Author: Pam Buda

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. ...

Knights in Shining Armor: A fairy tale for the most unique horse property I have sold

Once upon a time there were a prince and princess living on the peninsula of the San Francisco Bay area, commuting their separate ways to high powered jobs, spending many many dollars each month to board their horses, who lived in yet another direction from the high powered jobs. The horses, Rohan and Seamus, were lonely. They had each other but they only saw the prince and princess on nights and weekends. Even though the prince and princess brought carrots and lots of treats, they missed them the rest of the time. And because of barn politics or zoning issues, or whatever fancies, Seamus and Rohan always seemed to have to move to a new barn. They missed really being able to settle in somewhere. The prince and princess were frustrated--they would spend weekends at events with their horses and then miss them during the week. Since they lived in a small house with a small yard, Seamus, Rohan and the neighbors would not be happy if they brought them home to Belmont! One weekend the prince and princess drove their son to his first year of college at Humboldt State University. On the way home, they drove through many beautiful valleys and over beautiful hills and mountains, passing vineyards, forests and meadows. This was Sonoma County, only a short drive from the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco. They thought "Wouldn't this be a beautiful place to live happily ever after some day with Seamus and Rohan?.. I guess we will have to wait till we retire. Sigh...

Open August 24 1-4 pm: An ideal West County Country Property on 2.83 acres

Please come join me today at 5850 Gilmore Avenue in Cotati, my latest listing and a fantastic country property that is well-thought out, secluded yet convenient and very up to date. You and your family and critters could just move right in. When I looked for my current country property home I wanted a property like this--lots of usable land, nice house, really cute second unit and most importantly I wanted scenic beauty and a really peaceful location away from traffic so my cats and dogs would be safe, not to mention humans as well. I also wanted to be convenient to town and services, and to commute to the Bay Area. Don't be mislead by the Cotati address on this cool property--it is actually on the west side of 101, north of 116 on the way to Sebastopol. Don't get me wrong, Cotati is a neat town with lots of fun shops and restaurants, but this location on Gilmore would just as easily appeal to someone wanting Sebastopol, Santa Rosa, Penngrove or Petaluma. This little country pocket in Cotati is peaceful, has lots of horse properties and small farms as well as vineyards surrounding it, and many of the neighbors have been here for years. My clients have owned the property since 1977 and their meticulous care and updating shows. Yet this home is about5 minutes to 101 so it is a great commute location that feels miles away. It is my experience that people looking for Sonoma County country property don't first think of places such as Rohnert Park/Cotati or Windsor, but you can uncover some gems by searching and thinking a little outside the box. Come see for yourself today. This property could accommodate horses (and does with a 2 acre pasture (+-), stalls and tack room. It also is home to roller pigeons and has two coops and a small aviary. There is a shop for painting autos with air compressor and 220 power plus another shop (called the "man" building) for hanging out. Plus a cute 2002 small modular with kitchen, den, bedroom and bath, all in its own fenced in, redwood lined yard at one corner of the property for privacy. There is only one home past this property on a sleepy lane, and many bigger parcels surround it, with views of the...

The Best of Healdsburg and Sonoma County–visit our Open House on the web

My wonderful client Jill is an excellent horsewoman. She and I met riding on Fred MacMurray's beautiful Twin Valleys ranch on the border of Healdsburg and Forestville. It is only fitting that her wonderful classic Healdsburg bungalow be the subject for an innovative open house this Sunday from 1-4 PM. Jill get's what were doing so she was very excited to allow Trulia and me to set up a live webcast on Trulia's blog for the first open house at her home at 414 Piper Street. Only concern she had that it would be like the Truman Show. We thought this home and its fantastic close to the Healdsburg plaza location would appeal to the type of people who would be watching the Trulia blog who may be frequent visitors to Sonoma County and appreciate the finer things that a community such as Healdsburg has to offer. While Healdsburg is about 80 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge, it is a very sophisticated community with country charm. Since the early 80's when I used to visit good friends Joan and Larry Franceshchina, I fell in love with the wine country of Sonoma and eventually made a home here. Since 414 Piper Street would make a great weekend getaway or fantastic tele-commute location I thought it would be a great fit for the folks on Trulia to see and appreciate. So tune in Sunday from 1 to 4 pm or thereabouts. Maybe you will fall in love with 414 Piper Street, Healdsburg. FYI, this property has an excellent walk score of 83, meaning many amenities and services are available with a block or three or four. Just park your car and enjoy....

