Author: Pam Buda

Wine Country Busman's Holiday: Visiting the "Other" Wine Country in Napa

I had a great time with family and friends on Memorial Day.  What did we do?  We visited the other wine country.  We headed to Napa (the city of) for the afternoon.  Since I live and work primarily in Sonoma County, it is fun to have a getaway in the wine country!    Downtown Napa is quite pretty, and the city and county of Napa are working to increase tourism there.  It doesn't hurt that a whole raft of excellent restaurants are walkable downtown:  Celadon, Angele, Ubuntu (on sabbatical?) and others.  We had a great lunch at Angele, sitting outdoors right on the Napa River.  Angele is a collaboration from Claude Rouas, legendary for L'Etoile on Nob Hill in San Francisco, Auberge de Soleil, further north in Rutherford (one of the most stunningly beautiful settings I have seen for a restaurant) and more recently, Redd in Yountville.  The restaurant is built in an old ship chandlery, right downtown, and a great spot for a delicious but casual lunch or dinner. After lunch we walked a mile or so over to the Oxbow Market and I have a new (for me)  foodie destination for a quick meal or snack when I am in the area.  I would actually drive out of my way to stop here.  Oxbow is a wine country spin on the concept of the Ferry Plaza Marketplace in SF, bringing together food and wine from seafood to ice cream, wine to cheese, charcuterie to fine coffee and more.  Most of the products are locally sourced or from local vendors, following the locavore trend. Anyway, I didn't intend to write a PR puff piece for Napa.  It is just that I live driving over the county line, and feeling like I am on an instant vacation!   Back to your regularly scheduled Sonoma County programming shortly!  ...

Sonoma Horticultural Nursery in Sebastopol

Sonoma Hort (www.sonomahort.com) is a must see but only if you love beauty and lots of flowers, in this case, masses of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, hostas and more, all on 8 acres in South Sebastopol.  The second owners have had it since the seventies and it is a retail/wholesale nursery masquerading as an amazing park, with 1.5 miles of trails winding through it, a pond and a meadow and altogether enough picnic tables and benches to have a lovely meal or snack (Just make sure you take all your leftovers with you.)  Sonoma Hort is just one of many truly special gardens and large scale nurseries which make Sonoma County such a wonderful place to be. ...

Sonoma County Country Property Pending Sales up 238% Over the Market Bottom in 2009

Following (or leading?) the general pickup in the real estate market both locally here in Sonoma County, and nationwide, country properties are strong. Newly pending sales of properties on 2 acres or more in Sonoma County are at more than the three year high, up 238% !! over the same time in 2009. In fact, February 2009 was the bottom for the median sales price in the county, and the chart belo0w conveniently looks at the sales of country property throughout Sonoma County during that time. All sales that are opened don't necessarily close--there could be property "issues" or financing "issues." Still the number is a good leading indicator of market activity. The jump in sales of country properties is SIGNIFICANTLY higher than the jump in sales of all single-family residences. [caption id="attachment_1629" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Country Property Sales up 238% from Market Bottom in 2009"][/caption] Contrast this with the overall rate of newly signed contracts for all single-family residences in Sonoma County. Compared to SFD's, country property sales really took a dive when the market did the same, while sales in 2009 were focused on inexpensive single family homes and condos. The change in rate of sales for all single family homes (including country properties) has increased, but risen only 21% from the trough year in 2009.So what does this mean? In short, if you have a nice country property to sell in Sonoma County and have been on the sidelines, this spring and summer might be the right time for you to sell. Inventory is becoming more balanced between buyers and sellers, and there is strong demand. I believe that will only continue to grow, as Sonoma County's lifestyle and close proximity to San Francisco make it such a desirable place to live. Please give me a call or drop me an email if you would like to learn more! ...

Lots and Land Sales Report for Sonoma County

[caption id="attachment_1732" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Residential Lots near the Sonoma Plaza"][/caption]Since home prices declined so significantly since 2007, the market for buildable lots and land in Sonoma County has been very slow for the last few years. That has started to change as new construction is picking up again. Also, in Sonoma County, picky buyers from out of the area with specific home design desires are beginning to build their own custom homes again. Again, while the unit sales are slow for lots and land, sales are picking up. These figures do not include commercial lots, but they do include agricultural lots. The market for plantable vineyard land, and existing vineyards of high quality, is rather strong. Weighing against new construction are ever escalating contruction and building costs, along with city and county regulations. For a post on Sonoma County's Permit and Resources Department (PRMD) click here. In Sonoma County as well we are seeing an increased impact on building concerning endangered or threatened species such as the California tiger salamander, the Pritkin marsh lily and the bank swallow. Again, a caution in that the sample sizes here are so small that it is difficult to draw conclusions from them. I really am including these for reference purposes. Please let me know if you have any questions. Sonoma Lots and Land...

