Thursday, February 28, 2013

Home Buying Tips

Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

Buying your first home can be confusing and overwhelming. It doesn't have to be - American Home Shield is here to help take out the hassle for you as a buyer. A first-time homebuyer might be able to rest easier knowing they're not the only ones who feel confused about the home buying process. Being educated about the real estate market and staying informed on the latest trends and tips for buying a home are some of the most important factors when looking for a home. A little research can go a long way toward getting you in the door with a minimum amount of stress.
  • check your credit score - before you start searching for a home, make sure the facts are correct and fix any problems you discover
  • determine your budget
  • shop around for the best deals on loan/mortgage rates
  • take the time to search for a home that suits you and meets your personal/financial needs
  • become familiar with your rights as a home buyer
  • learn more about the real estate market you're interested in
  • get a home inspection - When making the decision to not invest in a home inspection, you're risking incurring extra expenses and possibly hidden defects in your house. Being educated about the current condition of your home is worth the low up-front fees.
  • make sure an American Home Shield home protection plan is included in the sales transaction
  • sign-off on all house closing documentation
  • get professional help - find an agent you can trust and who'll help you with the billing process
  • find the right time to buy - you don't want to make an offer in haste before you've thoroughly researched the market's availability
Typically, completing a real estate transaction in today's market involves multiple steps. Some of the most common mistakes homebuyers make occur because there's little awareness of the common pitfalls. Learn more about what's necessary to prevent potential negative situations:
  • Stay within a real estate market you can afford. Don't out-price yourself.
  • Decide whether or not a real estate professional is right for you. Choosing an agent is smart for several reasons. Agents can quickly target your buying interests and you reap the bulk of the benefits from their services as the buyer.
  • Conduct sufficient research to find the best mortgage rates.
  • Don't assume you can't negotiate closing costs when parties decide the final asking price of the home. You might be paying extra fees you could've saved by simply asking the sellers to include them in the home price.
  • Be careful when examining homes that need to be fixed up. You might end up pouring more money and time into it in the long run than you think. 

Information from American Home Shield Warranty Newsletter

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Get Your Garden Ready For Spring!

 Garden Classes
Saturday March 2nd at 3 pm
Saturday March 9 at 3 pm
La Sumida Nursery
165 South Patterson Ave, Santa Barbara


In the Green House - Rain or Shine
for more information, call 805-964-994

Santa Barbara's Million Dollar Home Raffle is here!

WIN the Santa Barbara Dream! 
A Million Dollar Home or A Million Dollars
We invite you to WIN the Santa Barbara dream in the 9th Santa Barbara Million Dollar Home Raffle.  This year the Grand Prize is a breathtaking home located in the Santa Barbara area, one of the most picturesque and charming communities in the country. The home features ocean views, an open floor plan, indoor/outdoor living space, and walking distance to the beach.

Only 19,000 tickets will be issued and we've awarded the Grand Prize Home every year- our competitors can't beat that! 
This year, 1 in 100 will win!  Raffle prizes include cars, vacations, shopping sprees, electronics and more. 
Final Drawing Prizes include:
  • Grand Prize:
    An ocean and island view home on the Santa Barbara coast, or $1,000,000 cash. 
  • Prize 2:
    A trip to Hawaii for 2 and a $2,500 American Express gift card, or $10,000 cash.
  • Prize 3:
    Jensen audio/visual entertainment package, or $5,000 cash.
  • Prizes 4 - 6:
    $1,000 Shopping Spree choice: Macy's, Sports Authority, or Pottery Barn, or $750 cash.  
This fundraiser benefits the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum 
and The Village Properties Nonprofit Teacher's Fund

Download an entry form at 
or call(805) 884-5900 to order your tickets over the phone.

Three Ways to Enter
(Please Be Sure to Write In My Name)
on the entry form
Carla Reeves, Village Properties
(to insure that the Teachers' Fund Receives credit)

Purchase a ticket by phone using a credit card.  

With a check or credit card number to:
PO Box 61809
Santa Barbara, CA 93160  

Fax your order form with credit card number to:

Enter by Midnight on March 7, 2013to be eligible for additional prizes at the Early-Bird Drawing on March 23, 2013.

Qualify for over 65 additional prizes worth more than $57,000! You could win: vacation getaways (Catalina Island and Hawaii); a Vespa LX 150; $500 to $1,000 Shopping Sprees; Apple iPads; free tickets entered in to all remaining (qualified) drawings; CASH and more!

