Being stuck at home isn’t ideal, but here are ways to make dealing with self-isolation from COVID-19 just a little bit more fun for the whole family.

It’s not fun being cooped up because of self-isolation and social distancing, but with a little bit of effort, you can create some fun things to do at home to help the time pass and make some wonderful memories. You’ll probably have to work with what you have one hand, since so many stores are closed. But with a little creativity, we’re sure you can make most of these ideas work. You’ve got this!

1. Zoom around in cardboard race cars

Let your kids zoom through the living room in their very own race car. Get the instructions here.

2. Make a cardboard dollhouse

Create your own dollhouse, as intricate or as simple as you’d like. We’ve got instructions for one that’s a series of “apartments” that can be broken up and played with however you’d like. Find it here.

3. Make your own drive-in movie

Make a box car for an indoor drive-in film. Get the instructions here.

4. Bring Minecraft to life

Got a Minecraft fan at home? They’ll flip for this creeper box craft. Find it and templates for Minecraft pixel pickaxes here.

5. Make your own pinwheel

This simple craft is best enjoyed in a breeze, but standing in front of a fan gets the job done too. Learn to make your own here.

6. Make a portable art easel

Don’t throw away that cardboard box! Make a sturdy and portable art easel for your mini Monet. Get the instructions here.

7. Make a calming jar

Help your kids cool down and relax with these easy-to-make calming jars. All you need is hand soap, water and a handful of shiny glitter and beads to help your kids find their inner peace. Get the instructions here.

8. Blow bubbles

Go buy some bubbles at your favourite dollar store, or make your own at home. Plus, learn how to make your own bubble wands here.

9. Play hide-and-seek

Another classic fun things to do at home. Who can find the best hiding spot in the house?

10. Make a bird feeder

What better spring craft is there than making a DIY bird feeder? Or try painting a birdhouse, which you can purchase at your local craft store.

11. Play a game of hopscotch

You might think this game is too simple, but it’s always a great time-killer and super fun to play at any age.

12. Get gardening

Spend some time outdoors by planting flowersin the yard. Your little ones will love getting messy in the fresh soil and being on garden hose duty.

13. Wash your car

If it’s warm enough outside, get the kids to help you out with cleaning up your family vehicle(s) on the driveway.

14. Collect and paint rocks

Go to a nearby park and collect rocks, then make a craft day out of it. Paint them with whatever paint you have at home and maybe even turn them into rock magnets for the fridge.

15. Take lots of pictures

Make sure that while living in the moment, you don’t forget to snap photos of the silly and fun times, too. Print the photos and have the kids help you finally put together that scrapbook or album you’ve wanted to make.

16. Build a fort

Any time of the year is the perfect time to build a fort. It’s great for some pretend indoor camping!

17. Draw with sidewalk chalk

Sprawl out on the sidewalk with a big bucket of chalk or spruce up your driveway with your wildest creations.

18. Have a scavenger hunt

Put together a list of household objects and see who can be the first to find everything on the list!

19. Watch the sunset

The best ending to the perfect spring day is watching the sunset with the little ones before calling it a night.

20. Get baking

Ge the most out of baking with your kids. Pretend to be bakers while practicing essential skills like reading with recipes or counting with ingredients.

21. Get silly with your kids

Try these low cost options for just having some good ole silly fun.

22. Make a twig sailboat

Time to set sail in a lake, pail or bathtub! Make these cute little crafts out of simple supplies. Find instructions here.

23. Make a time capsule

A sweet time capsule filled with special trinkets and memories is always a fun indoor activity to do with kids. Have them help decorate the box and curate which items to put in it. Learn how here.

24. Learn a few magic tricks

Who doesn’t love magic? Learn some simple sleight of hand with this easy guide.

25. Play card games

Teach your kid some fun classic card games like Go Fish!, Crazy Eights, Slapjack and more!

