Real Estate in Orange County, CA
Holly Schwartz McDonald

Ask the Expert: Incentives Can Help When Selling A Rental Property

As seen in the Coastal Real Estate Guide on October 29, 2018


If you think coordinating showings for your own home is challenging, let me open your eyes to an even more complex scenario that happens all too often. Imagine you are a landlord and the time has come to sell your income property. Maybe you are tired of dealing with tenants, maybe another investment opportunity has come along, or perhaps the time has come to retire. There are numerous reasons landlords choose to sell their income properties. However, timing and tenants can complicate the process. If you are a landlord and looking to sell, here are some factors and solutions to consider.


The best-case scenario, if all of the stars align of course, would be to list the home once the tenant vacates. Then the property can be shown at any time, it will be clean, and you will have the choice to show it either empty or staged, depending on what makes sense for your home. Many times, landlords consider the sale of their property when a tenant gives notice to move out.  If the timing is suitable for selling, then luck is on their side.


Sometimes a landlord chooses to list their home while the tenants are still living there. While not totally ideal, this option can work when tenants are understanding, flexible, and tidy. Perhaps they have sold a home before as well, so they have empathy for the landlord and know how important it is to be accommodating. There are also tenants who work or travel a lot and don’t mind showings on a whim, which makes it fairly simple to show. A clean, orderly tenant who takes pride in their home can help tremendously–it’s almost like “free” staging.


Unfortunately, it is far too common to have tenants who are disagreeable if a landlord asks to show a home before the lease is up and the tenant has moved out. After all, it’s not their problem that a landlord wants to sell and get top dollar. They have a signed lease. I’ve seen this attitude from tenants, despite the fact that they are not being asked to vacate prior to the end of their lease, and it can make for a very unpleasant situation for all parties. However, there are some ways to incentivize tenants to work with landlords, not against them, in the home sale process.


Michael Lockwood, Realtor at Villa Real Estate, has spent many years working in the property management sector. He suggests motivating tenants with different enticements – all while adhering to the terms of the lease of course. One tip that has worked well in the past includes having the seller offer to cover the moving expenses of the tenants. Another strategy that works beautifully is to let the tenant out of some of their move-out obligations, for example not enforcing a carpet cleaning clause, or not making them patch and repair all holes in the walls. Tenants tend to respond well to this because it lessens the hassle of their move.


As we all know, money talks so it may be beneficial to budget for these types of enticements if you are a landlord who chooses to sell. Tenants can make access to the home very difficult. When selling a home, viewings are a must so figuring out how to make the home accessible and show its best is of utmost importance.


By Holly Schwartz McDonald

Holly Schwartz is a Realtor with Villa Real Estate who lives in Newport Beach and has been featured on HGTV’s “House Hunters.” She can be reached at

Ask the Expert: New Year’s Resolutions for Your Home

As seen in the Coastal Real Estate Guide on January 7, 2019

Are you all about New Year’s resolutions? It can be motivating to set goals for the upcoming year and they can certainly apply to your home life as well. US News and HGTV have identified several customary goals that homeowners often have. Here are some that you may want to consider making to ring in 2019.

Organizing and decluttering is one of the more common game plans for the new year. This can prove to be an overwhelming task though. Where to start? I would suggest list making and appointment setting. A smart first step is to make a list of areas that need to be focused on and then schedule chunks of time to tackle them. This will help keep you on track for this task.

Have a remodel project in mind for 2019? Then gear up and get ready since this can take a lot of time and resources. To start off, it is advisable to start planning by meeting with contractors or other professionals who can assist you with the project. If you are doing something that requires permits or architectural plans, it makes sense to sort out the details and get the ball rolling ASAP, that way you can try to complete your project in 2019.

Is a move in the cards for 2019? If your goal is to sell your home and move into a new one this year, you may want to get a jump on it. Meeting with Realtors and deciding who to work with can take time, as can getting a home ready to go on the market.

What about making sure your home is safe and sound? There are many ways to go about this, for example, making sure your home has working carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors is a simple yet serious task. Other easy-to-do projects include removing dryer lint in the vents behind the dryer, keeping a fire extinguisher handy, and having a first aid kit that is fully stocked.

Another excellent resolution is to make your home more energy efficient, which is not only good for the environment, but can also be beneficial for your bank account. Here are some easy things that you can do to start on this task:

• replace lights with LED bulbs
• swap out plumbing fixtures for low-flow fixtures
• update landscaping with drought tolerant plants and cut back on watering the yard

Resolutions are an exciting way to kick start the year. Since our homes are generally one of our greatest assets, why not set goals around them? Cheers!

By Holly Schwartz McDonald 

Holly Schwartz is a Realtor with Villa Real Estate who lives in Newport Beach and has been featured on HGTV’s hit show “House Hunters.” She can be reached at with comments or story ideas.

