Cristal's Blog

Buying a Santa Barbara Home During a Pandemic

July 17, 2020

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Birds eye view of Ocean View Mediterranean-Style Estate

Ocean View Mediterranean-Style Estate

As I stated in a previous blog post, the residential real estate luxury segment is leading the way in our economic recovery from COVID-19, especially here in Santa Barbara. While homebuying demand may have softened in many segments across the county in recent months due to the pandemic, real estate transactions for Santa Barbara homes are booming here. In fact, I’ve added 18 new listings since January 1st 2020 including the Ocean View Mediterranean-Style Estate pictured above and throughout this blog post.

Now more than ever, there are a number of things a buyer can do to make sure his or her offer on a Montecito or Santa Barbara home gets accepted. Here are the top 9 real estate secrets to consider when shopping during a global pandemic:

1. Tour homes digitally.
Gone are the days when clients could just hop in my car and allow me to drive them from showing to showing. While agents like me are still able to show properties in person using extra precautions, the bulk of home tours are now conducted online. I can happily connect with my high-end customers via FaceTime or Zoom and walk them through a particular home that caught their eye. I also utilize Matterport technology to give my clients a 3D virtual walkthrough of a Montecito or Santa Barbara home.
2. Virtual Appraisal.
In most cases, if you’re planning on financing your home purchase, you’d need to get the home appraised before your loan will go through. In the current climate, though, many home sellers are hesitant to let appraisers on the property (and appraisers are equally as hesitant to enter strangers’ homes). As a result, appraisals have gone more hands-off. Many appraisers have opted for desktop and exterior-only evaluations, simply driving by the house and using available public records, comparable sales, and other data to establish valuation.

If one of these alternatives isn’t an option, your appraisal could come long after you’ve moved into the home. Earlier this week, the Federal Reserve announced a 120-day window on appraisals for FHA, USDA, VA and Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac-backed loans. Borrowers with these mortgages can now have their homes appraised up to four months out from their closing date.

Great room of ocean view home for sale

If this looks like your next home sweet home, please follow these tips on moving safely.

3. Minimize Contingency Periods.
In a perfect world a seller of a Montecito and Santa Barbara home would like no contingencies, but, in reality all sellers know a buyer has to proceed with due diligence. Whenever possible, however, try to minimize the amount of time you are requesting to do the inspections and make yourself look as attractive as possible by proposing beneficial terms. For example, if you are facing a financing requirement contingency, provide a pre-approval letter with your offer or try to make your down payment as large as possible so that your loan to value ratio might be lower than the competition.

4. Increase the Deposit.
Keep in mind the fact that lenders are working to protect themselves, and the investors they sell loans to, at all costs. Asking for more money down is one form of protection. Standard deposits are usually 3% of the purchase price. By adding a larger deposit, a seller may think you are more serious about buying the property.

Master bedroom with a cozy fireplace.

Feel the cozy….can’t you imagine yourself in this master bedroom?

5. Best Offer Clause.
You can always insert a clause into the purchase offer that states you are willing to pay a certain dollar amount over and above the highest offer subject to a limit. This is becoming more and more popular as buyers face strong competition with multiple offers on certain properties and in this instance, it may assure you a response from a seller.

6. No Lowball Offers.
With inventory levels in many areas still at low levels, there are numerous buyers looking at properties to purchase, so you may only get one bite at the apple in terms of getting your offer accepted by a seller. Rely on your real estate agent to provide you with comparable market and property data on which to base your offer as you may not get a second chance.

Upscale kitchen with beamed ceiling.

Wouldn’t you like to prepare dinner in this kitchen?

7. Get Pre-Approved.
Once you have made the decision to look for a Montecito or Santa Barbara home to purchase, review your credit report(s) to ensure accuracy, and take any short-term steps that may increase your credit score. This should be done 3- 4 months ahead of time so that the data has sufficient time to filter into the reporting agency data systems. Once completed, get a pre-approval letter from your bank stating what loan amount you can qualify for so that you are able to supply this at the time of making an offer. This may not guarantee you will get the property, but it may put you ahead of someone else also looking at the same home purchase. If a seller is able to see you are able to afford a loan amount equal to or more than that in your offer, they are more likely to take the offer seriously.

Pool with a view.

You deserve a pool with a view!

8. Personalize the Offer.
Write a letter to the seller telling them about yourself, including details such as why you like the house, its neighborhood, or because you may be relocating to the area for work reasons. Many sellers have an emotional link to their home, and they want to feel the next owner will also take care of it after they have left.

9. Contact me at (805) 886-9378 or
My track record of winning purchase offers for my clients in Santa Barbara, Montecito, Hope Ranch, and the surrounding communities speaks for itself.

As you can see by this blog post, social distancing rules don’t just impact the home-touring part of the process. The pandemic touches literally everything along the way; from where you close on your loan and who signs your paperwork, to how a buyer interacts with home inspectors, title agents, notaries and more. And buying a Montecito or Santa Barbara home with a spouse or partner might mean going it alone—or taking the backseat yourself. But don’t worry. I’ll be there to hold your hand, virtually, throughout the entire buying process!

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Client Reviews

“It was an emotional experience selling our mother’s home in Montecito that we all loved so much but Cristal made the process easier on our whole family by guiding us through the transaction every step of the way. She knows the market so well and everything she recommended was on point including the asking price, painting, and staging the home, which looked beautiful and helped the buyer envision her new home. We sold it the first day it hit the market with an offer above asking! Cristal did an incredible job communicating with us and the buyer to ensure that the transaction would run smoothly. We highly recommend using Cristal, she was a pleasure to work with! ”

- J & A

“Cristal is a pleasure to work with! Her knowledge of the local real estate market coupled with her amazing listening skills resulted in her showing us an array of homes that were all excellent choices. Her low-pressure patient attitude made us feel extremely comfortable with the whole process. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”

- M.F.

“Cristal Clarke is #1 in her field - and you don't become #1 by luck. Cristal works harder, and longer, and with more charm and patience than any real estate agent I have ever worked with in the past; her calendar has no weekend, her days have no clocks, her only concern is selling your property as soon as possible and for the best price on the market. Am I a fan? You bet!”

- P.B.

“We have used Cristal now several times and cannot express how grateful we are for her expertise, dedication, and unwavering support throughout the entire home-buying process. Cristal is knowledgeable, patient and attentive. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and she consistently went above and beyond to provide us with all the information and resources we needed to make informed decisions. Cristal is a skillful negotiator and advocate. She can navigate complex negotiations with professionalism and grace and felt like a true partner to us in the home-buying process. Cristal has a genuine passion for real estate and a deep commitment to her clients' satisfaction. I cannot speak highly enough of Cristal and her exceptional service. She is a true expert in her field and her dedication to excellence, combined with unwavering support is the reason we choose to work with her for all our real estate buying needs.”

- T.C.

“Cristal is a top-notch realtor who sold my home before it ever went on the market. I had two competing offers that enabled me to get top dollar for my home. Not only is Cristal superb but her team is extraordinary. I cannot say enough about Cristal and her team. They are simply phenomenal, the consummate professionals, who took care of every possible detail, making the sale and transition period, smooth from our end. They are also lovely, caring people, who knew all the right professionals, to get the job done. Thank you, everyone!”

- D.R.

“I could list lots of cool adjectives to describe Cristal. All good by the way. But, that is not why I or anyone should hire Cristal. My reason for hiring her, which proved to be correct, is very simple. She got the job done. And, she does it time and time again and with zero issues. And, that is why she is one of the top agents in the country. End of subject. ”

- M.A.

“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

- D.K.

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch