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Santa Barbara: Sunset Magazine's #1 Beach Town

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Santa Barbara: Sunset Magazine's #1 Beach Town

13 Western states, British Columbia, and Alberta duked it out for Sunset magazine's first annual Travel Awards, which "recognize achievement in lodging, dining, cultural tourism, outdoor adventure, environmental stewardship, and other categories." The magazine solicited nomination entries for a variety of categories, and from there an array of teams, judges and advisory boards deliberated the winners. Judges included tourism directors, authors of travel books and resort CEOs, so opinions were legitimately sourced.

And the winner for Best Beach Town? Drum roll, please... SANTA BARBARA! It is a great distinction to be recognized in a magazine that specifically showcases the ultimate Western lifestyle. From world renown surf spots such as Rincon, vibrant night life on State Street and unique scenery, to a rich Spanish history and culture, and wine-tasting in Santa Ynez, it seems we hit all the checkboxes for an ideal coastal lifestyle. It's no wonder everyone here is happy as a clam! What more could you ask for?

If you're looking for some ideas regarding fun things to do in Santa Barbara, check out our Local's Guide blog by clicking here. We also have a list of local favorites where you may find Riskin Partner's best picks in food, wine, home needs, golf courses and more. Don't forget that FIESTA! begins next week so be sure to participate in the weekend activities to celebrate our awesome community!

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Calling All Open House Lovers!

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Calling All Open House Lovers!

Riskin Partners is pleased to announce the newest addition to our website:

An online open house directory for Montecito and Santa Barbara!

These directories will automatically update with any open house changes or additions, rendering it a convenient and reliable resource for all those house hunters looking for an incredible property. Users may also filter results and view listing details at their convenience. What are you waiting for? Take a look!

Click Here to View All Montecito Open Houses

Click Here to View All Santa Barbara Open Houses

RP open houses this weekend include:

705 Park Lane - open Sunday, 7/26 2 - 4 PM offered at $4,595,000

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709 Park Lane - open Sunday, 7/26 2 - 4 PM Offered at $3,750,000

An inviting pool and verdant grounds accompany a bright and pristine 3bd/3.5ba residence at one of Montecito's best addresses.
An inviting pool and verdant grounds accompany a bright and pristine 3bd/3.5ba residence at one of Montecito's best addresses.

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Drought, Desalination... What's The Deal?

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Drought, Desalination... What's The Deal?

Drought

The current drought in California has commanded the attention of many and as we continue to see minimal rain here in Santa Barbara and throughout the state, this is not an issue that we will be disengaging from anytime soon. This particular drought began in 2012 and is the worst drought in 1,200 years. This year also marks an all-time record low for snow pack levels in the Sierras amounting to an equivalent of 24 billion gallons of water loss. For a striking visual perception of the drought, Click Here to view an article which compares photos of California's water sources just before the drought in 2011 and their recent state, in 2014.

Limited rainfall has caused our water reservoirs to become depleted and over drafting of groundwater is underway. Looking at our future, "the 2016-2017 water year is looking dire...assuming that there will be no surface water coming from Lake Cachuma, the State Water Project or Jameson Lake." State-wide, Governor Jerry Brown has issued a mandate that urban water use must be reduced 25 percent below 2013 levels by February 2016. To put this all in perspective, NASA estimates, "it would take 11 trillion gallons of water to get us out of drought," and it is these types of severities that are causing people to seek for solutions to this complicated problem.

Recently, Santa Barbara increased to Stage 3 drought regulations, which call for stringent water use restrictions and increased water rates. Conservation techniques are another alleviation, which Santa Barbara residents are implementing effectively. In the month of May, residents conserved an astounding 37%, bringing reduction efforts up to 24% since last July and only 1% away from the city's goal (go SB!). Santa Barbara also holds the lead for highest conservation rates in the state, but we must also consider what else may lie in the near future for our community. If the drought persists and there is no water available for purchase, the city needs another fallback.

Desalination

Desalination has been a topic of discussion as the vast ocean near our homes provokes its consideration as a potential water source; after all, 97.5% of all the water on Earth is sea water. Click here to watch a 30-second informational video explaining the process of desalination. For a smaller Santa Barbara community like Montecito, drought relief options are limited and, aside from increased water rates, desalination seems a viable recourse. According to Montecito general manager, Tom Mosby, "Santa Barbara expects to get its desalination facility operational next year [and] if it’s approved by the state and the Santa Barbara City Council moves forward, Montecito could get emergency permit status by the end of 2016 for its own facility." A new Montecito plant would cost between $60 and $80 million and in conjunction with the Santa Barbara plant,  "could handle almost all the city’s water needs"; but only as long as residents continuation their conservation and cut their existing usage by 25%.

The Deal

- The drought is very serious and even with some recent minor rainfall, residents must keep in the mind that this issue has not been overcome. There is a 70% likelihood that the drought will persist.

- Santa Barbara locals are responding productively to water restrictions and conservation efforts yet that does not mean we should ease up on conservation techniques and implementation - this is an ongoing endeavor. For further tips and information regarding reduction of your water consumption, visit the Santa Barbara County Water Conservation page by clicking here. 

- Desalination is only a complementary aid to water conservation, and efforts are underway to recommission the Santa Barbara plant as well as construct a new plant for Montecito; however, this may be costly, energy-intensive and it is questionable whether or not the plants will be ready and functioning before the drought is over.

- Effect on the real estate market: Water allotments per parcel are tightening and causing buyers to reconsider their water sources and water use (on average in California, almost 50% of total residential water use is for the outdoors/landscaping). Now more than ever, buyers are placing high value on wells and also drought-considerate landscaping in order to remain within these allotments.

