Cristal's Blog


May 30, 2024

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A recent Mansion Global article, Protecting the Environment Boosts Home Values—Just Look at Santa Barbara, California, highlights our coastal haven. The award-winning digital publication for insightful content on the global real estate market recognizes Santa Barbara's stringent environmental policies as a key factor in our soaring home values. And those of us fortunate enough to call this idyllic haven home are even more blessed thanks to the dedicated environmental stewardship.

A birds eye view of A drone view of Santa Barbara looking inland with mountains and clouds in the background
Image by Eugene Zelenko, Creative Commons

Booming Property Values

The community’s commitment to preserving its lifestyle and environment has led to proactive sustainability policies. Strict building codes limit urban sprawl and protect open spaces and heritage farmland. This commitment has not only preserved the region’s natural beauty but also significantly boosted property values. From 1990 to 2021, the median home price in Santa Barbara County surged from $272,000 to nearly $1.5 million, averaging a 6% annual growth rate. According to market research, this growth outpaced the national average home price increase of 3% to 5% during the same period. The pandemic further accelerated this trend, with the median home price reaching $1.7 million in 2023.

A Mediterranean style red tiled roof home with mountains in the background at dusk.

Environmental Policies and Property Values

Despite some of the highest home prices in the country, Santa Barbara County was ranked No. 1 on The Wall Street Journal/ 2024 Emerging Markets list. This accolade reflects the region's strong economic potential and attractiveness to homebuyers and investors.

Santa Barbara County’s commitment to sustainability is a key factor driving this success. The county has implemented numerous policies aimed at protecting its natural resources, such as strict zoning laws, investment in renewable energy, and initiatives to reduce carbon emissions. These efforts not only preserve the scenic beauty and ecological health of the area but also enhance the quality of life for residents.

The impact of these sustainability policies creates a positive feedback loop. By safeguarding the environment, the county maintains its allure as a desirable place to live, which in turn boosts property values. Higher property values generate increased tax revenues, which can then be reinvested into further environmental protection and sustainability projects. This cycle ensures ongoing conservation efforts and reinforces the county's reputation as a leader in sustainable living.

Ultimately, Santa Barbara County's dedication to environmental stewardship not only protects its natural beauty but also drives economic growth, making it a prime example of how sustainability can underpin and enhance a thriving community.

A beautiul image of the Los Padres National Forest with fog gently drifting over mountains and lush foliage in the foreground.
Image courtesy of Bryant Baker/Los Padres Forestwatch

The Evolution of Environmental Conservation

The history of environmental preservation in Santa Barbara dates back to the early 20th century. The Los Padres National Forest, which covers about 1,000 square miles within the county, was preserved as wilderness in 1936. The establishment of the California Coastal Zone in 1976 further limited development along the coastline, protecting ecosystems and ensuring public access to beaches. Santa Barbara County’s Local Coastal Program, fully implemented in 1981, extends these protections, requiring any development within its footprint to meet strict environmental regulations and undergo rigorous public scrutiny.

A view of the ocean and blue sky through verdant foliage.

The Impact of Coastal Zone Regulations

According to leading economics, properties within or near the Coastal Zone enjoy a significant price premium, even with the added costs and delays associated with development.

“If you take two homes in Santa Barbara and one is within the Coastal Zone and one is outside, but they are otherwise identical, the Coastal Zone property will have a 15% premium in price,” Plantinga explains.

Moreover, these regulations effectively limit neighborhood overdevelopment, further enhancing property values. Homes within the Coastal Zone benefit from restricted development, preventing neighbors from overbuilding and thus preserving the area's overall value. Adjacent properties outside the zone also experience a boost in value, approximately 6%, due to the enhanced quality of life provided by nearby protected areas.

Santa Barbara's Elings Park with a tree in the foreground and the ocean in the background
Image by MamaOT, Wikimedia Commons

Shared Public Amenities and Long-term Value

The restrictions on land use in Santa Barbara have led to a straightforward limit on supply, but they have also created a twofold increase in demand. The scarcity of buildable space drives up prices, while the shared green and recreational spaces act as public amenities, further elevating property values.

Economist Douglas Steigerwald of UCSB highlights how these shared amenities directly contribute to property values: “Those shared public amenities are positive externalities that are directly capitalized into property values.”

Steigerwald emphasizes the long-term benefits of preserving open space and agricultural land, which enhance individual homeowners' quality of life and property values. The restoration of natural habitats, such as the recent projects to restore native creeks, also acts as shared amenities that benefit the entire community.

“Providing habitat for native birds of prey or native bee species or developing other natural amenities also raises the value of homes, from a financial viewpoint,” Steigerwald notes. These efforts improve the quality of life and support the community's environmental health.

Thank you, Mansion Global, for showcasing how Santa Barbara demonstrates that the symbiotic relationship between environmental preservation and real estate value is not only viable but essential for creating a prosperous and sustainable future. For those looking to invest in a piece of paradise, please contact me at (805) 886-9378 or via email at to schedule a complimentary consultation.

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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