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Warner Sea Center. From the City, you are just minutes away from the Santa Barbara wine country. The gorgeous Santa Ynez Valley,
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Is it time to buy a new home? Maybe your growing family doesn’t quite fit in your current place – the kids are getting bigger, or there are more of them and they need more room to run around. Maybe you’re in the opposite situation — an empty nester, ready to downsize. Or maybe you’re moving because of your work, or you’re ready for the bit of adventure that can come with heading to a new town.
Whatever the reason, there are a few steps that will make the process easier and help you land the right place for your needs.
1. Check your credit rating
Unless you happen to have a giant pile of money lying around, you’re going to need a mortgage. And one of the first things any lender is going to do is check your credit rating. Lending standards have risen since the go-go days of the early 2000s, so a good score is more important than ever. Higher scores generally mean you are a lower credit risk and should help you qualify for a lower interest rate, meaning less of your money goes to the bank and more to your house.
The highest score is 800. While you don’t need to be perfect — which is extremely rare — a higher score will make getting a mortgage much easier. In a 2013 study, the FDIC found that almost no mortgages were issued to people with a score below 620, so consider that an absolute minimum.
Under federal law, everyone is entitled to a free credit report once per year. This report provides a detailed record of how you’ve managed your credit over time. Click here to start the process for getting yours. If your credit rating is poor, start burnishing it immediately — before you go house hunting.
2. Find a lender and get approved
So, your credit score is in order, now it’s time to head to the bank, or at least a lender. The market is hot now in many parts of the country, and many sellers won’t even talk to a potential buyer who isn’t pre-approved.
Sometimes it can make sense to apply for your loan with the same bank where you have your day-to-day accounts, but an independent mortgage broker can also help you find a good deal by comparing the rates and terms of many lenders. While the interest rate is the biggest single item you’ll be looking at, there are likely to be a host of other fees to watch out for. Once you get that pre-approval, you’ll know how much you can spend.
3. Figure out what you need
Note, you are not ready to start scrolling through the thousands of listing on the Internet, but you soon will be. First, though, get your priorities in order. Make a list of what you really need and what you just really want. Here are some key items to help you get started:
Is it important that the public schools are good, or will you send your children to private school or home school them? Keep in mind that even if you won’t be sending kids to the local schools, being near good ones will help when you eventually sell the place.
How close do you need to be to a doctor or pharmacy?
What does the commute look like from the property? (Don’t forget that commuting costs are a part of living costs. If you buy a cheaper house because it’s farther away, you may end up losing that savings in the extra driving costs.
Do you want to be able to walk places? What amenities are within walking distance?
What are your personal needs and wants? Don’t be afraid to get into real nitty-gritty details. If you entertain, maybe a spacious dining room or open-plan kitchen are important. Or maybe you want a southern exposure for your garden.
Once you have your list, put it in order of priority. Get used to the idea that some of the things on the bottom of the list may need to be sacrificed. No matter how much you have to spend, you’ll always want a little bit more house than you can afford.
4. Start house shopping, boots on the ground
Flipping through house listings on the Internet is an obvious place to start, but don’t let that be all you do. Especially if you’re new to a town, there’s no substitute for actually being in a place and getting a feeling for it. Breathing the air and walking the streets in different neighborhoods can help you understand why two houses a few blocks away have radically different prices.
Find a good real estate agent and listen to the suggestions they offer based on your wish list. Go to open houses. Lots of them. It can be fun to visit houses outside your price range to give you some perspective (and to see how the other half lives), but spend most of your time looking at houses that are within your range.
After some looking, you may find you need to revisit the priorities you developed in step three. That’s OK. It will be tempting to stretch a little further and buy something just a tiny bit more expensive. Resist this. Don’t buy more than you can afford. And sometimes the things you’re missing may just call for some delayed gratification. If you can’t afford a house with a hot tub, you can always put the spa on your list for later improvements.
5. Make an offer
This part can be tricky. If you’ve looked at enough houses, you’ve probably got a good picture of your particular market and whether a house is correctly priced. Your agent should be able to offer you advice about this and about what sort of offer to make. They’ll also have information about how long the house has been on the market and may have a feeling for how motivated the seller is.
It’s important to listen to your agent, but remember, you’re the one who’s going to have to live there and make payments for the next few decades. It’s your call in the end. Some markets are very tight, and you might get into a bidding war. Don’t let the thrill of winning the war push you over your budget. And whatever you do, make the offer contingent on an inspection. Read on.
6. Get an inspection
Unless you’re a contractor, you probably aren’t trained to look at the house in the same way an inspector is. That odd bulge in the floor could be nothing, or it could mean problems that will end up costing you tens of thousands of dollars to fix. The inspector (your agent will know at least one) will go over the house and hopefully spot all the little defects you missed.
At this point, you may be emotionally invested in the place, but keep your logical side engaged. Be willing to back out if there are too many red flags. It’s tough to pull back when you’re this close to the end, but it’s important to be open to it. And, if you have to make that call, at least you won’t have to start over from step one.
Quintessential charm is in abundance in this Cape Cod Colonial Home taken straight out of the pages of Nantucket. Custom built in 1988 with care by the existing owners, this 4 bedroom 2 & ½ bath home was specifically designed with long term comfort, functionality and living in mind. From the large bedrooms equipped with expansive closets, to the recently remodeled oversized kitchen, this home was built to last. Complete with hardwood floors, formal living & dining rooms, 2 brick fireplaces, Dormer & Bay windows, and a family room in the oversized basement.