26. Play freeze dance

Choose some of your kids’ favourite tunes and turn up the volume. Ask them to dance until the music stops. When it does, they have to freeze in whatever position they find themselves in – even if they have one leg up. To make the game more challenging, ask the kids to freeze in specific poses: animals, shapes, letters or even yoga postures. Toddlers in particular love this game.

27. Do a puzzle

Exercise those creative, cognitive and problem-solving muscles with a good puzzle. You can use a store-bought variety or have the kids make their own. Have your children draw a picture on a sturdy piece of cardboard or Bristol board. Then use a pencil to outline puzzle pieces directly on their drawing. Cut out the pieces with a good pair of scissors, mix them up and get solving. Indoor games and craft in one fun activity!

28. Improvise some paper-bag skits

This indoor game is ideal for larger families. Divide the kids (and adults) up into groups. Give each group a bag filled with props, such as a spoon, toy jewelry, a sock, ball or ribbon. Then give them 15 minutes to construct a skit around the props. This game is so much fun that it doesn’t have to be competitive. If the kids want, though, they can vote on a winning skit.

29. Make a DIY balance beam

If you have masking tape on hand, why not make your own balance beam? We all know how much kids love walking in straight lines every chance they get. Put on some music, and one at a time the kids can take their turn walking one-foot-over-the-other across the straight line of tape. Make the game more challenging by having the kids walk backwards or balance with one foot on the line.

30. Do some indoor bowling

A great way to reuse water bottles (or you can purchase an indoor bowling set). Line six-10 water bottles up at the end of your hall or living room. Place a line of duct tape at the starting line. Grab a medium-sized indoor ball and start bowling! If you want, keep score and give out trophies at the end. (Note: if you need to stabilize the water bottles or make the game more difficult, simply fill them up with some water. Don’t forget to screw the tops on tightly!) Learn how to make a classic set of pins here, or find instructions for some cute cactus-themed bowling pins here.

31. Play Hot Potato

This game will have everyone giggling. Ask the kids to sit on the floor in a circle. Turn on some tunes and have them pass the potato (a bean bag or soft ball) around the circle as fast as they can. When the music stops, the player holding the potato leaves the circle. Keep going until only one player is left and wins the game.

32. Play the listening game

This game is sure to both educate and delight little ones. Take out several miscellaneous items. Have the children look at all the items, and then take them away. Next, ask one child to hide his or her eyes and listen as you pick up an item and make sounds with it. Ask the child to guess which item made the sound. Examples of items might be a comb (run your fingers along it), a glass (gently tap it), cymbals, shakers, sandpaper, blocks rubbed together, a pot and spoon. Be creative and have fun!

33. Play Simon Says

This traditional favourite will never get old. To start, choose one player (probably a parent for the first round) to be Simon. The rest of the players will gather in a circle or line in front of Simon as he calls out actions starting with the phrase “Simon says”: “Simon says…touch your toes.” The players then have to copy Simon’s action, touching their toes. If Simon calls out an action without uttering the phrase “Simon says,” the kids must not do the action. If a child touches his toes when Simon didn’t say…, he or she is out of the game. There are lots of great ways Simon can trick players into doing actions when Simon didn’t say: Simon can perform an action without uttering a command, for example, or he can perform an action that doesn’t correspond with the command. Fun! The last player left in the game wins and becomes the next Simon.

34. Set up a game of indoor basketball

You can’t be too little for this version of basketball. All you need is a bucket and a rolled up sock (or a small, light ball). Each player takes a turn at throwing the sock-ball into the bucket. When a player scores a bucket, he or she takes a step back and throws again until missing. The player who shoots the ball in the bucket from the farthest distance wins.

35. Learn some classic hand-clapping games

These classic hand-clapping games are sure to pass the time with your little ones. Just make sure everyone washes their hands before and after!

36. Make an emoji magic 8-ball

Who knows what the future holds during this uncertain time? Your little ones will after the make this adorable craft. Get instructions here.

37.Take to the skies in cardboard planes

Fly in style with this colourful plane. Find it here.

