MONTECITO, Calif., Jan. 29, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Just over one year ago, Montecito, an affluent California enclave neighboring Santa Barbara and often referred to as "Beverly Hills North," endured a raging wildfire followed by torrential rains and, ultimately, a deadly landslide. The massive debris flow destroyed or damaged hundreds of multi-million-dollar homes and took nearly two dozen lives. Montecito resident and veteran Realtor Cristal Clarke, whose home was threatened and who lost a friend and colleague in the tragedy, reflects on the resulting impact on, and recovery of Montecito's real estate market.
"Immediately after the tragedy, we experienced a large amount of uncertainty in the local market, as would be expected," Clarke recalls. "No one knew what the long-term ramifications would be. Some property owners simply relocated to Santa Barbara and Hope Ranch as safe havens. Whether this will be short- or long-term has yet to be determined, but we've seen an influx of those property owners come back to the Montecito marketplace."
Whereas the number of homes for sale dropped nearly 20% in the first months after the disaster, inventory was reduced to just 1% by the third quarter. The number of homes sold in the community during 2018 was down only 7% overall compared to 2017. In fact, 2018 sales in Montecito's luxury property category, defined as homes priced at $10 million and above, increased by 50% over the two previous years.
One of those luxury homes was listed by Clarke, who also represented the buyer. Altogether, she had approximately $40 million under contract in December, which included five properties. Needless to say, those sales as well as previous ones made her feel optimistic, which she shared in her 2018 year-end newsletter, stating, "Despite the many challenges . . . 2018 ended strongly and has allowed us to move into 2019 with momentum and positivity."
It is difficult to imagine the full extent of damage a 20+ mph, 15-foot-high wall of mud, large trees and boulders the size of cars can do to a community. The unprecedented task of clean-up and recovery began immediately and involved local, state and federal agencies, as well as significant support and assistance from residents and grass-roots groups and organizations.
"I think it's fair to say certain areas of Montecito are still recovering," says Clarke. "However, there has been substantive growth in the community overall; from sales the second half of the year, and as businesses start to get a stronger foothold and consumers become more active. The re-opening of the [Four Seasons] Biltmore Resort was a milestone for visitors to reenter the community. The San Ysidro Ranch is not far behind, and the opening of the new Rosewood Miramar Beach Resort Hotel, expected in the next month or so, all add to the momentum and positivity."
When asked what her secret to professional survival has been during the past year, Clarke doesn't hesitate to share her long-standing philosophy of success. "As always, hard work and positivity are the key elements when dealing with any adversity," she says. "I've always been, and will continue to be, community focused." Clarke is also quick to give credit to potential buyers and sellers. "Yes, we've had to hold a few hands, but, overall, buyers and sellers have been 100% behind our community. They tend to see last year's event as a one-time occurrence. People from all over the country have said, 'We saw how Montecito has come together and we want to be a part of a community like that.'"
Cristal Clarke may be reached via her Montecito Estate website.
SOURCE Cristal Clarke