass, bergamot, and orange are classic spring notes, while floral aromas like iris, jasmine, and rose can help brighten your spirits after a long winter. Yes, the days are becoming brighter. However, a shimmering candle flame or a diffuser may still create a warm ambiance in the spring. This is precisely what you need to get in the spirit of things and set the perfect spring mood in your home.

Get your garden tools ready

Spring is an excellent time to examine the winter damage, repair broken tools, sweep the lawn of any fallen debris, and clean up your shed. It may not be the first spot that comes to mind while spring cleaning, but it certainly shouldn’t be neglected.

So, as spring approaches, it’s critical to organize our garden sheds to create room for all the knicks and knacks, tools, and equipment we need to store. Organizing and making maximum use of the space using racking, hooks, and shelves is a terrific place to start. We recommend putting goods that “live together” in categories and labeling segments, so you know where everything is stored. This will keep you from having to turn the shed upside down every time you need to undertake some yard work.

Make your garden guest-ready

Nature is beginning to resurrect itself. While it may still be too chilly to dine outdoors, now is the perfect time to tend to your garden so that you’ll be ready when the weather warms up. So, jet-wash the patio, mow the lawn, clean (or refinish) any worn-out patio furniture, and fix up the garden beds and borders.

Moreover, consider dividing your garden into zones if you have the room. Ideally, you’ll have a designated area for relaxing (sunbeds, a patio sofa, and a hanging egg chair), as well as a separate place for dining (bistro sets are ideal for small areas). Finally, add stylish elements to your outdoor space, such as a garden reflector, lanterns, and outdoor rugs. In no time, your garden will be ready for your friends and family.

Style your home with flowers

Magnolias, hydrangea, tulips! Bringing these beauties into your house serves as a lovely reminder of how things are beginning to blossom outdoors. If you’re anything like us, making your home ready for the spring season is all about decorating your house with flower arrangements that cheer you up, even if it’s only a handful of daisies from the garden. Alternatively, you may purchase a spring wreath or create your own with your favorite wildflowers. It’s just a huge mood booster, and it creates an inviting atmosphere that everybody will enjoy.

Are you ready to prepare your home for the spring?

Spring is coming, and we couldn’t be more excited. If you’re cut from the same cloth, then it’s time to embrace this season in your home. With these seven ways to prepare your home for spring, you’ll be more than ready on March 20th to enjoy the beginning of the best season to the fullest. Think colors, flowers, refreshing scents, eating breakfast al-fresco, and clothes without layers. This all sounds amazing, right? So, roll your sleeves and get to these tasks one by one because spring couldn’t be closer!

For more content about real estate, moving, and downsizing, visit the David Lyng Real Estate blog.

 

Uncategorized March 10, 2022

Downsizing 101: Common Mistake to Avoid

Unpacking

Photo credit: Pexels.com

Downsizing to a smaller home offers various benefits. You won’t have as large of a space to keep clean, will have less stress when it comes to property maintenance, and can cut utility costs. David Lyng Real Estate can help you find your new property in the Scotts Valley, California, area. However, before you can enjoy the benefits of a smaller space, you have to go through the downsizing process. Avoid these common mistakes when downsizing.

Skipping the decluttering process

When downsizing, you’re moving to a smaller space. Your new home may not hold all of the belongings you have in your current place—at least, not comfortably. To avoid that overcrowded feeling, start paring down your belongings before your move. Budget Dumpster provides a comprehensive to decluttering with helpful tips. For example, if you have a lot of garbage, you might consider renting a dumpster.

Getting overzealous with the decluttering process

On the other hand, you don’t want to get too eager with decluttering and tossing out items you might still need. As a rule of thumb, you can probably get rid of items that you have duplicates of or that you haven’t used in more than two years. If you aren’t sure what to do with goods you do get rid of, check out this guide. You can throw items away, recycle them, or donate them, depending on the condition they’re in.

Waiting until the last minute

Decluttering and downsizing take time. You don’t want to complete the job in a rush. Make sure to leave plenty of time to get the job done. Make a plan to guide your progress. You can use this printable template from Microsoft to create a time-sensitive to-do list. In general, aim to allow one week per room when decluttering. This ensures you don’t get overwhelmed, which can result in your wanting to give up before you’re finished.

Tackling the whole house at once

When decluttering, it’s advisable to go on a room by room basis. This ensures you don’t turn the entire house upside down at once. Start with rooms that you rarely use and work your way up to the rooms you use more frequently. You can also combine decluttering with packing. Follow best practices for packing, like clearly labeling boxes according to their rooms, and putting heavier items on the bottom of boxes and lighter items on top.

 Not factoring in your kids and pets

 If you have children or pets, consider their needs when downsizing. For example, pets may get anxious when transitioning to a new location. To help them keep calm, set aside a box of essentials, like toys, food, and a bed. Pet News Daily reveals that an elevated dog bed is a great investment if your dog is older and has joint problems. It can also help keep pups cool when it’s hot out. A dog bed with a canopy will further block your pup from harmful rays.

Miscalculating the costs of downsizing

Finally, don’t forget that downsizing costs money. First, there are expenses associated with moving into a new home, like getting the utilities turned on. Then, there are the costs of the actual downsizing and moving, like packing materials and professional movers. A moving cost calculator can help you get an idea of what you’ll have to pay. This will eliminate costly surprises and ensure you don’t get in over your head financially.

Moving to a senior care facility offers many benefits, from a built-in community to support with everyday tasks like cooking and cleaning. If you are thinking of making this transition.

For more content about real estate, moving, and downsizing, visit the David Lyng Real Estate blog.

Real Estate Development February 2, 2022

SB 9 PROJECT APPLICATION GUIDE – County of Santa Cruz

SB 9 Project Application Guide – Updated: 1/3/2022

What is Senate Bill 9 (SB 9)?

In 2021, Governor Newsom signed into law Senate Bill 9 (SB 9) to further address California’s housing shortage. SB 9 is in effect starting January 1, 2022. This law establishes a streamlined process to develop two primary dwelling units on one eligible single-family zoned parcel, and to split one eligible single-family zoned parcel into two separate parcels of approximately equal size. SB 9 also provides more flexible property setbacks and parking standards and extends subdivision approval expirations for eligible parcels.

What is the SB 9 Project Application Process?

In Santa Cruz County, usually special approval from the Planning Department (called “discretionary approval”) is required before an applicant may submit an application for a subdivision or for construction of two primary dwellings on one single family zoned parcel. Eligible SB 9 applications are streamlined because they do not require discretionary approval and are only subject to objective planning standards, except that coastal development permits may still be required for parcels located in the coastal zone. The SB 9 application process includes the following steps:

SB 9 Project Application Process

County of Santa Cruz SB 9 Project Application Process

A pre-application consultation with County Planning staff is strongly recommended prior to submittal to determine if your project is eligible for the SB 9 application process. Once submitted, the County will review the SB 9 Project Application and associated materials for consistency with the eligibility criteria required by state law (see page 2). If eligible, the County will review the coastal development permit, building permit, and/or land division application to determine if it meets the County’s objective standards for approval.

What are Objective Standards?

Objective standards are standards that involve no personal or subjective judgment by a public official. These standards can be found in the County Code and General Plan/Local Coastal Program. For example, a building height limit of two stories is an objective standard. In comparison, a requirement that a building must blend appropriately with the neighborhood character is a subjective standard.

IS MY PROJECT ELIGIBLE FOR THE SB 9 APPLICATION PROCESS?

See the Santa Cruz County GISWeb for parcel information to determine if your project meets the eligibility criteria:

Eligibility Criteria SB9

IS MY PROJECT ELIGIBLE FOR THE SB 9 APPLICATION PROCESS?

These are general guidelines. Please refer to Gov. Code §65852.21 and §66411.7 and review the SB 9 Project Application for detailed eligibility information.

Moving February 2, 2022

Tips to Juggle Selling Your House and Moving at the Same Time

House for sale.

House for sale.

Buying or selling a home can be an exciting adventure. However, handling both transactions simultaneously can be difficult. And if you need to juggle selling your house and moving at the same time, you might be in a bit of a pickle. So, we came up with some helpful tips to make the whole process go smoothly. With our help, you will sell your house and move into your new one in no time and stress-free.

First of all, make a plan

When you need to sell a house and move, you have to organize every step. You can’t, for example, list your home without knowing the market. You risk having to wait longer than expected to sell your home. That might happen if you overpriced your house or didn’t know how to make the listing appealing. Therefore, we advise you to make a step-by-step plan before starting to look for buyers or moving companies. That will save you a lot of time and money, and it will allow you to focus on every aspect of the process as you should. But, if you are bad at time management and planning, you should consider hiring a professional. A real estate agent will save you money and time during the sale.

Research the market

If you want to have a successful sale, you should know how to present your property. So, before you start doing anything else, research the market. That allows you to make an accurate estimate of the price at which you should sell your property. Also, you will see how other sellers present their homes. At the same time, if you view listings periodically, you can estimate how quickly your house will sell. And that can help you plan your next steps and your time more accurately.

Woman researching on the internet.

To be able to juggle selling your house and moving at the same time, you need to do a lot of research.

Start the moving process at the right time

After you finish researching and listing your home for sale, you can start planning the move. And you don’t need to exaggerate or overcrowd your schedule. You should do things slowly and thoroughly, especially if you are new to packing and moving. First, you can make an inventory of your items and a checklist so that you can make packing easy and stress-free. If you know what you need to take, you won’t have to worry about leaving things behind. Furthermore, this is your chance to sort your belongings and decide what you should keep. Before a move, it is usually a good idea to declutter; it will spare you the burden of carrying useless items to your new home and overcrowding it from the beginning.

Set your budget

When you know how much your home will sell for, you can make a budget for the move. That is if the sale comes before the moving. If not, you will need to think about your options. For example, you should have some money saved up to cover the expenses of the packing supplies. Even if it might not seem like much, buying boxes, bubble wrap, sealing tape, labels, markers, and so on can add up and become quite expensive. Not to mention that besides buying the packing supplies, you will have to pay bills until you move. So be prepared for such expenses so that they don’t take you by surprise.