38. Make a mini city out of toilet paper rolls

Save up your empty toilet paper rolls and once there’s enough, have your kiddies make a city out of them! Get the instructions here.

39. Make rainbow crayons

Collect all those broken crayons and melt them down into moulds to turn them into exciting multicoloured crayons in fun shapes! Get the instructions here

40. Make a pair of paper roll binoculars

These binoculars are powered solely by your kids’ imaginations. Have your kids go on an epic safari right there in your living room. No need to worry if they ever rip or get sat on, it’s super easy to whip up a new pair. Get the instructions here.

50. Make a foosball table

See that empty shoe box? With some wooden dowels, paint, and a handful of clothespins, it is now the home of your awesome DIY foosball table. Game on! Get the instructions here.

 51. Make a desk caddy

Help your kids get their desks organized with these cute desk caddies! Made from a shoebox, toilet paper rolls and newspaper, your kid can design it however they want. Get the instructions here.

52. Make a jetpack

Want to send your kids on an imaginary adventure in outer space? Have them make a jetpack out of empty pop bottles and watch them travel the galaxy.Get the instructions here.

53. Have sensory fun with this lady bug sensory box

A few basic supplies are all you need to make a cute and educational sensory box. Get the instructions here.

54. Make a holiday tree

Got some old cupcake liners lying around? Depending on their colours, this paper tree craft can be used to make decorations for different holidays throughout the year. Red and green liners? Christmas! Orange and black? Halloween! Pink and white? Valentine’s Day! What holiday will your family be celebrating next? Get the instructions here.

55. Make a basketball pennant flag

The NBA season may have been suspended but you can still celebrate your kid’s favourite sport. Get the instructions here.

56. Craft some cozy critters

Make these cozy little critters to keep your kids’ hard-boiled eggs nice and warm. When eggs aren’t on the menu, they do double as tiny puppets! Get the instructions here.

57. Make some fancy felt hairpins

Turn plain bobby pins into your child’s new favourite accessory with some felt shapes, glue and glitter. Try different shapes to match the season: snowflakes for winter, flowers for spring, a beachball for summer and leaves for fall. And stars work for every season. Get the instructions here.

58. Make some owl eye pillow masks

Get your little night owl excited to sleep with this charming eye mask. Do this craft with your kids in the morning before lunch so it’ll be ready for naptime! Get the instructions here.

59. Play pretend with these Yoda ears

These ears will instantly turn your kiddo into a wise, old jedi master. Round out the ends and use black and pink felt to make easy cow ears. White and pink felt will give you the cutest lamb ears. Now who wants to play pretend?  Get the instructions here.

60. Make pipe cleaner crowns

Speaking of dress up, what princess (or prince) would be caught without their crown? We have three adorable (and bejewelled) crowns you can make with just a few supplies. Find the instructions here.

61. Make mini hockey sticks

Who’s up for a game of mini hockey? These mini hockey sticks are quick and easy to make, just use a plastic bottle cap or small circular piece of cardboard as a puck! More instructions here.

62. Print out some fun pencil and paper games

These fun, simple pencil and paper games will keep kids occupied while parents try to get some work done. Get the printables here.

63. Whip up some edible playdough

This craft is perfect for little ones who love sticking everything in their mouths. (I’m looking at you, glue-eating Tommy.) This edible, dye-free playdough can be made with ingredients you likely have on hand. Make it before the party and then set out cookie cutters and rolling pins on a craft table. Then the kids can get their dough on! Learn how to make it here.

64. Make matching heart headbands

Some people like to wear their heart on their sleeve. But we prefer to wear our heart on our head! Make matching ones for everyone in the family and share what you love most about each other. Find out how here.

65. Create some braided accessories

These colourful braided accessories are fun to make and great for playing dress up. Kids can experiment with new patterns and colour combinations. Let the creative juices start flowing! Learn how to make them here.

66. Rock out with some disco microphones

Your little disco stars can sing their hearts out with these easy DIY microphones. Let them can choose a disco ball, glitter or sequins to decorate their very own mic for a karaoke showdown! Learn how here.

