Living in the mountains comes with so many benefits - privacy, tranquility, peace, you name it. Mountain lifestyle, and mountain properties are a little bit different. Here are some things to keep in mind while you are searching for real estate in the mountains here in Santa Cruz County.
1. Consider your commute
Many times if you are looking for properties in the Santa Cruz Mountains, you are looking for space and privacy. Typically that means your commute may be a little bit longer. So, many times you will live 10+ minutes from any store. For some people coming from a place more centrally located, that can be a bit of a shock. Typically there will be no amenities within walking distance. Consider what your trade offs are though, do you get more land? Do you get tranquility? Privacy? It comes down to what the trade offs mean to you and the lifestyle you want to have.
2. What is the access like?
In the Santa Cruz Mountains it is par for the course to have windy, sometimes narry, single lane, or even dirt/gravel roads. Consider what that will be like when you are driving at all times of day and through all the different types of weather. Many times there will be a steep driveway, or perhaps a blind corner in or out. Also keep in mind the different points in and out, in an emergency what are the options?
3. Fire Prevention
Our county was recently hit with a devastating fire, and regardless, living in the mountains surrounded by trees means fire prevention should be top of mind. Consider what upkeep is necessary to keep your home safe, and what the options are in an emergency.
With mountain living can come additional maintenance - there are septics, wells, tree canopies, drainage, road clearing, tree care, etc to consider.
Septics can be great systems - you just have to properly care for them. Be sure to consult with your inspector about maintaining your system. A good rule of thumb is not putting anything down the drains besides toilet paper and having the system pumped every 5-7 years ( that varies depending on area, soil type, type of system, etc, so consult with a septic professional)
If there is a well on the property it is important to make sure the storage tank stays clean and uncontaminated and if there is any type of pressure tank or pump they stay operational. You’ll also want to periodically test the water to ensure the water quality
You will want to be sure to maintain the proper tree maintenance, being aware of the overal health of the trees around you as well as making sure the structure is safe without several branches overhanging. If branches overhang the home that means dirty gutters or worse, falling limbs onto your roof.
Being very aware of where the water goes in a storm is very important. You want to make sure that water does not enter the home, or undermine the foundation and also want to be sure that excess water runoff is not causing issues with the integrity of a hillside, among other things.
Living in the mountains, many times people drive around with a chainsaw in their cars because in a storm if a tree falls, you may be the only one out there to clear it.
These are just some of the examples of additional maintenance, but again, everything is a trade off. Life in the mountains is incredibly fulfilling, but it takes a bit of grit.
5. Sun Exposure
You’ll want to keep in mind when you are buying ( is it the summer when the sun is the best?) and consider what the sun will be at different times of the year. In mountainous areas, unless you are at the ridge, sometimes sun can be limited.
6. What do you want to actually use the property for?
This one can sneak up on you if you don’t articulate exactly what your goals or expectations are with a property. If you plan to buy a property and use it as a retreat, for example, or to put yurts/tiny homes, run a business,etc, it’s important to talk to a land use consultant or the county offices directly to ensure the land use and zoning will allow for it. You would be surprised, sometimes what seems simple can be complicated.
7. Read the disclosures + Inspections and/or get your own!
If you take away anything from this… let it be this. GET INSPECTIONS. Home ownership is a great investment, and at the same time it is important for you to have an understanding of the components and general condition in order to budget and plan. For example:
Many of these properties will have septic systems, these can be costly, complicated and time consuming to repair or replace so you will want to know the condition before you buy one.
Wells - having your own private source of water is great! You still want to know the production level ( the gallons per minute) and what is actually in the water. You can test for the GPM as well as having a bacteria and mineral test that can tell you 1) if it is safe to drink and 2) if the water should be treated for other reasons ( having hard water for example)
Pest inspections: These not only cover things like termites, but also will point out some plumbing leaks, fungus growth and dry rot damage ( among other things). These items can be some of the more big ticket items, and is SO important to have.
General Home inspection - why I love these is because this is a general overview telling you ultimately if the inspector notices any red flags and what you should look further into. Also, I always tell my clients to ask the inspector if this was THEIR house, what would be the first thing they did after buying it. It is usually pretty telling :-)
The list goes on, but be sure to have some understanding of what you are buying - this is your investment.