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Complete guide on how to sell your house in Santa Cruz, CA

young couple buying a new house

The coastal city of Santa Cruz in California is known for world-class surf spots and pristine beaches. It also takes pride in its lively communities; the beach boardwalk lined with shops, dining options, and historical landmarks; and its vibrant art community.

These are just some of the reasons why Santa Cruz is a popular tourist destination and a venue for prime real estate. Properties here are sought after by buyers looking for luxury beachfront homes and a vacation resort lifestyle. The city’s proximity to Silicon Valley also makes houses for sale in Santa Cruz, CA highly appealing to both buyers and investors.

June 2022 statistics from reveal that there are 185 houses for sale in Santa Cruz, CA across its 20 neighborhoods, with prices going as high as $30 million and homes selling at a median price of $1.3 million. One of the most expensive neighborhoods is Pleasure Point, with oceanfront homes here being sold at prices exceeding a minimum of $4 million. On the other hand, properties in the Banana Belt are the most budget-friendly, listed at around $1 million. The sale-to-price ratio for the inclusive date was 100%, which means that houses for sale in Santa Cruz, CA were sold for approximately the asking price on average.

Planning to sell your house in Santa Cruz? To help you get started, here is a comprehensive guide for your home-selling journey.

Guide to selling your house in Santa Cruz, CA

putting house up for sale

How to prepare your house before selling it

Selling a property is a crucial financial and investment decision that requires responsibility and diligence. 

To know if you are ready to sell, ask yourself how much you know about the Santa Cruz real estate market and selling a home in California. Think about where you’re going next, considering record-high home values and increasing mortgage rates. Will you be moving to a new place while your house is still up for sale in Santa Cruz, CA? Do you need to use the proceeds of the sale to finance the down payment of your new home?

Next is the pre-listing stage. This is when you prepare your house to be picture-perfect and presentable to potential buyers.

Upgrades and repairs

You might think, why invest more money into your property when you are about to sell it anyway? Consider this: You would not want to sell a worn-out or outdated house that will barely generate enough interest from buyers. Then again, is it worth it? 

While many home renovations do not recoup 100% of the costs, you can do minor upgrades that will boost the value of your property. You can go with the basics while skipping major overhauls that – due to different tastes – may not even sit well with your buyers.

Here are great examples of minor upgrades:

  • General cleaning. Making sure your home for sale is presentable starts with keeping it clean and free of clutter. It also helps to remove personal items. Depersonalizing the place will allow your potential buyers to imagine living in it and see it in their own design.
  • Adding functional space. Because of the pandemic, people are buying houses where they can work, study, and do recreational activities in the safety of their own homes. Thus, if you have extra rooms or spaces in your home that you haven’t utilized, now’s the time to convert them into a home office, study room, entertainment room, or any other type of living space that would not only appeal to buyers but would also show them the possibilities for use of those spaces.

    What other features that other houses in your area do not have? Adding one of these will set you apart from the competition.

  • Installing a smart home system. Invest in smart home technology that will make your home more energy-efficient. Smart home technology allows you to control your home appliances and systems from your mobile device wherever you are. This way, you can manage your energy costs by turning off your home’s HVAC or lighting system even while you are away. Besides energy efficiency, the automation, security, and convenience that smart home technology brings are also strong selling points.
  • Sprucing it up with a new coat of paint.A fresh coat of paint will make any surface look brand-new. For interiors like bedrooms, new wallpaper also works and adds more personality to these rooms. Follow a color palette for the entire home for consistency and harmony.
  • Improving curb appeal.First impressions are critical, and it is the home’s exterior features that buyers will first see. You can start with power washing your driveway, as well as cleaning and repairing your windows. Some ideas also include a manicured landscape or an improved patio. Replacing your old front door will make for a more inviting and welcoming home.
  • Maximizing the ocean view.Welcome the buyer inside the home with a stunning water view. Make sure that nothing obstructs this gorgeous view – consider installing clear glass windows and trimming the bushes and tree branches outside your windows.

In addition to updates and simple renovations, check what kinds of repairs your house will need. To help you identify these, get a pre-listing inspection. There will be issues that only a professional can see, and it is better to have these addressed before potential buyers do their own home inspection. For houses in coastal areas like the beachfront homes in Santa Cruz, the high salt water content in the air can cause corrosion. Notice if there is any cracked paint or if your roof and metal surfaces have become rusty.

