Author: Pam Buda

Different kind of Sonoma County Snapshot: Wine County Veggie Pizza

Ok it must be getting close to dinner, but I promised pictures of Sunday night's home made pizza made entirely with veggies from my Sonoma county wine country garden.  Harvesting the garden right now is nearly a second full time job after realtor.  Had a very casual dinner Sunday night with good friends.  Here is the before picture (before it was devoured.).  Yummm.  Three kinds of cherry tomatoes, garlic, onions, orange bells, poblano, beefsteak tomatoes, pine nuts (not from the garden) basil and some fresh mozzarella.  Maybe I will figure out a tie-in to real estate blogging AFTER dinner.  Bon appetit!...

SNAPSHOT view of Sonoma County Real Estate Sales in a Wild Week

Just opened up our weekly office sales update and was curious to see how sales activity was affected last week given the horrendous economic news.  Had all business activity ground to a halt?  Yes some folks are deciding to sit on the sidelines for a month or two or six.  But what did I find for our office as a whole?  I  found a very normal to high level of activity for the week.  (I should mention that Coldwell Banker Santa Rosa has over 100 active agents and our sales totals are generally about double of the second ranked Sonoma County real estate office. ) 30 New Listings  (19 are bank-owned or REO properties-only 4 are priced over $500K) 29 New Sales (open escrows)  29 Brave souls who dared to put pen to paper last week and not run for the hills.  On the sub-500 price range, about half appeared to be first time buyers and the rest investors.    We normally run somewhere between 20 and 30 sales per week so this is a typical number.  19 of these are bank-owned properties. 22 Closed Sales of the closed sales, 14 were bank-owned properties. The biggest trend difference we see is not the numbers of transactions but the price points and this is a consistent phenomenon since early 2008. Of the new listings, only 4 were priced over $500,000.  Of the closed sales, only 3 were priced over $500,000 and two of those 3 were priced over $1,000,000.   By far the lion's share of our business right now is the entry level priced bank-owned properties.  I should mention that our office is home to James Madison, who has approximately 50% market share for REO properties in Sonoma County and some inventory in some of the surrounding counties as well.  ...

Is autumn the most beautiful season in the wine country?

You decide--these photos were taken by good friend Robin Satterlee this morning in the Saitone Vineyard, Russian River Valley Appellation, Sonoma County, California.   The fog was very thick and burned off by noon, but it made for some beautiful contrast in the photos.  Sometimes Photoshop isn't necessary, just a good photographer and a good eye. For a Flickr slide show click here. ...

Every weekday is Broker tour day in Sonoma County Real Estate

Most Sonoma county realtors could spend a good four or five mornings per week touring new listings in Sonoma County. Some folks call them caravans. It would take at least 2 weeks of doing so to hit all the new listings on tour because of dueling chapter schedules and a large county.What a Sonoma County Realtor could do every weekday morning Monday  Generally quiet but groups such as Marketing Masters and Homescopes meet on Mondays, plus there are some office meetings. Tuesday The main Santa Rosa Chapter meeting of NORBAR (the North Bay Association of Realtors).  As many as 100 to 150 realtors attend a breakfast meeting, educational session and swap information on upcoming listings, buyers needs, rental requests and market updates.  Property tour ensues for Santa Rosa.  One week is East side, one week the west side. Mike Kelly cracks the whip so you'd better stick to business! Wednesday The Sebastopol, Russian River and Petaluma chapters of NORBAR have their breakfast meetings --see above for the agenda.  Sebastopol, Russian River and Petaluma property tours. Thursday  The Healdsburg chapter of NORBAR, The Cotati-Rohnert Park chapter and many of the large brokerage offices such as all the Coldwell Banker offices (separately), CPS and Prudential have their own sales meetings, marketing sessions and broker tours.   Our Santa Rosa office (over 100 agents) meeting and tour covers the East side of SONOMA county one week and the West side the next.  That means we could be looking at properties from Cloverdale and Healdsburg down to Petaluma on the same morning (theoretically!).  This is why FOOD at broker open houses is so important, and water on hot days.  Got to fuel the troops! Friday  Friday morning is the weekly meeting of the Windsor Chapter of NORBAR and the Windsor tour.  Cloverdale is in their somewhere as well. That means the average Sonoma County Realtor could spend 16-20 hours per week at breakfast meetings, marketing sessions and on property tour and still not cover the whole county.  How do you use your time?   How much time every week do you tour and network with other realtors?  What is the main benefit of attending these meetings? (Next post an update on some interesting new listings on the market in Santa Rosa, from a lovely view home on 2 acres to 2 Rincon Valley bargains and and Junior College duplex.)...