Ask The Expert – An Important Checklist for New Homeowners

As seen in the Coastal Real Estate Guide, November 26, 2018


Buying a new home is often an exciting time for people – it’s a new adventure, a pivotal change, and a piece of the American dream.  New buyers are often imagining how they can personalize and transform the space by putting their own stamp on it.  While that can all be exhilarating to plan, there are some less glamorous tasks that should come first and foremost on your to-do list.  Here’s a look at five practical steps to take before embarking on some of the other projects that might be in store.


  1. One of the most thrilling moments when you buy a house is the moment you get handed your new keys.  Even though all keys and codes are meant to be transferred to the buyers, the fact is, you have no way of knowing how many duplicates are floating around.  According to the National Association of Realtors, buyers should plan to quickly change all locks to new ones and swap out or reprogram any keypads, codes, etc.  Who knows who had knowledge to or access to those items in the past?  For your safety, change them!


  1. Houselogic also provided some tips that should be addressed right away by new homeowners.  For example, even though the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors were likely tested during the course of buying the home, it is still wise to test them again upon moving in. They are there to protect occupants and batteries can expire at any time and devices can malfunction.  A good practice would be to start fresh with new batteries at the very least.


  1. The water heater temperature should be tested.  Many times, a water heater may be set too hot, too cold, or it may be set to a vacation mode.  For the comfort and safety of those living in the property (no scorching please!), check and test the temperature until it is just right.


  1. Test motion lights and check security lighting.  Again, these bulbs can go out at any time and it’s best to check them frequently for not only safety but also for peace of mind.


  1. Make a plan to address items on the home inspection that were not repaired during the sale of the home.  Sure, they may not seem like a big deal now but unfortunately, problems often tend to grow worse over time.  Maintenance and proper care is the best defense.  Plus, when you eventually go to sell, previously small problems could have spiraled to monumental proportions and the next buyer may not be as agreeable to deal with them.


Taking care of the nuts and bolts is a sensible way to start the journey of homeownership.  Sure, it is most definitely more enlivening to tackle a project that is more visual or provoking, however, handling these few easy to do items right away will help to ensure safety so other future projects can be fully enjoyed.


Holly Schwartz is a Realtor with Villa Real Estate who lives in Newport Beach and has been featured on HGTV’s hit show, House Hunters.  She can be reached at with questions and story ideas.

Home Prices Spike in Newport Beach’s 92663 Zip Code

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The values are in and according to the Infosparks market update through CRMLS for October 2015, the average sales price in the 92663 zip code of Newport Beach was $3,338,333. The previous high was back in May 2014 when the average sales price was just over $3,100,000.


Typically, the months with the highest home prices are April/May and then another peak in August/September. That varies slightly year to year but is fairly consistent. The prices in 2012 were a bit higher than 2013 (In 2012 the highest average sales prices were in April and about $2,700,000. In 2013 the highest average sales prices were in May and about $2,400,000.) Then in 2014 the market improved as noted above.


Average home prices represent the high and low sales prices in a given area. In October 2015 the highest sale was for 617 Lido Park situated right on Newport Bay and selling for $10,150,000. That certainly helped boost up the average sales price in the 92663 zip code. However there is no denying that over the course of 2014 through 2015 the average trend in home values has been up.

The Low Inventory in Costa Mesa Continues

It’s been the theme throughout 2015 here in Costa Mesa – low inventory especially in the entry level price range. Currently there at only 10 active listings on the market for under a half million dollars. This is creating several trends in our marketplace:

  1. Affordability is going out the window. The options for first time/entry level buyers in our area are slim and this is encouraging many to continue renting. It is a stretch to save up for a down payment and mortgage payments are becoming unaffordable as a result.
  2. Prices have risen in 2015 for entry level homes. On average, condos and townhomes have seen values shoot up approx. $50,000 this year. The rule of supply & demand is in effect.
  3. There have been less move up buyers. Even though many condo/townhome owners have had a surge in equity, the move up homes have become more expensive as well so a lot of owners have chosen to stay put.

On the flip side, there is plenty of inventory in the higher price ranges. Above $800,000, there are currently 53 active listings to choose from. For the “winter” market, that is a healthy amount of homes and presents options for those in the higher price ranges.

Costa Mesa Open Houses – Saturday, November 7, 2015

Today I will be hosting an open house in the College Park neighborhood of Costa Mesa at 2385 Rutgers from 1-4. A list of ALL Costa Mesa open houses for today is included below as well. If you’d like more info on any of these homes or would prefer to set up a private showing please let me know. Or if you’d like a list of open houses in other areas or with specific criteria I am happy to provide that too – just text me at 714-928-4682. Have a great Saturday!

Link to all Costa Mesa Open Houses 11/7/15:

We're sorry, but we couldn't find MLS # OC15218178 in our database. This property may be a new listing or possibly taken off the market. Please check back again.


