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Silicon Valley Says Unplug from Technology–One Way? Stop and Smell the Roses in Sonoma County

[caption id="attachment_1859" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Go Ahead Stop and Smell Them!"][/caption]   Today in the New York Times, one of the most widely shared articles talks about the search for work life balance in Silicon Valley, and the virtues of unplugging from your iPhone, iPad and laptop from time to time, to enrich your life and achieve some balance. The incessant call of technology can distance us from what is real and important, whether you work in Silicon Valley or just have technology so embedded in your life it can be difficult to break away. That thinking is a FAR FAR cry from the world of Silicon Valley startups I used to inhabit, when I still found it important to duck out for a quick sail or to go horsebackriding. At those unstructured moments, I would often come up with my best ideas. Meanwhile one CEO of mine would boast about how he gamed his email to make it appear that he was on the job at 2 or 3 am. (This was a long time ago so forgive the quaint technology reference!) My first thought upon reading today's story was that so many people I know, including me of course, found one solution to this challenge. I just moved someplace so beautiful and interesting that I am forced to have balance every day. I moved to the countryside of Sonoma County! It's true--heads up Silicon Valley! Come on up. You can still work from here. ! Many of my clients telecommute. Or we can find you a fabulous retreat for getaway weekends and holidays now, something that might be your full time home one day. So many people I work with on the buying side are doing just that. Coming up most weekends (it is not a long drive to the Bay Area) from SF, or Mountain View, or Oakland. Their plan is to live here full time in one or two or three years. Some of my clients bought homes here and live out of state. The home of one is a very successful vacation rental that they can only visit a few times a year but it will be a toehold for when they come here full time in a few years. I have other clients looking to do the same thing. One set has a home in France and a home in Healdsburg. Most of them tell me their second home helps them...

All Signs Point to Rising Home Values in Sonoma County and the Bay Area

The number of homes for sale in Sonoma County is the fewest in many decades, according to a panel of real estate appraisers who recently presented their thoughts at the North Bay Association of Realtors' weekly breakfast meeting in Santa Rosa. At the end of May of the 1900 homes technically available on our MLS, over 1,000 were already in contract, leaving only 900 homes available. This was roughly a forty percent drop from last May. Inventory is declining due to a steady increase in new and pending sales, documented here. Interest rates are ridiculously low and buyers at all price ranges conitnue to leap off the sidelines. Appraisals are often a challenge now as the market is moving too fast and overbids in pending sales are not yet reflected as SOLD data, creating large challenges for the 70% of buyers who are applying for home mortgages today. All signs point to gradually increasing home vales. Decreasing supply and increasing demand. Part of this may be attributed to the "Facebook" effect, much touted for months even before Facebook's beleaguered IPO earlier this spring. The IPO and generally strong tech economy are lifting the Silicon Valley and San Francisco housing markets to red hot levels. I was in San Francisco this morning for a seminar on real estate legal topics and heard some interesting stories that are coming out of this frenzied market. Many properties, even in the six to twelve MILLION dollar range are receiving multiple cash offers. What happens when some buyers lose out--they get creative. It is increasingly common for losing Buyers to offer cash incentives to the buyers in first position (the winning buyer) so that they will assign their rights to buy the home to the frustrated loser. How can this happen? Most standard real estate contracts are assignable, unless specifically amended. In one case winning buyer accepted $100,000 from a losing buyer to assign their right to purchase a home to the second buyer. Can you imagine how the seller feels seeing that $100,000 go to some one else? Needless to say this creates some interesting challenges for sellers and their agents to be aware of--that is why the good brokerages such as Wine Country Group, my firm, offer continuing legal education to their agents. ...

Not Quite Summertime but the Living is Easy…

[caption id="attachment_1793" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="It's easy to take it easy with Mom keeping watch"][/caption] It's not quite summertime but it's going to be very hot this weekend. You might want to take it easy like these two-week old foals at my neighbor's place. [caption id="attachment_1799" align="alignleft" width="430" caption="Courtesy of Crissi Dillon of the Press Democrat newspaper"][/caption] Or there is plenty to keep you occupied if you want to get up and go! Tomorrow morning at 6:30 am the Hot Air Balloon Classic begins at the Sonoma County Airport. There are tethered balloon rides and you can get up close to watch them launch and land for a six dollar admission fee. ...

