The Blue Heron Realty Blog

Nov. 11, 2021

Market Update: November 2021

Here is your November 2021 San Luis Obispo housing market update.

Today we wanted to cover a couple of things in our November 2021 market update. First, I’d like to thank you for all the wonderful referrals and online reviews we get. Also, remember we’re having our annual movie event on December 4, at 9 a.m. at the Fremont Theater. We weren’t able to do it last year, so we’re excited to start that up again.

Inventory is down 36% compared to last year, but our pending and closed sales are also down about 24%. That’s the slowdown you’re hearing about. The number of new homes coming on the market is up 15%, but that is based on a very small number, so it’s not that big. 

Twice as many homes sold as homes that came on the market to replace them, so our market will continue to be strong, but it won't be as one-sided as it has been. With that change, it means there will have to be a lot more compromise between buyers and sellers if both sides want to achieve their goals. We’ve seen a lot of homes fall out of escrow recently, and when those sellers put their homes back on the market, they aren’t getting the same price. That means if you have a good buyer with a reasonable offer, you might want to compromise more and make sure the sale closes.


Interest rates have a huge impact on the cost of housing


Now, why would you buy in today’s market? I think people get caught up with the price of real estate instead of the cost. Last month I talked about a home that was bought 20 years ago for $520,000 and sold recently for $1,248,000. The seller feels great about that, but how does the buyer feel today? 

Interest rates were 7% 20 years ago, and now they are 3%. The average income in our county is up 82% in that same time, so the person who bought that home today is paying a smaller portion of their income than the person who bought it 20 years ago. Interest rates have a huge impact on the cost of housing. That’s why this market is continuing strong, but we don’t know how long those rates will last. 

If you have any questions, feel free to call us at (805) 781-3750 or visit our new website. We look forward to hearing from you.


Posted in Real Estate
Nov. 8, 2021

Why San Luis Obispo Is Still a Great Place To Buy

Here’s an October update on our San Luis Obispo's real estate market.

Today we’re going to talk about what’s going on in the market, and we also wanted to address an elephant in the room about real estate these days. Let’s start with the statistics:

  • Our inventory is down 43%. There are simply not enough homes.
  • Our sales are down 10% as well. This is the first of two or three months where we’ve seen these sales dropping a little bit. Demand isn’t quite where it was, and prices have risen outside the affordable range of most buyers. We should start to see the market stabilize because of this. 
  • For the first nine months this year, our sales were up 25% from 2020. This makes sense when you remember that last year, there was a lockdown around that time, so it was an easy figure to top.
  • We had 111 new listings and 230 to 250 homes moved to escrow. This is really low. Again, we just don’t have enough homes.

Now to the elephant: Is this a good time to buy, or is it a bubble? There is never really a bad time to buy as long as it’s in the right location. How does San Luis compare to other locations? The weather is nice here, we have beautiful beaches and mountains, our traffic isn’t that bad, we’re one of the nicest places on earth, we have a top-notch university, our wineries are unbelievable, and we’ve even gotten a lot more jobs and industry (not to mention that remote working makes this less necessary). Is this a good time to buy? In this location, yes.


There is never really a bad time to buy as long as it’s in the right location.


Let me give you an example: A tiny condo on Laurel Lane sold for $164,000 20 years ago. That same condo closed today for $426,000, more than two times what it was initially worth. Another house on McCollum, which was $520,000 20 years ago, sold for $1,248,000. These were both fantastic investments.


This isn’t a bubble, and over time, you will get value from your property. I feel blessed to be working in such an amazing area. I hope you get to participate in this market. If you have any questions, give us a call at 805.781.3750. We would love to be a resource for you.


Posted in Market Information
May 4, 2020

20 Ways to Save Money and Stretch Your Household Budget

These days, it seems like everyone’s looking for ways to cut costs and stretch their income further. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce your household expenses without making radical changes to your standard of living. When combined, these small adjustments can add up to significant savings each month.


Here are 20 things you can start doing today to lower your bills, secure better deals, and begin working toward your financial goals.