67. Marble-dye some eggs

These pretty marbled eggs don’t have to be just for Easter (although it’s coming up!). The kids can paint them to match a birthday theme, or turn them into their favourite characters (like red-and-blue for Spider Man). All you need are some eggs, food colouring and shaving cream. You might want to lay out a lot of newspaper—things might get messy! Get the instructions here.

68. Make sweet flower crown

Have a little flower-lover? Then this is the craft for your little one! She’ll be a true fairy princess this sweet flower crown. Learn how here.

69. Shake it out with these water bottle maracas

Feeling pent up? Let off some of that bottle up energy with these fun maracas. Learn how to make them here.

70. Make a kid-friendly terrarium

This easy DIY terrarium is the perfect activity for kids. We’ve got the how-to here. Got a mason jar? Make these terrariums instead!

71. Make some bath fizzies

These instructions may be for Halloween-themed bath bombs, but you can make them into any shape you’d like to add more fun to bath time.

72. Make cute plastic lapel pins

Yes, you can make trendy pins with your flair-obsessed kids at home. They look super cute on a denim jacket or backpack (for when school finally reopens) Learn how here.

73. Refresh some old sneakers with splatter paint

Create your own designer sneakers at home with this simple splatter paint craft. Get the instructions here.

74. Make an old-school whirligig fidget toy

Fidget toys are perfect for when the family is stuck inside. Try making your own version of the old-timey classic with this easy DIY whirligig. Find out how here.

75. Make an easy reversible felt playmat

This reversible playmat is such a cinch to make and will provide your little one with hours of fun. Get the how-to here.

76. Create some easy felt embroidered patches

What kid (or adult) doesn’t love a cute embroidered patch? Watch this tutorial and learn how to make one yourself with our easy-to-follow steps. See, you are crafty!

77. Dip-dye a watermelon T-shirt

This sweet t-shirt is a fun and easy project to take to the yard. If you know how to dunk, you already know how to dip dye. Find out how here.

78. Play a board game

Boards games are great for bonding time as a family (even when it gets competitive). Check out which boards games are perfect for what age group here.

79. Sound safari

Show your school-age kid how to use the digital recorder on your phone, then ask them to go around the house or yard recording 10 different sounds. Emphasize that they should take their time and try to stump you. (Variation: very close-up shots with the camera.) Then get them to return to the sound booth, aka the couch, and you try to figure out what the sounds are. Pro tip: To keep your phone out of the toilet, ban “flushing” sounds.

80. Play a game of What’s on my butt?

Get comfy on the couch, belly down. Your kids take turns finding things around the house and putting them on your behind. You ask, “What’s on my butt?” (feel free to add funny voices here) and then try to guess. Hil-ar-i-ous.

81. Watch clouds

No, there are no clouds on the living room ceiling, but this is an imagination game. Lie down with your kiddo and whisper, “Wow, look at the beautiful clouds.”  You can take turns pointing out what you “see” and pretty soon, creative kids will be spotting elephants and waterslides.

82. Stargaze indoors

Get a kitchen colander or two, a decent flashlight and some of your household’s thousands of little toys. Dinosaurs and horses are good. Lie down in a dark room and shine the flashlight through the colander onto the ceiling. Instant starry night! You can also shine the flashlight behind the toys to project shadows onto the ceiling and walls.

83. Play Don’t wake the giant

Since you’ve got those little plastic toys out…lie down and ask your kids to arrange the toys on your back or belly. Urge them to use their imaginations to set up scenes like a village, the African savannah or a parking lot. But wait—they’ve actually set up everything on a sleeping giant! Stretch, scratch, shake, or maybe even stand up.

