Cristal's Blog

Vacation Homes: Competition, Cash and Considerations

December 2, 2021

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High Demand is a Boon for Sellers

Today’s homebuyers are still in love with vacation homes. So much so that demand for vacation homes in the U.S. rose by 70% in October of 2021. And it looks like this trend will continue; solidified by work-from-home policies, preferences, and a desire to beat an expected interest-rate hike.

That’s good news for sellers here in Santa Barbara, where there are many homes on the market that would make excellent second or third homes.

"Vacation homes are a hot commodity at the moment," said Lawrence Yun, the chief economist of The National Association of Realtors®, America's largest trade association. "With many businesses and employers still extending an option to work remotely to workers, vacation housing and second homes will remain a popular choice among buyers."

READ: The 2021 Santa Barbara Real Estate Market: A Top Realtor’s View

Cash is Always King

The good news for sellers is that those who buy vacation homes are more likely to do so with an all-cash transaction at closing, making the transition that much smoother. There are plenty of reasons why cash offers appeal to home sellers including:

  • Confidence in the deal going through
    With cash, the buyer either has the money or they don't. Once the proof of funds has been verified, there’s no question that you'll be able to close.
  • Faster process
    Closing a cash transaction can take as little as two weeks while even preapproved home buyers must be approved for a mortgage, then go through underwriting. That can take 45 to 60 days.
  • Fewer contingencies
    In my experience, cash buyers are less likely to request an appraisal, a home inspection, or other contingencies.
  • Simpler closing
    Without a lender involved, there's much less to review and sign off on to close the deal. Plus, most cash buyers take it upon themselves to get their own title and escrow company and work with an experienced buyer's agent like me to ensure paperwork is complete and correct. 
  • No appraisal stress
    In our current real estate market, home values rise rapidly, and appraisals based on comparable home sales don’t always keep pace. That creates an appraisal gap between what a buyer would be willing to pay and what a lender will agree to finance. Buying with cash takes out the need for an approval making the home's value whatever the buyer is willing to pay.

READ: Buying a Second Home? Or a Third? You’re Not Alone.

Knowledge is Golden 

Like any major financial decision, there’s a lot you should know before you commit. Owning vacation homes comes with financing options, tax, and management issues. So, before you decide to buy a second or third home in your favorite vacation spot, consider these seven truths:

  • The Right Reason
    To ensure an excellent experience, the Association of Realtors says buy a vacation home for the right reason. Most people purchase a vacation home to…vacation! And experts say that’s the best reason to move forward. Simply put, rental income, if you choose that option, is unpredictable, so investors say you should view it as the icing on the cake. In other words, don’t rely on it.
  • Location
    Pick a location that’s good for business (like Santa Barbara). Future buyer and renter demands can vary dramatically even within a given community, so do your research.
  • Costs and profits
    When it comes to the cost of a vacation home, keep this in mind: If you spend two months each summer at the beach, your annual mortgage payments on a vacation home could be comparable to what you pay to rent for two months. And your second home could actually be a way to earn a passive income should you decide to rent it out when you are not using it.
  • Get the facts
    Educate yourself with the local rules including ordinances and homeowner’s association policies. There are government regulations that might limit an owner’s flexibility so make sure to check those too.
  • Plan for success
    Make a plan for vetting and negotiating with renters, or a plan should you decide to use the home only for you and your family. If you use a service, make sure you understand the costs before you sign a contract.
  • Avoid tax traps
    Watch out for tax traps when considering buying a second home. Federal tax rules offer deductions for mortgage interest, property tax, insurance premiums, and many other expenses on second homes. But the rules are complex, and the biggest breaks generally go to owners who use the property no more than 14 days a year themselves.
  • Be prepared for anything
    When it comes to vacation home ownership, expect the unexpected. If you rent it out, be ready for tenant demands because renters expect perfection. And even if you don’t, there will be repairs and maintenance tasks, especially when dealing with salt air as we have here in Santa Barbara. One way to take care of this worry is by hiring a local property manager or management company, whether you’re using the property as a rental or for personal use only. They can keep up on maintenance, so you won’t have to spend your vacation fixing up your vacation home.

A Sampler of Available Santa Barbara Vacation (or Primary!) Homes

After all, even living in Santa Barbara or one of its surrounding communities full-time is like living on a full-time vacation.  Here are three current listings that will surely tickle your urge to make the American Riviera your home or home away from home:

  1. My 5 bedroom, 7 bath Breathtaking Ocean View Montecito Retreat listing, pictured above, is a prime example of a primary or secondary home. Imagine vacationing at this breathtaking ocean view Montecito retreat and enjoying the relaxed sophistication this property emanates. You’ll find luxury at every turn, along with the indoor/outdoor living we appreciate here in the American Rivera.
The well appointed living room of a home that's for sale in Santa Barbara called
  1. Another consideration for anyone thinking about investing in a vacation home in Santa Barbara is my listing pictured above that I refer to as A Jewel Among San Roque Homes: “Casa Del Descanso.” Merging Old World charm with modern conveniences, this 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath Spanish Colonial Revival-style residence is located in the heart of Santa Barbara providing a central location to take advantage of all the area has to offer. This home provides its new owner with the opportunity to experience the ultimate in indoor/outdoor living at its finest.

READ: The Art of Selling a Luxury Home: Secrets of A Top Realtor

The front of a Distinctive Toro Canyon Home that's for sale complete with draught resistant plants making it a perfect vacation home
  1. But wait! There are more. Who wouldn’t love to vacation at the Distinctive Toro Canyon Home pictured above? This 4-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom stunner sits on approximately 10 acres in the foothills of Montecito. If you are looking for a private, serene home with amazing panoramic views of the majestic Santa Ynez Mountains, along with the Pacific Ocean, Channel Islands, Santa Barbara and Carpinteria coastlines, then this property is for you.

READ: Ocean View Homes are Good for Our Health

There are many good reasons, and excellent places, to buy a vacation home, especially here in sunny Santa Barbara. As you can see by the three examples above, you can’t go wrong buying a primary or vacation home here.

If you’re in the market for a vacation home, or your primary residence in Montecito, Hope Ranch, or any of Santa Barbara’s upscale communities, or are considering selling your home here, please contact me for help. Just call me at (805) 886-9378 or email me at Together we’ll find the perfect place where your vacation dreams can come true!

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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