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A Local's Guide to Santa Barbara

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A Local's Guide to Santa Barbara

Clear skies and idyllic weather are common here in Santa Barbara and Montecito and now that summer has officially arrived, the locals are increasingly out and about. Fortunately for those who are lucky enough to visit, or even call this place home, there is an impressive array of opportunities to adventure, relax, dine, or anything else your soul desires. If you're yearning to discover unique and high quality places, click here to view a great article by goop.com, which details a variety of wonderful destinations. All of us here at Riskin Partners also have our favorite picks, so check out the list below for a small sampling of all that Santa Barbara has to offer. If you're feeling especially enticed, maybe moving here or buying a second home is in your future! For the full list of our Local Favorites, from real estate needs to lifestyle suggestions, visit the Riskin Partners website here.

Accommodations - The Four Seasons Biltmore, Montecito

For a peaceful and relaxing stay, this 5-star luxury hotel is located adjacent to the beautiful Butterfly Beach. In classic California style, they "invite guests to indulge in everything from tours of local wineries to surfing, lazing on the beach or lounging poolside at the exclusive Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club." Relax and be treated at the Santa Barbara Spa, dine at the ocean-view Bella Vista restaurant, or even book a surf session with surfing legend Tom Curren. Find Sara Thandi here on any holiday with her family, this is her favorite place to grab some brunch!

Adventure - Inspiration Point Hike, Santa Barbara

A great workout with some serious views - Inspiration Point is a classic Santa Barbara hike that will having you feeling motivated once you reach the top. Winding through the stunning Santa Ynez mountains, this 3.5-mile round trip hike is best enxperienced at sunrise or sunset. If you enjoy this one, Rebecca, an avid hiker, also suggests trying the San Ysidro trail.

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Site-seeing & Architecture - Rose Garden at the Old Mission, Santa Barbara

With such a rich history, there are a wealth of landmarks and stunning Spanish Revival style architecture throughout the city which should not be missed. Among the Santa Barbara Courthouse (known by many as the most beautiful public building in the country) and its gorgeous sunken gardens, Meridian Studios, and other iconic buildings, the Old Santa Barbara Mission will always remain a classic. Take Robert's advice: grab a blanket, some wine and outdoor games, and have a picnic next to the Mission's blooming rose garden. A retreat like this is best enjoyed if you bring some friends along!

Mid-day Dining -The Santa Barbara Public Market, Santa Barbara

For just over a year now, the Public Market has been host to an array of purveyors - priding itself in "handcrafted, regionally sourced and sustainably made food and wine." Whether you're looking for Crazy Good Bread, a quality cup of joe, delicious seafood, fresh-made pasta, or a glass of wine, the Public Market has it all. If you're feeling like working on your culinary artistry or need to host an event, their Kitchen serves as a commissary and event space. According to Marie, the Market is a great place to meet with friends because there is something for everyone, but her top pick is the potato gnocchi at the Pasta Shoppe. Pair with a flight of wine at the tasting bar for a delicious Italian meal...you definitely will not be disappointed.

Live Music - The Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara

Set on a hillside overlooking Santa Barbara, the Bowl is a historic amphitheater circa 1936 with striking views - a true landmark of the area. It has been host to some of the biggest names in the music industry including Bob Marley, Santana, Radiohead, Jack Johnson, Steely Dan, and Sting, just to name a few. The intimate venue also hosts a variety of up and coming artists, so all types of music fans can rock out. Upcoming shows include Aerosmith on July 7thAretha Franklin on August 6th, the Santa Barbara Mariachi Festival on August 8th and the Alabama Shakes on August 18th. Live music has always been a big part of Jasmine's life, her husband is even in a band called Surprise Me (vote for them here to help them have an opportunity to play at Summerfest in Wisconsin!). Of all the music venues she has been to, she claims that the Bowl is by far the most beautiful.

Dinner - The Lark, Santa Barbara

We L.O.V.E. the Lark! This family-style restaurant serves "locally sourced and responsibly grown" meals, which are incredibly fresh and delectable. Try the roasted beets and burrata, the marinated grill & hangar steak, the herb roasted diver scallops, or even their famous brussel sprouts - everything on their seasonal menu is simply divine. Sarah Kelly advises that if you're looking to grab a cocktail on a weekend night, this is the place to be. The bone marrow crusted beef cheeks and Mary's roasted chicken are her favorite picks on this menu.

Wine Tasting - The Funk Zone, Santa Barbara

The Funk Zone is a hip, arts, business, and industrial district close to State Street and the Santa Barbara harbor. Here you may find over 10 wine tasting rooms and a variety of studios, galleries, surf shops, and restaurants (including The Lark)! All within walking distance to each other, the Funk Zone makes for a lovely night on the town. Make sure to check out Pali Wine CoCorks N Crowns, and Dina's favorite, Les Marchands Wine Bar and Marchant, where she recently celebrated her engagement! Fun Fact: the owner, Brian McClintic was featured in the popular wine documentary called SOMM, "which chronicled his journey to the elusive Master Sommelier title."

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See What Montecito Agents Are Calling "The Best House on the Market"

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See What Montecito Agents Are Calling "The Best House on the Market"

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It's true. Montecito is riddled with some of the most enviable homes in the country, and arguably, the world. And really, it's no surprise. With the most idyllic climate since the south of France and views of a comparable, coastal landscape, Montecito is easy to fall in love with, make a home, and stay forever. And that is just what the owner's of 1125 Garden Lane did some 20 years ago. A couple from Maine who were pulled away to cultivate careers in the film industry, they vowed to create a home that felt like Maine, with the same sense of "permanence and provenance." And so was built an exceptional Dutch-Revival residence nestled on over 3 captivating acres. Really, the grounds are unlike any other. Read on to experience what many agents are calling "the best house on the market."