Purchase 2 or more tickets by March 7, 2013 to qualify for over 170 additional prizes worth more than $179,000! You could win: vacation getaways (Post Ranch - Big Sur,  St Lucia, Ojai Valley Inn & Spa and more); a 2013 BMW 128i Coupe, 2013 Audi A3, 2013 BMW X1; $500 to $1,000 Shopping Sprees; Apple iPads, Mammoth Mountain MVP passes; free tickets entered in to all remaining (qualified) drawings; CASH and more!

View the Video
Watch the 30 second video commercial spot for a summary of the raffle and a peek at the GRAND PRIZE HOME that you can WIN!!!  Watch the Video!

Take a Virtual Tour of the Home
We've also created a number of virtual tours of the home, including an amazing look at the home's large yard and deck. Check back weekly as we release a new virtual tour of one of the rooms. Check out the ocean views from the home YOU can WIN here

Monday, February 25, 2013

Home Prices on the Rise - See History Chart

From Carpinteria to Goleta there are currently 258 Homes/PUDs 
 and 17 Condos actively FOR SALE over $1Million; 
and 52 Homes/PUDs and 29 Condos FOR
SALE under $1Million!
(information from the SB MLS)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Santa Barbara Home and Garden Show, Sunday Feb. 24th

February 24, 10 - 4, Free Parking
Earl Warren Show Grounds
Admission $6

event information

houseThe Santa Barbara Home Show event provides you the opportunity to SAVE TIME & MONEY on your next project as you'll see hundreds of the latest home products and services. You will meet with home improvement professionals, both large and small, who are eager to help you with your repairs, enhancements and upgrades to beautify your home.... all under one roof! Learn more about recycling, alternative energy and sustainable living options. Meet industry experts in building, remodeling and decorating. See the latest in kitchen and baths, windows & window coverings, garage doors, roofing, flooring and closet organization. And for outdoor makeovers, check out patios, sunrooms, spas, BBQ Islands, fireplaces, solar energy, architects in building and landscaping, stone pavers, exotic trees and plants, garden furniture and much more!

Hundreds of sustainable home and garden products and services will be displayed for two days, under one roof. Green vendors will be will be flagged for easy locating.

Many green vendors will be showcasing energy-efficient and environmentally-responsible products and materials. Attendees will learn more about local recycling, alternative energy choices like solar, and many sustainable and ‘green’ living options.

You'll find that many exhibitors will be offering show discounts that you cannot find anywhere else, making this show the perfect resource to help you get moving on your latest projects. Now is the perfect time to improve your life by improving your home and “The Santa Barbara Home Show” is the perfect place to do it.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Here are six of Santa Barbara's Beautiful Gardens to visit this beautiful weekend!

Spring has arrived in my Garden
succulents and air plants love spring

made me think of all the gorgeous Santa Barbara
gardens open to the public!

Francheschi Park on the Riviera
on Franchescki Drive
Offers panoramic views of the City
open dusk till dawn - free

Alice Keck Memorial Park 
open 24/7 - free
bounded by Micheltorena, Garden, 
Santa Barbara and Arrellaga Streets

Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens
500 Ninos Drive (off Cabrillo Blvd); open 10-5
tickets at entry
beautiful animal park and botanical garden

Photo: HAPPY VALENTINE’S from Gingerbread and Chadwick. May your day be purrrrrr-fect!

Lotus Land
(Exotic and Magical)
695 Ashley Road, Montecito
reservations for entry required  
805 969-9990 

 Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens
1212 Mission Canyon, SB
tickets at the entry

Santa Barbara Courthouse 
and Sunken Gardens
1100 Anacapa Street, SB
Docent Tours for garden/court house 805 962-6464
(also available for weddings and events)

often called the "most beautiful public building" in America

Enjoy these a many more of Santa Barbara's numerous 
and amazing parks, many of them with free entry.
more information,

Thursday, February 14, 2013

What will it cost you when interest rates rise?

one cool thing don't wait to buy

Valentine's History

Happy Valentine's Day
Victorian Image Valentine Cherub Hearts
Saint Valentine's Day, commonly known as Valentine's Day, or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is observed on February 14 each year. It is celebrated in many countries around the world, although it remains a working day in most of them.

St. Valentine's Day began as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints namedValentinus. The most popular martyrologyassociated with Saint Valentine was that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire; during his imprisonment, he is said to have healed the daughter of his jailer Asterius.

Legend states that before his execution he wrote "from your Valentine" as a farewell to her. Today, Saint Valentine's Day is an official feast day in theAnglican Communion, as well as in the Lutheran Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church also celebrates Saint Valentine's Day, albeit on July 6thand July 30th, the former date in honor of the Roman presbyter Saint Valentine, and the latter date in honor of Hieromartyr Valentine, the Bishop of Interamna (modern Terni).

The day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. By the 15th century, it had evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offeringconfectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as "valentines").

Valentine's Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Downton Abbey Comes to Santa Barbara!