  1. Refinance Your Mortgage - For prime borrowers, mortgage rates are at or near historic lows. Depending on your current mortgage rate and the terms you choose, refinancing could save you a sizable amount on your monthly payments. There are fees and closing costs associated with refinancing, so you’ll need to talk to your lender to find out if refinancing is a good option for you.


  1. Evaluate Your Insurance Policies - If it’s been a while since you priced home or auto insurance, it may be worthwhile to do some comparison shopping. Get quotes from at least three insurers or independent agents. Try bundling your policies to see if there’s a discount. And inquire about raising your deductible, which should lower your premium.1


  1. Bundle Cable, Phone, and Internet - You can also save money by bundling your cable, phone, and internet services together. Shop around to see who is willing to give you the best deal. If switching is too much of a hassle, ask your current provider to match or beat their competitor’s offer.


  1. Better Yet, Cut the Cord on Cable - In many cases, you can save even more if you cancel your cable subscription altogether. An antenna should give you access to the major stations and many of your favorite shows are probably available on-demand through a less expensive streaming service subscription.


  1. Revisit Your Wireless Plan - You can often save by switching from a big brand to an independent, low-cost carrier. If that’s not feasible, ask your current provider for a better deal or consider downgrading to a cheaper plan.


  1. Adjust Your Thermostat - Turning your thermostat up or down a few degrees can have a noticeable impact on your monthly heating and cooling costs. To maximize efficiency, change your filters regularly, and make sure your windows and doors are well insulated.


  1. Use Less Hot Water - After heating and cooling, hot water accounts for the second-largest energy expense in most homes.2 To cut back, repair any leaks or dripping faucets, install low-flow fixtures, only run your dishwasher when full, and wash clothes in cold water when possible.


  1. Lower Overall Water Consumption - To decrease your water usage, take shorter showers, and turn off the sink while you brush your teeth and wash your hands. If you don’t have a low-flow toilet, retrofit your current one with a toilet tank bank or fill cycle diverter. And irrigate your lawn in the morning or an evening to minimize evaporation.3


  1. Conserve Electricity - Save electricity by shutting off your computer at night and installing energy-efficient LED light bulbs. You can minimize standby or “vampire” power drain by utilizing power strips and unplugging idle appliances.4


  1. Purchase a Home Warranty - While there is an upfront cost, a home warranty can provide some protection and peace of mind when it comes to unexpected home repair costs. Most plans provide coverage for major systems (like electrical, plumbing, and HVAC) and appliances (such as your dishwasher, stove, or refrigerator).


  1. Outsource Less - From lawn care to grocery shopping to minor home repairs, we pay people to do a lot of things our parents and grandparents did themselves. To save money, try cutting back on the frequency of these services or taking some of them on yourself.


  1. Prepare Your Own Meals - It costs nearly five times more to have a meal delivered than it does to cook it at home.5 And home cooking doesn’t just save money; it’s healthier cuts down on calorie consumption and can offer a fun activity for families to do together.


  1. Plan Your Menu in Advance - Meal planning is deciding before you shop what you and your family will eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It can help you lower your overall food bill, eliminate waste, and minimize impulse purchases. When possible, buy produce that is in season, and utilize nutrient-rich but inexpensive protein sources like eggs, beans, ground turkey, and canned tuna.


  1. Plant a Garden - You can save even more on produce by growing it yourself. If you have space in your yard, start-up costs are relatively minimal. Gardening can be a rewarding and enjoyable (not to mention delicious) hobby for the whole family. And it could save you around $600 per year at the grocery store!6


  1. Review Memberships and Subscriptions - Are you paying for services and subscriptions you no longer need, want, or can utilize? Determine if there are any that you should suspend or cancel.


  1. Give Homemade Gifts - Who wouldn’t appreciate a scratch birthday cake or tin of cookies? And if you enjoy crafting, Pinterest and Instagram are full of inspiring ideas. Show your recipient how much you care with a homemade gift from the heart.


  1. Minimize Your Debt Payments - The best way to reduce a debt payment is to pay down the balance. But if that’s not an option right now, try to negotiate a better interest rate. If you have a good credit score, you may be able to qualify for a balance transfer to a 0% or low-interest rate credit card. Keep in mind, the rate may expire after a certain period—so be sure to read the fine print.


