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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...

Tour Talk: New Country property listings in Sebastopol

It was a glorious sunny day for touring West Sonoma County and seeing the latest properties to come on the market for the Sebastopol MLS. I am continually amazed at the breathtaking beauty of our back roads and the incredible variety of terrain, vegetation, trees, views and micro-climates that make up Sebastopol and Graton. So many nooks and crannies offering everything from 1910 farmhouses to contemporary estates and Tuscan style villas, vineyards, horse properties, garden paradises (where was the experimental farm of Luther Burbank?), apple orchards, organic farms, dairies --both cow and goat--and idyllic country retreats. Not to mention redwood groves and ocean views. And this was just today's tour! ;) Today we started with a delightful end of lane listing at 8349 Lewanna, off of Elphick. For $699,000 you can have a 1232 sf home on just under an acre. A modest home which could use updating but the views are spectacular:a panorama of the SE Santa Rosa hills and the home looks directly over a sprawling vineyard. Properties don't come up often on this lane and the setting is truly unique. With a property like this you have the benefit of what I call "borrowed acreage" --you can look at it and pretend it's yours but you don't have to take care of it or pay for it. Small parcels bordered by little ones can be delightful in this way. Next we drove way out Burnside Road to view Cary Fargo's latest cool listing at 4910 Burnside Road. This is the quintessential old farmhouse with fir floors and a tilting chimney, spring and tiny studio and pond. Lots of chamomile and herbs tumbling around and we spotted a doe and fawn leaping away. The spring has a hand dug 10 foot deep well and tiny well house covering it. Not much as been done to this house except for some blue tiles that appear to date from the 70's in the kitchen and a massive open beamed ceiling in that room. Lots of wainscoting and original character and KILLER views of Mt. St. Helena. The 3 plus acres appear to be very usable and Cary said there are some potential building sites on the property so that perhaps the cute farmhouse could become a granny unit and leave room for a larger main home. Check...

Tour Twitter heard on the Grapevine–mixing metaphors and maybe technology

It is going to be a gorgeous day to check out the latest West County new listings (Sebastopol MLS tour) tomorrow--I will have on my walking shoes and sunscreen, and James the trusty navigator on my TL will be well rested so he can plot out the best driving strategy for me and Izetta and hopefully another pal or two so we can economize on gas. (author's note:  I had hoped to Twitter my way through tour but that didn't happen this week, maybe next time.) Hopefully there will be some good munchies provided by the hosting agents since for some reason there are a pile of properties this week when there have been very few the last week or two. It is important for listing agents to incent their peers to tour their new listings, especially in a crowded field. At one property last year (a country property listing of mine in Sebastopol) had so much going on that in order to convince agents to wait around and smell the roses, i.e. learn all the property had to offer, I had a masseur doing chair massages in one room, a lender pouring hot-mulled wine and apple cider in the kitchen, and bagels, lox and cream cheese for all. Two of us directed traffic and parking as well. I lost my voice after hours of tour-guiding. It was worth the effort because we had 3 offers the first week and sold for over asking to a buyer who is now very happy in his new country home. This in last year's down market. What kind of creative broker tour incentives have you seen? Anyway, I will report on the latest new West Sonoma County properties after tomorrow's tour. Heard on the Grapevine: In Healdsburg, I know of a great new listing coming up in early July--a classic Craftsman bungalow walking distance to the Healdsburg plaza. About 1600 sf with a new roof and paint, new deck and some interior updating, but a lot more room to improve (including the stand-up full length attic), or liveable and rentable now. It will be very competitively priced on a street with some gorgeous vintage homes. More info in the coming weeks. Enjoy the lovely summer solstice week and tune back in for the tour and gravevine reviews and news. I also just...