Steps to selling a house

selling a house

Houses for sale in Santa Cruz, CA are either For Sale by Owner (FSBO) or listed with the help of real estate agents. The basic steps of selling a home for both are similar. It is just a matter of whether or not you want the assistance of a real estate agent to help you navigate the complexities of the home-selling process.

Price your home competitively

To ensure you maximize returns on investment and get your home’s worth, decide on the right listing price for your house. Looking at comparable listings, or comps, in your neighborhood will help you get a good idea of your home’s actual value. When looking at comps, the properties should be similar to your home in terms of size, age of construction, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and amenities. This also prevents you from overpricing your listing and, in turn, results in many offers.

Draft a listing description

Property hunters will need to see more details on the listing before they decide to visit your house. Your listing description should get your target market’s attention. Mention the home price, along with the unique features of your home. It also helps to give an idea about your home’s proximity to school and business districts and other amenities.

Take good photos

The listing description should be accompanied by high-quality photos that emphasize the best parts of your home and all its liveable spaces. You can take photos with a good smartphone camera or by hiring a professional photographer or home stager. Make sure to get all the good angles and take advantage of good lighting.

Get the word out

Advertise that you have put your house for sale to get leads. Start with putting up a “for sale” sign in your front yard and include your contact details. Take it online by publishing ads, mentioning the sale on social media, and posting in online listings to expand your reach.

Know the California laws

To ensure a smooth transaction and avoid legal liabilities, familiarize yourself and comply with the legal requirements for selling a house in California. Some of the laws you need to be aware of include:

  • Transfer disclosure statement.Houses for sale in Santa Cruz, CA, and the rest of the state need to provide full disclosure on anything about the property that would impact the buyer’s purchase decision. 
  • Hazard disclosure statement.You are required to disclose whether or not your property is in an earthquake fault zone, a neighborhood forest fire risk, or a flood hazard area.
  • Escrow agent.When buying or selling a home in California, you must use an escrow agent to facilitate the sale. As the seller, you deposit the title deed in escrow while the buyer deposits the money in it. The escrow agent’s responsibility is to hold on to these items until both parties have satisfied the conditions of the transaction. Once completed, the escrow agent will transfer the deed to the buyer and the funds to you.
  • Transfer tax.When transferring the ownership of a property from the seller to the buyer, some paperwork need to be filed with the local government. Transfer tax is then imposed when the paperwork is recorded. The responsibility of paying the transfer tax is negotiable between the buyer and the seller.

Hiring a professional stager

asian architect designing a house

Staging is crucial in the home-selling process. You are not just selling your Santa Cruz home but you are also selling the vacation resort lifestyle and the beach home feel. Stage your home in a way that will convince potential buyers to push through with the sale not only because of the impressive features and attractive interior but also because they feel emotionally drawn to it.

Hire a professional stager to help you with the preparations. Not all sellers stage their homes nor do they DIY the staging. Hiring a professional stager will give you a competitive advantage and ensure that all best practices will be applied to sell your home quickly for the highest possible price.

A good professional stager lets potential buyers imagine themselves living in the home, showcases all your home’s best assets, and diverts any attention away from flaws and awkward spaces. They are also good at “emotional” staging by setting a mood. Photos of a professionally staged home look better in online listings.

Some of the benefits of hiring a professional home stager include:

  • Helping to sell the house faster at a higher price
  • Taking the time-consuming work from you
  • Knowing the trends
  • Providing objective, unbiased opinion
  • Having a network of reputable contractors 

Documents you need when selling a house

In addition to the above-mentioned disclosure statements that a seller needs to accomplish, there are several more documents you are required to present when selling a property in California.

  • Statewide buyer and seller advisory. This outlines the obligations of both buyers and sellers.
  • Proof of ownership. A copy of the original purchase agreement, a signed deed, and an affidavit of title prove that the house you are selling is, indeed, yours.
  • HOA bylaws. If you live in a neighborhood or a condo under a homeowners association (HOA), you may be required to share the HOA bylaws.

Mistakes to look out for when selling your house

Due to the many minute nuances of the home-selling process, the risk of making a mistake at any point is high; more so if you’re doing this for the first time. Errors could not just cause delays but also cost you a lot more. 

Make your home-selling journey a manageable one by watching out for these common mistakes.