84. Just roll around on the floor

Little-known fact: rolling around on the floor is a great way for your preschooler or kindergartener to fine-tune all kinds of developmental skills related to balance, coordination and strength. How awesome that you get to lie on the couch to get the best view of their game. Ask if they can roll straight like a pencil (little kids tend to move their top half first then their legs) or roll in both directions. Ask them to put their arms above their heads and hold on to a stuffed toy while they roll (this requires more strength and coordination). More than one kid? Get them to form a “conveyor belt” with coordinated rolling to move a toy along from one kid to another.

85. Make a race track

Lie on the floor with one knee up and maybe an arm outstretched. Get your kid to set up their train track or car track all around you. You’re the landscape!

86. Operation time

Introduce the kids to the retro game, with you as the patient. Get the kitchen tongs and some small objects, which you arrange on your belly or legs. Hand your toddler or preschooler the tongs and ask them to carefully pick up each item. Older kids can use tweezers. Add sound effects, of course. (Bonus: using tongs and tweezers is a good way to develop small muscles in their hands. It’s educational!)

87. Tattoo artist

Explain that tattoo artists work very slowly and carefully. Then break out the washable, non-toxic markers (some pencil crayons work when dipped in water too) and get yourself a temporary tat.

Source: Today’s Parent

While buyer demand has softened and sales fell 8.5% in March, the supply of homes on the market is contracting even faster

 

The economy is shrinking, businesses are closing and jobs are disappearing due to the coronavirus pandemic. But in the housing market, prices keep chugging higher.

Home prices plunged during the last recession after a housing crash caused millions of families to lose their homes. Home values could start to erode again, especially when mortgage forbearances end, some economists warn.

But that hasn’t been the case so far. The median home price rose 8% year-over-year to $280,600 in March, according to the National Association of Realtors. While buyer demand has softened and sales fell 8.5% that month from the prior month, the supply of homes on the market is contracting even faster, recent preliminary data shows.

“Demand absolutely just got a kick in the gut, but at the same exact time, so did supply,” said Skylar Olsen, senior principal economist at Zillow Group Inc.

 

Homes typically go under contract a month or two before the contract closes, so the March NAR data largely reflects purchase decisions made in February or January.

Even by the end of last month, many sellers were reluctant to cut prices. Only about 4% of sellers cut their prices in the week ended April 25, down from 5.7% during the same week last year, according to Realtor.com. ( News Corp, parent of The Wall Street Journal, operates Realtor.com.)

Some sellers say they are hanging tough because they believe their homes aren’t moving because buyers haven’t viewed them in person or are reluctant to make offers right now, not because the asking price is too high. They are waiting for stay-at-home orders to ease before deciding whether to lower the price.

“People really aren’t leaving their homes” to go house-hunting, said Sarah McMurdy, who listed her Bethesda, Md., house in late March and then opted to temporarily take it off the market in April due to the pandemic. “We’re not looking to fire-sale the house. We’re in no rush. We would rather wait this out.”

Real-estate brokerage Redfin Corp. said its measure of homebuying demand, which tracks buyer inquiries, was down 15% in the week ended April 26 compared with before the pandemic struck. Mortgage applications for home purchases around the same time were down 20% from a year earlier, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Total listings of homes for sale, meanwhile, have hit a five-year low, while the median listing price was up 1% from last year at $308,000, Redfin said.

The housing market has been undersupplied for years. During the pandemic it may get worse. There were 1.5 million units for sale at the end of March, NAR said, down 10.2% from a year earlier. Homeowners are waiting to list their houses, real-estate agents say, because they have decided not to move or they are worried about letting buyers into their homes during a pandemic.

 

Still, some buyers are hoping for bargains. Haas El Farra and his wife were under contract to buy a house in Southern California in early March. As the coronavirus epidemic worsened, they worried they were buying at the top of the market and asked the seller to lower the price. When the seller refused, they pulled their bid and decided to keep looking for a better deal.

“Hopefully something nicer than what we were looking at will come up at an affordable price,” said Mr. El Farra, a portfolio manager.

Prices in the Midwest showed the strongest annual growth at 9.7% in March. In the Cincinnati area, homes are selling for higher than listing price, said Donna Deaton, vice president at Re/Max Victory in Liberty Township, Ohio. Large companies in the area are still hiring, she said.

