Author: Pam Buda

Rising Real Estate Sales Trend continues in Sonoma County

Buyers are out in force searching out bargains in Sonoma County real estate with the number of open escrows (ratified sales contracts for home purchases which have not yet closed) reaching the highest level in over two years. This appears to solidify a trend first noted in this blog in early February. The newly ratified purchase contracts will not close till 30 to 45 days after ratification on average and some will no doubt not close, but indications continue to be positive for the state of this spring's market for real estate sales in Sonoma County. Many of these sales have been in the under $500,000 market, where first time buyers and investors are feasting on the large inventory of bank-owned or REO properties where some terrific bargains can be found. For a list of bank-owned properties, please email me. Meanwhile, the following chart shows the sales trends for both new escrows and closed sales for the last two years of real estate sales in Sonoma County....

Inventory, Inventory: Who's got the Country property inventory?

Help! There is not enough country property for sale in Sonoma County. I have buyers and very little to show them at the moment. Sebastopol, Healdsburg and the Valley of the Moon in particular are very low on new country real estate for sale. A really lovely piece of land with two legal units in an estate setting between Graton and Forestville just went into escrow with multiple offers. A charming farmhouse with two studio buildings and a small horse setup privately situated just 5 minutes outside of Sebastopol is in contract with multiple offers. An all cash buyer, rumor has it, plopped down nearly 2 million in cash (pending inspections) for a GORGEOUS 20 acre piece with a classic coastal home and large studio building within a week of entering the market. I think sellers are hunkering down due to the negativity in the press and uncertainty and fear in the economy. But well-priced, well marketed and properly prepared homes in Sonoma County, particularly country property, will sell quickly. There are a lot of buyers out there who have gotten off the (classic 3 rail wood board) fence who are looking for new homes or weekend getaways. If you have a country property in Sonoma County that you want to sell, please contact me for a free market analysis!...

Sonoma County going to the Dogs?

I was surprised to note how many of the people who visited my open house last month at a cute farmstead in Sebastopol were looking for property for their dogs! This property was in a great location at the end of a private lane well away from main roads and neighbors who might be disturbed by the occasional bark. Well I shouldn't be surprised since one of the main reasons I moved to Sonoma County was to have more room for my two dogs (Vizslas) and the horses as well as the humans of course, yet still be within an hour of the Golden Gate Bridge. Finding a safe property off the main thoroughfares was a key priority to me, and is to many of the buyers of Sonoma County real estate I meet. Friend Sandy Lurins, was so on top of the trend that she founded the very successful Fetch (thepaper) in her copious free time (not!) while not working at her day job at Autodesk. Sonoma Pets is a print publication and on-line pet directory for Sonoma County published by the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. There are many excellent small animal and equine veterinarians in the county, so much that many pet owners from the Bay Area will travel here for specialty care. ...

Equus Hall of Fame Banquet tonight!

After feeding the horses, and then dressing up, I am headed out with a group of friends and clients (many times one and the same!) to tonight's Equus Awards, Sonoma County's Academy Awards for the horse community here! It is the annual benefit for the Sonoma County Horse Council, and its only fundraiser of the year. WineCountryandHorses (this blog) has put together a table of ten and we are looking forward to perusing the silent auction items. I have advised everyone to bring their checkbooks, and friend and tablemate Christine DeLoach of Hook and Ladder Winery has also graciously donated several cases of Hook and Ladder Third Alarm Chardonnay to the Council for this evening's festivities. I think a few bottles of red may find their way in tonight as well! I guess Rush (below) will have to eat dinner at home with Giles and Missy while we party! ...

Is Daylight Savings time bringing out the buyers?

I just got off a phone call with fellow Realtor Donna Nordby of Diversified Lending and Real Estate.  We were comparing notes about our busy weeks when she told me that she showed 22 homes in the $300,000 to $350,000 range last week to some clients.  Most if not all were REO (bank-owned) properties that had been through foreclosure.  Fully FIFTY percent of them had already received anywhere from 10 to 15 OFFERS each.  She literally put the listing agents' office on speaker phone so that her clients could hear the news with her as they called one property after another and got the same news.  The nice properties in nice locations were the ones with multiple offers.  The rougher ones in less desirable locations comprised the fifty percent without offers.     At one property (not her listing), she had opened it up to show clients and three potential buyers walked in the door and asked her if they could see it. Meanwhile I had a full house yesterday with a record amount of traffic at the country property I was hosting.  Had some great talks with a steady stream of buyers and the consensus was that now was the time to buy.  Late last year the thinking was more a wait and see attitude.  I have a feeling we are going to have a warm and lively spring....

