Million dollar homes burned to the ground in Ventura last December, while multi-million dollar homes in Montecito got washed away in January, but that hasn’t stopped the demand for homes in both areas.
It’s a tale of two communities hit by historic disasters. Ventura was scarred by the Thomas Fire and Montecito was devastated by mudslides following the fire.
“I can’t believe, it how fire came here, the next morning they were still trying to put the fire out –terrible,” said Fred Evans, a fire survivor.
Fred Evans lost two Ventura homes; the one he lived in and the one he bought to protect his ocean view.
“Put it in proportion to what you saw Montecito and the mudslides –all those people swept away and died we didn’t –we lost all our stuff, but that’s stuff,” said Evans.
While Montecito mudslide survivors waited for recovery maps to guide rebuilding, Ventura fire survivors started selling their burned out property.
“I just listed one a few minutes ago before I got here. Seven in escrow, eight have already closed this year and last year we only had one lot,” said Evans. “The lots are going, depending on what part of town, $350-to-$700,000 depending on where it is at, homes that barely withstood the fire are selling too.”
Evans says the fire is fueling sales to outside investors.
“I thought the market would be depressed actually and it is so busy every time we get a house on the hill now somebody wants to buy,” said Evans. “I sold two on Ondulando for $875,000 and right next to all of them were burned down houses.”
Evans says he know those houses are going to be brand new and it will help their value. He adds that it may not be financially feasible for hundreds of homeowners to rebuild.
“A lot of people are in that boat right now cause they are just getting their insurance money, most of us were under insured, so you have to borrow more money like SBA or FEMA or older people in these hills hey don’t want to get a loan at their age,” said Evans.
“They have a really beautiful lot, but by the time they try to rebuild they can’t afford to keep it,” said Chris Barrett, with Project Management Associates. “I think when people see the opportunity to buy a new home there are going to be multiple offers and I think it is going to happen on a lot of the lots.”
Up Highway 101 in Montecito, residents are still mourning 23 of their neighbors and several dogs killed in the mudslides.
“I think a lot of them are still taking a breath, waiting for the maps, now that they are out and they don’t say you have to go up ten feet I think a lot of people will contact the county and the case manager,” said Jacques Marcillac, who lost a home in the mudslide.
Marcillac said rebuilding to new codes can’t be rushed.
“For the most part, unless you are in the debris field, I think a lot of people will eventually rebuild or sell their lots, which is a shame, we don’t want to lose people in the community, that is a shame, but everyone is going to want Montecito real estate I’ll guarantee that,” said Marcillac.
Resilient residents are confident both communities will make a comeback.