Author: Pam Buda

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...

Russian River Home Sales Report

[caption id="attachment_1723" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Russian River Views from Forestville looking North"][/caption]The Russian River area of Sonoma County extends from Forestville, which lies between Sebastopol and Healdsburg, through Guerneville and Monte Rio to Duncan's Mills near the coast in Jenner. It also includes tiny Rio Nido, Camp Meeker and the rustic hills and forests of Cazadero. It is a very diverse area with more than its share of towering redwoods and river beaches. Historically a summer playground for San Francisco, the river also is a full time home to many. Homes can be more affordable here. Recently the river market was slower to react to the housing crisis, but saw its share of foreclosures and distressed properties later on. Aa elsewhere, inventory is declining as sales volume improves. One thing I'd like to point out with these charts is that many of them show the number of bank-owned properties that have sold as a percentage of the overall market. This would be true for any of the sales reports I have posted. Russian River Home Sales Report ...

Coastal Sonoma Home Sales Report

[caption id="attachment_1717" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Bodega Harbour View on a not so Sunny Day"][/caption]The Sonoma Coast is truly one of the most magnificent places on earth. Every once in a while I catch a car ad on TV and I say--hey that is just north of Jenner. I guess the art directors for the advertising companies agree. The recent Tour of California saw the race emerge on the coast above Jenner and travel down Route 1 to Coleman Valley Road, where they made their way back inland (and uphill) to the finish. The unit sales in the coastal market are in the single digits, not including Sea Ranch to the north. So, the statistical value is week. The coastal market was very hot this last winter, which is one of the most beautiful seasons on the coast. We can be socked in with tule fog inland and it will be bright and sunny out in Bodega Bay, as I discovered last winter when I was showing property from Dillon Beach to Gualala. Even with the small sample size, the behavior of the real estate market in coastal Sonoma this winter was an early clue to the heat of the overall Sonoma County real estate market this spring. Same message, rising sales and declining inventory. Coastal Sonoma Home Sales Report...

Petaluma and Penngrove Home Sales Report

Petaluma is one of the larger towns in Sonoma County, and it is bordered by Penngrove on the northeast corner. This area is closest to Marin County to the south and the commute locations of the Bay Area, so it tends to be more influenced by those factors and a bit more expensive than the rest of the corridor along highway 101 going north further in to Sonoma County. It is no surprise that home inventorys are down 39 percent from April 2010, and that there are only 1.9 months supply of homes for sale at the current rate. Here are the sales reports for the last two years for Petaluma (east and west) and Penngrove. Petaluma and Penngrove Home Sales Report...

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