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 Occupying one of Montecito’s most sought-after and private locations, an exquisite New England estate perfectly balances character and antiquity with the modern tastes of today’s discerning buyers.

A captivating lane in Montecito’s famed Riven Rock, Garden Lane hosts a timeless residence built by its current owner to feel steeped in East Coast elegance. Beyond private entry gates, a meandering tree-lined drive introduces 3.38 wooded acres, where resident oaks and deciduous specimen trees appear untouched by time.

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The owner envisioned a home with “a sense of history, permanence and provenance,” which is exquisitely achieved not only by the blossoming vines that scale the exterior, but also by the thoughtfully curated design details found throughout the home. The home’s design aesthetic has been keenly celebrated in numerous design publications including Traditional Home, Elle Décor and Beautiful Homes Magazines. Stepping onto the inviting front porch, the attention to detail and superb quality construction is immediately evident. The striking foyer’s towering ceiling, archways and dignified staircase showcase the masterful eyes of architect Jock Sewall and builder Paul Franz. 

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Abundant natural light filters through an expansive picture window in the formal living room. Wide oak floorboards in a rich stain offer a luxurious contrast to crisp paneled walls, a tasteful fireplace and French doors leading to sunny terraces and glorious rose gardens on both sides of the room. An adjacent den of handsome design, offering built-ins and large window seat, is perfectly situated for an office or game room. 

The formal dining room is poised to host family and friends. Built-in china cabinets, a sundrenched window seat and exquisite chandelier create an atmosphere fitting for intimate dinner parties and jovial gatherings alike. Many of the light fixtures throughout the home are antique, having been hand selected by the owner in an effort to further the desired sense of history.

An expansive great room encompasses the charming kitchen and delightful family room where French doors and large windows open to the pool. Custom designed by the owner, an avid chef, the kitchen boasts the finest culinary appliances. An informal dining area comfortably seats ten, perfect for sunny Sunday morning brunch or casual afternoon snacks in the family great room.

The classic New England tenor continues throughout the great room with beadboard, crown molding and an inviting stone fireplace, creating a sophisticated yet comfortable ambience. A sunny deck with large stone fireplace beckons leisurely afternoons and crisp evenings beneath ancient oaks.

A quaint office/guest suite boasting a private bath, enjoys French doors opening to the pool garden. A powder room, oversized multipurpose room and laundry area ideal for arranging blossoms from the cutting garden, and access to the garage complete the home’s main level.

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The elegant staircase draws one to a lovely sitting area with built-in bookcases. Beautiful arched windows overlook the blossoming rose garden while a towering pitched ceiling creates a room both spacious and open, at the same time cozy and welcoming.

A pair of antique pillars frames the doorway to the master bedroom, introducing the vintage elegance that defines the suite. Century-old oak graces the floor, complementing the aged patina of the plaster walls. Large windows overlook verdant treetops, welcoming the romantic aroma of rose and herb gardens, and brilliant sunlight. Two walk-in closets precede the master bath, a serene escape boasting an oversized shower, elegant soaking tub and sizeable vanity with dual sinks and custom tile work. Windows open to the oak canopy, allowing sweet breezes to further the sense of calm in the master suite.

Two lovely bedroom suites on the opposite wing of the home’s upper level overlook the stunning pool garden. Both suites are bright and open with pitched ceilings and abundant sunlight, and offer the privacy of dedicated baths. In addition to the ample motor court, the spacious garage can house two vehicles and offers a sizeable workshop, custom built humidor and additional storage space ideal for a wine cellar.

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Outside, the grounds are a private oasis. Towering specimen trees surround the estate, allowing sun to filter to the private pool terrace, lush lawn and porch with outdoor fireplace. A charming pool cabana offers a powder room and lounge area with wet bar, ideal for escaping the afternoon sun. An impressive rose and herb garden offers bountiful blossoms for arrangements and cooking with the freshest ingredients.

Stone-lined pathways meander through the estate’s gently rolling acres, along Hot Springs and Cold Springs creeks, both seasonal, toward hidden sitting areas. A shady woodland of deciduous specimen trees, native oaks, apple and persimmon trees create a lively landscape ripe for exploration. Beyond the private gates of Riven Rock, the scenic Hot Springs hiking trail lies just a half-mile away, at the junction of Riven Rock Road and East Mountain Drive. The serene hiking trail winds past grand estates toward tranquil waterfalls and endless vista points. This exceptional lifestyle amenity can be enjoyed year-round in Montecito’s enviable climate.

The enclave affords unparalleled privacy and is defined by a calm and serenity awarded to few locations so near to town. Just minutes from Montecito’s fine dining, upscale shops, world-renowned resorts and pristine beaches, the quiet lanes of Riven Rock are perfectly situated for a rich lifestyle.

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1125 Garden Lane is offered at $6,795,000To experience the magic of this exquisite home, contact the listing agents at Riskin Partners to schedule a showing. 

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A Little Something for Your Lady: A Women's Holiday Gift Guide

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A Little Something for Your Lady: A Women's Holiday Gift Guide

Gentlemen, the holidays are here and it's that time of the year to spoil the special woman in your life. This gift guide will help you get into the giving spirit and hopefully entice you to shop and explore the local Santa Barbara area. Not only are these gifts unique, the majority also offer opportunities to spend some quality time with your lady, an added bonus. Simply click on the links and pictures to discover more information. Happy holidays!

