Friday, March 29, 2013

Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens Photo Contest

Meadow with Poppies

The 3rd Annual Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens 
Photo Contest: 
March 1 to May 31, 2013 

Details: Photo contest is open to members and the public. 
Contest photos should celebrate California native plants. 
We hope you will share your photographic 
memories with the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden!

Submission Details: Please contact Tricia Wardlaw 
at or 805-682-4726 ext. 103 
for online submission information
 -or- mail a DVD or CD with your images to 
SBBG Photo Contest, 
1212 Mission Canyon Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93105 
along with your name and contact information.
Minimum digital image size for submission is 5 x 7 inches 
at print quality 240-300 dpi. 
You must own the rights to any photos you submit. 
By submitting your photo(s), you agree to allow the 
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden to
use your photo to promote the Garden 
and its mission through its social media outlets, 
website (, digital and print media. 
Visit our website for details:

Submissions will be accepted no later than May 31, 2013.

Photo Contest Categories:

California Native Plants in Your Garden
California Native Plants in the Wild
California Native Plants at SBBG

Photographs can be close-up, a field of flowers, 
or extra-wide, panoramic images
can include insects, birds and other animals
can be with or without people

Winners will receive prizes, winning photographs 
will be featured in an
upcoming Ironwood, the SBBG quarterly 
publication will appear on the
Garden’s website at, and at

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Botanic Garden Spring Plant Sale

Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens
Spring Plant Sale
Friday March 29 through Tuesday April 30

Spring Plant Sale With thousands of plants from the many habitats of California, the Garden's annual sales dwarf all other native plant events. Come for easy shopping as the Garden's courtyard is filled with a huge selection of manzanita, ceanothus, sage, and coral bells, to name just a few. A small number of Matilija poppy and flannel bush will be available. Iris will be in bud or bloom, allowing you a sneak peek at their beautiful colors before you buy!
On March 29, members receive an extra 5% off! Their total discount will be 15%. Be sure to  present your membership card and mention the discount on Friday only.

Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens
1212 Mission Canyon Road, Santa Barbara

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tax Tips from Zillow

Own a Home? Check Out These 8 Tax Breaks

Tax time clockTaxes are due April 15, which means it’s time to start gathering your W2s, 1099s, child care receipts and bank statements.
But before you sit down with your accountant, it’s important for you to know that merely owning a home could mean you qualify for tax breaks. In most cases, you need to itemize your taxes in order to take advantage of these deductions. Yes, it makes the tax-filing process seem impenetrable, but the benefits may outweigh the complications.
Here are a few of the tax breaks you’ll want to investigate:

Mortgage interest paid at settlement

Take a look at your closing statement; one item that’s generally listed there is home mortgageinterest. On a mortgage of up to $1 million, you can deduct the interest that you pay at settlement if you

itemize your deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040). This amount should be included in the mortgage interest statement provided by your lender.


Did you pay points in order to obtain your home mortgage? These fees are included on the income tax deductions list and can be deducted as long as they are associated with the purchase of a home. If you refinanced your home, these points are still deductible, but it must be done over the life of the mortgage.

Property taxes

As long as they are based on the assessed value of the real property, you can deduct your state and local property taxes. However, if your money is being held in escrow for the purpose of paying property taxes, you cannot claim this deduction until the money is actually taken out of escrow and paid. If you do this, check your Form 1098 for the amount you may deduct. Be aware that if you receive a partial refund of your property tax, the amount of the deduction you can claim will be reduced.

Selling costs

If you sold a home in the past year, you may be able to reduce your income tax by the amount of your selling costs. These costs can include things such as repairs, title insurance, advertising expenses and broker’s fees. The IRS only allows the deduction of repair costs associated with selling if the repairs were made within 90 days of the sale. It’s also crucial that the repairs were made with the intent of improving your home’s marketability. Selling costs are deducted from your gain on the sale.

Home office

If you use a portion of your home exclusively for the purpose of an office for your small business, you may be able to claim a deduction on your taxes for costs related to insurance, repairs and depreciation. You may only claim this deduction if the space within your home is used exclusively and regularly as either your principal place of business or a place where you meet and deal with customers or patients. You may also be able to take advantage of this deduction if a portion of your home routinely is used for storing items (product samples, inventory, etc.) used in your business.
In tax year 2010 (the most recent year for which figures are available) nearly 3.4 million taxpayers claimed the home office deduction.