Person saving money in a piggy bank.

Selling and moving at the same time can be expensive, so it’s a good idea to save some money.

Look for the best moving company

After you have a budget in mind for the move, it’s time to start looking for a moving company. Even if you are moving locally and think you can handle it, it is best to leave it to the experts. Professional movers can ensure that your belongings are kept safe during transport and that they arrive at the new location at the right time. Also, they are equipped and trained to handle large or fragile objects so that you don’t have to risk any injuries. In the end, even if it can seem to be costly, hiring moving professionals will only bring you benefits.

Consider renting before moving

It might happen that your home will sell faster than you expected. In that case, you have to be prepared to move out quickly. Or, you can rent a place in advance to have time to explore the neighborhood before deciding on a home. That can help you save money by not having to rush into decisions. You will have time to wait for the right buyer for your property and make the most out of the sale. And after that, you will have enough time to look for your perfect future home.

Luggage and boxes on a bed.

You might need to move twice if you have to sell your home before you find your new one.

Be prepared to encounter problems

Whenever you try to juggle selling your house and moving at the same time, you can expect problems. After all, you need to remember that you are not the only one involved in the game. Your buyer may have financial difficulties, your seller may take too long to meet all of the conditions, or you may encounter some unforeseen costs. As a result, don’t expect everything to go smoothly to avoid disappointment. Instead, prepare for any scenario, be patient, and calm. Things will eventually fall into place, and you will have the desired outcome. It just might happen a bit later.

Hire a real estate agent

If you want to make things easier on yourself, consider hiring a professional to help you. Real estate agents are the best option when you need to juggle multiple processes at a time. For instance, a real estate agent can take care of selling your home while you focus on the move. Your agent will ensure that you get the best price for your property, and they can also sell it faster than you can. In addition, real estate agents know the market and all the tips and tricks that close deals. Not to mention that they are familiar with housing regulations, so they can help you solve any legal problems that can appear.

Final words

It may seem challenging to juggle selling your house and moving at the same time. However, everything is possible if you have a good plan and stay organized. Moreover, if you team up with the best professionals, your success is guaranteed.

Closing can be scheduled to close simultaneously to make it easier!

 

Real Estate DevelopmentUncategorized January 20, 2022

SB9 – Senate Bill 9

CARCARAs published by CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
Member Legal Services, October 1, 2021CARCARCAR

SB 9 – allows for the development in an urban area of up to four homes on lots on a plot of land where currently only one exists and requires that a city or county ministerially approve without discretionary review or a hearing either or both of the following in a single-family zone, subject to a number of exceptions and conditions.

What does SB 9 require?

This law requires that a city or county ministerially approve without discretionary review or a hearing either or both of the following in urban areas as defined, (subject to a number of exceptions and conditions):

  • A housing development of no more than two units in a single-family zone (duplex*).
  • The subdivision of an owner occupied parcel zoned for residential use, into two approximately equal parcels (“lot split”) as long as neither parcel is less than 1200 square feet and the owner agrees to owner occupy one of the units for three years.

* The use of the term duplex for two units does not mean or imply that the two units must be connected.


What is ministerial approval?

There are generally two types of housing projects: Those that require discretionary vetting through public hearings and those that require only “ministerial” approval by the city or county planning staff, without further approval from elected officials.

Most large housing projects are not allowed ministerial review; instead, these projects are subject to public hearings and administrative review. On the other hand, projects reviewed ministerially require only an administrative review designed to ensure they are consistent with existing zoning rules and a general plan, as well as meeting standards for building quality, health, and safety as well as other objective standards that may be allowed.  Most housing projects that require discretionary review and approval are subject to review under CEQA, while projects permitted ministerially generally do not thereby obviating the preparation of an environmental impact report. Ministerial approval is sometimes characterized as approval “by right.”

Q1. Does SB 9 apply to single family residential zones?
A1. 
Yes, the law expressly applies to single family residential zones.

Q2. Are there other state laws that currently permit construction in single family residential zones?
A2. 
Yes. SB 9 is certainly not the first law to permit construction of additional units in single family residential zones. Current state law permits homeowners an effectively “by right” ability to construct accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on their property regardless of the home being in a single family residential zone.

In 2019 of a group of three laws (AB 68, AB 881 and SB 13) removed impediments to the construction of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and Junior ADUs. These three laws together require ministerial approval for ADUs and Junior ADUs which effectively allow the construction of up to three units even where the property is zoned for single family use.  That existing law was in effect before passage of SB 9. Please see this summary sheet prepared by Californians for Homeownership which described the impact of these laws in 2020.  https://www.caforhomes.org/aduupdate

Q3. Will SB 9 help alleviate the state’s housing shortage?
A3. 
SB 9 would allow for the development of up to four homes on lots on a plot of land where currently only one exists. This theoretically this could lead to the development of nearly 6 million new housing units. More realistically, assuming that only five percent of the parcels impacted result in the creation of new two-unit properties, this law would result in nearly 600,000 new homes.

The law also allows the creation of such units to be sold at market price and rented at market value.  A lot of current developments limit the number of market rate units, and no such restrictions apply in this law.

However, this law contains a number of detailed conditions, exceptions and allowances that apply to the permitting of duplexes or to lot splits or both. So, SB 9 will not apply to every neighborhood within single family zoning.

Q4. Are there any provisions in SB 9 that are intended to preserve the character of a neighborhood or area?
A4. 
First, certain excluded areas such as historic areas, non-urban areas and “farmlands” are excluded in part so as to not disrupt the unique characteristics of the area. (See the section below which discusses exclusions from SB 9).

Second, SB 9 reiterates the right of cities and counties to adopt and enforce objective zoning standards, objective subdivision standards, and objective design review standards as long as such standards do not conflict with the other provisions of SB 9.

Third, SB 9 prohibits demolition of more than 25% or the exterior walls of an existing structure unless: 1) the site has been unoccupied by a tenant in the last three years or 2) unless approved by the locality.  This last provision is primarily aimed at preventing the eviction of tenants from such properties for development.

Duplexes and Lot Splits — Rules, conditions, exclusions and allowances

Excluded Properties

Q5. What types of properties or areas are excluded from the SB 9 ministerial procedures?
A5. 
SB 9 only applies ministerial approval to areas that are zoned for single family residential use. However, it does not apply to every such area. There are a number of excluded areas. For a property to be subject to the SB 9 procedures of ministerial approval for both duplexes and lot splits, the property cannot be located in any of the following areas:

1) Non-Urbanized areas

The duplex or parcel to be subdivided must be located within an urbanized area or urban cluster. If not, then the property is not subject to ministerial approval under SB 9. More than 80% of the population of California live within an urbanized area or cluster. Urbanized areas are so designated by the United States Census Bureau which defines urban and rural at the block level. To view maps for urbanized areas or clusters, go to the 2010 Census Urban Area or Cluster Maps on this site: https://www.census.gov/geographies/reference-maps/2010/geo/2010-census-urban-areas.html

Note that an urbanized area is not limited to areas within the boundaries of a city. The law applies to unincorporated areas as long as the parcel is within a census defined urban area or cluster.

2) Ecological and farmland

The property cannot be located within these areas:

  • Prime farmland or farmland of statewide importance (as defined pursuant to United States Department of Agriculture land inventory and monitoring criteria, as modified for California, and designated on the maps prepared by the Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program of the Department of Conservation, or land zoned or designated for agricultural protection or preservation by a local ballot measure that was approved by the voters of that jurisdiction).
  • Wetlands (as defined in the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Manual, Part 660 FW 2 (June 21, 1993))
  • Land identified for conservation under a natural community conservation plan, or lands under conservation easement (pursuant to the Natural Community Conservation Planning Act (Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 2800) of Division 3 of the Fish and Game Code), habitat conservation plan pursuant to the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. Sec. 1531 et seq.), or other adopted natural resource protection plan).
  • Habitat for protected species. These include habitats for protected species identified as candidate, sensitive, or species of special status by state or federal agencies, fully protected species, or species protected by the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. Sec. 1531 et seq.), the California Endangered Species Act (Chapter 1.5 (commencing with Section 2050) of Division 3 of the Fish and Game Code), or the Native Plant Protection Act (Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 1900) of Division 2 of the Fish and Game Code).

3) Historic or landmark district
The property cannot be located on a site located within a historic or landmark district, or a site that has a historic property or landmark under state or local law. To be precise, SB 9 does not apply to a property “located within a historic district or property included on the State Historic Resources Inventory, as defined in Section 5020.1 of the Public Resources Code, or within a site that is designated or listed as a city or county landmark or historic property or district pursuant to a city or county ordinance.”

4) Hazard zones (but only if not mitigated)

The property cannot be located within these hazard zones, unless state mitigation requirements are met:

  • Land within a high or very high fire hazard severity zone, unless the development complies with state mitigation requirements. Note that these zones are determined by Cal Fire. Local designation of very high fire hazard severity zones under Government Code 51179, which can be much broader, do not qualify.
  • An earthquake fault zone as determined by the State Geologist in any official maps, unless the development complies with applicable seismic protection building code standards under both state and local law. Not included within the exception are seismic hazard zones.
  • A property within the 100-year floodplain or a floodway as determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). However, this may not be an impediment to ministerial approval under SB 9 if the site meets the FEMA requirements of flood plain management or has received a “no-rise” certification for property within a regulatory floodway.

The limitations based on fire hazard or earthquake, fault zones and floodplain zones will likely not affect many developments since SB 9 ministerial approval will be required as long as certain mitigation conditions, which do not appear to be overly burdensome, are met.

5) Outside a single-family zone

This law only applies to parcels within a single-family residential zone.