“For the most part, we’re still [competing against] multiple offers just about on every single thing,” she said.

While many economists expect home sales to tumble this year, many forecasts call for prices to climb slightly or hold flat. Mortgage-finance giant Fannie Mae said in April that it expects the median existing-home price to tick up to $275,000 this year from $272,000 last year. Capital Economics forecasts average home prices this year will fall 3% compared with last year. Zillow said Monday that home prices are likely to drop 2% to 3% from previous levels by the end of the year and recover in 2021.

In a forecast released Tuesday, housing-data provider CoreLogic called for nationwide home prices to rise 0.5% between March 2020 and March 2021. CoreLogic forecast annual price declines in some cities including Houston, Miami and Las Vegas.

A major uncertainty is whether mortgage-forbearance policies will prevent a wave of distressed sales. More than 7% of mortgages were in forbearance in the week ended April 30, according to mortgage-data company Black Knight Inc., and some homeowners can get forbearance for up to a year. But homeowners could struggle to make payments after the forbearance period ends.

“In the next 12 months it’s hard to anticipate price declines because of the mortgage forbearance in place,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “You would have to see continuing job losses for a prolonged period leading to foreclosures, and even then we may not have oversupply.”

Source: The Wall Street Journal

 

It’s one thing to truly see yourself inside of a beautiful new estate in one of the most scenic places California has to offer. It’s quite another to have that viewing solely come via technology.

Such was the case for at least one buyer for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties, which reported the closure of the sale last week.

“Someone saw (the home) virtually in New York and she has not seen the property, she has not been to the property and she bought the property sight unseen with all the virtual tours and will be closing without actually physically seeing the property,” said Kyle Kemp, district manager for Berkshire Hathaway.

The agency has shut down its local office and agents are now working remotely, conducting Zoom video conference calls or connecting digitally with prospective buyers or sellers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual home tours have become extremely popular among agencies around the nation, though there are situations in which a buyer would still be able to physically traverse the hallways and ensure that the bathroom is in the proper place before striking a deal. Those meetings are conducted with masks and gloves, customary to operations at various other businesses due to the pandemic, Mr. Kemp explained.

Berkshire initially experienced a 50% drop in the number of transactions, though listing prices have remained stable. Some sellers have become fearful of putting their house on the market due to the extra foot traffic it may entail.

“Buyers are driven by need number one, and then secondary is confidence,” Mr. Kemp said. “If they’re feeling like there’s confidence in the environment and in the economy and jobs, that creates a strong buyer market which drives our prices.

“This just created a big unknown and that takes confidence out of buyers.”

Most of the deals that fell through were deals that were put into escrow before the widespread closures or were in the middle of escrow when implications of the pandemic went into place, he said.

Over the past two weeks, things have started to turn around. The deals that have been in place are buyers since the closures “are staying solid” and Mr. Kemp said that sellers are beginning to talk about how to carry out the process.

“We just had to get around the logistics of it, but it’s all starting to come back around,” he said.

“The beauty of Santa Barbara is people want to be here.”

There is a strong demand from buyers from places like San Francisco and L.A., along with people from out of state. The biggest issue now is how to get the buyers here.

“From out of state, it’s almost impossible,” Mr. Kemp said. “We would be selling houses today if we had the buyers to get here and they’re starting to see a way to see houses, so we’re starting to see some transactions.”

Spring is typically when many sellers choose to put their homes on the market, while most families look to be settled in toward the end of summer when school resumes, he said.

While many of the digital features being offered through real estate sales will certainly remain, Mr. Kemp said he feels agents will be able to adapt in a major way once the pandemic is over.

“The beauty of real estate is that it’s a personal connection,” he said. “I think there is going to be a big drive for people to have that personal connection again. I think the agents will be more pertinent than they were prior to this to be honest with you, because so many people were pulling away to the digital world… but I think people are also seeing the need for that connection.”