CHANGE Fundraiser for the Good of the Horse A Success and Great Fun

For the one year anniversary and its first fundraiser, yesterday's BBQ fundraiser and show at the gorgeous Sonoma Equestrian Center in Glen Ellen was by all accounts a great success.  Rather than the sales of 100 tickets hoped for, 400 tickets were sold and many of us enjoyed a beautiful fall Sunday afternoon under the oaks, eating, visiting and enjoying the entertainment, from vaulting (gymnastics on the backs of cantering horses) to musical freestyle dressage and a demonstration of some of the medieveal equestrian arts.   At the same time we learned of the concerted horse rescue efforts of many Sonoma county volunteers including client Betsy Bueno and Sonoma County Animal Control.  Whether through ignorance, hard luck or hard times, many animals in addition to many people are suffering these days, and when the animal is a 1,000 pound horse, the sheer logistics for any public agency, not to mention the expense, are daunting.  Obviously the volunteers at CHANGE have struck a nerve, and it is impressive to see such rapid growth and professionalism in a young charitable organization.  (Subtle hint:  Your donations are tax-deductible and go straight to the horses' mouth.) This event also marked the PUBLIC Sonoma County debut of good friend and client Sir William Hamersky and his trusty steed, Rohan, as they demonstrated some of the medieval horsemanship arts. Below--Sir William's squire hands him his lance for the quintain, an event which enables the knight to practice his jousting technique without knocking his foe off his horse.   Sir William and Rohan teach their medieval arts at the ranch we found for them in Sebastopol, Full Tilt Farm.   Prior to the quintain, Sir William remembers to dedicate his efforts to the lady of the manor this day, Laura Ponter, of the Sonoma Equestrian Center.  Bottom photo:  The quintain spins after a successful hit. (Photos thanks to Robin Satterlee) ...

BBQ Fundraiser: For the Good of the Horse Sunday 9/21

One of my favorite clients is Betsy Bueno. In 2003 she was running her horse rescue operation out of a lovely tract home near the golf course at Shiloh Greens in Windsor.  I wish I had taken pictures of her front porch--it looked more like a tack room.  Betsy leased some easement land literally down the block from the city of Windsor for about a dollar a year, and there she cared for and nursed back to health many abandoned horses.    Most of them found new homes and happy lives thanks to the hard work of Betsy and the volunteers at Lost Hearts and Souls Horse Rescue. It was really a challenge to care for the horses from such a location. Twice a day, or more in hot weather, Betsy would have to drag the hose from her house down to the corner and across a busy road to fill the horse watertroughs.  Meanwhile, she was searching for a home where she and the horses, and her kids could all live together.  Within a few months the house in the suburbs was sold and Betsy and her kids moved into a beautiful old farm house on over four level acres in a beautiful southeast Santa Rosa location. Fast forward five years and Betsy has joined forces with CHANGE (Coins to Help Abandoned and NeGlected Equines) in order to create a powerful network of veterinarians and volunteers who assist Sonoma County Animal Control in dealing with equine cruelty, abandonment and emergency cases.   They are also providing support in law enforcement cases to try and prevent more abuse in the future.  With many people having economic difficulties, having a robust volunteer action network to assist the Sonoma County officials when neglected or abused horses are discovered, is an important link in the equation for horse health in Sonoma County. This Sunday in Glen Ellen Anthony and Laura Ponter, co-founders of CHANGE, are hosting a benefit to support CHANGE at their lovely ranch in Glen Ellen, the Sonoma Equestrian Center from 11 am to  3 pm.   Tickets can be purchased at the CHANGE website above, or by calling 707 364-2575.  I will be there along with many horse friends and clients, including the incomparable Sir William and Rohan who will be putting on the first public demonstration of the MEDIEVAL JOUSTING arts in Sonoma County. For an exciting preview, click here. ...

Do you know what your home's Walkscore is?

One of the most appealing things about living in Sonoma County is the tremendous range of fantastic amenities for such a rural community.  People come here for the scenic beauty and they stay, moving from large cities in the San Francisco Bay Area or Southern California because there is so much to do, from great dining and wine tasting (of course!) to a thriving small theatre and music scene to a large arts community.  Granted, it's not Manhattan, where the world is at your doorstep, but we pack a surprising amount into a scenic package. One of the things I enjoy most about working with Sonoma County real estate buyers, is sharing with them the personal discoveries I have made and my favorite haunts in communities from Sebastopol to Sonoma, Glen Ellen to Healdsburg, Santa Rosa to Windsor, Occidental, Graton, Kenwood, etc.  One of my goals with this blog over time is to collect some links and tools that will serve as my personal guide to Sonoma County.  Over the coming months, you will see more community pages with my personal recommendations and links to handy resources for Sonoma County residents and would-be residents of the Wine Country. In the meantime, I have found a great tool to help you get started learning about any home you might consider buying:  Walkscore.com.   It provides a Walkability score for any given address.  What is that?  From the Walkscore Home Page:Walkable Neighborhoods Picture a walkable neighborhood. You lose weight each time you walk to the grocery store. You stumble home from last call without waiting for a cab. You spend less money on your car—or you don't own a car. When you shop, you support your local economy. You talk to your neighbors. What makes a neighborhood walkable?A center: Walkable neighborhoods have a discernable center, whether it's a shopping district, a main street, or a public space. Density: The neighborhood is compact enough for local businesses to flourish and for public transportation to run frequently. Mixed income, mixed use: Housing is provided for everyone who works in the neighborhood: young and old, singles and families, rich and poor. Businesses and residences are located near each other. Parks and public space: There are plenty of public places to gather and play. Pedestrian-centric design: Buildings are placed close to the street to cater to foot traffic, with parking lots relegated to the back. Nearby schools and workplaces: Schools and workplaces are close enough that...