Mortgage insurance premiums

You may be able to deduct the premiums paid for private mortgage insurance for your principal residence and for a non-rental second home.
The deduction begins to phase out once your adjusted gross income reaches $100,000 ($50,000 for married filing separately). In general, you can deduct the premiums paid for the current tax year only. A qualified tax adviser can provide information about rules for mortgage insurance provided by the Federal Housing Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs and Rural Housing Service.

Home improvement loan interest

If you’ve taken out a loan to make improvements on your home, you may be able to deduct the interest on this loan. Qualifying loans are those taken out to add “capital improvements” to your home, meaning the improvement must increase your home’s value, adapt it to new uses or extend its life. New carpeting or painting are not considered capital improvements, while adding a garage, installing a water heater or building a deck are all examples of capital improvements.

Construction loan interest

If you take out a construction loan to build a home, you may qualify to deduct the interest. The IRS only allows a deduction for mortgage interest if the loan relates to a “qualified” home, which means it must either be your principal residence or a vacation home that you will use for personal purposes. You can only use this deduction for the first 24 months of the loan, even if the actual construction takes longer.
Tax codes can be confusing. You may want to consult the IRS website for information concerning deductions and credits. Additionally, consider meeting with a professional to ensure you’re not missing any deductions for which you’re eligible.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Is YOUR home "Green?"

Green data lacking in listings for resold homes

Although most new homes come with energy certifications and ratings, the vast majority of resold homes do not. Some steps are being taken to change that.
By Kenneth R. Harney
March 22, 2013, 8:10 p.m.
WASHINGTON — When it comes to energy efficiency and "green" features in homes, there's a chasmal disconnect in the marketplace among consumers, real estate appraisers and the nation's realty sales system.
On the one hand, prospective buyers routinely tell researchers that they place high priority on energy-saving and environmentally friendly components in houses. The presence of high-efficiency systems in a home makes shoppers more interested in buying because they'll save money in the long run.
On the other hand, the vast majority of multiple listing services — the organizations that compile listings of local homes for sale — do not include so-called "green fields" in their data search forms to facilitate consumer shopping for homes with high-performance features. In addition, most real estate appraisers do not have training in the valuation of green homes and often do not — or cannot — factor in the economic values of expensive but money-saving components such as solar photovoltaic panels.
Two new research studies document consumers' strong appetites for energy efficiency and green features. A survey of 3,682 actual and prospective purchasers by the National Assn. of Home Builders found that 94% of respondents rated Energy Star appliances among their top several "most wanted" items out of 120 from which they could choose. Ninety-one percent said the same for new houses that came with Energy Star certifications on the total structure.
Energy Star is a federally backed set of energy-saving performance standards for a wide range of products including appliances, lighting, windows, doors, electronics, heating and cooling systems all the way up to and including newly built homes. The study also found that buyers would, on average, be willing to pay an additional $7,095 in the upfront cost of a house if that investment saved them $1,000 a year in utility expenses.
Meanwhile, a survey of buyers and sellers conducted by the National Assn. of Realtors found that 87% rated energy efficiency in heating and cooling as "very" or "somewhat" important to their choice of a home, while 71% said the same for energy-efficient appliances. The newer the house, the more important were energy-saving and green components.
Now here's the disconnect: Although most new homes come with energy certifications and ratings, the overwhelming majority of resold homes do not. For shoppers and purchasers who prefer to save on energy outlays, there's often little information in the formal listings search data on MLS systems to highlight houses with extensive green components.
Of the 860 multiple listing services nationwide, according to industry estimates, only about 210 have gone green — that is, included distinct sections of their standard listing formats for high-performance and sustainable features. Although there is an industry effort underway to include green fields as standard sections in MLS listings, adoption has been slow.
The lack of green fields, in turn, not only hampers buyers. Appraisers who search for "comps" — recently sold comparable houses — often are unable to readily distinguish those with significant energy efficiency investments from ordinary energy-guzzling homes. Worse yet, say industry critics such as Sandra K. Adomatis of Punta Gorda, Fla., most appraisers have no specific training in valuing high-performance or green features and tend to ignore them or undervalue them in their appraisal reports to lenders. This hurts sellers and buyers alike.
To help bridge the information gap, the country's largest appraisal professional group, the Appraisal Institute, recently released an updated "green addendum" that realty agents and sellers can use to call attention to the energy saving features of homes, especially in areas where the local MLS provides no separate green fields. Appraisers can attach the addendum to their standard appraisal reports as a way to justify additional value assigned to the house because of the cost-saving improvements.
Of special note, given the fast-growing popularity of solar panels and arrays, is a special section within the addendum that provides the appraiser access to an online tool — a "PV value" calculator developed by Sandia Labs and Energy Sense Finance — that estimates the incremental value the photovoltaic installation adds to the property based on a discounted cash flow model.
Bottom line for sellers with significant energy conservation investments: Make sure your realty agent gets them highlighted in the MLS listing. And make sure that the appraiser who is sent to value your property uses the green addendum and has adequate training to do the job. Otherwise the money you spent may not get the fair treatment it deserves in the valuation.
The addendum is available at
Source: Los Angeles Times

