This four-bedroom, three-bathroom Rio Del Mar condo hit the rental market in 2021 asking $30,000 a month.

Book a stay at a Santa Cruz ‘super-rental’: It’s only $1,000 a night

Rents are soaring across California and the country. Here in Santa Cruz County, even the top end of the market is becoming ridiculous.

You think the housing rental crisis is tough for workaday Santa Cruzans? Take a look at the higher-end rates, and you can see there’s another — smaller — group that might be facing tough times: those looking to spend more than $10,000 every month on rent.

Yes, in the city of Santa Cruz — which, according to findings from UC Santa Cruz sociologists Steven McKay and Miriam Greenberg in the book “Counterpoints,” is the “least affordable small city in the U.S.,” and ranks No. 2 among “hottest housing markets” per’s January 2022 findings — prices for top-end rental might be escalating even faster than the larger market.

Lookout checked out the highest-priced rentals in the county, both as a service to those with lots of money to spend and for the rest of us shelter-seekers, looking for a good laugh or cry. There’s too small a sample of properties to calculate a high-end inflation rate on what we’ve deemed “super-rentals.” We can, however, take a peek into the priciest rentals in the county. We’ve picked three, and one of them morphed from highest-rental-offer to put-on-the-market-for-sale in the blink of time we reported this story.

Let’s start with the priciest. That’s the one that just exited rental for the potential riches of a sale.

It’s a Rio Del Mar four-bedroom, three-bathroom condo with ocean views, which was offered for the pittance of $29,990 per month as recently as last Tuesday. It originally hit the market in the fall of 2021 for $30,000 per month. Then it became a relative bargain at the just-under-$1,000-per-night threshold, for just $997.

Inside the Rio Del Mar condo that was asking nearly $30,000 per month before it was put up for sale.

Curiously, Zillow — as much a leading insight for house sales as a predictor of house or rental value — puts the estimated rental price at only $11,240 per month. The property is now on the market for $2.29 million.

This home’s tale of increase is familiar, if not just depressing. The property was originally sold in 1999 for $390,500, and sold most recently in 2017 for $1.15 million.

Then there’s this still-available listing:

For $14,900 a month, this Live Oak two-bedroom, two-bathroom offers a south-facing ocean view.

$14,900 per month for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom in Live Oak.

It’s listed as 1,332 square feet, and features include “relatively new” kitchen appliances, brand-new furniture and a deck with a south-facing ocean view.

Here, too, Zillow thinks the rental price is a bit rich, estimating “only” $8,912 per month.

It’s billed as a single-family home in Live Oak, with proximity to Blacks Beach, Twin Lakes State Beach and the Live Oak farmers market. Maybe it’s the home’s newest furnishings that escalate the price of this two-bedroom: a Scandinavian Designs dining table and chairs, a king organic latex Botanical Bliss mattress, and a 77-inch OLED TV. Maybe it’s the sheer size of the property, with a 10,018-square-foot lot, alongside the deck that provides south-facing ocean views toward Blacks Beach.

Perfect for someone who loves to stay at home — but also happens to rake in the upper end of six figures.

With monthly rent amounting to $178,800 per year, the only feasible renters — if spending at maximum 30% of their income — would have a minimum salary of $596,000.

In an emailed response for comment on the discrepancy between the home assessment and the listed rent pricing, property owner Bradley Brown said: “This property is special is all I can say, and given all of the factors — including very high property taxes, insurance, furnishings, etc., and the limited time it is available — led to the price we established for rent.”

And last, the “cheap” rental in the group.

Three bedrooms and three bathrooms in Scotts Valley
Three bedrooms and three bathrooms in Scotts Valley, plus a pool and waterfall in the backyard, was on the market for $12,500 a month.

$12,500 per month for a three-bedroom, three-bathroom in Scotts Valley.

It’s pegged at 2,647 square feet, with features including an open gourmet kitchen with all new appliances, walk-in shower and whirlpool tub and a swimming pool.

Zillow puts this one at less than half of the asking price: $5,400 a month.

Built in 1982, the single-family home boasts many noteworthy features for any “corporate executive” looking to rent. The three-bedroom home has an open-concept layout, with 20-foot, exposed-beam cathedral ceilings and bamboo flooring, large windows to fill the home with natural light, and a newly landscaped backyard with a custom swimming pool and waterfall. Sounds like a resort, right? And the pictures don’t stray from that assessment. With all that is included, the property is a good fit … well, for those who can pay $12,500 for a month-to-month resort.

Its price history: first sold in 1995 for $152,000, and most recently purchased in 2000 for $700,000.

Property owner Kimberly Hudson said that in pricing out the property based on all its features, it would come to $416 per night: “Basically, all the person needs to do is bring their bathing suit and groceries.”

“I’m just trying a different approach to get it out there. … I’m trying to step it up a notch,” Hudson said.

In keeping the property as a month-to-month rental, Hudson says she’s able to avoid Santa Cruz County’s 11% transient occupancy tax by requiring guests to stay 30 days or more. There have already been a number of interested parties, Hudson says, including a “power couple” who are building their Bonny Doon home, sports stars and CEOs.

Ah, the pandemic-driven tech boomlet in the outrageous Santa Cruz market. But that’s a story for another time.