Situated just one block away from the highly desirable Cold Springs School District, this gated, approximately 2982 square foot Charming Colonial home is in a prime Montecito location, surrounded by mature oaks. The home also has an additional +/- 1000 square foot basement that is divided between the family room & a versatile recreation room / workshop / wine cellar.
Welcome to Hawaii in Hope Ranch / Resort Style Living in Paradise
Fabulously updated in 2012 with a $600,000 custom renovation, this Hope Ranch Home boasts +/- 3900 square feet with 4 Bedrooms, and 4 bathrooms all surrounded by sweeping views of the Mountains, Lake & Golf Course. This house screams ‘designer’ and reflects the personality and taste of those accustomed to the best in quality finishes and lifestyle.
The Open floor plan boasts high beamed ceilings, Hardwood floors, a beautiful living room with high coved ceilings, Media Room, and 2 fireplaces. The Gourmet kitchen with Custom Cabinetry, is adjacent to both formal and informal dining areas and designed with top of the line finishes.
There are 2 Master Suites, both bright and airy. The Upstairs Master is complete with a fireplace & access to the pristine views & the downstairs master has both His & Her walk in closets.
The layout of the property is perfect for both indoor and outdoor entertaining. The 1.96 acre grounds are fully gated and complimented by a luxurious pool & spa, covered & uncovered patio, beautifully manicured landscaping and picturesque oak & palm trees. The untouched one acre lower parcel is a perfect canvas for your personal touches.
Amenities within Hope Ranch include tennis courts, a private beach, 24 hour security, 26 miles of horse trails and located in a friendly community with an award-winning school system.
The property is a short distance from La Cumbre Country Club, a competitive 18 Hole Golf Course and Tennis Facility. The Club recently underwent the addition of a new state of the art fitness center and has an aquatics area and several dining areas. All of this within just minutes of downtown Santa Barbara.
Come experience turnkey living while taking advantage of the Quintessential Santa Barbara lifestyle! This home is reminiscent of a tropical getaway and ideally positioned in close proximity to beaches, cafes, restaurants, & shopping. Welcome to Hawaii in Hope Ranch!
With the sun shining down on your lawn this spring — and the chance you could be facing days without rainfall – you’ll probably be watering or turning on the sprinklers more often. Rather than watching your water bill dramatically increase, take this opportunity to look at how you can make your landscape water-efficient.
Water-efficient landscapes can:
– Reduce how much water you use outside by 20% to 50%
– Help you save almost 10,000 gallons of water per year
– Decrease your bill
Here are some tips on saving water this spring and summer with your landscape. And don’t worry, none involve a complete overhaul!
#1 Choose native plants.
Native plants are the better choice for your landscape because they:
– Are established
– Don’t require a lot of watering
– Are resistant to pests and diseases in the area
– Don’t need a lot of fertilizer
Rather than going wild and planting non-native species that could require a lot of watering and attention, focus on the plants that thrive in your climate. Check out local nurseries and speak to landscapers in the area who know what species to look at. If you really want to add exotic plants to your landscape, do not touch invasive species as they could hurt your natives and cause a headache by the end of the season.
#2 Put plants into groups.
Once you’ve selected your plants, it’s time to group them together. If you put plants together by how much water they need, you’ll cut time and water use down. By putting the plants that need less water together, you’ll avoid under or over watering. Do the same with the plants that need a lot of water and plant them in the same area.
– Your thirstiest should go together, potentially near the house to take advantage of rainfall coming off the roof.
– Put plants that need drip irrigation or sprinkler water further out from thirsty plants.
– The furthest away from the thirsty plants will be plants that need little to no watering.
#3 Mulch, mulch, mulch.
Mulch – whether organic or inorganic – helps save water by keeping soil cool, reducing evaporation and helping roots stay healthy. Mulch needs to be replaced on a regular basis, 2 to 3 inches at a time. There are two options to choose from:
– Organic mulches like compost, bark chips and pine needles. These break down and add nutrients at the same time.
– Inorganic mulches like landscaping paper, rocks and pebbles. These are permanent but can fluctuate more in temperature.
You’re usually better off applying organic mulches because of their added nutrients. You can also save some money by using your grass clippings as mulch after mowing.
#4 Water efficiently.
Watering should be done efficiently and at appropriate times, so your plants get the most water absorption. You should water early in the morning when temperatures are at their coolest in the spring and summer. If you have new or transplanted flowers and shrubs, they will need less water. Never water in the middle of the day or at sunset-middle of the day is the highest evaporation time and dusk will encourage fungus and mildew growth overnight.
#5 Minimize steep slopes.
If you have a steep slope in your yard, there’s a chance all the watering you do will be pointless. The water will run away from your garden and down into the sidewalk. To avoid this problem, you have a few options.
1. Install deeper root plants like native groundcovers and shrubs.
2. Have your lawn resloped professionally.
3. Install rocks, pebbles and other permanent fixtures around the plants to trap the water.
#6 Shrink the lawn.
Depending on the size of your lawn, there’s a chance you’re going to spend a lot of money on watering regardless. So why not look at making your lawn smaller? You might not need to have grass everywhere. Restrict it to areas where you actually need it – the front yard or under a kid’s playground, for example — or think about xeriscaping instead. Xeriscaping is a great idea in climates with very little rainfall, like the West and Southwest. Instead of green grass, a xeriscaped yard includes rocks, pebbles and sand. It’s not a traditional yard in any sense, but it’s easy to maintain and you can still have flowers and shrubs sprinkled in.
For those who still want a lawn, you can plant types of grass that are more drought-resistant. These types include bermuda and buffalo grass, which use 20% less water than other types.
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