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Santa Cruz County rental facts

by Patti Lyles


Landlords of Section 8 rentals

are typically charging about 10% less

than they would to the general public.


Housing Authority of the County of Santa Cruz. 


Effective October 1, 2008

Sharing RO $706

Studio style $941

1bed  $1,183

2bed  $1,542

3bed  $2,219

4bed  $2,287

5bed  $2,576

6bed  $2,912

7bed  $3,248

8bed  $3,584

Mobile Home Space $579

More data:

The average rent in California climbed 0.6 percent to $1,435 per month.  In Santa Cruz County, the average rent jumped to $1,637.

The average rent in Santa Cruz County was higher than in San Francisco, and Napa. San Francisco ranked fourth in the state with average rent of $1,624. The only California community surveyed last quarter with higher rents than Santa Cruz was San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, with an average rate of $1,674.

The average occupancy rate in California dropped 0.4 percent to 94 percent. BUT In Santa Cruz County, the occupancy rate climbed 0.6 percent to 96.5 percent.  Santa Cruz-Watsonville tied with Chico for the highest occupancy rate. Napa, Hanford/Corcoran, Merced and San Francisco followed. The San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara region ranked 10th with an occupancy rate of 94.8 percent.

In Santa Cruz, average rents have increased 25.8 percent in the past four years. The highest increase -- 31.5 percent -- was for
one-bedroom apartments.
SOURCE: RealFacts

"How dumb is that?" isn't what I want to hear

by Patti Lyles

 When I told my buyers last week that Fannie Mae's 2007 Conforming Loan Limit Remains at $417000, they quickly chime in with "How dumb is that?"  As a Santa Cruz County Realtor what do you tell them next week if the buyers come back?

OMG,  The trouble is that $417,000 is the maximum loan amount for a single family residence that Congress will allow Freddie and Fannie to provide, doesn't work in California.  It doesn't help my buyers in the San Lorenzo Valley.  Which is the cheap seats of the real estate theater in my county, I can't believe this.  

This may be fine for some parts of California, it does not provide much help for any home buyers and homeowners in Santa Cruz County where the median price in July was $780,000.  Even if that went down in the next 4 months the conforming limit would still be a joke.  Amazingly, years ago Congress saw fit to raise this conforming limit to $625,500 in the "high-priced" states of Alaska and Hawaii. I will never understood why they didn't include us. Why can't we get the same breaks that Hawaii gets?

The House of Representatives has recently passed a bill raising the limit but the Senate has yet to act. While today's borrowers might still have access to the wide variety of mortgage options that existed prior to this month, there aren't as many viable options to satisfy most of my earnest home buyers or any homeowner (past client) who calls me and wants my advice about refinancing.

I strongly urge the Senate to make this a priority, because we need to help homeowners get access to needed credit.  I sent out an short email to express my thought to Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Gary Miller, and Sen. Charles Schumer.  I understand they are on my side.  What else can I do?  I do still service the high-end $2mil +++ stuff but I can't get my next door neighbors into homes any more.

I am not a lender but don't you think that in general, the more mortgages the two entities can purchase, the more confident lenders can be about making loans?

How do vacation rentals work in Santa Cruz?

by Patti Lyles

Q. How do vacation rentals work in Santa Cruz?

A. First of all this is a function of specific rules (ordinances) in City of Capitola and the lack of any rules in the City of Santa Cruz, and in Santa Cruz County areas. 


As for the City of Capitola, there are strict ordinances that govern daily/weekly/vacation rentals. (That is any time period less than 1 month or 30 days.) The property must be zoned commercial and in the Village, Downtown to be rented in this manner. Also, there is a 10% hotel tax (otherwise known as room tax or transient tax) due at all times. Penalties for not paying this are extreme. 


Most is positive about vacation rentals. They are a vehicle to “have your cake and eat it too”.

You buy your Beach House, enjoy it when you want to (or when it’s not rented) and collect about four times the normal rent per month. A rule of thumb is vacation rentals get about the same income per week as you would get per month in the off-season. Of course, you must deduct cleaning, advertising, bookkeeping, maintenance, hotel tax, and any management charges. This total can range anywhere from 25%-45% of the price charged to the guest.


Another perk is the constant appreciation that Beach Properties in Santa Cruz County have enjoyed. Even in so-called down markets,  Beach Homes here have stayed strong since most are cash buyers that are not relying on large loans or high LTV’s (loan-to-value) and our limited product inventory.

