By Jondi Gumz
Is everyone who sells their home in Santa Cruz County as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes a millionaire? With seven out of 10 homes sales in April being for more than $1 million, it feels that way.
Home prices have been hot for months, with a median price touching and surpassing $1 million, and in April, the median — the midpoint of what sold – was $1,281,000 — a new record, according to Gary Gangnes of Real Options Realty, who tracks the numbers.
Of the 205 sales, 143 sold for $1 million or more — 70 percent, the most ever.
A pattern of bidding more than the list price, seen in March, escalated:
- 60% sold for more than $50,000 over asking price.
- 43% sold for more than $100,000 over asking price.
- 17% sold for more than $200,000 over asking price.
A home in Live Oak priced at $999,000 attracted 31 offers, 13 being all-cash, according to broker Datta Khalsa, leaving 30 would-be buyers searching.
The reasons, same as in March, are low interest rates, about 3 percent, and rising prices motivating work-at-home Silicon Valley tech employees to buy their new home — and office — here in Santa Cruz County, where they are closer to the beach and redwoods.
Fewer people are willing to sell –once you sell, can you find another home? — so listings as of the first week of May were at an all-time low — 311 — compared to the 25-year average of 792. With 125 listings in escrow, only 186 are active, hardly enough to meet the demand from people who tried to buy and lost out to a lot of people putting in higher bids.
Gangnes sees these conditions as temporary but I’m not so sure.
Longtime agent Tom Brezsny at Sereno concludes this crazy market is a symptom of how the coronavirus has changed the world, a “let’s live in the moment” call to action.
After more than a year of life crimped to knock out the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected 16,169 people locally, took 206 lives, and Santa Cruz County is in the Yellow Tier — the fewest restrictions — and the governor promises the state will “open up” on June 15.
What does that mean, exactly? For one, state health officials will end weekend and holiday COVID-19 updates.
The county is closing its Wednesday mass vaccination clinic at the county fairgrounds, switching to a strategy of smaller no-appointment needed pop-up vaccination clinics.
Some business owners are more optimistic about the future, like Zach Davis and Kendra Baker, who announced they will open The Penny Ice Creamery this summer in The Hangar, the new building built by Corbett Wright and Rob Stuart behind the drive-through Starbucks on Mount Hermon Road.
Bob Slawinski, owner of the Green Hills Event Center in Scotts Valley, invested in improved ventilation for COVID safety and hopes to book gatherings.
Scotts Valley is bringing back the 4th of July parade in Scotts Valley, organized by City Council member Donna Lind. She needs volunteers, and artists who apply to participate by June 15 get a discount on the fee.
Cabrillo Stage in Aptos will present musicals outdoors in July.
The Santa Cruz County Fair organizers are hopeful while waiting for guidance on events of that size, but Felton Music Hall, the Brookdale Lodge and Michael’s on Main are open and presenting live music.
The Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History hosted an in-person Memorial Day remembrance with a self-guided walk-through at Evergreen Cemetery replacing a ceremony where hundreds of attendees sat close together for an hour.
Big Job Spurt
With 15,889 recovered COVID-19 cases, only 74 active cases, 136,000 negative test results and 307,000 vaccinations, the pandemic outlook in Santa Cruz County is improving big-time with businesses adding 2,700 jobs between mid-March and mid-April, boosting the total to 98,600.
Agriculture added 1,600 jobs and hospitality — food service and hotels — added 600. Both sectors were hard hit by COVID.
The unemployment rate dropped from 8.1 percent to 7.7 percent in April, with 3,000 people taking themselves out of the workforce — and 10,000 remain out of work even though everyone from Penny Ice Creamery to CVS is hiring, with McDonald’s on Ocean Street in Santa Cruz offering $15 an hour.
Moms were still at home overseeing schooling for their kids and the extra $300 a week in jobless benefits until Sept. 6 from American Rescue Plan kept some out of the work force.
Santa Cruz County, with 1.3 cases per 100,000, is one of 15 in the Yellow Tier, while Monterey County, with 1.9 cases per 100,000, remains one of 35 in the Orange Tier and must post a case rate below 2 for a second week to join Santa Cruz County.
The Yellow Tier allows 50% capacity at restaurants, gyms, saunas, dance and yoga studios, wineries, breweries and bowling alleys and larger attendance at outdoor events such as school graduations.
Test positivity was .5 percent in Santa Cruz County, below the 2 percent the Yellow Tier requires.
Research from 280 nursing homes in 21 states found vaccines protect residents — only 1 percent of residents tested positive for the virus within two weeks after their second dose.
Restaurant Money Gone
Restaurants rushed the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund created by the American Rescue Plan and the Small Business Administration stopped taking applications May 24 after three weeks.