As someone who has been in real estate for 30 years, including the past 12 years managing in Santa Barbara, Mr. Kemp has seen quite a bit in his time.

“I’ve been through earthquakes, floods, fires, economic downturns, foreclosures, short sales — I mean, in 30 years I’ve got a taste of it all, which is good and bad,” he said.

Having said that, events that were as devastating as the Montecito debris flow certainly hurt business, though that was a temporary setback which was followed by a successful business year.

“In Montecito, we took a 40% hit on sales and it was a while before that came back and there are still trepidations from people because the memory is still fresh. The fact is that we got around it, and by the way we had our best year ever last year.

“Even though that major catastrophe happened and the terrible things that happened because of that, the buyers came back, everything came back and we are headed in the right direction.”

The business impacts were a “small sample” compared to the current situation, though Mr. Kemp believes that buyers will again return once the pandemic subsides.

“This is a much bigger picture, but I can tell you for the most part people tend to have short-term memories,” he said. “Once things end, they tend to move on pretty quickly.”

As serious discussions continue between buyers and sellers, the big question on everyone’s mind is when the pandemic will end.

“I can never answer that questions,” Mr. Kemp admitted.

If the pandemic were to end in the next two months, things may recover quickly. If it were to last longer, bigger problems could be on the horizon, he said.

“Ultimately, the way it seems like it’s going currently is that we’re figuring out to make it work. People still want to buy houses, people still want to sell houses and we’re seeing a lot of them now saying, ‘This is the time,’” Mr. Kemp said. “I would say that if you want to sell your house in the next year, I think you’re safe to say you could probably sell it. You might want to take a little discount off the price to make sure, but it’s not a big discount right now. Six months from now? I don’t know what that picture is going to look like.”

by Mitchell White

Source: newspress.com

Real estate industry celebrates end to ZIRs

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – In a big win for the real estate community, Santa Barbara City Council voted Tuesday night to immediately suspend Zoning Information Reports, also known as ZIRs.

Meagan Harmon and fellow council member Randy Rowse worked behind the scenes with the real estate industry to find a compromise on the issue.

“I’m proud of us,” Harmon said Wednesday. “It was a good night.”

Local realtors have been fighting ZIRs for more than a decade. They had even proposed a measure that gained more than seven thousand signatures to repeal ZIRs, which was to go on the ballot this November. The measure would lead to an off-year election costing thousands of dollars.

Now, that measure can be withdrawn as any outstanding ZIRs are suspended.

“We talked to them and found out what they needed and we saw what we needed and thought, ‘let’s present this to council,'” Rowse said Wednesday.

ZIRs began in the city in the 1970s. They require property owners to fix any unapproved work or dwellings found on a property.

But city council members say there are already enough protections for local homebuyers, and that ZIRs are costing taxpayers too much money.

“It served a purpose [when it began],” Harmon said of the program. “But under modern disclosure law in the state of California, it was really duplicative bureaucracy. And it wasn’t serving the purpose that it was intended.”

Realtors go a step further, saying ZIRs are not reliable, costing sellers thousands they shouldn’t have to pay and discouraging buyers from buying.

“They’re grossly inconsistent, they’re grossly inaccurate,” real estate agent Steve Epstein said. “And they’ve morphed into something they were never designed to be. The idea was [fixing] illegally-converted garages, second kitchens, additional units. Now it’s turned into, ‘Hey, you can’t store your trash cans along the side of the garage because it’s in the setbacks.'”

Mayor Cathy Murillo voted against the measure. She sees the move as a setback for the city.

“I acknowledge that the ZIR program has not been perfect,” she said Wednesday. “But the benefits far outweigh the difficulties. We need to protect buyers so that they know exactly what’s going on with that property.”

Murillo says she will keep a close eye on the city’s new disclosure program.

The measure will now go to the planning commission, who will hear public comments as it makes a zoning text amendment. That amendment would then return to city council for a final vote, which could happen by this fall.

Source: Keyt News