Begin with the End in Mind: How to find your Dream Wine Country Home

Begin with the End in Mind: How to find your Dream Wine Country Home

A ridgetop view north from ForestvilleOver the last year we have seen a broader range of quality wine country properties for sale in Sonoma County, with sellers who are more realistic about pricing.  That combination, and ultra low interest rates, have brought out of the area buyers out in force.  In 2011 and 2012 alone I have worked with people from the East Bay, San Francisco, France, the UK, Idaho and Texas for a start. There is a lot of competition for the best properties, and as a smart buyer you will want to do your homework to find the best spot and country package for you!
That said, it is possible to find a special property within an hour’s drive of the Golden Gate Bridge (more or less) that can give you years of pleasure and rejuvenation.  So where do you begin in your search for a wine country home?
Begin with the End in Mind!
(with a nod to Steven Covey in “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”)
When I first start to work with new clients I spend a lot of time learning what they hope to accomplish in working with me–what are their ideal outcomes, where would they like to be six months from now?  In that way I can learn more about their values and how to serve them most effectively.
With buyers in particular, I often offer a visualization exercise to help them envision their ideal home.  For people coming from outside California this really feeds in to their “w00-woo” image of us!  But I have worked with doctors and lawyers and other very left-brained individuals and couples and found that this exercise serves them as well as it does all the right-brained folks who are ready to jump on board.  With country property or horse property, we are not only talking about types of homes but types of grounds, terrain and microclimates.  (Disclaimer: this could be a huge post but I am going to try to break the topic in to bitsized pieces!)
To get back to  Stephen Covey:

Habit 2 is based on imagination–the ability to envision in your mind what you cannot at present see with your eyes. It is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There is a mental (first) creation, and a physical (second) creation. The physical creation follows the mental, just as a building follows a blueprint. If you don’t make a conscious effort to visualize who you are and what you want in life, then you empower other people and circumstances to shape you and your life by default.

Why is this step so important to purchasing a second home or a new main home in Sonoma County’s wine country?  I was discussing this with clients (now friends) the other day at Sunday brunch.   During the week they live in San Francisco’s Noe Valley.  In 2007 we found them a second home  in the countryside of Northeast Santa Rosa.  The other day they said to me, “we had no idea we could find the perfect country property in Santa Rosa!  All we knew were Napa and the Russian River area”. When we met they had already looked at property in Napa County to the east and Lake County to the north.  Lake County was too far from home in SF and in Napa they could not find the “wine country experience” they wanted to have at a price that made sense for them.
They each had a sense of what they wanted to acheive in a second home and we worked to clarify that vision.  They wanted a certain experience of peace and privacy, to be surrounded by nature and inspiring views, to have a pool and home where they would enjoy entertaining friends and family. They wanted a complete get away from it all experience that was still accessible, ie only a maximum one hour drive from SF.
They both have pretty high power jobs that entail a lot of travel so it needed to be easy to get to enough that they would be there regularly.  It didn’t really matter what Sonoma County town it was in so long as it met their criteria.  NOTE:  This is an important point to consider in your property search! To find the right combination of terrain, vegetation, house and views, there are a dozen or more areas you can consider, and should consider, to find the right package for you.
As Jeff and Brian told me, most of their friends and colleagues in the Bay Area did not know much about specific Sonoma County towns so we looked in a variety of communities–“West County” aka Sebastopol, Occidental and Graton, Northwest Santa Rosa and Forestville and Northeast Santa Rosa, where we finally found their home.  With other clients we have expanded that list to include Healdsburg, Windsor and Guerneville, Sonoma, Kenwood and Glen Ellen and other parts of Santa Rosa.
As a country property specialist, I make it a point to search out the best listings in a wide area to meet my clients’ needs. It is very difficult in our market of a collection of charming small towns and countryside to focus only on one community.  I recall from my own search for my country home covering a very wide swath of ground till I found the right setting and home for the horses.  I ended up buying in a place I had not even considered initially and am very happy with the choice.  Later this month we will look at other aspects for finding your wine country home.
(HINT:  If you are a seller of such a wine country property, please call me, we need more inventory to sell, and that is a topic for another post soon!)

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