  1. Get a Cash-back Credit Card - If you regularly pay your credit card balance in full, a cash-back credit card can be a good way to earn a little money back each month. However, they often come with high-interest rates and fees if you carry a balance. Commit to only using it for purchases you can afford.


  1. Ask for Deals and Discounts - It may feel awkward at first, but becoming a master haggler can save you a lot of money. Many companies are willing to negotiate under the right circumstances. Always inquire about special promotions or incentives. See if they are able to price match (or beat) their competitors. And if an item is slightly defective or nearing its expiration date, ask for a discount.


  1. Track Your Household Budget - One of the most effective ways to reduce household expenses is to set a budget—and stick to it. A budget can help you see where your money is going and identify areas where you can cut back. By setting reasonable limits, you’ll be able to reach your financial goals faster.



Want more help getting a handle on your finances? Use the budget worksheet below to track income and expenses—and start working towards your financial goals today! Please reach out to me for a downloadable version.








Mortgage/taxes/insurance or Rent




Utilities (electricity, water, gas, trash)




Phone, internet, cable




Home maintenance and repairs














Car payment/insurance




Gas, maintenance, repairs





Health insurance




Clothing and personal care












Gifts and charitable contributions




Savings, retirement, college fund









Tips and other





Total Actual Income


Total Actual Expenses







We would love to help you meet your financial goals. Whether you want to refinance your mortgage, save up for a down payment, or simply find lower-cost alternatives for home repairs, maintenance, or utilities, we are happy to provide our insights and referrals. And if you have plans to buy or sell a home this year, we can discuss the steps you should be taking to financially prepare. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation!



The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be financial advice. Consult a financial professional for advice regarding your individual needs.





1.     Insurance Information Institute -

2.     Department of Energy -

3.     Money Crashers -

4.     Harvard University -

5.     Forbes -

6.     Money -

April 10, 2020

How to Create Functional Spaces in Your Home During the Coronavirus Outbreak





Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), many of us are spending a lot more time at home. We’re all being called upon to avoid public spaces and practice social distancing to help slow the spread of this infectious disease. While it can be understandably challenging, there are ways you can modify your home and your lifestyle to make the best of this difficult situation.


Here are a few tips for creating comfortable and functional spaces within your home for work, school, and fitness. We also share some of our favorite ways to stay connected as a community, because we’re all in this together … and no one should face these trying times alone.



Begin with the Basics


A basic home emergency preparedness kit is a great addition to any home, even under normal circumstances. It should include items like water, non-perishable food, a flashlight, first aid kit, and other essentials you would need should you temporarily lose access to food, water, or electricity.


Fortunately, authorities don’t anticipate any serious interruptions to utilities or the food supply during this outbreak. However, it may be a good time to start gathering your emergency basics in a designated location, so you’ll be prepared now-—and in the future—should your family ever need them.


Ready to start building an emergency kit for your home? Contact us for a free copy of our Home Emergency Preparation Checklist!



Working From Home


Many employees are being asked to work remotely. If you’re transitioning to a home office for the first time, it’s important to create a designated space for work … so it doesn’t creep into your home life, and vice versa. If you live in a small condominium or apartment, this may feel impossible. But try to find a quiet corner where you can set up a desk and comfortable chair. The simple act of separating your home and work spaces can help you focus during work hours and “turn off” at the end of the day.


Of course, if you have children who are home with you all day (given many schools and daycares are now closed), separating your home and work life will be more difficult. Unless you have a partner who can serve as the primary caregiver, you will need to help manage the needs of your children while juggling work and virtual meetings.


If both parents are working from home, try alternating shifts, so you each have a designated time to work and to parent. If that’s not an option, experts recommend creating a schedule for your children, so they know when you’re available to play, and when you need to work.1 A red stop sign on the door can help remind them when you shouldn’t be disturbed. And for young children, blocking off a specific time each day for them to nap or have independent screen time can give you a window to schedule conference calls or work uninterrupted.