Downton Abbey Tea Event to Sign the
"Free Bates" Petition!

at the Reeves Manor

22 Ladies gathered over a 
hearty Tea to discuss how to
"Free Mr. Bates"

Carsten and Lady LaVelle were 
to announce arriving guests!

Ladies Janice, Marilyn and Karolina
conspired to field the Petition

 Lady Suzette had her ear to the 
ground to round up witnesses

 As well said by the Dowager Violet, 
"Nothing spells success like excess!"

 Tea was prepared by the Staff

 such serious business 
requires sustenance!

Mrs. Patmore would have approved!
our hard work paid off!
Mr. Bates has been set free!

Monday, February 11, 2013

IRS Makes it easier to file for home office deduction

IRS making it easier to file for home office deduction
The new IRS option allows owners and employees who work from home to deduct $5 per square foot of home office space, up to a maximum of 300 square feet.
By Kenneth R. Harney
February 3, 2013
WASHINGTON — If you're one of the millions of homeowners and renters who work or run a business from the place you live, here's some good news on taxes: The Internal Revenue Service wants to make it easier for you to file for deductions on the business-related use of your home.
Rather than the complicated 43-line form you now have to fill out to claim a write-off — the instructions alone take up four pages of text and involve computations such as depreciation and utility bill expense allocations — the IRS has come up with a much simpler option: What it calls a "safe harbor" method that allows you to measure the square footage of your business space and apply for a deduction.
The move comes at a time when the use of homes for work is soaring, thanks to technologies such as high-speed Internet and Skype. In October the Census Bureau estimated that as of 2010, the last year when data were available, 13.4 million Americans were making some type of business use of their homes, and that home businesses employed nearly 10% of all workers. During the same year, the IRS says, 3.4 million taxpayers filed for the home office deduction. The sheer size of the gap raises the question: Are millions of people declining to seek write-offs for which they're qualified?
Kristie Arslan, chief executive of the National Assn. for the Self-Employed, thinks so. The IRS rules for home offices have been "cumbersome and time consuming," she said, "... and year after year hard-earned dollars were left on the table." Otherwise qualified business owners and entrepreneurs were daunted by the record-keeping and paperwork required. They also worried that they could be exposed to an audit by the IRS if they made mistakes in filing.
The new IRS option, which will be available for the 2013 tax year and beyond, allows owners and employees who work from home to deduct $5 per square foot of home office space a year, up to a maximum allowable space of 300 square feet. The write-off is capped at $1,500 per year, but the hassle factor is negligible.
Here's how it works. The Internal Revenue Code permits you to deduct expenses for a home office that is used "exclusively" and on a "regular basis" as your principal place of business "for any trade or business," or as a place to meet with clients or customers. Provided that you qualify on these threshold tests, the code allows you to deduct mortgage interest, property taxes, rent, utilities, hazard insurance and other expenses based on the percentage of the total space of the home that is attributable to your business use.
Although this method can produce sizable deductions, critics have long argued that the computations for some of the allowable items — depreciation on the house you own is one — can be tricky and require significant record-keeping and time expenditures to get it right. Plus the IRS has acknowledged that the presence of a home office deduction on a taxpayer's filing may increase that taxpayer's potential for being selected for audit.
The new streamlined approach essentially boils everything down to just one measurement: How much square footage that qualifies for business purpose treatment are you using? Multiply that number by $5 per square foot and you've got your deduction amount. As long as this does not exceed $1,500, you can use the new short form write-off. If the total is more than $1,500, you can use the more complicated option, which is spelled out in IRS Form 8829 and available at
The pros and cons of the new option? Abe Schneier, senior technical manager for taxation at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, says it should be a money-saver for small-scale enterprises and start-ups. "Anybody who's going to start a new business working from home will probably find this a great advantage," he said.
On the other hand, owners whose operations require large amounts of space and who have sizable utilities, insurance and other expenses probably will want to stick with the traditional method — complicated though it can be — because it can yield them much higher write-offs.
So take a look at how much time you're spending on business work in your home, review the basic rules outlined in IRS Publication 587, "Business Use of Your Home," and go with the smarter option for your situation.
Source: L.A. Times

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fabulous New Design Center in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Design Center
410 Olive Street, Santa Barbara

Today I stopped by the Home Improvement Center to pick
 up some plants for my garden, and as I was leaving the 
parking lot, I noticed the new SB Design Center 
across the street.

Who doesn't love to browse in a new store?
Here is what I found....

 A huge warehouse turned into a gorgeous new display

 of elegant, custom furniture

 of every style imaginable

 along with accessories for home and garden

 The owner, Michael Kourosh, informed me that

 the sofas are made to order, as are the rugs

 There is the enormous display of Rugs 'N More
My dining room has been graced by a beauty
from Rugs 'N More for a few years.