Slow Food Weekend in SF and Sonoma County Connections

I was catching up on my Google Reader account and noticed that Curbed and Eater SF reminded us that this last weekend was the Slow Food Festival in San Francisco.  Coincidentally today, one of my clients was just telling me today that she was there enjoying the scene (Sidenote: we are looking for at least 5 acres in a good Sonoma County location with good water and some outbuilding for her chicken ranch venture, by the way, if you have something like that to sell let me know!--then she will have plenty of quality organic eggs and chicken from Sonoma County to sell next year.) Sonoma County is one of the most active producers of slow food (think the opposite of fast) with several convivia throughout the county, from Glen Ellen to Cloverdale.  I was a member a number of years ago and was invited to numerous mouth-watering gatherings here with everything from local cheeses to heritage turkey, heirloom produce and more.  Only the Sonoma Valley,  Russian River and Petaluma (Marin) convivia have websites so I thought you might be interested in some local links to some of the fine food resources we have in Sonoma County. Yumm!  And I didn't even talk about the wine!    Harvest is in full swing--I spoke to friend Kathy Klopp.  She and husband Ted are about halfway through their harvest of Russian River Pinot from Sebastopol and Laguna Road in Santa Rosa already and it is only September 2nd.  Very early this year.  I guess it is getting close to dinner time...

A Knight in Shining Armor and his Steeds Search for a Country Home in the Wine Country

We ended our tale last week of the prince and princess returning to their San Francisco Bay Area commutes, living separate lives from their two chargers, Seamus (an Irish sporthorse with a 3-day eventing habit, and Rohan, his 2,000 lb Percheron sidekick whose horsely habit we shall hear about a-nonce.) The prince and princess dreamed someday of being re-united with their steeds on a home in the country that would fit all of them someday--but when would someday ever come? Would they have to wait years until retirement, with Seamus and Rohan growing greyer than they already were? Could they ever have it all, and sooner than later? After all, the prince had an opportunity for a new job up towards the area where the lovely vineyards, valleys and horse properties were--could they find a place to live now and continue to work but keep the horses at home? Should they try to find a castle further away that they could retire to someday, and maybe all visit together for summer vacations and holidays? They didn't know what to do or think, they just knew they wanted to someday all live happily ever after on a farm with their animals, teaching their subjects (more about that later). The princess knew she could stand a long commute 2 or 3 days a week, and she could spend much of her time tele-commuting. They owned their own home on the peninsula of the San Francisco Bay--it was worth a pretty penny. Surely there was a new home with room for the prince, princess and the steeds for what they could afford. She needed to find a wizard or a good witch to advise them how to find their way to their true home. She consulted the Oracle of Google and found a good witch of wine country horse property, sealed her wishes in an email and sent them out to the universe. What happened next was very magical...

Sonoma County Real Estate Market update through July 2008

Supply and Demand Every month I receive enough market statistics from Rick Laws, my broker, to fill reams of blog posts, even if there are no such things as reams when it comes to blogging. But you and I would be bored if all I wrote about was market stats. Still this year more than ever, I am intensely interested in viewing trends looking backwards at the stats and comparing that perspective from that of being (literally) in the field live, with clients and other agents. The chart below is from Brokermetrics and is based upon actual MLS (Multiple Listings Service) data from Bay Area Real Estate Information Services (aka BAREIS). It looks at the number of newly ratified contracts (pending sales not yet closed) versus the number of new listings month to month from July 2006 through July 2008, for all residential sales in Sonoma County, at all price ranges. This gives the most timely view of supply and demand based upon actual sales data, since pending sales take a couple of months to show up as closed sales. I can also slice and dice by price range, housing type and community, but won't do that all today, promise. An apparently typical seasonal rise in sales began in January with newly pending sales in March exceeding those of July 2006, leading to a dramatic increase in pending sales this July 2008 versus July 2006. Meanwhile the number of listings is trending slightly upward but is down overall versus two years ago. The vast majority of newly pending sales consists of bank-owned, or REO properties at the lower end of most markets. Month's supply of inventory is down to six months, and fairly balanced, at the lowest point in quite some time. The market needs to digest these REO's to achieve some stability, which it appears to be doing. If you have specific questions about Sonoma County real estate market trends, please contact me and I will pull some data for you. ...

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