Homeschooling Your Children


Many parents with school-aged children will be taking on a new challenge: homeschooling. Similar to a home office, designating a space for learning activities can help your child transition between play and school. If you’re working from home, the homeschooling area would ideally be located near your workspace, so you can offer assistance and answer questions, as needed.


If possible, dedicate a desk or table where your child’s work can be spread out—and left out when they break for meals and snacks. Position supplies and materials nearby so they are independently accessible, and place a trash can and recycling bin within reach for easy cleanup. A washable, plastic tablecloth can help transition an academic space into an arts and crafts area.


 If the weather is nice, try studying outside! A porch swing is a perfect spot for reading, and gardening in the backyard is a great addition to any science curriculum.


In addition to creating an academic learning environment, find age-appropriate opportunities for your children to help with household chores and meal preparation. Homeschooling advocates emphasize the importance of developing life skills alongside academic ones.2 And with more meals and activities taking place at home, there will be ample opportunity for every family member to pitch in and help.



Staying Fit


With gyms closed and team sports canceled, it can be tempting to sit on the sofa and binge Netflix. However, maintaining the physical health and mental wellness of you and your family is crucial right now. Implementing a regular exercise routine at home can help with both.


If you live in a community where you can safely exercise outdoors while maintaining the recommended distance between you and other residents, try to get out as much as possible. If the weather is nice, go for family walks, jogs, or bike rides.


Can’t get outside? Fortunately, you don’t need a home gym or fancy exercise equipment to stay fit. Look for a suitable space in your home, garage, or basement where you can comfortably move—you’ll probably need at least a 6’ x 6’ area for each person. Many cardio and strength training exercises require little (or no) equipment, including jumping jacks, lunges, and pushups.


And if you prefer a guided workout, search for free exercise videos on YouTube—there are even options specifically geared towards kids—or try one of the many fitness apps available.



Socializing From a Distance


Even though we’re all being called upon to practice “social distancing” right now, there are still ways to stay safely connected to our communities and our extended families. Picking up the phone is a great place to start. Make an effort to reach out to neighbors and loved ones who live alone and may be feeling particularly isolated right now.


And while parties and playdates may be prohibited, modern technology offers countless ways to organize networked gatherings with family and friends. Try using group video conferencing tools like Google Hangouts and Zoom to facilitate a virtual happy hour or book club. Host a Netflix Party to watch (and chat about) movies with friends. Or plan a virtual game night and challenge your pals to a round of Psych or Yahtzee.


There are safe ways to connect offline, too. Rediscover the lost art of letter writing. Drop off groceries on an elderly neighbor’s porch. Or organize a neighborhood “chalk walk,” where children use sidewalk chalk to decorate their driveways and then head out for a stroll to view their friends’ artwork.


Of course, there’s one group of people who you can still socialize with freely—those who reside in your home. Family dinners are back, siblings are reconnecting, and many of us have been given the gift of time, with commutes, activities, and obligations eliminated. In fact, some families are finding that this crisis has brought them closer than ever.





Even with all of the tools and technology available to keep us connected, many of us are still feeling stressed, scared, and isolated. However, you can rest assured that you are not alone. We’re not only here to help you buy and sell real estate. We want to be a resource to our clients and community through good times and bad. If you and your family are in need of assistance, please reach out and let us know how we can help.





1.     CNBC -

2. -

Posted in Community
Feb. 17, 2020

Two Great NEW 1 Bedroom, 1.5 Bath Luxury Avila Beach Condos

Two Great NEW 1 Bedroom, 1.5 Bath Luxury Avila Beach Condos. The open floor plan offers deck off kitchen-living room leading up circular staircase to spacious Rooftop Deck offering peek-a-boo ocean views and stunning sunsets. The home features quartzsite stone counters throughout / ledger stone façade fireplace and raised stone hearth; beach-friendly Coretec water-resilient flooring; Fisher & Paykel European appliances; custom white soft-close cabinetry; premium Emtek door hardware and Kohler-Grohe sinks & fixtures; capped by end-of-day relaxing Jacuzzi tub.