You may remember Michael's Store (Rugs "N More) 
on upper State Street?
This new location displays his stunning furnishings 
and rugs so much more elegantly. 
It is hard to leave without wanting to redo your home!
I've been told that Rugs 'N More provided 
most of the gorgeous rugs and carpeting in 
the refurbished Santa Barbara Biltmore Hotel.

Oh and by the way, in the spirit of full disclosure, this elegant space

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

2013 Go Red For Women Luncheon February 8th

2013 Go Red for Women Luncheon


The American Heart Association presents the Go Red for Women luncheon, an event to raise funds for research and initiatives preventing heart disease. The luncheon is the American Heart Association’s annual event to increase awareness of heart disease—the No. 1 cause of death for women—and inspire women to take charge of their health. This year, the Central Coast Division of the American Heart Association funded over $14 million in grants to researchers in the state of California. With these funds, we have advanced groundbreaking research and widespread education, giving women the knowledge and power to live a longer, healthier life.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Bacara Resort and Spa —Santa Barbara, California


Health Fair featuring Breakout Session:

Women’s Wealth and Health presented by Mission Wealth Management

Stroke Prevention presented by Dr. Silva

Lifestyle Change Award- Janet Garufis

Community Leadership Award- Betty Hatch

Tentative Schedule of Events:

Friday, February 8

10:00 am Health Fair and Breakout Sessions

12:00 pm Luncheon begins featuring salad provided by Whole Foods Market

12:15pm Program Begins

1:30 pm Event concludes and Women’s Festivals begin

for more information click here

About the American Heart Association:

Since 1915 the American Heart Association has reached millions and stood by their mission in “Building Healthier Lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.” Heart disease and stroke are the No. 1 and No. 3 killers in our nation. The American Heart Association’s goal is to help those in need through research education, patient care, and by advocating better health in our population. In addition to Heart Ball, the American Heart Association hosts the Heart Walk, Go Red for Women Luncheon and other opportunities to speak up in efforts to educate individuals and save lives. For more information visit our website at 

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Children's Birdhouse Workshop

February 23
10am -12pm

Bird House Workshop

 Children's Bird House Workshop
Join Judy Sanregret for this busy morning for the birds! We will have unfinished houses, feeders, and crafts to paint and take home for your feathered friends, while learning some fascinating bird facts.

Wear clothes suitable for arts and crafts. For children 5-12. Parents, grandparents, or caregivers welcome. Fee includes 2 birdhouses and 1 feeder per child. 
Saturday, February 23, 10:00am - 12:00pm

Fee: $5 member child under 13, $10 Adult member/ $5 non-member child, $15 non-member adult 
To register for any of the above classes, visit or call (805) 682-4726 ext. 102 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Artist Transforms Huge Tree Stump in Montecito

What do you do with a dead old
Tree Stump?

 Larry Lefner...he'll figure it out
start with a stump
Tree circumference19 feet, 18 feet tall.

get out the power tools and hard hat

chisel, brushes, scaffolding, ropes, etc.

amazing detail


The Humming Bird Cove

started September 2012,
worked five days a week.

  Here it is!  This is the largest outdoor sculpture Larry has ever been commissioned for.  This huge Sycamore tree is in Montecito, California at a local residence.  They requested flowers, hummingbirds and the foliage of a tree; and of course Larry can carve it!
About The Artist
Larry is an artist who defies categorization because his approach to creativity is constantly evolving. While working primarily with wood, Larry creates both fine and functional art that embraces a wide range of themes, from nature-scene architectural motifs to stand-alone abstract sculptures. Many residents of Sante Fe, New Mexico and Aspen, Colorado have collected his work during the forty years he has been a professional sculptor.

Some of Larry's most notable accomplishments in recent years include a monumental tree sculpture commissioned by Joshua Creek Ranch in Boerne, TX.  The entire story is documented on our blog page.  The Fly Fisherman Tree Sculpture commissioned by the town of Basalt is a favorite with locals in the Roaring Fork Valley, and the memorial sculptural bench in front of the Woody Creek Tavern is one more original Lefner.
Larry also has developed his own unique method of sculpting which is a composition of colorful hardwoods.  We call it Mosaic Sculpture.  It is a technique created by Larry alone.  Sometimes we describe it as 'mixed wood' sculpture. People think that these sculptures are painted, but the variety of colors actually belong to the different types of woods. These works of art are truly amazing to behold.

Larry also creates functional art such as doors, windows, carved beams and more.

To Contact Larry 

Telephone: 970.379.8636

to visit Larry's Website and see more of 
his amazing art, click here