Wonderful Sebastopol Mini-Farm with 4 BR/2BA

Sunday afternoon, March 9, I will be hosting an open house at a lovely country home on just under 2 acres in South Sebastopol. It would be suitable for horses or 4H, orchards and possibly vineyard. The 4BR/2 BA home sits on a knoll at the end of a private country lane, equidistant between 101 and the quaint town of Sebastopol, a vibrant community with everything from world class dining, excellent schools, a Whole Foods Market, weekly farmers markets and a small community theater and cinema. With the sunshining you will be able to appreciate the fabulous 360 degree views, including Mt. St. Helena. Please come see me tomorrow, March 9 at 5611 Hessel Avenue in Sebastopol, Ca 95472 from 1 pm to 4pm. If you click on this link it will take you to the interactive Press Democrat open homes guide. Type in your criteria such as the town of Sebastopol, price range, etc. and you will get a map of the homes open this weekend, along with directions and a route guide. The home I am hosted is listed by my good friend Izetta Feeny, and is extremely well-priced at $725,000. See you there! 5611 Hessel Avenue, Sebastopol  Open House this Sunday 3/9 from 1 to 4 pm ...

Finding great real estate deals requires a laser beam approach

I enjoy looking at market statistics for the Sonoma County real estate market. As a realtor and full time professional in the market, I look to statistics to confirm or enlighten me vis a vis my own perceptions. I also know the damage that can result from a broad brush focus on statistics. Witness the overall drop in Santa Rosa real estate values year over year of over 15%. (according to Zillow) Not only Zillow but lenders use this sort of data to tar any Santa Rosa home, when the truth is the hardest hit have been the large tracts of entry level inventory that Sonoma County communities such as Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Rohnert Park/Cotati and Windsor have. These communities have the highest preponderance of entry level single-family tract homes which were hardest hit by the sub-prime crisis. All of these communities have some wonderful country properties, vineyard properties and horse farms which will be negatively impacted from a lender's eye in terms of valuation, relative to equivalent properties in Sebastopol, Healdsburg, Kenwood, Glen Ellen and Sonoma. They could be equally or more scenic, have oodles of wine country juice but are harder hit from a statistical eye. That is why the laser beam approach is best when you are actively in the market for real estate, or are planning to sell a property for that matter. As my colleague in coastal San Mateo county, Marian Bennett said recently, "Coastside real estate is very “location specific”. Trends can be information but they are not the whole picture if you are ACTIVELY in the market. In our office alone, 2 homes sold within hours of being listed last week. Part of that may be heading into the spring buying time and/or the seller had the golden triangle (my phrase) of Location, Price, and Presentation. "...

Highest level ratified Sonoma County real estate sales since autumn 2006

Last month I posted an encouraging word about increased January 2008 real estate sales  activity in Sonoma county.  My fellow realtors and I are all noticing a pickup in buyer activity since December.  "People are realizing that their are some "smoking" deals out there and getting down off the fence.  I think 2008 will be the year of the buyer." said my broker at Coldwell Banker, Rick Laws , on a brief phone call today.  He had just emailed us the first look at February real estate sales data for Sonoma County homes and condominiums and the data verify the gut feel possessed by many of us who as realtors are active in the market on a daily basis.   I am glad because I was feeling a bit like Pollyanna after my last post, given the gloom and doom in the media.  The media spin  generally lags street level reality by weeks or months, which is why timing the real estate market or any market for that matter, is so difficult to do.  Anyway, newly opened escrows (ratified contracts) are up over 65% this month from last to 363 units.  January saw the largest number of ratifieds of any month since last July 2007, but get this, February's sales are up to a level not seen since AUTUMN of 2006!  Given seasonal factors, that is a pretty encouraging sign.  January ratifieds were 220 units and December was at 171. If you are interested in learning about some of the great real estate buys in Sonoma County, whether for single family homes, country property, horse property or investment purposes, please feel free to email me or call.   I will post more in depth data for February when it becomes available in another week or so....

Mustard and Wine Country

We went for a drive yesterday after breakfast (OK, I know, a Realtor's busmen holiday consists of driving around and looking at property!).   We took all back roads from the house in the Olivet area outside Santa Rosa, crossed over Wohler Road to Westside Road, stopped in Healdsburg for coffee, then back to West Dry Creek Road, Lambert Bridge Road to Dry Creek Road, Lytton Springs Road to Chalk Hill Road (to preview a new country property there) and back all the way down the east side on Chalk Hill to Faught Road in Windsor.   I will try to duplicate the drive on Google Maps, but you can email me if you want the specifics, but we covered the better parts of the Russian River, Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys and got to ogle lots of gorgeous Sonoma County country property on a glorious early spring day. The mustard, daffodils and acacia trees were at the peak of their yellow blooms, leading us to wonder what it is about the first flowers of spring that so many of them are so YELLOW! ...

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