Click here and here to find out more. DRE #01953050

Two Great NEW 1 Bedroom, 1.5 Bath Luxury Avila Beach Condos

Jan. 18, 2018

Turn Key Rental in AVIVO

Avivo Homes Condo, San Luis Obispo

Avivo Homes Condo, San Luis Obispo

Beautiful/spacious tri-level brand new condominium with all new appliances included.

Available now (eight months)

Rent: $2,700.00; Security Deposit: $4,200.00

3 bedrooms 3 1/2 baths

Tenant pays all utilities, water/sewer, electricity, gas, cable and internet. Landlord pays garbage

Laundry Hook-Ups

Quiet Complex, 2 car garage, landscaping included.

Outdoor amenities: outside BBQ outside dining, fire pits & recreational fun. Great Access to downtown and airport areas.

No pets.

Click here to contact us for more details.

Posted in Avila Beach, Rentals
Sept. 26, 2017

Thoughts On Online Home Price Estimates

Hal SweaseyIn case you haven’t heard already, a woman in Glenview, Illinois has filed a lawsuit against Zillow claiming that her Zestimate repeatedly undervalued her house and created a “tremendous roadblock” to its sale.

The lawsuit was filed in Cook County Circuit Court by real estate lawyer Barbara Andersen. This suit may be the first of its kind. It says that, despite Zillow’s denial that they don’t offer “appraisals,” the fact that they “are promoted as a tool for potential buyers to use in assessing the market value of a given property,” shows that they meet the definition of an appraisal under Illinois state law.

It argues that Zillow should be licensed to perform appraisals before offering these estimates, while also obtaining “the consent of the homeowner” before they go online.

The Zestimate in question is for Ms. Andersen’s townhouse that she bought for $626,000 in 2009. It overlooks a golf course and is in a prime location, and she listed it on the market for roughly what she payed for it. However, the home’s most recent Zestimate was only $562,000. Ms. Andersen is suing for Zillow to either remove her Zestimate or amend it. She isn’t seeking monetary damages at the time, according to The Washington Post.

Zillow has a different take on the situation. They don’t see their Zestimates as appraisals but rather a tool that utilizes a proprietary formula to assess value, and they say as much on their website.

However, the accuracy of some of these estimates leaves much to be desired. They have a median error rate of 5%, which can translate to a lot of lost money on a home sale or a lot of money left on the table in a home purchase.  I've spoken numerous times about the computer program Zillow uses to "estimate" a home's value and how inaccurate it can be even after a recent sale of the property in question. The point is there is a reason an appraiser must put in 2,000 hours of supervised training before being able to perform an appraisal on their own and after over 26 years of selling thousands of homes on the central coast we know there are nuances in properties, amenities and supply and demand which affect property values almost every day. If you have questions about the value of your property then certainly call us at 805-595-2444 or stop by our office!

Hal Sweasey

(Originally published in the Avila Beach News, July 2017)

Sept. 26, 2017

FHA Financing for the Indian Hill Community

Hal SweaseyAs your local real estate resource we are always striving to help residents of Avila Beach make good decisions about their money when it comes to real estate. Whether it's finding the right house, selling your home for top dollar, recommending a great contractor, inspector or painter or how you can save on taxes we're always sharing what we know and what we've learned to help you and earn your trust. One of the questions we get quite often from our existing owners and buyers in Indian Hill is where do I go for financing. Until recently there were only a couple options and they were not always offering great rates or prompt and timely responses and funding. Because

Indian Hill is not FHA approved it was difficult to get good financing options at reasonable rates.....until now. Thanks to the diligent efforts and relentless follow up of Alex Miller at Pacific Trust Mortgage Indian Hill is now FHA approved. That means you can get the best rates and terms on a purchase or refinance. If you have any financing questions, especially around Indian Hill, I STRONGLY recommend you give Alex a call at 805-543-4422. Here are the details Alex shared:

Pacific Trust Mortgage now offers traditional FHA financing for the Indian Hill community!

Program highlights:
• 30-Year and 15-Year Fixed Terms available.
• Loan amounts up to $586,500.
• Only 3.5% down payment required for purchases.

Allowable transactions:
o Purchase.
o Rate & Term refinance.
o Cash-out refinance (up to 85% loan-to-value).