Rejuvinate

Shangri-La Spa Package from Ojai Vally Inn and Spa, $560

No one can say no to a day at the spa, especially when you spend it in scenic Ojai. This particular package is the full deal including a choice of three classic spa treatments, a lavender or seasonal manicure and pedicure, and lunch at Cafe Verde.

Cuddle Up

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Exotic Faux Fur Blanket from Restoration Hardware$239

Luxuriously soft and warm, this faux fur blanket is likened to a personal cloud. It's perfect for those rare cold and rainy winter nights in Santa Barbara when you're cozied up by the fire place. Order from our local Restoration Hardware on State Street.

Adventure

"Top Deck" Tour from Captain Jack's, $400

For the adventurous couple who wants a little bit of everything, this tour is the perfect fit. A guide will accompany you throughout your day as you start off by kayaking the Gaviota Coast. Next, enjoy lunch at a secluded resort, horseback riding through the beautiful mountains, and, to top it all off, wine tasting at two local Santa Barbara wineries.

The Ultimate Luxury

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Paraiba Tourmaline Earrings from Silverhorn Jewelers, contact Silverhorn for pricing

Jewelry is a classic and timeless way to express your love for someone. Silverhorn jewelers in Montecito has a variety of unique and elegant pieces that are sure to impress. They also have gem carvings, mineral specimens, gem stones, and other stunning objects of art available so be sure to explore their entire store.

Splurge Day

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"49 Square Miles" Outfit (left) from Wendy Foster, total $1,658

Back to the basics: a new outfit never hurt anybody. Wendy Foster is a high-end fashion boutique with locations in Montecito, State Street, and Los Olivos. This store has clothing options for every type of woman - from casual to business attire, accessories to small gifts, this place has trendy written all over it. Buy her a full outfit or take her on a shopping spree, if that's more your cup of tea; there are plenty of delicious restaurants nearby to make this a splurge day for your special lady.

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For the _____ In Your Life: A Men's Holiday Gift Guide

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For the _____ In Your Life: A Men's Holiday Gift Guide

During the holiday season you want to impress that special someone with a gift that's as incredible as they are. Good news: we're here to help. This men's holiday gift guide has a little something for every type of personality to ensure that each individual's unique needs are satisfied. These distinct items may be purchased or experienced locally in Santa Barbara, simply click on the pictures and links to discover more information!

Surfer

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9' 10" Andreini Owl Tribute Vintage Longboard from Surf-n-Wear's The Beach House, $1,650

Winter has arrived and so has the swell. What better way to ride those long waves at Rincon than with a vintage longboard from a local surf shop established in 1962. Sounds like a surfer's fantasy!

Food Fanatic

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Farmer's Market-To-Fork Dining Experience from the Four Season's Biltmore Santa Barbara, contact the Biltmore for pricing 

With Executive Chef Alessandro Cartumini as your escort, visit the local farmer's market to select fresh produce. Then, continue your journey with a private cooking class; finish off the experience with a remarkable four-course lunch and wine pairing at the oceanfront Bella Vista restaurant. Guests at the Biltmore resort are invited to partake in this gourmet dining experience, so book a room and enjoy a romantic day!

Business Man

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42 mm Burberry Round Leather Strap Watch from Nordstrom$695

Keep things classy and traditional with this Burberry watch. It's available at Nordstrom in the Paseo Nuevo Mall in a variety of colors, making it a quick buy but a guaranteed timeless piece.

Adventurous Spirit

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Hot Air Balloon Ride from Cloud9Living, $432 for two people

The sky's the limit with this fantastical adventure! Experience a Santa Barbara sunrise and California wine country from an entirely different perspective. And to top it off, enjoy complimentary champagne and a continental breakfast upon landing.

Health Conscious

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Fitness Retreat from Sky Ranch Fitness, $2,900 for 4-day all inclusive trip

Fitness, nutrition, and rejuvenation are the highlights of this retreat. Whether you're trying to kickstart a healthy lifestyle or simply desire a wholesome fitness trip, this gift is great for every fitness level. Hikes, training, healthy cuisine, therapeutic spa treatments, personal coaching, and a 4- or 6-day stay at the Bacara Resort and Spa are all included.

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Class is Now in Session: Montecito and Santa Barbara's Excellent Educational Institutions

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Class is Now in Session: Montecito and Santa Barbara's Excellent Educational Institutions

Class is now in session! Montecito and the neighboring school districts are now well into the 2014/2015 school year - which means local children are back to learning and growing at some of the state's highest ranked educational institutions. The respected and coveted Montecito Union School is regularly ranked an 10/10 school, with an enrollment hovering around 460 children across 26 classrooms, with an average class size of just 18. The staff at MUS strive to help build well educated, well attended to, and well rounded students. Offering numerous extra curricular activities including after school programs, Art at Lunch, a Garden program and the GATE program, the school is renowned for producing exceptional students. Cold Springs school, just a few miles from MUS, is the second public school in the area while our numerous private schools include Crane Country Day School, Laguna Blanca and Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Each educational institution in the area offers a unique strategy for its attendants, all in the beautiful, bucolic setting of Montecito.

Outside of Montecito, are the Santa Barbara Unified School District (home to 13 elementary, 4 junior high and 5 senior high schools), Hope Elementary School District in Santa Barbara's Hope Ranch enclave, and the Goleta Union School District.