Excluded Properties Based on Tenant Use or Rent Restrictions

Q6. What are the landlord-tenant related exclusions to the application of SB 9?
A6. 
AB 9 seeks to expand housing construction in single family zones. But the law has been drafted so as not to encourage the displacement of existing tenants or to circumvent existing rent restrictions. Under SB 9 demolition or alteration of the following types of units is prohibited:

  • Rent-restricted housing either by deed or covenant, or by any rent or price control law
  • Housing that has been the subject of an Ellis Act eviction within the past 15 years, or
  • Housing that has been occupied by a tenant in the last three years.

SB 9 also prohibits demolition of more than 25% of the exterior walls of an existing structure unless at least one of the following conditions has been met

  • The local ordinance allows greater demolition or
  • The site has not been occupied by a tenant in the last three years. (Comment: If the site has been occupied by a tenant within the last three years, the owner would still be precluded from demolition or alteration based on the third bullet point above).

Local Government/Agency Authority

Q7. How are localities constrained in their ability to establish preconditions to approval of SB 9 lot splits and duplexes?
A7. 
SB 9 limits the ability of local agencies to create impediments to the provisions of SB 9. .. To this end it includes a number of restrictions on the types of rules that a local agency can enforce as part of the approval process.

  • Parking. Local agencies may require only one off-street parking space per unit. However, this requirement cannot be imposed if the property is close toa car share vehicle location or if the parcel is located within one-half mile walking distance of either a high-quality transit corridor (PRC 21155(b)) or a major transit stop (PRC 21064.3). This is the similar to the existing law for ADUs.
  • Setbacks of four feet or less. Side and rear setbacks are limited to four feet or less generally. However, no set back may be imposed on an existing structure or one that is constructed in the same location and to the same dimensions as an existing structure.
  • Short term rentals prohibited. Local agencies must prohibit rentals of less than 30 days.
  • Second unit may be connected or adjacent. A second adjacent or connected structures must be allowed as long as it allows separate conveyance.
  • Percolation test. The local agency may require proof of percolation test within a specified timeframe for residential units connected to an onsite wastewater treatment system. (Duplexes only).
  • Duplex units must be at least 800 square feet. Cities cannot preclude the construction of up to two units or that would physically preclude either of the two units from being at least 800 square feet in floor area.

Q8. Given the state’s ADU laws, does SB 9 now permit more than 2 units on a parcel?
A8. 
No.  If the SB 9 ministerial procedure is utilized and two units are created on a parcel a local agency is not required to permit an accessory dwelling unit or a junior accessory dwelling unit in addition to a duplex. Nor if there is a lot split and a new duplex is the local agency required to allow an ADU in addition on the new parcel.

Some news articles and social media posts have reported that SB 9 will require as many as six units to be developed by ministerial approval. But these articles were likely based on earlier versions of the bill or are based on a misunderstanding of how SB 9 interacts with the state’s ADU laws..

Q9. What rules can a city or county adopt as part of their own local standard in approving or denying duplexes or lot splits under SB 9?
A9. 
Objective zoning standards. First, SB 9 grants local government the authority to impose objective zoning, subdivision, and design review standards that do not conflict with this law. However, such objective standards cannot physically preclude the construction of up to two units  or that would physically preclude either of the two units from being at least 800 square feet in floor area.

It is anticipated that most local governments will create such standards forthwith to ensure that any developments created due to SB 9 are consistent with “the look and feel of” the areas in which they are developed.

Limited grounds to deny. Second, local government also have authority to deny a housing project otherwise authorized by this law, if the building official makes a written finding based upon the preponderance of the evidence that the housing development project would have a specific, adverse impact upon health and safety or the physical environment and there is no feasible method to satisfactorily mitigate or avoid the specific adverse impact.

Additional rules and conditions governing lot splits


Q10. What additional rules apply to lot splits?
A10. 
All of the aforementioned rules apply equally the process of ministerial approval for both duplexes and lot splits (unless otherwise indicated). However, a number of rules apply only to lot splits. These are as follows:

  • Lot splits must be approximately equal. The parcel map subdivides an existing parcel to create no more than two new parcels of approximately equal size, provided that one parcel shall not be smaller than 40% of the lot area of the original parcel.
  • At least 1200 square feet. Both newly created parcels are at least 1,200 square feet, unless the city or county adopts a small minimum lot size by ordinance.
  • Tenant protections and rent restrictions. The parcel does not contain rent-restricted housing, housing where an owner has exercised their rights under the Ellis Act within the past 15 years or has been occupied by tenants in the past three years.
  • No prior lot split. The parcel has not been established through prior exercise of an urban lot split.
  • No prior split of adjacent parcel. Neither the owner of the parcel, or any person acting in concert with the owner, has previously subdivided an adjacent parcel using an urban lot split.
  • Lot splits must comply with the Subdivision Map Act. Requires a city or county to approve a lot split only if it conforms to all applicable objective requirements of the Subdivision Map Act except as otherwise expressly provided in this bill.
  • No right-of-way required. Prohibits a city or county from imposing regulations that require dedicated rights-of-way or the construction of offsite improvements for the parcels being created, as a condition of approval.
  • No requirement of correcting violations. Prohibits a city or county from requiring, as a condition for ministerial approval of a lot split, the correction of nonconforming zoning conditions.
  • Affidavit of owner occupancy. Requires a local government to require an applicant for an urban lot split to sign an affidavit stating that the applicant intends to occupy one of the housing units as their principal residence for a minimum of three years from the date of the approval of lot split, unless the applicant is a community land trust, as defined, or a qualified nonprofit corporation. No additional owner occupancy standards may be imposed.
  • What rules can a city or county adopt as part of their own local standard in approving or denying lot splits under SB 9?

Objective zoning standards. The rules here mirror the rules for duplexes. SB 9 grants cities and counties the authority to impose objective zoning, subdivision, and design review standards for lot splits that do not conflict with this law. Again, the same limitation applies: A city or county cannot impose objective standards that would physically preclude the construction of up to two units or that would physically preclude either of the two units from being at least 800 square feet in floor area.

Limited grounds to deny. Second, a cities and counties also have authority to deny a housing project otherwise authorized by this law if the building official makes a written finding based upon the preponderance of the evidence that the housing development project would have a specific, adverse impact upon health and safety or the physical environment and there is no feasible method to satisfactorily mitigate or avoid the specific adverse impact.

No more than two units per parcel. Cities and counties are not required to permit more than two units on a parcel (see question __ regarding SB 9’s interaction with state ADU law.

CEQA and the Coastal Act


Q11. Is CEQA required under SB ministerial review?
A11. 
No. Because approval under SB 9 is ministerial, the California Environmental Quality Act does not apply. Thus SB 9 creates a new statutory exemption to CEQA for an ordinance adopted to implement this law.

Q12. Does the Coastal Act apply?
A12. 
Yes. The Coastal Act does apply, but the local agency is not required to hold a public hearing on a coastal development permit for an SB 9 approval. The Coastal Act applies in full to SB 9 lot splits and two-unit projects, with one exception—a local agency may not hold a public hearing for the issuance of a Coastal Development Permit.

Common Interest Developments


Q13. Does SB 9 apply to common interest developments when their own CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions) prohibit SB 9 type developments?
A13. 
Unlikely, but it is not certain at this point. SB 9 is silent on the issue. It simply contains no provisions that supersede any private covenants, nor are there any amendments or new provisions in the sections California law addressing common interest developments, commonly referred to as the Davis-Stirling Act.  Thus, a plain reading of SB 9 means that such provisions remain enforceable. Furthermore such an application of SB 9 provisions to HOAs could create enormous complexity for such HOAs which would then have to figure out how to assess such properties for fees and other charges.  Additional persons could also impact common area amenities and facilities which did not account for additional units when created.  Also, while not legally binding the author of the bill, Senate pro Tempore Atkins, sent a letter to the Secretary of State stating that it was her understanding that the bill would not supersede existing HOA documents. Finally, most housing legislation intended to impact HOAs explicitly state the intent to do so. However, in the absence of explicit language saying it does not apply to HOAs, while unlikely, a court could potentially construe SB 9 as demonstrating “public policy” in favor of SB 9 type projects. Thus, any CC&Rs that restrict such projects would be in violation of public policy.

Q14. When does SB 9 go into effect?
A14. 
SB 9 goes into effect on January 1, 2022.

Q15. Where can I view the actual bill itself?
A15. 
See this link for. Senate Bill 9.

 

Real Estate Development January 14, 2022

SB 9 Guide – Duplexes and Land Divisions January 5, 2022

CITY OF SANTA CRUZ PLANNING AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT
809 Center Street • Room 206 • Santa Cruz, CA 95060
www.cityofsantacruz.com
Lee Butler, Director

SB 9 is part of the Senate’s “Building Opportunities for All” housing package that was created to address the severe housing shortage in California. SB 9 was signed by Governor Newsom and chaptered by the Secretary of State. This bill went into effect on January 1, 2022. PLEASE NOTE that this is a new process that is subject to further interpretation by the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) and code amendments are expected in early 2022. When code amendments and/or additional guidance are published, the City will update criteria and procedures accordingly, therefore, the information in this guide is subject to change under State law.

SB 9 makes two changes to State law:

• It allows homeowners in most areas around the state (those zoned for single-family) to divide their property into two lots, thereby increasing opportunities for homeownership in their neighborhood; and
• It allows two homes to be built on each of those lots, with the effect of allowing four homes in areas that previously only allowed one home.

What does SB 9 allow?
SB 9 allows for a proposed housing development, including a minor land division to divide one lot into two, containing no more than two residential units on a single lot within a single-family residential zone to be considered ministerially if it meets the below criteria. The term ”ministerial” means that no discretionary review is required, i.e. no use permits, design permits, or tentative map approval. (See below for more details on the term “discretionary.”) Therefore, SB 9 projects must only obtain non-discretionary permits such as those that are required through the Building, Fire, Water, and Public Works Departments, and comply with non- discretionary requirements.

What is a Housing Development?
A housing development is a project that includes no more than two units on a single parcel. This can include the construction of up to two new units, the legalization of up to two existing units, or the construction of one new unit to one existing unit. There are also some exceptions for an ADU to be considered as the third unit on one parcel – see below.