How To Prepare To Sell Your Home

Preparing to sell your home is one of the most important things to work on to help sell your home quickly and for top dollar. First impressions are crucial so the more you can do to make your home stand out and impress buyers, the better. Here are some things you can start on right away:

1. Reduce the clutter. If you are still living in your home or leaving personal items in place, it is ok to have a home-y feel however you want to create a neutral feeling environment so that the home appeals to a wide variety of people. Try to limit decor and pack away all other non-essentials like photos, books, knickknacks, blankets, magazines, magnets, etc.  I always suggest that you leave just the main furnishings and even then I might advise sellers to move some furniture or store it in the garage to make for better flow or more space. Reducing the clutter helps homes feel larger too, always a plus.

2. Clean, clean and clean. This may be the hardest part if you are living in the home because you never know when someone will call to schedule a showing. The best plan is to do a thorough cleaning right before listing the home (especially bathrooms – scrub those tubs! Clean grout, clean stove/oven grease, wash off door frames that are smudged, etc) then just be as meticulous as possible until the home sells. Living like your home is a magazine model may be hard but the effort will pay off. A neat home will appeal to more people and may ultimately increase your bottom line significantly!

3. Decide if any changes/improvements are needed and complete them quickly. I can help you with making the wisest decisions and finding the necessary local vendors who are reliable and reasonable. For instance, in the current market, it may not be necessary to replace carpet. A professional cleaning may suffice or a carpet allowance, rather than the trouble and expense of installation. Same goes for paint.

4. Let a local Realtor tour your home and give you constructive criticism. Don’t take offense, they are only trying to help you and can provide a fresh perspective, after all they are on the front line with buyers all the time and can predict what things will stand out to buyers in both a good and bad way.

5. Select a couple of different local Realtors to interview. Just like you wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive, it’s important to hear the plans and suggestions of at least 2-3 agents (more than that will likely be too overwhelming). To find your prospective Realtors, ask for referrals from friends, find out who does business in your neighborhood, search online. Then set up a meeting and see who meets (or better yet – exceeds) your expectations!

6. Access and Openness – start thinking about the accessibility of your home and the fact that that it will be listed publicly. I’ve known many people who are particular about when their home can be shown and who has access to the house and I do understand that. So it’s best to figure out what you are comfortable with early on and communicate that to your agent. In my experience, the easier it is to show a home, the easier and faster it will sell. However, every situation is different and can be adjusted accordingly as long as everyone is on the same page from the start. This goes for publicity as well. The fact is that homes sell faster when they are listed in the Multiple Listing Service. More buyers will see the home advertised, more agents will be working to sell your home to their buyers, and all eyes are on your home! Again, houses that have a real estate sign in the yard will garner more attention than houses that do not. On the same note, your neighbors can play a huge role in selling your home. I know many homeowners who do not want their neighbors in their personal business but the fact is that I have seen many, many home sales come about as the result of a neighbor who has a friend or relative that wants to live nearby.

7. Know your net and customary selling costs. Many homeowners have never sold a home before so they are not familiar with the expenses they will have. Please note that none of these expenses should be up front (unless you are making improvements on your own). In general, a seller will net the following from the sale of their home:

Total sales price – payoff of loan amounts minus agency fee minus escrow fee minus title fee minus disclosure fee minus notary fee minus HOA transfer/doc fee (if applicable) minus transfer tax fees minus termite repair/inspection fee (optional but very common), minus fees for any repair requests (again optional but very common) minus smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarm costs and installation minus home warranty (also an optional fee but very common for the seller to provide) equals total proceeds to the seller. I am happy to provide an estimated breakdown for you and paint a better picture of where you would stand after the sale is complete.

8. And finally, have a plan for your next step. Once you accept an offer, the escrow period is generally 30 days. Depending on how the contract is written, many sellers are expected to move out on day 30 by the end of the day and hand over the keys to the buyers. In many cases, the buyer will agree to let the sellers have a couple of extra days in the house at no charge to finish moving or cleaning. This should be agreed to early on though since the buyers often plan to move in and take possession as soon as escrow closes. If you do not believe you can find a place to go within 30 days of accepting an offer, there are other options that can be discussed.

Yes, I know it can seem overwhelming but I can hep you with all of the steps above. From helping pack boxes to getting carpets cleaned to estimating home value and finding a place to move after escrow closes and more – selling your home can be an enjoyable journey.



Each weekend in September families can participate in more than 100 events and learn about child-focused charitable groups. Activities include arts and crafts, singing and dance performances, and more. Visitors can check out Canstruction OC, over a dozen giant fantasy structures made entirely out of donated canned foods benefiting the Orange County Food Bank. This September is special as we also celebrate National Child Awareness Month (NCAM). NCAM is an effort led by Festival of Children Foundation to focus the attention of our nation on the most critical issues facing children today.