Cristal's Blog


February 19, 2024

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Attention Santa Barbara homeowners! Before you plant that "For Sale" sign in your front yard, pause and consider the benefits of strategic home improvements. Whether you're planning to sell now or in the future, investing in the right upgrades can significantly boost the resale value of your property. In today's competitive real estate landscape, it's essential to prioritize renovations that resonate with potential buyers. The best part? You get to enjoy these enhancements yourself until the time comes to sell.

A well-maintained, 2-story white contemporary home on a hillside surrounded by lush trees and vegetation.

Preparing for a Lucrative Sale

“A well-maintained home is one of the best ways for homeowners to attract buyers,” says David Steckel, home expert at Thumbtack, a leading technology company helping millions of people care for and improve their homes. “Thumbtack research finds a well-maintained home can sell for about 10% more than a similar one in average condition. Buyers are making life’s biggest investment, and they want the peace of mind that they’re investing in a home that was well cared for.”

The stylishly furnished living room of a home, with white walls, a fireplace, sliding glass door to a veranda, and a wall-size window with ocean views.

According to a study commissioned by Zillow conducted by The Harris Poll, 65% of sellers completed at least two home improvement projects before listing their homes in the past. These sellers believe that the improvements they made played a crucial role in enhancing their property's appeal and, in some cases, wished they had invested more to secure an even higher selling price.

A stylish high-end kitchen with a tray ceiling, wood floors, top of the line appliances, and 4 chair back stools in front of a serving island

Unlocking Home Value

If you're planning major renovations on your Santa Barbara home in 2024, consider the findings of Remodeling Magazine's 2023 Cost vs. Value Report. According to the report, these are the top 10 home improvements with the best return on investment (ROI) nationwide. Remember, these are national statistics, and the ROI could be different here in Santa Barbara.

1. Garage Door Replacement
Recoup: 102.7%

2. Manufactured Stone Veneer
Recoup: 102.3%

3. Entry Door Replacement
Recoup: 100.9%

4. Siding Replacement
Recoup: 94.7%

5. Siding Replacement
Recoup: 88.5%

6. Minor Kitchen Remodel
Recoup: 85.7%

7. Window Replacement (Vinyl)
Recoup: 68.5%

8. Window Replacement (Wood)
Recoup: 61.2%

9. Bath Remodel
Recoup: 66.7%

10. Roof Replacement
Recoup: 61.1%

A Craftsman inspired, Mediterranean influenced home at dusk, set against a hillside with mountains in the background,illuminated from within, and with a beautiful backyard with lighted pool.

Other Home Improvements that Offer High Impact When It Comes Time to Sell

Making your home more appealing to potential buyers can make a huge difference when the time comes to list your Santa Barbara property. A well-maintained home can enter escrow for about 10% more than a similar home in average condition. Here are some refreshments that offer substantial returns:

11. New Interior Paint
A fresh coat of paint, particularly in neutral tones, can give your home a modern and well-maintained appearance. Fix any peeling wallpaper, repaint in neutral tones, and attend to any visible imperfections.

    12. Curb Appeal
    Enhance the first impression of your home by painting your front door, refreshing the exterior paint, and addressing any minor landscaping issues.

    13. Smart Home Technology
    Incorporating smart technology in the form of thermostats, smart lights, and hands-free tech is a must to entice today's tech savvy buyers.

    14. New Lighting
    Upgrade your lighting fixtures, use LED bulbs, and strategically add mirrors to create a brighter and more spacious atmosphere. Also, adding new exterior lighting can really change the look of your home.

    15. Bathroom Updates
    Simple fixes like updating lighting and recaulking or reglazing the tub can give your bathroom a fresh look. Attend to any minor issues in the bathroom, such as outdated lighting or tub caulking.

    16. Flooring
    Deep clean existing flooring, address damage, or consider installing heated flooring for an extra touch of luxury.

    17. Replace Broken Mechanicals
    Ensure your HVAC system, appliances, and other mechanicals are in good working order.

    18. Clean Your Gutters
    Regular maintenance and care of your gutters contribute not only to the longevity of your home but also to the prevention of more extensive issues, such as water damage or the dreaded mold growth.

    19. Update Your Front Door
    The front door is the gateway to your home, and investing in a new, well-designed door not only enhances the aesthetic appeal but is also a way to make your home more energy efficient.

    20. Outdoor Extension
    In Santa Barbara, a well-equipped outdoor kitchen is essential. It goes beyond just having a grill; think about incorporating a wok range, pizza oven, mini-fridge, sink, and plenty of counter space. This setup allows you to prepare, cook, and serve a complete meal without the need to go indoors.

    The sun is shining on a beautiful backyard with upscale flagstone patio furniture, and a fire pit surrounded by lush greenery.

    Remember, every market is unique, and I recommend you tailor your home improvements to the preferences of potential buyers in the Santa Barbara area. A highly experienced local realtor like me will know what those preferences are and can steer you in the right direction before it comes time to sell. But no matter where you live, focusing on strategic, high-impact improvements can maximize your home's value and make it stand out in this competitive real estate market.

    If you're seeking to make strategic home improvements to your property in Montecito, Santa Barbara, Hope Ranch, SummerlandCarpinteria, or any of Santa Barbara's exclusive neighborhoods to increase its allure for potential buyers, delve into the wisdom gleaned from fellow luxury homeowners in the area by exploring my portfolio of fine homes that have been expertly prepared for our market. Don't hesitate to reach out to me at (805) 886-9378 or via email at as you contemplate listing your home in the near future. Consider me a valuable ally in navigating the intricacies of your real estate journey.

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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