Can I split my parcel and propose two housing developments on each new parcel under SB 9?
Yes, under SB 9, you can split your parcel (assuming it is in an R-1 or R-S Zoning District) into two parcels and create a housing development on each lot with a ministerial, non-discretionary permitting process. However, the project will need to meet the qualifying criteria for both a housing development and a lot split as described below.

How do I submit an application for a SB 9 Lot Split and/or Housing Development?
First, you’ll want to review the qualifying criteria below to confirm that the project meets all of the requirements. If you have questions, feel free to speak with a Planner during public counter hours, Monday through Thursday, 7:30 am -11:30 am, or via phone (831-420-5416), or email planningcounter@cityofsantacruz.com

If you’ve determined that your project is eligible, you’ll need to contact the Building Department for information on the Building Permit Process. If your project includes a lot split, please also contact the Public Works Department for information on submitting a parcel map for review and recordation.

Qualifying Criteria for a Housing Development or Lot Split:

  • The development must occur on a legal lot.
  • The development or lot split is not located on a site that is any of the following:
    • Either prime farmland or farmland of statewide importance, as defined pursuant to United States Department of Agriculture land inventory and monitoring criteria, as modified for California, and designated on the maps prepared by the Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program of the Department of Conservation, or land zoned or designated for agricultural protection or preservation by a local ballot measure that was approved by the voters of that jurisdiction.
    • Wetlands, as defined in the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Manual, Part 660 FW 2 (June 21, 1993).
    • Within a very high fire hazard severity zone, as determined by the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection pursuant to Section 51178, or within a high or very high fire hazard severity zone as indicated on maps adopted by the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection pursuant to Section 4202 of the Public Resources Code. This subparagraph does not apply to sites excluded from the specified hazard zones by a local agency, pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 51179, or sites that have adopted fire hazard mitigation measures pursuant to existing building standards or state fire mitigation measures applicable to the development.
    • A hazardous waste site that is listed pursuant to Section 65962.5 or a hazardous waste site designated by the Department of Toxic Substances Control pursuant to Section 25356 of the Health and Safety Code, unless the State Department of Public Health, State Water Resources Control Board, or Department of Toxic Substances Control has cleared the site for residential use or residential mixed uses.
    • Within a delineated earthquake fault zone as determined by the State Geologist in any official maps published by the State Geologist, unless the development complies with applicable seismic protection building code standards adopted by the California Building Standards Commission under the California Building Standards Law (Part 2.5 (commencing with Section 18901) of Division 13 of the Health and Safety Code), and by any local building department under Chapter 12.2 (commencing with Section 8875) of Division 1 of Title 2.
    • Within a special flood hazard area subject to inundation by the 1 percent annual chance flood (100-year flood) as determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in any official maps published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. If a development proponent is able to satisfy all applicable federal qualifying criteria in order to provide that the site satisfies this subparagraph and is otherwise eligible for streamlined approval under this section, a local government shall not deny the application on the basis that the development proponent did not comply with any additional permit requirement, standard, or action adopted by that local government that is applicable to that site. A development may be located on a site described in this subparagraph if either of the following are met:
    • The site has been subject to a Letter of Map Revision prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and issued to the local jurisdiction.
    • The site meets Federal Emergency Management Agency requirements necessary to meet minimum flood plain management criteria of the National Flood Insurance Program pursuant to Part 59 (commencing with Section 59.1) and Part 60 (commencing with Section 60.1) of Subchapter B of Chapter I of Title 44 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
    • Within a regulatory floodway as determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in any official maps published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, unless the development has received a no-rise certification in accordance with Section 60.3(d)(3) of Title 44 of the Code of Federal Regulations. If a development proponent is able to satisfy all applicable federal qualifying criteria in order to provide that the site satisfies this subparagraph and is otherwise eligible for streamlined approval under this section, a local government shall not deny the application on the basis that the development proponent did not comply with any additional permit requirement, standard, or action adopted by that local government that is applicable to that site.
    • Lands identified for conservation in an adopted natural community conservation plan pursuant to the Natural Community Conservation Planning Act (Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 2800) of Division 3 of the Fish and Game Code), habitat conservation plan pursuant to the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. Sec. 1531 et seq.), or other adopted natural resource protection plan.
    • Habitat for protected species identified as candidate, sensitive, or species of special status by state or federal agencies, fully protected species, or species protected by the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. Sec. 1531 et seq.), the California Endangered Species Act (Chapter 1.5 (commencing with Section 2050) of Division 3 of the Fish and Game Code), or the Native Plant Protection Act (Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 1900) of Division 2 of the Fish and Game Code).
    • Lands under conservation easement.

Qualifying Criteria for a Housing Development:
[X] The lot is located within an urbanized area or urban cluster, or within a city that has an urbanized area or urban cluster. All parcels within the City of Santa Cruz comply with this requirement.

[ ] The project does not involve the demolition or alteration of housing occupied by a tenant in the past three years or any affordable housing, rent-controlled housing, or housing that was withdrawn from rent within the last 15 years through the Ellis Act.

  • During review of your application, City staff will confirm that the unit is not registered with the Rental Inspection Program and will confirm that an Affordable Housing Agreement is not recorded on the property.
  • Additionally, the property owner will be required to sign an affidavit confirming that the housing to be demolished is not rent restricted under any local, State or Federal agreements and that the housing has not been rented within the last three years.
  • If it is found that an existing housing unit meets any of the above criteria or the property owner is unwilling to sign the above described statement, the unit will not be permitted to be demolished or altered.

[ ] The project does not involve demolition of more than 50 percent of the existing exterior walls of an existing dwelling if the site was rented in the last 3 years.

  • Plans submitted for building permit issuance shall include details showing the extent of demolition, including calculations and dimensions. On walls to remain, the wall studs, existing window/door openings, existing window and door headers, and existing top and bottom wall plates shall be preserved in place and shall not be removed and reconstructed with the same or similar materials, or reinforced through techniques such as sistering, regardless of the state of decay or non-compliance with building code requirements.

[ ] The site is not located within a historic district, is not included on the State Historic Resources Inventory, or is not within a site that is legally designated or listed as a city or county landmark, or historic property or district.

Please complete the following steps to determine if your property is a within a local historic district or a local historic resource:

    1. Visit vw8.cityofsantacruz.com/public/
    2. Type the parcel address in the Search by Address field on the right side menu
    3. Scroll down the results list to “Zoning Overlay – Historic”. If it says “yes” next to this category then the parcel is located within a historic district.
    4. Scroll down the results list to “Historic Building Volume/Page”. If there are numbers listed after this category then the parcel is listed in the city’s historic building survey.

Land Division Criteria

  • A project utilizing an SB 9 lot split may include a maximum of four units between the two lots.
    • One or both lots may remain vacant; however, one lot cannot be constructed with all four units which would render the other vacant lot unbuildable.
    • If a housing unit is demolished then the demolition will be subject to replacement housing requirements of SB 330 which includes the construction of a replacement housing unit. If it is determined that the house to be demolished is occupied by a low income household, then the replacement unit may be required to be a restricted affordable units.
    • The maximum number of units per SB 9 parcel is two units and one ADU. See below section on Accessory Dwelling Units.
  • SB 9 units may be mapped and sold as condominiums; however, an ADU may not be mapped as a separate condominium parcel. (Note that there are some exceptions to this requirement under State law for non-profit developers.)
  • The lot to be divided must be zoned R-S (Residential Suburban) or R-1 (Single-Family Residence)
  • The lot to be divided was not created through a prior SB 9 land division.
  • The property owner must occupy one of the housing units as their principal residence for a minimum of 3 years from the date of the approval of the SB 9 land division unless the applicant is a community land trust or a qualified nonprofit corporation. As part of the parcel map review process, city staff will require that the property owner sign an affidavit to assure compliance with this requirement.
  • Neither the owner nor anyone acting in concert with the owner may have previously subdivided an adjacent parcel through an SB 9 land division. As part of the parcel map review process, city staff will require that the property owner sign an affidavit to assure compliance with this requirement.
  • Each new lot must be a minimum of 1,200 gross square feet.The land division must result in two new lots of approximately equal size with a maximum 60/40 split.
  • The land division must not involve the demolition or alteration of housing occupied by a tenant in the past three years or any affordable housing, rent-controlled housing, housing that was withdrawn from rent within the last 15 years through the Ellis Act.
    • During review of your application, City staff will confirm that the unit is not registered with the Rental Inspection Program and will confirm that an Affordable Housing Agreement is not recorded on the property.
    • Additionally, the property owner will be required to sign an affidavit confirming that the housing to be demolished is not rent restricted under any local, State or Federal agreements and that the housing has not been rented within the last three years.
    • If it is found that an existing housing unit meets any of the above criteria or the property owner is unwilling to sign the above described statement, the unit will not be permitted to be demolished or altered.
  • The site is not located within a historic district, is not included on the State Historic Resources Inventory, or is not within a site that is legally designated or listed as a city or county landmark, or historic property or district.
    • Please complete the following steps to determine if your property is a within a local historic district or a local historic resource:
      1. Visit vw8.cityofsantacruz.com/public/
      2. Type the parcel address in the Search by Address field on the right side menu.
      3. Scroll down the results list to “Zoning Overlay – Historic”. If it says “yes” next to this category then the parcel is located within a historic district.
      4. Scroll down the results list to “Historic Building Volume/Page”. If there are numbers listed after this category then the parcel is listed in the city’s historic building survey.

Site and Design Standards

  • The City may only impose objective zoning standards, objective subdivision standards, and objective design standards on an eligible two-unit development project.
  • Despite any objective standards in place, the maximum required interior side and rear yard setbacks shall be four feet.
  • Nosetbacksarerequiredforexistingstructureornewstructuresthatareconstructedin the same location and to the same dimensions as an existing structure.
  • The terms “objective zoning standards,”“objective subdivision standards,”and “objective design review standards” mean standards that involve no personal or subjective judgment by a public official and are uniformly verifiable by reference to an external and uniform benchmark or criterion available and knowable by both the development applicant or proponent and the public official prior to submittal. These standards may be embodied in alternative objective land use specifications adopted by a local agency, and may include, but are not limited to, housing overlay zones, specific plans, inclusionary zoning ordinances, and density bonus ordinances.
  • Objectivestandardsmustnotphysicallyprecludetheconstructionoftwounitsofat least 800 square feet.
    • This does not include a property owner’s preference for a specific location on the lot. If there is a question about the buildability of an 800 square foot unit in a location that meets objective standards, the applicant shall be required to provide evidence of such determination including obtaining concurrence from any other department, division, agency, or professional, as necessary.
    • A new lot created by an SB 9 land division shall comply with the objective standards in the Subdivision Ordinance so long as such standards do not preclude a land subdivision that meets the lot requirements above and allows for a project of two lots with two units on each lot of at least 800 square feet per unit.
  • The city shall not require corrections of non-conformities as a part of the SB9 process. Non-conformities are features that were legally constructed prior to the current ordinance and that have become non-conforming due to subsequent ordinance amendments. Unpermitted features may be required to be resolved as a part of the building permit or parcel map process.

Parking

  • One off-street parking space per unit is required unless the project site is located within 1⁄2-mile walking distance of a quality transit corridor or a major transit stop; or a car share vehicle is located within one block of the parcel, in which case no off-street parking is required and existing off-street parking may be removed and not replaced. These criteria are defined below and are also mapped on the City’s SantaCruzMap system.
    • A quality transit corridor is defined as a fixed route bus service with service intervals no longer than 15 minutes during peak commute hours. These areas are mapped on the City’s GIS in the “Major Transit Stops/Buffers” and “Car Share Locations/Buffers” layers.
    • Major transit stop definition:
      • An existing rail or bus rapid transit station.
      • The intersection of two or more major bus routes with a frequency of
        service interval of 15 minutes or less during the morning and afternoon
        peak commute periods.
    • Car share definition: the City defines one block as 500 feet.
    • These regulations apply inside and outside of the Coastal Zone until such time that a code amendment is approved with differing requirements.

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s)

  • ADU’s are permitted as part of an eligible housing development and must comply with the regulations in the zoning ordinance and State law with the following exceptions:
    • A maximum of four units total are allowed in a housing development project that utilizes an SB 9 lot split. ADU’s count towards the total of four units and may only be constructed on a lot with at least one main dwelling unit. An ADU may be permitted on a lot with a duplex as long as there are only four units total in the development.
  • Note that if an ADU is created and utilizes the more relaxed standards of the ADU ordinance, it will not be able to be converted to a non-ADU housing unit in the future unless it is reconstructed to meet the objective zoning standards for a non-ADU unit.
  • An existing ADU can be converted to a dwelling unit as part of a SB 9 duplex development if it meets the qualifying criteria including restrictions on demolition, alteration, and tenancy, and if the structure can meet the objective site development standards for the zone district and as required under SB 9.

Short-Term Rentals

  • Housing units created or retained as part of an SB 9 development, through duplexes or lot split, shall not be used as short-term rentals. Rental of any SB 9 unit must be for a term longer than 30 days.

Project Denial Findings

  • If a project meets applicable objective standards (unless deviation is necessary in order to allow for two units per lot of 800 square feet each), an SB 9 housing development project may be denied if the building official makes a written finding, based on a preponderance of evidence in the record, that the project would have a specific, adverse impact upon health and safety or the environment for which there is no satisfactory mitigation.

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

  • An SB9 housingdevelopment project requires ministerial review and is therefore not a project under CEQA.

Coastal Act

  • SB 9 housing development projects that are located within the Coastal Zone are subject to the regulations in the Coastal Act. Such projects, if not eligible for an exemption or exclusion, shall obtain approval of an administrative Coastal Permit (no public hearing, staff review only) prior to building permit issuance or parcel map recordation.

Dedications and Off-Site Improvements

  • No dedications or off-site improvements shall be required with an SB 9 project.

Permit Processing

  • SB 9 Housing Projects do not require discretionary permits unless they are located within the Coastal Zone and are not eligible for an exemption or exclusion.
  • If no Coastal Permit is required, Planning Staff will review SB 9 projects as part of the building permit application process or the Public Works Parcel Map process. Planning staff may ask for additional information as part of the review to ensure compliance with objective standards and State law requirements.
  • Fees: The applicant should contact the Building Department to obtain a fee estimate. If the project includes a land division, the applicant should also contact the Public Works Department for a fee estimate of parcel map review and recordation.
Real Estate Upsizing December 10, 2021

Everything You Need to Know About Settling Into Your New Scotts Valley Home

Image via Pexels

Whether you’ve recently relocated from another city or state or you’ve lived in the Scotts Valley area for many years, it can take some time for a new residence to truly feel like home. After all, moving often means adjusting to a new home and neighborhood — and finding new places to shop, grab a coffee, work out, and see a doctor. But with these 11 tips and resources from Realtor Paul Burrowes of David Lyng Real Estate, settling into your new Scotts Valley home will be a breeze!

Transfer Utilities, Update DMV Documents, and More

Setting up utilities and changing your address are a big part of buying and moving into a new home. Here are some resources to take the stress out of finding utility providers, DMV offices, and local home improvement pros.

  • Research local utility providers and contact them to set up utility services in your new home.
  • Locate nearby DMV offices so you can update the address on your driver’s license and vehicle registration credentials. In California, you must change the address on your driver’s license or ID card within 10 days of moving to a new home.
  • As an alternative to changing your address in person, you can notify the DMV online or by mail.
  • Make improvements and upgrades to your new home, if necessary.

Get to Know Scotts Valley

After you’ve completed the most pressing items on your moving checklist, you can finally get to know the Scotts Valley area.

  • Search for a new family medicine doctor. Pay attention to things such as patient experiences, accepted insurance coverage, location, education, and specialties.
  • Look for restaurants, bars, coffee shops, cafes, bakeries, and creameries.
  • Visit Mindbody to find top-rated yoga and pilates studios, fitness centers, dance clubs, and wellness spas.

Build a Life in Scotts Valley

Here are some resources to help you land a job, further your education, or start your own Scotts Valley business.

Buying a new house is an exciting time for many homeowners, but the process of moving and settling in can be incredibly stressful. These resources, however, will help to reduce the stress of moving into a new home, getting to know an unfamiliar area, and building a life in Scotts Valley. Keep this list at your disposal and you’ll have everything you need to settle into your new Scotts Valley residence!

With his more than 15 years of real estate experience, Realtor Paul Burrowes of David Lyng Real Estate is the agent you need by your side during your next housing search. Contact Paul by email or at 831-295-5130.

Real Estate Development December 3, 2021

How to use Senate Bill 9 (SB9) by Alfred Twu

Senate Bill 9 is a 2021 California state law that allows up to 4 homes in most single-family zones, regardless of local zoning. You can use SB9 to split your lot, add a 2nd home to a lot, or both (split lot and have 2 homes on each lot for a total of 4 homes).

Here’s how you can build more homes once SB9 takes effect on Jan 1, 2022.

Why use SB9?

Earn money. Even if you don’t have the cash to build new homes yourself, you can sell your backyard to a builder or a future homeowner. Take a look at how much empty lots in your neighborhood sell for – it’s likely to be hundreds of thousands to over a million dollars.

Do your part to solve California’s housing crisis. Maybe you have friends or family members that want a home but can’t afford one due to California’s high land costs. Homeownership is much more affordable if they’re only paying for a new building.

1. Check if you’re eligible:

___ Property is zoned by the city or county for only 1 home. (if you want to subdivide a multi-family lot, use AB803)

___ Property is located in an existing urbanized area or urban cluster. See 2010 Census maps and 2020 Census additions. This includes most suburbs.

___ Not prime farmland or farmland of statewide importance, wetlands, conservation land, habitat for a protected species.

___ Not on a hazardous waste site, earthquake fault zone, 100-year floodplain or floodway.

___ Not a historic landmark or in a historic district.

___ Ellis Act was not used to evict tenants on any buildings on the property within the last 15 years.

___ If splitting the lot, you need to plan to live in either your existing house or one of the new homes for the next 3 years. This rule does not apply to land owned by community land trusts.

Special Conditions

Fire Zones: Cannot use SB9 on land within a very high fire hazard severity zone, unless the development complies with state mitigation requirements.

Rental Housing: SB9 housing cannot demolish or alter housing that currently has a tenant or has previously had a tenant in the last 3 years. You cannot remove more than 25% of the exterior walls of such a building either, even if the rental unit is not altered. Affordable housing or rent controlled buildings on the property also cannot be demolished.

ADUs: If you already have one or more Accessory Dwelling Units on your property, you can still add a house to your lot if you don’t split the lot. However, ADUs count towards the maximum number of 2 homes per lot for split lots.

Septic Systems: If your property is not connected to a sewer system, the city or county may require a percolation test before allowing additional homes.

One lot split only: Lots created by a SB9 lot split cannot be further divided. Owners also cannot use SB9 to split adjacent lots.

No AirBNB’s: Homes created by SB9 can be sold or rented. However, if rented, the minimum rental is 31 days.

For full details see the bill text and 8/28/21 bill analysis

2. Submit plans to city. Local regulations may require you to hire an architect. The city is required to approve SB9 projects at the

staff level, without having to hold a public hearing.

3. Sell and/or build. Not interested in managing the construction yourself? You can split the lot and sell the new lot without having to build on it.

In areas not near frequent transit or carshare, cities may require parking. However, lots in these areas are usually larger. As a workaround, you can rent your driveway to a carshare company.

Even if you can’t split the lot due to the existing house taking up most of the land, you can still build a 2nd home now… and split the lot later.

Regular dwelling unit, Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU), or Junior ADU?

There are differences in permit fees, maximum size of the home, yard requirements, and other regulations, depending on how you classify the units when applying for a permit.