One of Santa Barbara Unified School District's senior high schools, Dos Pueblos High, recently received a fantastic honor as one of the Top 25 Schools in the West, and the subsequent press. With a graduation rate of 99% (with 98% of graduated headed to college!!) the Home of the Chargers shares the common goal of helping students reach their highest potential on their path the higher education.

 

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Martha at the Market

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Martha at the Market

Home and lifestyle mogul Martha Stewart recently made a trip to sunny Santa Barbara to experience one of the area's most charming offerings - the daily farmer's market. Popping up six days a week throughout Santa Barbara County, local farmers, growers and culinary artisans converge to offer the best of the area's local harvest. Martha spent a Santa Barbara morning perusing the market, delighting in multi-colored carrots, okra, bounties of berries, freshly baked artisan breads and fromage accompaniments and a plethora of other eye-catching and mouthwatering finds. In Montecito, the Friday spot to do your farmer's market shopping, the market travels along scenic Coast Village Road, sprouting in front of iconic Montecito eatery, Jeanine's Bakery one week and in the Montecito Country Mart the next. On Tuesday afternoons, several blocks of Santa Barbara's famous State Street shut down to traffic so locals and visitors can mix and mingle in the market. On a warm summer afternoon, break from the market to pop into one of the shops or restaurants on either side of the street for a refreshing glass of local sangria or to find a unique Santa Barbara treasure.

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Summer Fun in Santa Barbara! Downtown Art and Wine Tour

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Summer Fun in Santa Barbara! Downtown Art and Wine Tour

Santa Barbara Downtown Art and Wine Tour
Santa Barbara Downtown Art and Wine Tour

Everyone knows that summer is everyone's favorite season, and in Santa Barbara summer seems to last all year. But come the month of May, a shift can be felt in our fresh coastal air and there is a distinctive feeling that summer fun is about to be kicked into high gear. Summer events seem to happen weekly in Santa Barbara from cultural celebrations such as the Solstice Festival and the Old Spanish Days to beer tasting at the Santa Barbara Zoo's ZooBrew! event and everything in between, there is no shortage of opportunities for casual family fun and upscale socializing.

The long weekend kicks off this Thursday with the annual Downtown Art and Wine Tour. The self-guided tour, which begins at 5:30, invites participants to meander through retailers, galleries and restaurants experiencing the works of local artists, vintners and chefs, on their way to the tour's Final Party at the Santa Barbara Club. Feasting on hors d'oeuvres and sipping wine or beer, party goers will eat, drink and dance the night away in celebration of all that Santa Barbara's Downtown District has to offer.

Tickets are $75 each and can be purchased online, at the Downtown Organization office or at the box office of the Arlington Theater.

Arlington Theatre Box Office 1317 State Street Monday – Saturday: 10am-6pm, Sunday: 10am-4pm (805) 963-4408 (credit card or cash + $2.50 surcharge per ticket)

Downtown Santa Barbara Office 27-B East de la Guerra Street Monday – Friday: 9am-4pm (cash, check, Visa and Master Card)

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Spring Seller's Season Hits the West Coast

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Spring Seller's Season Hits the West Coast

What does spring bring? Not enough rain, but certainly a flurry of activity in California real estate markets. As we enjoy endless sun and soft spring breezes, (and secretly hope for some more rain to quench our partched soils) we also enjoy what the L.A. Times is calling a Seller's Season here in the Golden State. Discussing Zillow's latest report, the LA Times defines the east coast as a "buyer's market" with many price cuts and lengthy DOMs, and the west coast going to the Seller's with quick transactions, multiple offers, few price reductions and many properties selling at or over asking price. Riskin Associates can attest to this view with regards to Santa Barbara's wealthy yet casual neighbor, Montecito. Despite new listings coming on the market what seems to be daily, inventory is remaining relatively stable as many listings are receiving multiple, very strong offers and opening escrow quickly. Other California markets seeing seller's holding the negotiation power are San Jose and San Francisco. Buyers on the otherhand can do well in the midwest and Northeast, try Cleveland or Philidelphia.

This Spanish Revival Compound overlooks lush grounds and brilliant ocean views.
This Spanish Revival Compound overlooks lush grounds and brilliant ocean views.

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What's Happening in Santa Barbara?

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What's Happening in Santa Barbara?

It's nearly impossible to decide on the best aspect of living in the Santa Barbara area. Ideal weather with year round sun and temperate temperatures, a culinary wonderland of fresh, inventive flavors paired with the region's award winning wines, vast sandy beaches nestled against the Santa Ynez Mountain's hiking trails or the numerous cultural community events which throughout the year bring visitors and locals alike into the streets to celebrate Santa Barbara's rich history and modern lifestyle. Fortunately, being a resident of this fantastic locale allows for the enjoyment of each of these pleasures and the countless others waiting to be discovered.

This month, our town is bustling with excitement as the Santa Barbara International Film Festival approaches! The world renowned festival brings hollywood heavyweights up from LA to a warm welcome of Santa Barbara-style events. Take a look at a sampling of this month's events and get in on the action. (Note: when planning your attendances, please note that the average temperature in Santa Barbara during the month of January is 64 degrees and this week's forecast puts our temperatures in the high 70's all week. Just saying.)

January 16th: Meet the Masters, Miro Restaurant - Bacara Resort. Enjoy an intimate dining experience that offers culinary enthusiasts the rare opportunity to dine with Master Sommeliers from across the globe who share a proven mastery in the art and science of wine and spirit pairing.

January 19th-26th: Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant WeekRestaurants throughout the Santa Ynez Valley are offering special 3-course tasting menus for the price of $20.14

January 21st: New Year Modern with the Santa Barbara Chamber OrchestraCelebrate the beginning of 2014 with SBCO at New Year Modern and dive into the world of modern music! This concert features contemporary works of the 20th century and Appalachian Spring performed as a ballet.