Contact for more information about real estate or buying a vacation rental.


Once you leave Capitola, both north and south, you are in Santa Cruz County designation. These areas include Rio del Mar, Seacliff, Seascape, La Selva Beach, Manresa, and Pajaro to the south. To the north of Capitola, there is Opal Cliffs, Pleasure Point, Live Oak, and the Yacht Harbor. All of these areas have no restrictions except to pay the 10% Hotel Tax.


The City of Santa Cruz also has little or no restrictions on vacation rentals that I know of except the 10% Transient Tax due. Fortunately, this Hotel Tax goes to either the City or County areas where the property is located and into those coffers for use on roads and maintenance of that local infrastructure.  When choosing areas for your new beach home that you intend to rent, be sure to call one of the several local vacation rental management companies or a network of owners who want to manage their own. (You can call or email me for this list.) It is important that you ask which property areas are in most demand and exactly what amenities should the property have to get the most rent and be most desirable for vacation tenants.


In summary, the positive aspects of vacation rentals are the following: you have your own Beach House when you want it (maybe with a locked closet or room to keep your personal things on site); you enjoy the appreciation over the years; you off-set the expenses with great income; someone else (if you have a management company) takes care of the problems and maintenance; short-term rentals allow more owner control than long-term; you may need to use your assets for income gain; it’s good for the economy of Santa Cruz – tourism is our #1 business. People who rent vacation homes shop, eat, and are entertained in our little Paradise. Call or email questions


or comments regarding where to buy and how it works


Santa Cruz one of nation's best cities

by Patti Lyles

Outside Magazine issue latest issue names Santa Cruz one of the nation's best cities.

Santa Cruz Home owners once again have proof they live in one of the best towns in America. The upcoming issue of Outside magazine names Santa Cruz in its annual list of the most desirable places to live.


The editors at Outside Magazine said they chose Santa Cruz for its mix of laid-back and cosmopolitan atmospheres. The story describes it as, "old-time hippie culture, complete with dread locked street urchins and lots of wheatgrass, blending with the Volvos and BMWs of the high-tech crowd".

John Bradley, a senior editor for Outside Magazine, said the magazine was looking for "smallish" towns that could blend outdoor treasures with an active nightlife.

"It's that juxtaposition in lifestyle of sports and culture that makes Santa Cruz unique," said Bradley. In its profile of Santa Cruz, Outside recommends hiking in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, surfing at Cowell's and tasting local wines at Soif Wine Bar.

Living in paradise does have its drawbacks, though.

Resident Kris Carson, 60, admitted it was hard to make a living in Santa Cruz, and the housing prices don't help.

Santa Cruz has one of the highest costs of living on Outside's list.

But Carson said it's worth it because, "Santa Cruz lets me be myself" As an avid sailor Carson said he loves being near the water. He also acknowledged Santa Cruz's proximity to San Francisco as a bright spot, especially because Santa Cruz "is a terrible town for restaurants," said Carson, a construction manager.

Even those who don't live in Santa Cruz are influenced by its charm.

"It's magical," said Stacie London, who attended UC Santa Cruz and is now an industrial design artist who lives in Los Angeles. "It has everything you'd want for a healthy lifestyle"

London and her husband said they are considering moving here after spending just a few days in town and driving Highway 1 from Half Moon Bay. They said they are impressed with the friendliness of the people and the diverse array of cultural and physical activities. "This would probably be a great place to raise children," said Luis Herrera, London's husband.

This is not the first time Santa Cruz has graced the magazine, popular with outdoor enthusiasts. In 2003, the magazine named Santa Cruz the best college town in America.

The editors at Outside chose one town with a population less than 100,000 in each of nine geographic regions. The August issue hits newsstands July 10.

Contact your real estate agent or look at her site at or for Vacation homes, beachfront and oceanview homes.

Best Towns in AmericaOutside Magzine selected the nation's best cities, with less than 100,000 residents, to live in by region. Santa Cruz was given the honor for the California coast.

 #1California Seaside: Santa Cruz.

  • Northwest: Bend, Ore.
  • Rocky Mountain: Jackson, Wyo.
  • Southwest: Santa Fe, N.M.
  • Midwest: Iowa City, Iowa
  • Northern Lakes: Duluth, Minn.
  • Southern: Asheville, N.C.
  • Atlantic Coast: Portland, Maine
  • New England: Burlington, Vt.

