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Santa Barbara: More than a playground for the rich and famous

A view of Santa Barbara.

We continue our housing series by heading west to Santa Barbara, Calif., a community famous for beautiful, expansive homes. But Santa Barbara's reputation doesn't tell the whole story. Realtor Heidi Crossman says many of her clients are first-time homebuyers, and families who speak English as a second language. Many of the properties she's selling are bank owned or short sales -- a sign that Santa Barbara's real estate market is still in the early stages of repair.  

"It costs a lot of money. We pay for the weather. We pay for our views next to the beach. And of course, Montecito, where Oprah has her $20 million mansion. We pay for that too," says Crossman. "Homes here are wonderful. I think Santa Barbara is one of the few cities in the country that actually price their homes by the zip code."

Crossman says lately she has been dealing with a lot of bank-owned homes and short sales.

"The thing about Santa Barbara, we don't have a lot of homes listed. Currently we only have 623 active listings -- that's active and pending together. And then only 280 of those are single-family homes," says Crossman. "So it sounds like we've just got a whole bunch of short sales and foreclosures here where in reality we don't have that many home listings so the short sales and home foreclosures are quite a lot, especially this last year. But now, our inventory has depleted quite a bit this year. So I don't think we are going to see the short sales and foreclosures like we did last year."

Crossman says the median price in Santa Barbara depends on who you ask. On the web, Crossman has seen the median price in the $200,000-340,000. But according to Crossman's multiple listing service, the median price range is $830,000. She says most of the buyers are in the $400,000-500,000 price range.

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About the author

In more than 20 years in public radio, Barbara Bogaev has served as the longtime guest host of NPR’s flagship program Fresh Air with Terry Gross, as well as host of APM’s news and culture magazine, Weekend America and the weekly national documentary series, Soundprint.
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I've been a realtor in Santa Barbara for the past 10 years and Crossman's figures are way off! I don't see Crossman as a member of the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors. Year over year sales for homes are up 15% and median sales price came in at $890,000 for homes through the end of last month (February 2013). Number of escrows are also up 15% with median list price on those escrows up 20%. Of the approximate 80 homes sold last month, 35% of them sold for over the asking price - with an average over asking price of 7%. Crossman is right in that distressed sales are way down, and inventory hovers near record lows.

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