Important factors for qualifying:
• Must be owner-occupied.
• 580 Minimum FICO Score up to $424,100 loan amount.
• Structure must have been built after June 15, 1976 and contain a HUD date plate certificate and HUD seal/tag.
• Structure must be permanently affixed to the foundation.
• Additional property inspection and verification is required for remodel work and additions that have been completed to the structure.

Current FHA Rates* (as of May 22, 2017):
    Conforming (loan amount ≤$424,100):
        30 Year Fixed = 3.750%
        15 Year Fixed = 3.375%

    High-Balance Conforming (loan amount ≥$424,150):
        30 Year Fixed = 4.250%
        15 Year Fixed = N/A

    *Rates provided are based on 720 mid-FICO score and zero points.

If you have more questions about this great news call us at  805-595-2444 or Alex at 805-543-4422.

Hal Sweasey

(Originally published in the Avila Beach News, June 2017)

Sept. 26, 2017

What's Keeping Inventory Low?

Hal SweaseyI was just informed that nationwide the inventory of homes is the lowest it has been in many years. Although this can lead to a stronger seller’s market it can also be discouraging for home buyers or anyone looking to actually move. When we talk about inventory that is homes on the market and in a hot market if a home is on the market and not sold or getting offers then sometimes buyers can wonder why. Not always a good thing for the property being sold and it’s owners.

More importantly, good homes in good condition and at a fair price often sell quickly and can get multiple offers and get bid up. So here’s the challenge and what’s keeping the inventory low; homeowners are afraid to sell and then not have anywhere to go or at least feel there aren’t any good homes they can buy.

The good news is there are options.

First of all, don’t just look at what’s on the market. This is not often representative of what you could buy because the best homes and values are normally sold or in escrow. Secondly, we’ve helped many sellers find a great buyer and get them in escrow at an excellent price and either have a long escrow or the option to rent back their home from the buyer to allow time to find that new home or be in a position to make a strong offer.

Finally, some sellers want to sell but don’t want the hassle of having their home on the market. Because we have so many past clients and people reaching out to us we are often aware of homes coming up for sale soon or where the owner will sell the house without having it go on the market. Either way if you’re thinking you’re stuck call us and we can explain all the ways to take advantage of one the best markets I’ve seen in my 26 plus years of real estate. If you would like to reach us, call 595-2444 or come by our office anytime.

Hal Sweasey

(Originally published in the Avila Beach News, May 2017)

Sept. 26, 2017

Thoughts on Mortgage Interest Rates and Closing Your Escrow

Hal SweaseyThe Federal Reserve has raised interest rates. However, they raised the federal funds rate, which is what banks use to lend to each other. So, while this rate increase will surely affect credit card loans or car loans because they are tied to this rate, it does not have an immediate impact on mortgage rates. Mortgage rates are determined more by the marketplace. As of right now, rates are around the low 4% range, which is still very good. Many people were worried about the Fed raising rates but the market already anticipated that increase, so mortgage rates have not changed much. Of course, you should always check with your lender and see what kind of rate you can get with your specific financial situation. However, I wouldn’t be too concerned about interest rates making a big increase this year. DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE FED’S RATE HIKE.

Another question I’m getting a lot in our current market is, “Why is it taking so long to close my escrow?” Recently, the San Luis Obispo multiple listing service went through a major overhaul. Appraisers and Realtors alike are dealing with a bit of a learning curve right now. The powers that be may have gone overboard in adding too many variables to the system and having it virtually be a statewide MLS meaning I can get information on listings all over the State. This means anyone using the MLS is having a harder time finding the information they’re used to finding quickly and easily so as professionals we’re having to spend much more time on the research than it previously took. Ultimately, the new MLS system will really help home buyers and sellers. It will just take a little bit of time for real estate agents and appraisers to adjust to the system and the additional information.

Enjoy our lovely spring weather here in Avila and a VERY HEALTHY real estate market. If you have any questions call us at 805-595-2444 or stop by the office! We look forward to helping you.

Hal Sweasey

(Originally published in Avila Beach News, April 2017)