Regular Dwelling Units (houses and duplexes)

– Size and height limited only by existing zoning. Regulations may limit the size, but must allow exemptions if there’s no other way to have two 800 square foot units on a lot.

– Yard requirements defined by existing zoning, however, may reduce side and rear yards to 4 feet if no other way to fit two 800 square foot units.

– No parking required if within 1/2 mile of a major transit stop (rail, ferry, or Bus Rapid Transit), or 1/2 mile from a bus line with service at least every 15 minutes during peak hours, or within 1 block of carshare. Up to 1 parking space required per unit elsewhere.

– Restrictions apply on where you can build one. HOAs can also ban additional dwelling units.

– Each home can be sold separately.

ADUs & Junior ADUs

– Exempt from other impact fees if less than 750 square feet.

– Exempt from school fees if less than 500 square feet.

– Can be built even if Homeowner Association rules don’t allow it, state law overrides HOA rules for ADUs.

– Cannot be sold separately, unless it’s an ADU built by a nonprofit and reserved for low-income homeowners. JADUs can never be sold separately.

– Can be built in some places that SB9 units cannot be built, such as historic districts.

ADUs

– Can be attached to house or a detached structure in the yard.

– No size limit, utility fees, or parking requirements if converted from space in an existing building.

– For new buildings, city can limit size to 800 square feet, and height to 16 feet. Otherwise the max size is 1,200 square feet for a detached

ADU, or 50% of the area of the house / 800 square feet (whichever is more) for an attached ADU. Some cities may allow more.

– For new buildings, no parking required if within a 1/2 mile of any public transit, or within 1 block of carshare, or in a historic district, or in a parking permit district that does not offer permits to ADUs. Up to 1 parking space required per ADU elsewhere.

Junior ADUs

– Max size: 500 square feet.

– Must be in same building as the main house. If adding a JADU to an existing house, must be built by carving out space from the house. A 150 square foot addition is allowed if needed to provide an entrance.

– Can share bathroom with main house.

– Kitchen is optional, unless city requires it.

– City can require that the owner live on the property, either in the JADU or another home on the lot.

Further reading: State of California Housing and Community Development Department’s ADU Handbook at:

https://www.hcd.ca.gov/policy research/docs/adu_december_2020_handbook.pdf

* To build a duplex and two detached ADUs, the duplex must be completed before a permit can be obtained for the ADUs.

Frequently Asked Questions

For Homeowners

Q: Can I rent out a home built using SB9?

A: Yes, as long as it is to a regular tenant. Short term rentals (30 days or less) are not allowed.

Q: Can I sell a home built using SB9?

A: Yes. Note that if you have more than 1 house on a lot, it will need to be sold as part of a duplex (though each home in a duplex can have a different owner), instead of a standalone house with its own land.

Q: Can I sell an Accessory Dwelling Unit using SB9?

A: Answer to this question is pending clarification from bill author.

Q: My property is zoned for 2 units. Can I use SB9?

A: No. However, you can use existing local zoning to build 2 homes and AB68 to build 2 Accessory Dwelling Units, for a total of 4 homes. Or, you can subdivide the lot using AB803, and have a house, ADU, and Junior ADU on each lot, for a total of 6 homes.

Q: I live in a Homeowners Association. Can I use SB9?

A: Depends on the HOA rules. SB9 overrides local zoning only. However, even if your HOA does not let you use SB9, you can still build an Accessory Dwelling Unit and a JADU using AB670.

Q: Can I use SB9 to split off a front or side yard?

A: Yes.

Q: My lot is not near existing transit or carshare. Can I meet the carshare requirement by renting out my driveway to a carshare company?

A: Yes.

Q: My neighborhood uses point-to-point carshare without fixed locations. Does that count as having carshare within a block?

A: Answer to this question is pending clarification from bill author.

Q: Can I list my car on a peer-to-peer carshare site to meet the carshare requirement?

A: Answer to this question is pending clarification from bill author.

Q: I am interested in doing a lot split and selling my yard. Who should I talk to?

A: Talk with a Realtor about listing your yard as a lot for sale. You may also want to hire an architect to analyze what is buildable.

Q: If I do a SB9 lot split, does the property get automatically re-assessed for property tax purposes?

A: No. Re-assessment only happens when there’s a new owner or new construction. If you sell your backyard to someone else, they will pay property taxes based on their purchase price. You might be able to request a downward reassessment of your house (and get a savings on future property taxes) if it’s now worth less with a smaller yard than its current assessed value.

For Future Homeowners

Q: I want to buy an existing vacant lot and build a custom home. Can I use SB9?

A: Yes. You can build 2 homes right away. If you want to split a lot using SB9 to build homes 3 & 4, you will need to first move in to one of the first two homes, and promise to live there for 3 years.

Q: I am interested in buying a lot split to build a home? Who should I talk to?

A: While SB9 is new, the number of lot splits on the market will be limited. Instead, I would recommend starting with friends or family members who own a house but have extra yard space available.

For Tenants & Landlords

Q: Can a landlord use SB9?

A: Landlords can use SB9 to add a 2nd home to a lot that contains a house, as long as the lot is in single-family zoning. A landlord can also use SB9 to split a lot and add a 3rd & 4th unit, if they plan to live on the property for at least 3 years. A landlord cannot use SB9 to demolish or modify a tenant-occupied unit.

Q: Can I use SB9 and also build Accessory Dwelling Units?

A: No, unless the city specifically allows that. Note that under state ADU laws, it is possible to have 3 homes – the main house, a regular ADU, and a Junior ADU. See here for more information.

For Developers

Q: Can a developer use SB9 on a regular lot?

A: Developers can use SB9 to build 2 homes on a single family lot, but cannot use the lot split part of SB9, unless they plan to live in one of the homes. One workaround may be to leave half the yard vacant, and buy back the yard after selling the property to a homeowner.

Q: Can a developer use SB9 to buy a yard from a homeowner?

A: Yes, as long as the homeowner is planning to live on site for the next 3 years. However, the same developer cannot use SB9 to split adjacent lots.

For Architects

Q: What parts of local zoning does SB9 override?

A: The following:

– Density. Can have up to 2 homes per lot, for a total of 4 homes on 2 lots.

– Minimum lot size. Note that the new lot created using a SB9 lot split must contain 40-60% of the original lot. Unless local law allows otherwise, both newly created parcels must be no smaller than 1,200 square feet.

– Parking. None required if within 1 block of carshare, 1/2 mile of a Major Transit Stop (rail, ferry with bus or rail connection) or High Quality Transit Corridor (bus route with service of at least 1 bus every 15 minutes during peak commute hours). Elsewhere, the max parking a city can require is 1 space per unit.

– Yard requirements and other objective zoning or design standards that would have the effect of physically precluding the construction of up to two units or that would physically preclude either of the two units from being at least 800 square feet in floor area. Note that a a local agency may still require a setback of up to four feet from the side and rear lot lines.

Q: The existing lot and/or building is non-conforming to zoning. Can SB9 still be used?

A: Yes. Furthermore, if you are replacing a building that has a nonconforming setback, the new building can keep the same nonconforming setback as long as it’s in the same location as the old building.

Q: How does SB9 work with extra-large lots?

A: If a lot is large enough for a regular subdivision (for example, a 10,000 square foot lot in a zone that has a 5,000 square foot minimum lot size), you can first divide it using existing subdivision law. Then each of the lots can be SB9’d into two lots each – but only if it’s done by two different owners.

Q: Are there any restrictions on the shape of the lots in a lot split?

A: Cities can require that both lots have at least one edge adjacent to the street, but other than the rule that the smaller lot has to have at least 40% of the land of the original lot, odd-shaped lots are allowed.

Q: Can a mobile or manufactured home be used for any of the buildings?

A: Yes.

Examples

Stacked Duplex

This is a stacked duplex with two 762 square foot two-bedroom homes that will fit in the back of most lots. The floor plan is designed so that the first floor unit can be wheelchair accessible.

Special thanks to Alfred Twu for the information provided in the article, he can be reached at mail@firstcultural.com

Please feel free to contact me for additional details and information for Santa Cruz County Real Estate.  Paul Burrowes paul@burrowes.com  831-295-5130.

Real Estate Upsizing December 3, 2021

Campaign launches for Santa Cruz empty homes tax – Overview

Community members in Santa Cruz are working to introduce an empty homes tax to voters in 2022. The tax aims to create a way to increase the amount of affordable housing available in Santa Cruz. It will do so by using tax revenue to build a fund dedicated to the development of affordable housing within the city.

On Oct. 7, the group known as the “Yes On Empty Home Tax Santa Cruz” committee filed a notice of intent to launch a ballot measure to tax vacant properties in the city of Santa Cruz. It’s a tactic that’s been approved by voters and established recently in other high-priced West Coast cities, such as Oakland and Vancouver, British Columbia.

If you live on your property, you won’t be subject to the tax. Publicly owned parcels and undeveloped parcels won’t be subject to the tax. If your property has 6 or less dwelling units and one of them is occupied for 120 days a year you won’t be subject to the tax.  If your property has 7 or more units each unit will be treated separately and will need to be occupied for 120 days a calendar to avoid paying the tax.  Property owners can live on their property, rent it or if it is only lived in occasionally the owner would pay the tax to support community needs associated with affordable housing for the lowest income levels.  A condominium or townhome under separate ownership would need to be occupied for 120 days a calendar year to avoid paying the tax. The funds raised will be sequestered in a dedicated fund used to create permanently deed restricted low, very low and extremely low-income housing units. The tax rate is set at $6,000 for empty Residential and $3,000 for empty Condominium or Townhomes and $3000 for empty units on parcels with 7 or more residential units.

Santa Cruz has a vacancy rate of 9.5%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, which totals about 2,283 homes. If just 500 homes paid the empty home tax, it would raise around $3 million for the city. Additionally, if between 1,500 and 2,000 homes paid the tax, it would raise $6 million to $8 million.