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Fireplace Safety Tips

Spring-time is the perfect time to get your fireplace inspected and make any necessary repairs so that it is all ready for next season and you won't be competing for service repair workers now.

Whether a fireplace is your primary way to stay warm or a supplement to your main heating system, enjoy the warmth in safety.

Please follow these fireplace safety tips to keep you safe and warm during the winter:
  • Whether you have a wood burning or gas fireplace, get your chimney inspected annually by a certified chimney specialist.
  • Make sure the mantel and area around the hearth is clear of debris, decorations and combustible materials.
  • Keep an eye on small children when a fire is burning, and keep them away from fireplace tools. Consider installing a childproof fireplace gate.
  • Never leave a fire unattended. Remember to put it out before leaving the house or going to bed.
  • Install smoke detectors on every floor of your house as well as inside and outside of bedrooms.
  • If your wood-burning fireplace has glass doors, leave them open when burning a fire. This helps ensure that the fire receives enough air and prevents creosote — a gummy substance created during the burning process — from building up in the chimney.
  • When the glass doors are open, make sure the metal mesh screen is closed. This will help contain the embers.
  • Never start a fire with flammable liquids. Never burn trash, debris or cardboard boxes.
  • Avoid using soft, moist wood, which accelerates the buildup of creosote. Use seasoned hardwood instead.
  • If you have an unvented gas fireplace, make sure you open at least one window for air circulation.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Which Remodel Project Brings the Best Resale Return?

Chart presented by the California
Association of Realtors

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Home Buyers Value Storage Space and more...