Sonoma County Market Dynamics for May 2008: Demand up, Supply of New listings down 14%

Ok so I admit that there is more to being successful in buying and selling real estate (as a realtor or an actual buyer or seller) than knowing market statistics. But the dynamics of this real estate market are changing so rapidly, and the various locations and price points add multiple additional layers of complexity, so that it bears spending some time looking at the numbers. Most of us also like to see if the trends on aggregate bear out our senses as we live and breathe in this market every day. So any of my clients or friends who ask me "How's the market?" knows that I can wax poetic on the subject. Tongue slightly in cheek. ;) Anyway, my broker Rick Laws, just released May's sales statistic for Sonoma County to us this morning and the sales up-tick we noted previously appears to be continuing or even accelerating. Add that to the big news that the number of new listings is actually down 14%. This is for all residential sales in Sonoma County at all price points. I have asked Rick for some additional breakdowns. This is a rough pass of the data because as Rick says, some of the sales reporting for last month can be a little late and dribble in over the first 10 days of the month, which is when he normally compiles the stats that you see in the Press Democrat. Closed sales are up slightly over last year at this time. But even more interestingly, newly opened escrows (sales under contract but due to close in 1 to 2 months) are up 68 percent this year over last. Even if some fall out of escrow, that is a significant boost to a trend we first noted here in early March. Even more interestingly, new listings are down 14% over last year. So where do you think the market is heading?Please click on the image above for a larger view.     ...

Entry Level Sonoma County Real Estate Market Hopping!

Please click on the image above to see one that is actually readable! The trend we first noted in February is continuing in Sonoma County Real Estate Sales, led by our entry level market of homes under $500,000. Not only is the number of new CLOSED sales up to the highest point in over two years, the number of newly opened escrows (UNDER CONTRACT above) is increasing even more rapidly, on pace to close next month. Many of these homes are bank-owned (REO's) or short sales and the buyers consist of investors and first time buyers or folks who are down-sizing. The number of newly opened escrows in this category is up 274% over last year at this time. While buyers think they can offer considerably lower than asking, that is not necessarily true. I just opened escrow for a client in this price range and we were able to get a great property that had been on the market for some time (not a foreclosure) and ridden the price trend down. The perils of overpricing in this case benefited my buyer who is in contract to purchase this home for 33% less than the original asking price, and 15% under the most recent price. But the REO's are now priced to sell for the most part and attracting multiple offers. One of the best deals I saw in Montgomery Village last week at under $320,000 had four offers within a few days of coming on the market and still the bank had not selected which cherry offer to pick. But even if this property sells for slightly over asking, it is a great solid home (in need of much TLC) on a prime street and lot with surrounding homes that will love to see this one fixed up! Perhaps the big thud we heard in Sonoma County last winter was the sound of the market hitting bottom. We shall see. More stats and opinions to come on other segments of the Sonoma County Real Estate market this week....

Open May 18 1-4PM: A Panoramic Country View Property in Sebastopol

As a 10 year resident of Sonoma County, one of the only things I really missed when I moved up here from the San Francisco Bay Area in early 1999 was my fantastic 3 Bridge SF Bay view with spectacular sunsets every night from every room in the house. It was a great way to transition from a busy day by enjoying the sunset in the evening. My current home is not situated to take the western views in, although when I feed the horses, that is my sunset viewing time. That is why I love the listing at 2210 Pleasant Hill Road in Sebastopol, and offered to Pamela Bernier, the listing agent, that I would hold it open this Sunday May 18 1-4 PM in the hopes that I might introduce the property to some folks looking for a lovely 2.6 acre parcel, home and small horse setup set way back near the end of a peaceful country lane. The entire home faces the rolling western hills of Sebastopol with panoramas of vineyards, orchards and distant redwoods. The acreage is very usable and would accommodate horses or livestock, an avid gardener or grape grower or just some folks who want to kick back on the decks at sunset and unwind in a their very own Shangri-la. Come visit tomorrow and learn about this or other properties on the market, as well as current Sebastopol and Sonoma County real estate market trends. This last week I toured 11 new property listings on the market in Sebastopol, as well as others around the county, so I can fill you in! ...

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