January 30th-February 9th: Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF), announces its highly-anticipated line-up for 2014. The 29th edition offers a vast array of films representing 60 countries and a rich selection of films sure to delight audiences from all reaches of the globe. SBIFF is proud to welcome many promising and established filmmakers, as well as honorees to join in its grand tradition of celebrating independent film.

January 30th-February 9th: Film Feast. Libations, cuisine, APPETITE! The original lights of Hollywood are shining brighter than ever, as Santa Barbara goes to the movies for a performance your taste buds will never forget. For eleven straight days, Film Feast 2014 is your invitation to explore the best plates and pours throughout Santa Barbara's many theatre districts during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. If something is made here, it's just a little more special, more flavorful, more memorable. This is where the greatest things come together. Ocean meets mountains. Sunny meets year-round. The good life meets the great life. This isn’t the end but actually just the beginning. Take a walk down the red carpet to savor the flavors made in Santa Barbara during Film Feast 2014.

For further information on Santa Barbara's seemingly endless entertainment offerings, visit SantaBarbaraCa.com. Additionally, we invite you back each month the find out what's going on around town.

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Five Forces Behind the Luxury Real Estate Boom

As 2013 comes to a close, The Financial Times reflects on five reasons the luxury real estate market has seen a promising upswing over the last 12 months. Compared to the U.S. as a whole, the luxury market has experienced a superior recovery from the housing market bust with home prices in the top 5% increasing by as much as 10% since September of 2012 while the other 95% increased 6% over the same time frame. Read on to find out what has fueled this healthy boost in the luxury market.

  • The increase in wealth. While everyone the world over is rejoicing in the recovering U.S. economic conditions, high-net-worth individuals are doing a decidedly more vigorous celebration dance. Recent data has revealed that the top 1% of households by income has captured 95% of the income gains between 2009-2012. Larger stock portfolios held by these high income individuals have benefitted from a booming stock market. The wealthy are searching for homes to fit their lavish lifestyle and are less likely to let interest rate increases dissuade their buying choices. In addition to these staggering numbers, the remaining 90% of the country has experienced fallen incomes by 16%.
  • Affordable (Oversized) mortgages.   It's no secret that cash is king in the luxury real estate market, but when a mortgage is needed, they are accessible at historically low rates. Larger loans (usually $625,000 in high-cost areas) were generally more expensive and had stricter requirements than conforming loans, but recently have become more in line with conforming loans in terms of affordability and screening requirements. Another factor is the tax break, interest on loans can be written off up to $1M.
  • Foreign buyers. The media has been reporting a sharp increase in purchases by foreign buyers. From Europeans to Asians, buyers are coming in from outside the U.S. with a sense of urgency to buy. Metropolitan cities like Miami, L.A. and Honolulu have seen the largest upswing in purchases by foreign buyers.
  • New construction is back. For several years after the market downturn, new construction of luxury properties was virtually nonexistent. But contractors are getting back in the game as inventory continues to stay low despite an ever increasing demand. The country's largest builder of luxury homes, Toll Brothers, have increased signed contracts by 23% in dollars and 6% in units in the fiscal fourth quarter. Co-founder of Toll Brothers Robert I. Tolls discusses the current state of the luxury home building market and it's relationship to the overall luxury real estate market, "The supply of luxury homes is still not meeting current demand, let alone the pent-up demand of the last seven years. This supply constraint could lead to a further escalation in luxury home prices above and beyond normal trends until industry production returns to historic equilibrium.”
  • Existing homeowners are trading up. First-time homebuyers are not the sector fueling the increase in luxury home market increase - existing homeowners are coming up from beneath the water, now having the ability to sell their homes and move to larger, more expensive residences. According to The Financial Times article, more than 85% of homeowners with a mortgage in the second quarter have some equity in their homes, this number up from 75% in 2011. Low inventory is allowing trade-up buyers an easier time selling their current home.

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Holiday Gift Guide: The Gentleman's Wishlist

forhim13
forhim13

Looking to impress the man in your life with the IT gift of the year? Fear not as 2013 did not disappoint, with a list of exclusive gifts and gadgets from luxury electronics to designer accessories certain to delight the most distinguished gentleman! Read on to find the area's most lusted-after wishlist.

1. Sonos Wireless Music System.Santa Barbara electronics company Sonos has quickly become a household name with its line-up of high-tech sound systems. Hifi speakers and audio components distribute your music collection throughout the home, allowing you to create a unique atmosphere for each room by customizing the soundtrack - controlling the entire system from your preferred device. Find it at Santa Barbara's Home Integrated Technology. (Play:5+Bridge Gift Pack, $399).

2. Louis Vuitton Steeve Men's Bag.Louis Vuitton's coveted trademark checkerboard design adorns this stylish and functional men's bag. For business or pleasure, the versatile bag holds all the important possessions to take your man from the boardroom to the gym and from the gym to dinner without a stop in between. Find this fashionable gift at La Cumbre Plaza's Louis Vuitton boutique. (Steeve Men's Bag, $2,600)

3. Taka Puna Bespoke Suits. Luxury menswear designer Tom Ford made 2013 the official year of men's made to measure suits. Custom made suits in crafted in the finest textiles is the ultimate in luxury gift giving. Make your man the eye candy of every holiday soiree by outfitting him in a tailor made suit by Santa Barbara's premier bespoke tailor, Taka Puna. (Starting at $1,950).