National Association Of Realtors Report Survey of Home Buyer's Preferences
Purchasing a home is an important life decision, and many factors can influence the home choices buyers make.
The National Association of Realtors® 2013 Profile of Buyers' Home Feature Preferences examines the features buyers prefer when it comes to purchasing a home, as well as the differences in preferences when it comes to factors such as region, demographics and household composition. The survey captures buyers who purchased a home between 2010 and 2012.
"Deciding where to live comes with a lot of options, but buyers quickly realize that some features are more important than others when it comes to choosing the right house for them," said NAR President Gary Thomas, broker-owner of Evergreen Realty, in Villa Park, Calif. "Buyers need to have a clear idea of what features are important to them and know where they are willing to compromise; in this respect, Realtors® can bring buyers home. Realtors® visit hundreds of homes with buyers each year, and have a unique understanding of what buyers value in their local markets."
Geography and demography strongly influence what buyers value in a home. The typical recently purchased home was 1,860 square feet and was built in 1996. Repeat buyers, buyers of new homes, married couples and families with children typically purchased larger homes. First-time buyers and single women tended to buy older homes. The typical buyer purchased a home with three bedrooms and two full bathrooms. Slightly over half of the homes purchased were on a single level.
Southerners tend to buy newer homes; they were more likely to want a home less than five years old and in a wooded lot with trees when compared to other regions. Not surprisingly, buyers in the South also placed a higher importance on central air conditioning.
While more than three-fourths -- 78 percent -- of all buyers purchased a home with a garage, garages were more popular among new-home buyers, Midwesterners, and suburbanites. Forty-one percent of homes purchased had a basement, but this feature was more popular among buyers in the Midwest and Northeast. Northeastern buyers also value hardwood floors more than people in other regions. Southerners typically bought the largest home at 2,000 square feet. Those in the Northeast followed closely behind with a typical home purchase of 1,850 square feet.
Among buyers 55 and older, 42 percent considered finding a single-level home very important, compared to just 11 percent of buyers under age 35. Single women also placed higher importance on single-level homes, while single men wanted finished basements. Both single men and married couples placed higher importance on new kitchen appliances.
Among all 33 home features in the survey, central air conditioning was the most important to the most buyers; 65 percent of buyers considered this feature very important. The next most important feature was a walk-in closet in the master bedroom; 39 percent of buyers considered this feature very important. Closely behind was having a home that was cable-, satellite TV-, and/or Internet ready, as well as an en-suite master bathroom. 
When it came to actually buying a home, among buyers who considered central AC and cable-, satellite TV-, and/or Internet ready very or somewhat important, 94 percent bought a home with these features. The next most common feature was an eat-in kitchen; 89 percent of buyers who thought this was important purchased a home with an eat-in kitchen.
Buyers value some features so much that they are willing to spend more money to have them. Sixty-nine percent of buyers who did not purchase a home with central AC would be willing to pay $2,520 more for a home with this feature. Sixty-nine percent of buyers who did not purchase a home with new kitchen appliances would be willing to pay $1,840 more for a home with this feature. A walk-in closet in the master bedroom was the third most common feature on which buyers would spend more. Sixty percent of buyers who did not purchase a home with a walk-in closet would be willing to pay $1,350 more for a home with this feature.
The features on which buyers placed the highest dollar value were waterfront properties and homes that were less than five years old. Thirty-two percent of buyers would be willing to pay a median of $5,420 more for a home on the waterfront, and 40 percent of buyers would be willing to pay a median of $5,020 more for a home that was less than five years old.
The rooms that buyers were willing to pay the most for were a basement and an in-law suite. Thirty-three percent of buyers would be willing to pay a median of $3,200 more for a home with a basement, and 20 percent of buyers would be willing to pay a median of $2,920 more for a home with an in-law suite.
When it came to rooms that buyers want in a home, 55 percent of buyers thought it was very important to have a living room, although buyers in the Northeast placed more importance on a home with a dining room. Buyers aged 55 and older placed more importance on a bedroom on the main level of the house. Buyers aged 35 to 54 placed more importance on a laundry room, while those with children placed more importance on a family room.
The two most common rooms buyers were willing to spend more for were a laundry room and a den/study/home office/library. Sixty-three percent of buyers who did not purchase a home with a laundry room would be willing to pay $1,590 more for a home with this room. Forty-four percent of buyers who did not purchase a home with a den/study/home office/library would be willing to pay $1,920 more for a home with this room.
Although 97 percent of recent buyers were satisfied with their home purchase, there are always features buyers would like that they don't have, said NAR Vice President of Research Paul Bishop. "Most satisfied homeowners still said they would like more or larger closets and storage space. In addition, nearly half of recent buyers would prefer a larger kitchen, and two out of five would prefer a larger home overall." 
Within three months of a home purchase, 53 percent of buyers undertook a home improvement project. The typical buyer spent $4,550 on various projects. Remodeling the kitchen was the most common home improvement project; 47 percent of buyers undertook a project in the kitchen. Bathrooms were a close second at 44 percent. Forty-one percent of buyers who made home improvements added or replaced lighting, and 37 percent added or replaced appliances soon after becoming a homeowner.
In October 2012, a sample of households that had purchased any type of residence real estate during 2010 to 2012 and still owned the property was surveyed. The survey sample was drawn from a representative panel of U.S. households monitored and maintained by an established survey research firm. A total of 2,005 qualified households responded to the survey. Households were sampled to meet age and income quotas representative of all home buyers drawn from the 2011 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.
The 2013 Profile of Buyers' Home Feature Preferences can be ordered by calling 800-874-6500, or online The study costs $14.95 for NAR members and $49.95 for non-members.
Source: NAR

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Spring Forward March 10th

Day Light Savings Time Begins Today

Be sure to turn your clock forward!
Today is Sunday, so if you get tired
because you lost an hour....
Just take a little cat nap!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Princess Day at the Santa Barbara Zoo

Saturday, March 9th
10:00 am - 3:00 pm
Come Visit The Santa Barbara Zoo

Princess Day
Saturday, March 9
10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Exclusive 9:00 a.m. entry for SB Zoo Members
They jump! They sing! They turn into princes (though extremely rarely). Celebrate the world’s many and varied frogs and amphibians. Meet Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and other princesses in person as they help celebrate frogs.
There are also frog-inspired crafts, games, and special animal appearances. All costumed princesses welcome – as are knights, pirates, and cowboys. Adults and older kids can learn how zoos and aquariums are working to save the world’s threatened amphibians.
Cost: Free with Zoo admission.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Santa Barbara International Orchid Show March 8-10

About the Show

The Santa Barbara International Orchid Show is one of the largest and oldest orchid shows in the United States. Visitors delight in exuberant displays of blooming orchids, with exhibits designed to each year’s show theme. A step into the Exhibit Hall is a step into the lush colors and fragrances of exotic, beautiful orchids.
In addition to the lavish garden displays of orchids for which the Show is famous, floral arrangements and corsages feature orchid blooms on an intimate scale. The artistically minded will enjoy the work of area artists showcased in the juried Art Show, managed by the Santa Barbara Art Association.