Restaurants, bars, and other businesses providing on-site food and drink submitted 266,000 applications seeking $65 billion, a “huge shortfall,” according to headline in the online Journal of Accountancy.
Congress set aside $5 billion for businesses with 2019 gross receipts under $500,000, and the SBA set aside $500 million for small businesses like food carts and food trucks with receipts under $50,000; and $4 billion for those with receipts between $500,000 and $1.5 million.
It wasn’t enough.
Applications came in from 13,114 businesses making less than $50,000 requesting $330 million; 100,410 from businesses with less than $500,000 requesting $8.14 billion; and 61,535 applicants from businesses with between $500,000 and $1.5 million requesting $15.1 billion.
This indicates the economic experts advising Congress badly underestimated the pandemic’s impact on restaurants, food trucks and food carts.
The Rescue Plan allocated $16 billion for Shuttered Venues Operator Grants, a first for the SBA, but it’s not clear how many Santa Cruz County venues – many closed for a year — might get funding.
A $50 assist in paying for Internet also was included in the American Rescue Plan for people using food stamps or Medicaid and households with a child getting free school lunch and households who lost a job or was furloughed and make less than $99,000, single, and $198,00 for joint filers. The program ends when the money runs out. Check your status at getemergencybroadband.org.
On May 10, federal regulators granted emergency use authorization for the two-shot Pfizer vaccine, for kids ages 12 to 15, following clinical trials for that age group. There is no approved vaccine for younger children, but there is little evidence of spread by young school-age children.
The Santa Cruz County Office of Education will present an update on student support 6-8 p.m. Monday, June 14, with Spanish translation. Watch for details at santacruzcoe.org/
Santa Cruz County health officials have prioritized equity, allocating 60 percent of its doses for the greater Watsonville area and its Latinx community, which has seen the most cases.
On April 27, the federal Centers for Disease Control issued guidelines on wearing masks to prevent COVID spread, saying fully vaccinated people can skip the mask outdoors — unless they’re in a big crowd.
President Joe Biden told the Associated Press, “If you’re vaccinated, you can do more things.”
California is expected to sync its mask guidance with federal guidelines on June 15.
Most health providers offering free vaccine are on MyTurn.ca.gov.
Federally qualified health care centers such as Salud Para La Gente and Santa Cruz Community Health are not using MyTurn, so to get an appointment there, go to santacruzhealth.org, click on vaccines.
COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 62,000 Californians.
Deaths in Santa Cruz County have leveled off at 206, with 50 percent of deaths at nursing homes and assisted living facilities, a percentage that was higher early in the pandemic.
Locally, 78 percent of those who died were age 70 or older and 78 percent had other health conditions — those percentages have remained stable.
A year after the pandemic began, case rates have plummeted statewide with 37.5 million vaccine doses administered.
On Monday, Santa Cruz County reported two people hospitalized with COVID, none in intensive care.
County COVID Deaths: 206
As of May 31
90 and up: 56 • 80 to 89: 63 • 70 to 79: 43 • 60 to 69: 27 • 50 to 59: 5 • 40 to 49: 7 • 30 to 39: 5
White: 114 • Latinx: 75 • Asian: 15 • Black: 1 • Amer. Indian/Alaskan Native: 1
Yes: 160 • No: 46
Male: 102 • Female: 104
Skilled Nursing/Residential Care
Santa Cruz Post Acute: 20 • Watsonville Post Acute: 18 • Pacific Coast Manor: 14 • Hearts & Hands Post Acute: 8 • Sunshine Villa: 7 • Aegis: 4 • Maple House 1: 4 • Valley Convalescent: 4 • Watsonville Nursing Center: 4 • Montecito Manor: 3 • De Un Amor: 2 • Dominican Oaks: 2 • Driftwood: 2 • Hanover House: 2 • Maple House II: 2 • Rachelle’s Home 1: 2 • La Posada: 1 • Paradise Villa: 1 • Rachelle’s Home II: 1 • Valley Haven: 1 • Westwind: 1
Not at a facility: 103
COVID Cases by Town
Aptos: 814 • Ben Lomond: 126 • Boulder Creek: 154 • Capitola: 458 • Felton: 158 • Freedom: 996 • Santa Cruz: 3,969 • Scotts Valley: 446 • Soquel: 361 • Watsonville: 8,150
Unincorporated: 256 • Under investigation: 281
Source: Santa Cruz County Public Health
Editor’s Note: Would you like to share your family’s COVID-19 story? Email Jondi Gumz at [email protected] or call 831-688-7549 x17.
See what can open in the Yellow Tier at covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy.
*Fewer than before because of data cleanup