4. Breaking Bad - Complete Series. Breaking Bad, the men's entertainment obsession of the year. Did your man miss out on the action? Is your TiVo backlogged with saved episodes he watches over and over? Remedy these tragedies with one easy gift - the complete series DVD gift set. Find it on Amazon.com. (New from $470)

5. Burberry The Britain.  Owning a fine timepiece is a symbol of accomplishment and status. Shower the gentleman in your life with praise and show your appreciation for the hard work he puts in all year. The Burberry Automatic Alligator Strap watch is a modern take on the classic Burberry design. Find it at Nordstrom in Santa Barbara's Paseo Nuevo. ($1,995)

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Architect Spotlight: George Washington Smith

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Architect Spotlight: George Washington Smith

Arguably Montecito and Santa Barbara’s most celebrated architect, George Washington Smith’s unique take on Spanish Revival design has made Santa Barbara’s architecture world-famous.

George Washington Smith designed this impeccable Montecito estate in 1923
George Washington Smith designed this impeccable Montecito estate in 1923

Born in East Liberty Pennsylvania in February of 1876, Smith inherited his eye for design from his father, a civil engineer who designed bridges for local railroads. After attending several prestigious primary schools, Smith enrolled at the Harvard School of Architecture in 1894. However, due to financial hardships Smith withdrew his enrollment from Harvard and took a position as outside construction supervisor for the architectural firm of Newman, Woodman and Harris. A few years later, further financial difficulties forced him to leave the firm and begin selling stocks and bonds in Pennsylvania.

After marrying in 1912, Smith and his wife Mary Cathrine Greenough spent three years traveling Europe. During their tour, Smith devoted himself to studying at the Julian Academy of L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and painting the architecture and landscape of the country, taking particular interest in Spain’s rural farmhouses. Upon returning to the U.S., George and Mary settled in New York before moving to Santa Barbara in 1916.

After designing and building his first home, known as the Smith-Hebertson House on Montecito’s Middle Road, Smith found that many of his neighbors wanted to live in a house like it, and thus began his career as a full-time architect. Viewing himself as a gentleman architect, Smith enjoyed a heavy involvement in the design process by those who commissioned him to create their residences. Together with his clients, Smith traveled across the globe to gather accouterments unique to each individual project. By the mid-1920’s, the commissioning of a house in Santa Barbara or Montecito by Smith was considered the hallmark of success.

Credited as the “father of Spanish Colonial Revival” in the U.S., Smith gathered much of his inspiration from Spain’s rural Andalusia region, featuring subtle and romantic design. Whitewashed exteriors, spiraling staircases, archways, balconies and intricate iron and tile work are familiar motifs of the Spanish Colonial Revival period.

The landscape surrounding the site of a future home was taken into expert consideration prior to design and construction. Working with notable landscape architects including Lockwood de Forest, A.E. Hanson and Ralph T. Stevens, Smith not only created residences, but entire estates with the vision of a full life lived by those who would live there, experiencing the beauty of both the interior and exterior environments.

Today, there are over 80 George Washington Smith works in Santa Barbara, and many more across the country.  Smith’s 21st Montecito house known as Casa del Herrero, built in 1922, is now a museum listed on the National Register of Historical Places, and many of his designs, sketches and correspondence can be found in the University of Santa Barbara’s Art Museum. His works are featured in many prestigious architectural publications including The Architect, Architectural Forum, Achitectural Digest and House Beautiful.

Riskin Associates recently sold this romantic George Washington Smith estate in Montecito.
Riskin Associates recently sold this romantic George Washington Smith estate in Montecito.

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3 Ways to Make More Time!

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3 Ways to Make More Time!

Everyone has their own version of a "busy schedule" and while every industry has unique requirements for how much time is needed to put in in order to be successful, the bottom line is we all need more time. Between careers, social lives and personal time, it seems that nearly every hour of the week is blocked off for something and nearly everyone is asking: how can I make more time? As real estate professionals in the busy markets of Montecito and Santa Barbara, here at Riskin Associates, we are constantly in search of ways to carve out more time for get things done.

Last week, Forbes came to our rescue with an article supplying a few useful suggestions for how to better manage our time. Here, we break down their suggestions for you (time saving!) or click here to read the full article.

  • Free time doesn't have to be available time. When you see a block of time in your calendar that hasn't already been dedicated to an event or activity, fight the urge to fill it with the next invitation. Everyone wants to take advantage of worth-while opportunities, but saying no in order to leave a Wednesday evening or Saturday afternoon open in the calendar will allow you to recharge your batteries and take time for yourself. Being committed to another event doesn't have to be the only reason to turn down an invitation.
  • Put it on the calendar. Yes, you read that correctly. And as oxymoronic as it sounds, filling your calendar will allow you to get more things done. Here's the catch, fill your calendar with the tasks that should get done every day/week/month and put them on the schedule for the next three months. If it isn't on the calendar it won't get done. Are weekday exercise sessions routinely pushed to the bottom of your list in favor of that early morning conference call? Do personal administrative tasks (bill paying, trip planning etc.) get put on the back burner due to networking events? Schedule time for these tasks for the next 2-3 months. The time doesn't have to be set in stone, but if time is allotted for these tasks early, you can easily move them as needed. Just be sure to move them, not remove them from the calendar.
  • Get this: Sometimes time is more valuable than money. Do you despise the time you feel is wasted by cooking meals and washing dishes every night? Doing laundry on the weekends? In some cases, forking out the extra money in order to save time is well worth it. Eliminated stress, completing more important or urgent tasks, and allowing more time for relaxation are all worth the price difference in paying for a meal delivery system or housekeeper to help with cleaning and laundry. They say 'time is money' but maybe they could be saying 'money makes time.'