Santa Cruz County's home price STATS

by Patti Lyles
Median up $757,000 in June


SANTA CRUZ — Despite a real estate slowdown nationwide and the growing numbers of county homeowners missing their mortgage payments, one segment of the Santa Cruz housing market is buoyant: high-end homes.
Six homes in Santa Cruz County sold for more than $2 million in June, matching the number of $2 million-plus sales in April.

View a map of the six homes sold for more than $2 million in June.

Case in point: a 4,250-square-foot home with an ocean view and a wine cellar in the gated community of Monte Fiore in Scotts Valley sold for the listed price: $2.25 million. "There were three interested parties and it was more of a race," said Mark Oliverez, a real estate agent with Alain Pinel who represented the seller and the buyer.

In fact, of the 164 sales in June, 40 were for $1 million or more, a higher percentage than in May. The high-end market phenomenon gained attention last week in The New York Times, which reported that sales of homes priced at more than $1 million are up in Boston, New York and Miami.

In Santa Cruz County, affluent buyers are willing to pay higher prices for ocean-view homes.

June statistics

Single family homes
Sales: 164
Listings: 1,292
Unsold inventory index: 7.9 months
Median price: $757,000

Sales: 32
Listings: 289
Unsold inventory index: 9 months
Median price: $560,000

Source: Real Options Realty

The increasing number of high-end sales in Santa Cruz County is keeping the median home price high, at $757,000 in June, a barely perceptible dip from $760,000 in May. But the number of overall sales is down in comparison to the red-hot market of three years ago, when more than 250 homes sold in June. This year's June sales, 164, are the fewest since 2001, according to Gary Gangnes of Real Options Realty, who compiled the monthly statistics. The current housing inventory is at a 10-year high with 1,292 listings.

For those hoping more for-sale signs saying "reduced" would mean the median sales price would fall into the $600,000 range, it's just not happening. In many parts of the county, asking prices are high. The average listing price is more than $1 million in Aptos, Capitola, Davenport, Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley, Soquel, according to Gangnes, although he cautioned that listing prices do not reflect sales prices.

Sales of pricey homes rebound

Median sale price: $774,375
Number of sales: 128
Sales over $1 million: 35

Median sale price: $760,000
Number of sales: 147
Sales over $1 million: 27

Median sale price: $757,000
Number of sales: 164
Sales over $1 million: 40

Source: Real Options Realty

Ocean-view homes, and those within walking distance of the ocean are selling for more than $1 million, longtime agent Tony Aprile said. Patti Boe of American Dream Realty said she was too busy showing homes to have an extended conversation Friday. "I have seven escrows," said Boe, who was involved in two of the six $2 million-plus sales in June.

Kelley Trousdale, who sold a Rio del Mar home in June for $4.5 million, said high-end buyers tend to be people from the Central Valley with disposable income and a yen for a second home with a beachfront. Other agents said high-end buyers include local residents. The buyer of the Scotts Valley home was trading up from a property in Felton, but one of the other prospects was a New Yorker who had sold a business and wanted to move back to Santa Cruz.

Frank Murphy, who represented a buyer who paid $2.5 million for an ocean-view home on the Santa Cruz Westside on Refugio Road, said his clients lived in Santa Cruz but wanted acreage close to the city. Murphy also had a San Mateo prospect who has sold a business and was looking for the right location for a family compound. Two deals fell out of escrow when flaws in the property came to light, and the client ended up buying in Sebastopol.
That's typical for a high-end shopper.

"People can afford these homes and they don't want to settle or compromise," said Oliverez, using the word "cherry-picking" to describe the market. That's why Aprile went to the trouble of bringing in Erin Blackburn to "stage" the Refugio Road home, which was otherwise vacant.
"It's almost a requirement in this market," Aprile said. "When they see the furniture they tend to slow down"

Victoria Pendorf represented the Napa Valley buyer of 302 Cherry Ave. in Capitola, which sold for $3 million. She called the ocean view "amazing — you don't want to leave" The Napa Valley buyer is in the "pre-retirement" crowd, a demographic that could generate more high-end buyers.

The Silicon Valley tech rebound is another factor in the high-end market.
Oliverez mentioned a client who came from Arizona to work in high-tech and bought a $2.6 million home in Los Gatos. "You're not seeing layoffs, you're seeing hiring," he said. "Relocation buyers are out there"

Contact Jondi Gumz at
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Contact Information

Photo of Patti Lyles Real Estate
Patti Lyles
Century 21 Showcase, REALTORS
P.O. Box 67275
Scotts Valley CA 95067

DRE #01385517