Where Have I been Lately?–Twittering and Trulia, Healdsburg to Petaluma

You may ask where I've been as I have not posted regularly in the last couple of weeks. I have been on the run as many of my clients decided that once 4th of July had passed it was time to get going on new listings or to pick up their efforts for purchasing new homes. A very typically busy couple of weeks in an untypical real estate year. Despite the depressing news in the media, people still have legitimate reasons and motivations to buy and sell, and fully half of the market in Sonoma County has nothing to do with distressed properties. That half of the transactions last month DID have to do with distressed properties (bank-owned properties or short sales) is an amazing statistic, however, one we have discussed previously. Two other factors (let's call them the T factors) which have taken away from Blog post time however, have been Trulia and Twitter, hence the new links on my sidebar to the left. Trulia is a wonderful ("truly delightful real estate search" they say) combination of the social networking aspects of Facebook or LinkedIn and the search aspects of a Google. Who networks on Trulia? Buyers and Sellers of real estate and all kinds of real estate professionals. I spent a few weeks in odd moments on Trulia fleshing out my profile and reviewing and answering multiple questions on Sonoma County communities or various real estate topics. It has been interesting to figure out the rules of the community (since I am not 20 years old and have only participated in LinkedIn and Plaxo in the past). I've also enjoyed pitching in advice and comments on various communities in Sonoma County from Petaluma to Healdsburg, and networking with other agents locally and elsewhere. I've even managed to connect with a few buyers and sellers in the process, so there is a business justification for my efforts. At the same time, everyone was talking about Twitter. I saw all these strange short posts on Kevin Boer's 3 Oceans Real Estate site and could not make any sense of them. Seemed like a feature in search of a solution. UNTIL I joined in and got a Twitter Account of my very own. Then the fun began--it takes a little bit to get Twitter, Kevin is convinced that the...

Upcoming Horse Properties in Sonoma County, Heard on the Grapevine

One of the benefits we offer our buyer and seller clients as realtors is the marketing and networking we do with each other prior to the actual date when properties are "launched" on the MLS. Buyers who are most actively looking and ready to buy are generally working with a local agent who is keeping abreast of not only the current homes and country properties on the market, but those that are coming up in the next month or two. As a seller, this networking and advanced marketing is a benefit to you because it can shorten your time on market and maximize your exposure to the most qualified buyers. So my curiosity was piqued yesterday at our local meeting in Santa Rosa of Coldwell Banker agents from around Sonoma County (over 110 total--thought not all were there). There were approximately 4 new country properties suitable for horses annouced as up and coming, which is a pretty healthy amount and not typical. One is in Glen Ellen and sounded interesting due to the proximity to some great riding at Annadel and Jack London State Parks. (See my post on the miles of trails in Sonoma County.)It sits on 4 usable acres with a 4 BR 2 BA single story home of about 2200 sf. Another is in NE Santa Rosa on 2 horseable acres with a 2500 sf home. This latter is a pocket listing--it will not go on MLS any time soon but is available to be seen and priced at $1.2 million. If you are looking for 4 acres and a view home and granny unit in Sebastopol there will be a new listing meeting that description in the Sebastopol countryside coming up in a week or two. The home is about 2600 sf with 4 bedrooms and the granny (guest) unit is about 840 sf. According to the agent this is a horse property as well and will be priced at about $1,175,000. Another up and coming property on the Sebastopol border with Santa Rosa has 4 level acres and a 2000 sf house and will be priced at $1,095,000. I know of a couple of other pocket horse property listings and have a couple of my own upcoming that are or will be suitable for horses. I will be checking all of these out as they come up, because, as a horse owner, my definition of suitable for horses may...

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