With some new insight into how to find more time in your schedule, do an experiment on time management. Follow these suggestions and let us know if you found these tips helpful!

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Weekend Food, Fun & Sun in Santa Barbara!!

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Weekend Food, Fun & Sun in Santa Barbara!!

The SOL Food Festival in Santa Barbara has fun for the whole family!
The SOL Food Festival in Santa Barbara has fun for the whole family!

Santa Barbara is renowned for it's stretches of sandy beaches, exciting events such as the SB International Film Festival and of course, it's profusion of delectable culinary offerings. But restaurants and cafes aren't the only spots in Santa Barbara you will find food and fun combined! Santa Barbara residents and visitors regularly enjoy festivals and celebrations that prove to be a feast for all the senses! Santa Barbara offers year-round opportunities to appreciate the beautiful bounty of the area. From the Solstice Festival in June to Octoberfest fun, and lets not forget the annual Holiday Parade, each season has it's own way of partaking in the excitement! As we head into the fall season (which, in Santa Barbara, bares a striking resemblance to Summer) harvest fun is  everywhere! This Saturday, the SOL Food Festival will pay tribute to local farmers, chefs, and organizations  throughout SB County. The festival, which will be held at Plaza Vera Cruz Park on Santa Barbara street between Cota  and Haley Streets, will feature several different stages each boasting their own theme such as Making Change Stage  and Hands On Kitchen Stage. We've included the festival map to the left! Bring the family out to Plaza Vera Cruz Park for a day of fun, food, music and of course, Santa Barbara sun!

Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company Figtober Fest
Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company Figtober Fest

Another way to enjoy the beauty of Santa Barbara's fine offerings is directed to our adult residents and visitors. The new "it" locale for laid-back dining and drinking is Santa Barbara's up and coming neighborhood, lovingly referred to as The Funk Zone. This area of SB was once known for its industrial atmosphere, but star chefs, breweries and sommeliers are breathing new life into the area, giving it a relaxed yet stylish feel. New restaurants and tasting rooms are popping up what seems to be weekly, and the activity is getting everyone's attention.

This weekend, Santa Barbara County favorite Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company is hosting FigtoberFest in two locations, Buellton and the Santa Barbara Funk Zone. The Funk Zone location will feature beer tastings, guest breweries, wine tastings, food trucks, live music and costume contests! In keeping with the Oktoberfest spirit, traditional German garb is encouraged!!

Sunday, work (or watch) off your food/beer coma by heading down to West Beach and take in the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour, going on Friday - Sunday. Click here to buy your tickets to the action!!

Riskin Associates invites you to visit Santa Barbara and get a taste of what everyday life is like in paradise!

AVP
AVP

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Year's End Market Forecast

A Montecito estate listed by Riskin Associates
A Montecito estate listed by Riskin Associates

With two weeks of mid-80's temperatures here in Montecito, the team at Riskin Associates is having a hard time believing summer is almost over. With a busy selling season, fall is sneaking up on us and reminding us that 2013 is coming to a close! Thus far, the market has been booming this year: the low-end seller's laughed all the way to the bank due to bidding wars, inventory was tight and suddenly high-end listings are getting escalating activity! With the exciting movement in the market, agents, buyers and sellers are all looking at the market forecast for the remainder of 2013.  According to Forbes Real Estate writer Morgan Brennan, here's where the market is going:

  • Don't worry about bursting your bubble. While prices are soaring at impressive rates, they are not catching up to the pre-burst levels. Prices are still lower than they were back then, in fact there are still many undervalued area's across the country.
  • Prices will continue to increase through 2013. Experts project that 2013 will close with home prices anywhere from 6-12% higher than last year's based on supply and demand. However, the progress is expected to slow due to increasing inventory and high mortgage rates.
  • Inventory won't stay low for long. Early in 2013, inventory hit a 12-year low, but is already starting to increase. Realtor.com president Errol Samuelson expects that inventory levels will flatten out into fall, but surprisingly, prices will continue to appreciate. New construction will increase as homebuilder's will feel renewed confidence and begin new developments.

2013 has seen some of the strongest market increases since the recovery began. A healthy competitor for the banner year that was 2012, real estate professionals are anxiously watching for 2013's grand finale.

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Why Luxury Real Estate is a Vote of Confidence for the U.S. Economy

A luxury montecito estate
A luxury montecito estate

The U.S. economy is in full recovery mode! Over the last year, middle class families have jumped at the opportunity to purchase homes with record-low interest rates, contributing the boost in the market. Homes priced under $1 million rose 11% in price during the first half of 2013. Now the luxury home market is gaining momentum as well, with homes priced over $1 million jumping an average of 37% during the same time frame. According to an article released by Financial Post, these are the highest numbers seen since the market's height in 2007. The article goes on to explain that the luxury market tends to follow (closely) behind the broader market, as luxury property purchases tend to be "discretionary spending" and generally waits until a stable market is experienced.

This upswing the in real estate market is a sign of widespread economic growth.  According to the article, economists predict a U.S. economic expansion of 2.3% in this quarter alone. How does home purchasing indicate general economic growth? Home buying spurs consumer spending, with decorating, remodels and entertaining.

Wealthy families are gaining confidence in the economy as they are beginning to see stabilization of their investments, and beginning to purchase high-end homes. For this reason, the surge in the luxury real estate market reflects a vote of confidence in the broader economy. Riskin Associates is excited by a recent article published on AOL Real Estate which named Santa Barbara as the #3 city seeing the highest rate of market rebound in the US!

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