Tales of the Wine Country: From the South of France to Healdsburg

Recently I was working with some long term clients who, though American, had been living in Provence for the past seven years, and London prior to that. They decided it was time to return to the states permanently, and had the entire 50 states from which to choose, as they could work anywhere. I was referred to them by an agent to Santa Barbara, who was introduced to me via Twitter through mutual colleagues. A decidedly high tech (at the time in 2009) connection! I had originally met them when they first decided to return to the US from France. I introduced them to all of the beautiful towns and Sonoma and Napa. Unfortunately family stuff kept them in France until recently. We stayed in touch via email and phone--we shared some common interests in good food and wine and they kept an eye on the market. Just recently they decided it was time to return to the US. Of all the places in the world they could go, they chose Healdsburg. I couldn't agree more. Sonoma County and especially Healdsburg is a beautiful place to be. My clients flew in from France to get started on their new home search. It was mid-January and there was almost nothing on the market. They had decided they wanted a quality vintage home walking distance from the Plaza in Healdsburg, ideally with a decent sized lot as they were coming off five acres and loved to garden. Guest quarters and a pool, with some architectural interest and high quality rounded out the bill. Being well connected to our local real estate market, By networking with other realtors all over the county, not just in Healdsburg, I was able to find the perfect property that was not yet listed on the market. I knew it was a good bet when two different agents both suggested it. We had about six properties to look at and a weekend to find them something as the shipping container was shortly to be filled with their possessions and strike out across the Atlantic. My clients loved the "stealth" house, made a good offer and got into contract almost right away. Just in time to as threats of two more offers came in just hours after our offer was accepted and the seller's friend tried to buy it out from under us once he found out...

Remembering Andrew Fluegelman

You know how there are people in your life that are always seeking, always learning and discovering?  You connect on a variety of levels and share your enthusiasm over new discoveries? Together and separately you seem to travel some of the same paths and love comparing notes? One such person in my life has been Andrew Fluegelman.  We first met in the late seventies through Stewart Brand (of Whole Earth Catalog fame) at the Coevolution Quarterly in Sausalito.  Andrew shared many of the same interests, from environmental awareness and sustainability to sailing.  We met again in the early 80's in Marin county where we were both involved in the software business and very active in the early days of personal computing.  I also managed to get him sailing in SF Bay on Hanalei Express, my Santa Cruz 27. I remember how effortlessly our conversation ranged from PC's and software to sailing and solar power.  There were no boundaries to the topics we enjoyed discussing, tacking back and forth across the city front and back over to Tiburon and Angel Island.  We didn't have to talk about how to sail the boat, that came easily and quietly. Andrew died tragically in 1985.  His car and a suicide note were found at the north tower of the Golden Gate bridge.  My understanding was that he had a terrible reactiion to the medication he was taking for a serious medical condition.  It was an incredible loss, for me and for many others.  At the time he died Andrew was the founding editor of PC Magazine, which is where he achieved most of his fame.   He also wrote a software program for the original IBM personal computer called PC Talk.  It was one of the first "shareware" programs.  He gave it away and made some pretty good money from it.  In 1985 I spoke at a memorial service for him and was one of the few people there who knew Andrew from before his life in personal computers.   At the time I said that I was sad not to have Andrew around anymore, not just because he was a kind, warm and loving person, but because I would always be curious to see what he would be up to next so we could compare notes.   Who knows, maybe someday I would have run into Andrew up here in Sonoma County? PS I know this hasn't...

Buying Sonoma County Country Property; What About the Quality of My Well Water?

So far in our Wine Country and Horses country property series we have discussed well testing, county regulations for new home construction in water scarce areas, and how much water is enough when it comes to the production of your well. Last but not least is the quality of the water being pumped out of the ground. Most newer wells pump from pretty deep under the ground--some old wells are only 80-100 feet deep abut I have heard of wells in Bennett Valley vineyards for example that are 700 feet deep. Contrast that with old hand-dug wells that still exist in a few spots in Sonoma County. You would think that since the water source is from deep undergroung it typically is not contaminated by surface bacteria and pathogens, and you might be right. However the well seal could have been compromised or somehow surface water pathogens can contaminate your well water. After the rainy season it is very possible that your well could be tainted with coliform bacteria. Fortunately that is easy to treat by "shocking" the well with chlorine bleach. But you might never know that the contamination exists without testing. Bacterial complication is not something to panic about, as it is easily treatable. I once saw buyers pull out of a country property purchase since coliform bacteria was found in the water. It was unfortunate for them and for the seller. The buyers' agent had little country property experience. She could have arranged for the well inspector to talk to the buyers. Maybe they could have had their fears assuaged and gone through with the purchase. Who knows? Some people may not be cut out to buy country property. What else should you test for besides bacteria? Most wells here offer water with a very high mineral content, typically lots of iron and or manganese. It is helpful to know what the mineral concentration is. So what are some of the items we test for? Besides bacteria and mineral content, there are other frequently found metals or contaminants found in our water. The well inspector will help you as a buyer determine what to test for. Commonly arsenic (which percolates from rocks in the soil layers) and nitrates (from decades of agriculture and chicken farming) are seen in our water. Fortunately water purification treatment systems can adjust for most of these items. It is important that water sampling be done...

X