House Poor, Climate Rich

By James Buckley   |   August 30, 2018

There’s nothing that will make you feel poorer than perusing the high-end homes for sale in the Friday edition of The Wall St. Journal. Or heck, pick up a paper in Atherton, San Francisco, Pacific Palisades, Beverly Hills, or any upper-end community in Napa, Sonoma, Oakland, or even Oxnard. 

Everything for sale comparable to what you’d want to live in will be 20% to 100% more expensive than Montecito. Which tells me only one thing: Montecito is underpriced. Even when compared to similar properties in Goleta, San Roque, the Mesa, Hope Ranch, the Upper East (all of which are also terrific places to live, but hey, we are the Montecito Journal), Montecito compares well.

Now, of course, the tragic events of December 2017 and January 9, 2018, have caused a pause in the inexorable rise in real estate values, particularly in Montecito, where we lost 23 precious lives and nearly 400 homes to fire, flood, and mountain debris. No one needs to be reminded of that. But, what people perhaps do need to be aware of is that this once-in-a-hundred or 500-year event is over, and anything remotely similar is unlikely to reoccur in our lifetimes. It could happen, but I’d put the probability somewhere near a tsunami and way less likely than, say, a Southern California earthquake.

Things do happen, so let’s be realistic.

In the meantime, it’s pretty much a buyer’s market in Montecito, so if you are searching for a beautiful home in a beautiful area with a beautiful year-round climate, top-rated public and private schools, in a community that boasts social and artistic amenities found in cities and towns 10 times – no, make that a hundred times – our size, then this is your chance. Montecito’s window of opportunity will close at some point and a lot of that will depend upon the next rainy season or two, but when it does it will likely slam shut for a good long time.

I could be wrong, but let’s compare:

Pacific Palisades

Here’s a cute little place in Pacific Palisades. It’s a “cozy” 70-year-old (1948) 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom home with 1,443 sq ft of living space on “a large 6,824-sq-ft lot.” Asking? $2,390,000. Nearby are several homes of similar size and even higher price tags: 3 bd, 2 bath, 1,301 sq ft, $2,850,000; 3 bd, 2 bath 1,914 sq ft, $2,600,000; 3 bd, 2 bath, 1,699 sq ft, $2,749,000. All three homes are on smaller lots than our 6,824-sq-ft spread that, to be fair, is “Perfect for owner-user to fix up and remodel or someone to develop.”

Aspen, Colorado

All right, you’ve had it with the Central Coast and even Montecito. Out of California, join the red, white, and blue wave and park your butt in, let’s say Aspen, which we’ve got to admit is a pretty cool town (especially in winter). And, you want a bigger home. Fifteen-hundred square feet just doesn’t cut it. Here’s a 5-bedroom, 4-bath beauty with 3,297 sq ft of living space, a 3-car garage on a “rare” 9,148-sq-ft lot. Asking? $6,500,000. The nice thing here is “the home lives beautifully as-is or can be brought up to a more contemporary standard for a refined living experience.” Other nearby homes include a 4-bd, 4-bath, 3,157-sq-ft abode at $6,750,000, and a 4-bd, 3-bath, 3,117-sq-ft beauty at $6,200,000.

A Fine Neighborhood

Pick a high-end location anywhere in the country where you think you’d like to live, and you are likely to find you have been priced out of most of those markets. In the meantime, there’s plenty to choose from right here in your own back yard. 

Do your own research, and you will discover that, unless you choose to move to Ohio, Nebraska, or even Texas (and we have nothing against any of those places), you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better deal than (dare we say it?) Montecito, where an acre or more is common, privacy is easy to find, and prices are attractive.

And, should you decide to buy here, we’ll just say for the record: Welcome to the neighborhood (and what a fine neighborhood it is).


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