For visitors who wish to take home a souvenir, the extensive Vendor Hall hosts regional and international vendors selling blooming orchid plants, growing supplies, and orchid-related art. Visitors who wish to try growing their own orchid may benefit from the culture demonstrations available during the Show.
The Santa Barbara International Orchid Show, Inc., is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization with the purpose of sharing the joy of the orchid world and educating the public about orchids via its annual Show in March.

Come enjoy the fabulous world of orchids in beautiful Santa Barbara, California!

The popular Chinese brush painting artist Suemae Lin Willhite returns to the 2013 Santa Barbara International Orchid Show. Suemae's orchid paintings give a fresh, modern sensibility to a timeless technique. Come see her demonstrate her painting style at the Show! Suemae will be in the Exhibit Hall from 11 am to 3 pm on Saturday, March 9, 2013 and Sunday, March 10, 2013.

Monday, March 4, 2013


1st Thursday - March 7 
1st Thurs
Visit Downtown Santa Barbara from 5-8pm on Thursday, March 7th for your free monthly dose of art, culture, music and fun! More than 35 cultural venues will stay open late to showcase new exhibits, artist receptions, musical performances, lectures, demonstrations and fun activities. This month's theme isDance.

State Street comes alive this month with outdoor performances by:
  • Kat Devlin, SBMA Corner, Anapamu and State Streets
  • Panzumo, Marshall's Patio, 900 State Street
  • Santa Barbara Dance Alliance, Paseo Nuevo Center Court, 5-7pm
For more information on participating March venues visit
1st Thursday  or contact Kim.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sold your home? Here are some Moving Tips

Operation Moving Day
A Moving Experience
Moving this summer? Join the club-with warmer weather and school around the corner, it's typically the busiest moving season of the year. Here's how to cut the stress and make your move a smooth one.
Months Ahead
Planning ahead will cut headaches. Remember: you're not the only one moving, and the early booker gets the worm (or the coveted 10 a.m. elevator slot).
  • Gather moving supplies (boxes, tape, tissue or newspaper, heavy black markers).
  • Pack out-of-season clothes, sports equipment and tools you won't need anytime soon.
  • Mercilessly "edit" your belongings and donate, sell and discard things you no longer use or which are broken beyond repair.
  • Book the moving van. (Do this after you've edited your belongings to get a more precise price estimate.)
  • Contact utilities and other home-service providers, to arrange for cutoff of service the day after your move, and to set up service at your new address.
  • Contact your kids' old and new schools to have academic records forwarded, and enroll for fall.
  • If moving in or out of a high-rise, book the freight elevator.
Two to Four Weeks Ahead
  • Ask a trusted friend or relative to watch your kids on Moving Day (drop them off the night before). This will make the move easier for you and safer for them.
  • Book overnight Moving Day boarding of pets at the vet or kennel (or with friends).
  • Pack in earnest. Be sure to mark boxes so you know what's inside, ie. "Kitchen-Countertop Appliances," "Dining room: good china, 1 of 3 boxes." When packing outdoor items make sure they are dry first, to avoid the onset of mold.
One Week Ahead
  • Set aside a special area for the boxes and bags that you plan to bring with you in your own vehicle. Make signs that say "MOVE BY CAR, NOT VAN"
  • Pack essential paperwork (passports, I.D., legal and house-related documents) and small valuables to carry in your own vehicle.
  • If your hard drive contains info you can't afford to lose, pack your computer for the car. (Liability by the movers is typically limited to the purchase value of the computer, not its contents.)
  • Pack new-home and day-after essentials in boxes labeled "LOAD LAST, 1 of 3," etc. These should be the last onto the truck, and the first off, so set them aside in their own special spot at the new place. Contents might include toiletries, coffee and coffeemaker, toaster, pet supplies and kids' toys.
Move Day Checklist
  • Exchange cell phone numbers with movers
  • Once contents are out, do at least two walk-throughs looking for any forgotten items
  • Sweep and throw out trash
  • Close all windows and turn off lights, close all gates
  • Leave keys with superintendent (tenants) or lawyer (homeowners)
  • Start unpacking, beginning with "essentials" boxes, and then things used most often, which is why precise labeling at the packing stage is very important!

(from American Home Shield Home Warranty Company Newsletter)