The proposed tax defines an empty home as a place of residence that is not occupied for a minimum of 120 days a year. The home can be occupied by the owner or rented out to others. Homeowners with in-law units on their property won’t have to worry if the unit is designated for out-of-town guests. The new tax does not apply to accessory dwelling units as long as the main house is occupied for more than 120 days.

The tax will be enforced through city audits. Each year, property owners will have to produce documents that prove the unit is occupied. They then can be randomly audited, which will search records up to three years. If the audit finds the unit is in fact unoccupied, then the owner will be subject to a fine, including the cost of the audit. They will also be audited for the next two years.

You can live in your property for at least 120 days a year, you can rent it out for that time, or you can choose to hold your property empty — which is obviously a choice for that property owner — they can contribute to funding that critical need of affordable housing that we have in Santa Cruz.

The state of housing in Santa Cruz drove community members to action. In order for a home to be affordable, the residents need to be paying no more than 30% of their income on rent or mortgage, which would classify them as rent burdened. Roughly 70% of Santa Cruz residents are considered rent burdened, according to a study conducted by UC Santa Cruz Chair of Sociology Miriam Greenberg. The housing crisis is partially caused by a disparity in growing home prices and stunted rises in wages within the city, the study found. The average cost of rent rose 40% between 2013 and 2017. In that same four-year timespan, wages only rose .8%.  From those findings and discussions, some of the research led to a report by UC Santa Cruz professors Miriam Greenberg and Steven McKay, called “No Place Like Home,” which found Santa Cruz to be the least affordable small city in the country.

If the Yes on the Empty Homes Tax group receives the necessary signatures, then it will make the regular election ballot in November of 2022 alongside the choices for open City Council and county supervisor seats, pending ballot approval from the City Council. However, the council must approve the measure if the necessary signatures are presented.

Oakland voters approved Measure W, the city’s vacant property tax, in November 2018, which established an annual tax of $3,000-$6,000 on properties vacant for more than 50 days per year. Vancouver implemented its vacancy tax at the start of this year, with properties vacant for more than six months annually subject to a tax of 1.25% of the property’s 2020 assessed taxable value.

As policymakers struggle to control an affordable housing crunch, officials in some of the world’s biggest cities have their sights set on a tactic: taxing the empty homes of the rich.  Los Angeles is planning to put a vacant homes tax on the ballot for 2022, in the face of a mounting homelessness crisis. Hong Kong officials are considering taxing condo developers to deter them from hoarding new units. Ireland is exploring its options. Barcelona has gone as far as threatening to seize landlords’ empty apartments — paying half of market value — and convert the units into affordable rentals. Paris tripled its tax on second homes in 2017.

Perhaps the biggest question mark looming is how the tax will be enforced. The measure would require homeowners to self-report if their property is vacant or occupied, and the city will do a random audit of tax-eligible properties yearly. While the measure would reimburse the expenses the city incurs for the program up to a cap of 15% of the revenue.  Funding is only part of the issue when it comes to building low-income housing. Finding the land to build these projects, in a city that is largely built out, and making sure the money doesn’t sit in a fund are other issues.

The Santa Cruz Association of Realtors Director Victor Gomez, who says this tax unfairly penalizes homeowners, and has too many uncertainties to be implemented effectively, we are working with the National Association of Realtors who will fund a research group to petition the new law.  This is another law where community members are expected to turn in their neighbors.

As a member of the Santa Cruz Association of Realtors Local Government Relations Committee (LGR) we are discussing ways to make this fair to property owners that is not a violation of private property rights.  Taxing someone for not making their land or real estate available for use seems unfair and contradictory.  No owner should be taxed into selling their property or occupying it.  An option for the housing solution could be to incentivize homeowners to build small ADU’s to potentially supply additional housing.

Please feel free to contact me for additional details and information for Santa Cruz Real Estate.  Paul Burrowes paul@burrowes.com  831-295-5130.

Real Estate Affordability November 27, 2021

Build A Home with Little to No Money Down

Buying a home can be nerve-racking, especially when you consider the costs at the beginning of the process, with most home loans requiring a down payment of between 10-30%. Not to mention the various fees that come with it. For many buyers, this may feel like homeownership is out of reach.

Thankfully, using government loans administered by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the US Departments of Agriculture (USDA), and the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offer money-saving alternatives. All three loans facilitate homeownership with little to no money down. For some buyers, it allows them to build a home for less than the cost to buy an existing one.

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Loans

Government loans administered by the FHA are perfect for first-time homebuyers. This is because they have some of the most lenient eligibility requirements out of any home loan available, and great benefits as well. These benefits include:

  • Low down payment of 3.5%.
  • Lower monthly mortgage costs.
  • Low closing costs.
  • A credit score of 580 and lower (depending on the lender) is still eligible.

These home loans also allow applicants who have gone through financial difficulties in the past to be eligible. Applicants who have gone through a Chapter 7 bankruptcy will qualify for FHA home loans. Their only requirement is that the loan application is made two years from their bankruptcy discharge date. Chapter 13 bankruptcy recipients can also be eligible for the loan. They only need to have one year of making bankruptcy payments and rent on time and court approval.

These loans are for the purchase of single-family homes and multi-family homes of up to four units, as long as the applicant plans to occupy all or part of it primarily. Also, these loans can finance the purchase of FHA-approved condos, townhomes, manufactured homes, and mobile homes as long as they meet the requirements dictated by the FHA.

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Loans

Created for lower-income families who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to purchase a home, USDA loans are meant exclusively for rural communities. Eligibility for these home loans requires that the applicant make an income at or below the county’s low-income limit.

These loans also require that the property applied for is a modest single-family home with no extra amenities like an in-ground pool. Properties can’t be for any business purpose whatsoever. On average, USDA loan limits vary depending on the count, population and it’s cost of living.

Once eligibility is confirmed, the applicant will be able to enjoy USDA loan benefits. Including a no down payment requirement, competitive interest rates, flexible credit score requirements, and low mortgage insurance payments.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Home Loan

Government loans by the VA are some of the best home loans available. However, they are exclusive to Veterans, Active Duty Service Members, and eligible military spouses. The applicant must also meet all other VA eligibility requirements, which include military service, property, income, and credit score requirements.

Once an applicant qualifies, they will enjoy some of the best benefits out of any home loan available. These include:

  • $0 down payment requirement
  • Low monthly mortgage payments
  • Low monthly interest rates

These home loans are for single-family homes, multi-family dwellings of up to four units, townhomes, manufactured and double-wide mobile homes on a permanent foundation, and VA-approved condos.

Moreover, since January 1st, 2020, VA home loan recipients are no longer subject to loan limits on their first VA home loan. The only limitation for applicants is how much they can afford and the lender limit. Some lenders are offering $0 down for up to $5 million dollars. However, for applicants with more than one active home loan, the loan limits vary depending on the county where the property is located.

What’s Holding You Back?

Building an affordable custom home is entirely possible with the use of government-guaranteed home loans.

To start the process, you will need a loan approval, vacant land to purchase and an approved builder. Generally, the process van be completed in less than 5 months.

Their most significant incentives being their lower eligibility requirements and their great benefits. Lenders are also willing to be more lenient on their eligibility requirements because they get protection from the government against financial loss.

Phil Georgiades is the CLS for FedHomeLoan.org, an affordable home ownership advocate since 2012.  For more information or to apply for a home loan, call us at (877) 432-5626.   For additional real estate inform action call Paul Burrowes at 831-295-5130.

 

Home Improvement November 16, 2021

The Best Poker Tables for Home Use

When you set about upgrading your home, it’s often easiest to focus on larger projects. You might devote special attention to transforming your kitchen, however, or decorating the garden in a new fashion. These are bold and lasting changes that can alter the look, feel, and even value of your home for the better. In some cases though, a simple change like adding the right piece of furniture can make a significant difference as well.

Granted, this kind of change, won’t typically boost the home’s underlying value. But if you want the home to “pop” for a showing, or you simply want to enjoy the space more for yourself, the right piece for the right room can be completely effective. In this piece, we want to explore this idea with regard to poker tables –– niche furnishings, perhaps, but ones with the power to transform entire rooms into fun and functional places.

The game of poker has evolved over the course of centuries. It was once a gambling activity common on frontiers and in ports; it eventually became a foundation and a constant for organized casinos; and in time it more or less became a professional sport, as well as a game millions upon millions of amateurs play through various means.

The constant in all of this is that the popularity of poker has never truly waned. Today, much of that popularity revolves around mobile apps and online games. However, there are still plenty of people who enjoy playing games at home with friends or family. And to do that — or at least to do it right — people need good surfaces to play on. The following are some of the best options if you want to set up such a surface in your home.

Trademark Poker Deluxe Solid Wood

The Deluxe Solid Wood table from Trademark Poker is actually a fold-up table topper — which makes it about as convenient as a real poker table will get. It’s easily folded away for storage, yet can be brought out when needed and placed over a dining room table, a coffee table, or even an office desk. On top of the convenience, there’s also something of a classic look to this topper. The surface is green felt, which is standard for poker tables; there are painted areas for cards; and there are places for up to eight players, marked by plastic drink holders and chip wells. All in all it’s just a very functional table.

Livebest 48’’ Octagon Folding Card Game Poker Table

This option is very much like the Trademark Poker one, save for the fact that it’s a complete table. The surface resembles the Trademark Poker option closely, but in this case the top is built onto what would otherwise be a standard (if octagonal) folding table. Metallic legs unfold easily to create a standalone table for eight, complete with drink holders, a green felt surface, and places for player cards.

AVAWING Folding Texas Hold’em Poker Table

The AVAWING Folding Texas Hold’em Poker Table is similar structurally to the Livebest, but for the fact that it folds out into an elongated oval shape, with eight spots for players and an opening for a dealer (complete with a well that can hold a full chip set). This table lacks some of the painted-on markings other tables have, but to some players who embrace variety this might actually be a good thing. Markings are typically made with Texas Hold’em in mind, given that this is the most popular variety of poker and has been for some time. What this means essentially is that there are painted spots for each player’s personal cards (two each), as well as designated places for the community cards (five over the course of a hand). Of course it’s easy enough to ignore this design should you wish to play a different type of poker, but it is a particularly good table for Hold’em.