Using emotions in decision-making

It’s easy to get emotional about selling the home that you’ve created happy memories in and factor this into making decisions. To avoid this, think of yourself as a businessperson trying to close a transaction rather than a homeowner. Approach this task from a financial and business perspective.


You may think your home is worth more primarily due to the emotions discussed earlier. In doing so, you might be setting an unrealistic asking price. To avoid this, do a comparative market analysis that will help you in determining a more competitive, realistic price. A smart and prepared home buyer will also do their due diligence to identify a fair offering price, so you must also be proactive and one step ahead.

While not ideal, underpricing is another strategy that lets your listing garner extra attention and generate multiple offers. Competing buyers can then bid the price up to your home’s actual market value or even higher.

Selling during winter and holidays

Winter is typically a slow time of the year for home sales, especially since people are busy preparing for the holidays and attending social engagements. The cold weather also makes it more appealing to stay in rather than go out for some house hunting. Fewer buyers will likely look for properties during this season, and it could take longer to sell your home.

Low-quality listing photos

The photos you publish on online listings and advertisements help buyers get to know your home more. Low-quality, poorly taken photos are missed opportunities for you to highlight your home’s best features. It will also turn away potential buyers, not only because of the unattractive photos but also because it says a lot about your lack of effort in selling your home.

Non-disclosure of major problems

Don’t even try hiding major issues with your property. Everything will be revealed during the buyer’s home inspection. If you fail to fix the problem ahead of time, you will have to adjust your asking price below the market value to account for the major flaws. Not addressing these issues ahead of time will also decrease the number of interested buyers.

Selling to unqualified buyers

To ensure a smooth and hassle-free transaction, it is best to filter interested buyers and narrow them down to the most qualified ones. You may ask them for a pre-approval letter from a mortgage lender or proof of funds for cash purchases. These documents are testaments that they have the funds to buy your home.

Is now a good time to sell your property in Santa Cruz?

With houses for sale in Santa Cruz, CA spending just a little more than a month from listing before getting sold, it is evident that the housing market here is as hot as ever. Despite talk of an impending market slowdown, many homes for sale still get multiple offers, with the average home selling for about 4% above the listing price. The most in-demand listings are selling for about 10% above the listing price and get sold in around ten days. With Santa Cruz still being a seller’s market, you can take advantage of this and get many offers for your listing as long as you have prepared for the sale properly and advertised your listing well.

While there is no definite best time to sell your property, the seasonal change to warmer weather as the market heats up during spring. Season-wise, the summer season in California also brings with it an influx of buyers who are still hunting for properties even after the high-scale spring-buying season has lapsed. 

On the macro level, market experts looking at economic conditions in relation to real estate also believe in the wisdom of selling now while current market conditions are still on the seller’s side. Rising inflation costs and the resulting hikes in interest rates imposed by the Fed are affecting mortgage rates which are now playing at around 5% to 6%, slowly creeping back toward pre-pandemic levels from near-zero levels when the pandemic first hit. While this is not yet a reason for concern, observers are beginning to see fewer buyers in the market due to the rising mortgage rates. Given this trend, selling your house now allows you to take advantage of the offers still coming in and getting a handsome profit from the sale.

Working with a Realtor when selling your home

Whether this is your first time engaging in a real estate transaction in Santa Cruz, CA or not, working with a Realtor brings you peace of mind. That’s because you have someone to guide and assist you in every step of the way, from the preparations up to the transfer of keys.

A local California real estate agent, especially an expert in the Santa Cruz real estate market, can provide you with valuable insights and in-depth knowledge of the area to help you make smart decisions. 

Given all the moving gears of home selling, going through the process can be stressful. But being well-represented by the right Realtor can make the experience smoother. And when you need third-party providers along the way, a good Realtor has a network of resources for you, including lawyers, contractors, inspectors, professional home stagers, and other resources.

Sell your home fast at the best price possible

If you are selling your home in Santa Cruz, CA, you will get the best representation and personalized, hands-on support through me, Amber Melenudo – a top-producing Realtor in Santa Cruz County.

With my years of experience as a marketing specialist, you can depend on me to develop a comprehensive, targeted marketing campaign for your listing to reach the right people and get several leads.

Let’s get started today by giving me a call at 831.566.2263 or by sending me an email ambermelenudo(at)gmail(dotted)com