Barrington Charleston Poker Table

Barrington’s Charleston Poker Table is yet another fold-up option, and essentially an alternative to the AVAWING. This table looks a little bit different, with a black top and clearly denoted spots for communal cards in Texas Hold’em. But if anything it has a slightly classier, more permanent look than most of its competition. The rim of the table is padded in a brown, faux leather with drink holders spaced out for 10 players. Its sturdiness and general appearance make it look more like a fixture in someone’s den or game room, even if it can still be folded up for compact storage.

Hillsdale Furniture Palm Springs Game Table

This last selection is a real wooden table and a permanent piece rather than a fold-up. It’s made with a brown cherry finish, arched legs, and a round top, with chip wells and drink holders for six players around the edge — as well as a faux leather center for easy card and chip handling. It’s an attractive, high-end table ideal for more serious players. But it’s the versatility of it that really stands out. The top of the table is reversible, such that when it’s not needed or poker it can be turned into an ordinary surface fit for a home office, a study, or even for other kinds of games.

These tables cover a range of styles, prices, and preferences. Altogether they represent some of the best options out there for people playing poker in the home, as well as excellent ways to transform a spare room into something more.

Waterfront Property November 8, 2021

Waterfront property tips for first-time buyers

 

Purchasing a waterfront property differs significantly from buying a home on a regular neighborhood street. Buying a waterfront house entails not just paying for a piece of real estate but also “buying” into a specific way of life. If you’re considering purchasing a property near a body of water, first and foremost, congrats, as many people will never have the option or chance to do so. Let’s get on with the waterfront property tips for first-time buyers!

Plan the financing as soon as possible

Whether a buyer is acquiring their first house, their fifth home, a vacation property, or a waterfront home, one of the most crucial suggestions is to figure out the financing as soon as possible. Before looking for waterfront property, prospective buyers should grasp the necessity of securing finances.

Some waterfront house buyers will choose to pay cash for their homes, making obtaining finances much easier. Many others will need to acquire a mortgage to fund their waterfront home purchase.

Caption: One of the first waterfront property tips for first-time buyers is sorting out the financials as soon as possible because it speeds up the whole process!

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is essential when purchasing a waterfront property. Many sellers may be instructed by their realtors to only accept bids from pre-approved purchasers.

Another significant reason to plan your budget and secure your financing on time is that the number of waterfront properties for sale is typically lower than that of non-waterfront homes, resulting in fierce competition. Because buying a waterfront house may be competitive, not having your finances in place is a sure way to miss out on a home in a multiple offer situation.

Hire a reputable real estate agent

Hiring an experienced real estate agent is critical when buying a property in general, much like sorting out the finances early on. Another key piece of advice for purchasing a waterfront property is to work with a seasoned real estate agent. Interviewing potential real estate agents is a fantastic method to determine whether or not they will be a good fit for you.

Why are you buying a waterfront property?

Ask yourself why you’re considering buying a waterfront property in the first place. There are various reasons why people choose to do this, so it’s vital to consider if it’s a good investment. Before investing, you should research the best waterfront communities and look at other houses in the neighborhood.

When considering the purchase of waterfront property, one of the first things you should ask yourself is whether or not you would use the water. If you don’t see the benefit in having a property with a private beach, for instance, paying the higher price for an oceanfront home is a waste of money.

Another essential thing to consider before purchasing a waterfront home is if you genuinely want to live on the water. Do you see bringing friends and family over to appreciate your home’s breathtaking views and have fun in the sun? If you answered no, paying a premium for a waterfront property might not be the best investment.

Caption: If you get a waterfront property, you should probably get a boat!

After buying the property, you will have to move into the new house. For that, you should hire a moving company to help you settle in with no trouble. By hiring movers, you will reduce the stress that comes with relocation and even save money that you could use to furnish and decorate your new oasis.

You will be buying more than just a house

Keep in mind that you’ll be purchasing more than just the house. You are also paying for amazing views, ease of access to the water, the amount of frontage along the water, seclusion, and many other factors. And you will have to maintain the waterfront property, get used to the climate and the lifestyle.

It’s impossible to put a price on a magnificent ocean view or easy access to the water. But bear in mind that you’re paying for these extras when purchasing a waterfront house.

Get to know the body of water

When buying a waterfront house, it’s a good idea to do some preliminary research on the body of water. There are a few things you should know about it.

It’s critical to learn about the water depths before purchasing a riverfront property, especially if you have a goal of owning a boat. Depending on the type of boat, the required depths of water will vary. The needed depth for a sailboat, for example, differs from the required depth for a pontoon boat.

Caption: When you buy a waterfront property, you also buy into that lifestyle.

Learn about flood insurance

Depending on the location of the house and the type of financing used, a buyer may have to get flood insurance for their home. When purchasing a waterfront property, you must be aware of the common problems and the need for flood insurance.

Flood insurance pays for the cost of repairing damage caused by floods. It’s vital to understand that certain waterfront properties are more vulnerable to flooding than others. A flood insurance policy for a property with a high risk of flooding will be far more expensive than one for a property with reduced risk.

As a result, flood insurance may be pretty expensive in some cases, so it’s crucial to understand it and the expenses associated with it before buying a waterfront house. There are numerous tools accessible online to assist in calculating the cost of flood insurance on a home.

In conclusion

By following these waterfront property tips for first-time buyers, you will have a significant advantage over others. As will all real estate transactions, the best course of action is to get in touch with a reputable local agent. They can guide you through the entire process and answer all of your questions. Good luck with your house hunting venture!

Real Estate Upsizing July 21, 2021

7 Signs It’s Time to Upsize Your Home

Even though you may enjoy your current home and all of the memories it holds, there may come a moment when you simply must relocate. Recognizing when your beloved small home no longer meets your needs is an important element of being a homeowner. When that time arrives, consider embracing the prospect of ‘upsizing’ to a new home that better meets your and your family’s needs. Let’s take a look at some clear signs that it’s time to upsize your home.

1. You cannot escape the clutter

Although your humble abode has done a fantastic job at being sufficient for you and anyone else you’re sharing your home with, some clear signs tell you it’s time to leave. One of these is undoubtedly a cluttered space. If you cannot maintain the cleanliness of your home and aren’t able to find room for everything you need, chances are you’ve outgrown it. Feeling cramped is no way to live. You’ll just have more and more items for which you’re unable to find space. Especially if you’re planning on expanding your family, you need to come up with a solution. The simplest and most logical answer to this problem is upsizing your home. By doing so, you’ll be able to finally furnish your home the way you’ve wanted to. This means no more tiny pieces of furniture and tricks to help your house seem bigger. It’ll actually be bigger.

2. Your home is becoming too small for your family

If you seem to be waiting for the bathroom or toilet all of the time, your kids are sharing bedrooms, and visitors have nowhere to stay, you should upsize your home. A smaller residence can rapidly become crowded and chaotic for expanding families. It’s possible that you’ve outgrown the space, and everyone feels like they’re living on top of one other if your family is constantly squabbling. If that’s the case, upsizing your home isn’t just a possibility, it’s a necessity. Getaway spaces, such as nice-sized bedrooms, a study or multipurpose room, and an outside area with plenty of natural light are essential for everyone’s sanity. This way, the kids can have their own rooms, and if you have any visitors, they can reside in the guest rooms rather than on the couch.

3. Upsize your home because you can afford it

Of course, deciding to upsize your home is a significant investment. Make sure to look at what you can afford. Once you’ve thought about this step long and hard, only then proceed with it. Additionally, before you start the process of upsizing and moving, make sure you can afford not only the capacity to move up but also the ability to keep your current lifestyle intact. It’s also necessary to keep an eye on the present market. If it appears that now is a good time to buy, interest rates are low, and your finances are in good shape, it may be a good time to relocate.

4. Your home needs endless repairs

Even though it’s natural for a home to wear and tear over time, you need to set boundaries. As your home ages, you’ll need to put more and more money into it to maintain it. Keeping an older home going can be worth it for some people. However, if you’re tired of being stuck in a loop of constant repairs, it’s time for a change. It’ll actually probably pay off in the long run since these fixes can add up. A new home will mean no more repairs of noisy old bathrooms and kitchens where everything needs replacing. Your floors won’t look worn out, the gutters won’t need to be replaced every time it rains, and you’ll no longer have poor energy efficiency.

5. You’re no longer happy with your surroundings

Since you initially bought your home, your situation and what you thought was an ideal location may have completely altered. Moving jobs, for example, may now need a long commute. To choose the best location and give your family what it needs, think about relocating and upsizing your house. Make a list of all the features you require in a location and begin your search!

Relocate to another neighborhood easily

If you decide to relocate to another neighborhood, know that upsizing your home isn’t the only obligation you’ll have.Residential moves are a lot of work. However, with a bit of help from reliable and trustworthy professionals, you’ll get the simplest possible relocation without a lot of fuss. So, make your life easier, and don’t attempt any DIY moves. Hire a moving company, instead.

6. Make room for a furry friend

Bringing a pet into the family may be a thrilling experience. They’re beneficial for our physical and emotional health, and they’re the best of friends, but not every home is pet-friendly. It could be time to start looking for a new home if your existing one isn’t suited for that much-desired puppy or kitten. Buying a larger property will probably also come with a larger yard, which will be really convenient for the well-being of your pets.

7. You want to entertain larger parties

First homes are sometimes just big enough for your lifestyle, with little room for entertaining. So, if you’ve started to need a place that you’d be proud to show off to friends, it could be time to upsize your home. Larger homes will offer more space for entertaining, as well as possibly a second bedroom where guests or family members can stay. You’ll also have extra room to host children’s birthday parties or arrange playdates. A larger home surely allows you to express your outgoing side.