Glen Ellen's Got a New Star

[caption id="attachment_1776" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="The New Kid in Town: Glen Ellen Star Restaurant"][/caption] Yesterday morning I went over to Glen Ellen to check out some new country properties on the Sonoma Broker Tour. As agents we hold our new listings open so that the agent community can preview the new inventory without having to make an appointment. We just show up. Ideally refreshments are provided Sometimes there is a drawing for a bottle of wine or a gift certificate. Yesterday I was able to look at two beautiful new country property listings in Glen Ellen and also to check out the hottest new restaurant in town. Glen Ellen must have one of the highest ratios of restaurants to business establishments of just about anywhere, and now there's a new spot to check out. We ran in to look at the menu--it is only open for dinner. Looks promising. And here is a link to Heather Irwin's first look review in Bite Club, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat foodie blog. Oh, and those new listings were pretty interesting too. The first is on 26 acres on Enterprise Road.  It has a rambling country house with nice views of the surrounding countryside and the horse pasture below the property.  This really is a "Wine Country and Horses" property as it also has a several acre zinfandel vineyard.  You can ride in to Jack London State Park and come home and sip wine from your own property afterwards.  Not a bad combination.  The house was very comfortable with beautiful old wide plank floors and woodwork with a lot of character.  The master suite had some of the best views on the property.  If you want my opinion on the asking price of $4.2 Million, please call me to discuss. [idx-listing mlsnumber="21213674" showfeatures="true" showlocation="true"] The other property is on Chauvet Road and you could easily walk to the Glen Ellen Market or any of the MANY good restaurants in town. You could also get up in to Jack London pretty easily from here as Chauvet runs in to London Ranch Road.  I should do a post on Jack London State Park as it is easily one of the most beautiful and interesting places in Sonoma County, whether you bring your horses or hike or drive in. This particular new listing on Chauvet will probably sell very quickly because it is the type of country property that will strongly appeal to someone...

Higher Asking Prices for Homes in Many San Francisco Bay Area Communities

[caption id="attachment_1770" align="alignleft" width="636" caption="A map showing higher per square foot asking prices in certain Bay Area communities"][/caption]Over the last few weeks I have posted a lot about home sales market statistics for Sonoma County. The reason is not to be gratuitously geeky, but to provide some data, and some context for what appears to be a solidifying shift in the real estate market in Sonoma County and throughout the SF Bay Area. There is a lot I am planning to share on this subject but for now, I would just like to publish the graphic by John Blanchard and the San Francisco Chronicle from Sunday, June 3, 2012. It is based upon data from Zillow, the real estate portal, and shows a color-coded heat map of asking prices by square foot throughout the Bay Area, including Sonoma County. In certain key markets asking prices per square foot are anywhere from ten to even twenty or thirty percent above last year's figures. Why? Because there is almost NO inventory available for all the home-buyers out there. You can see on this map that Sonoma County communities such as Healdsburg and the Valley of the Moon corridor are at the higher end of these ranges. Newly pending sales are at a many year high now, and inventory in Sonoma County may be reaching an all time low. More about this in future posts. ...

Homes for Sale Inventory Drops 37% while Sonoma Home Sales Rise 21% as of May 31, 2012

[caption id="attachment_1762" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Drastically Reduced Inventory and and Increase in Home Sales Contnues as of May 31, 2012"][/caption] In May I posted a lot about Sonoma County homes sales statistics. Now it is June 1 and I was curious to see what the May sales figures had to say. Last year at this time there were 3,043 homes for sale in Sonoma County. As of May 31, 2012 there are only 1,902 (!) homes for sale here, a 37% drop in inventory. Last year 434 homes sales were completed in the month of May. This year, 524 home sales were completed, an increase of 21%. This supply and demand chart is one of the most telling for market statistics. As the supply curve drops it begins to converge with the demand curve, which has been steadily rising. When the curve converges that means prices may rise. I recently attended a gathering of about 200 realtors for a business planning conference in San Diego. The consensus there was that prices are coming up. Most analysts predict a modest increase of 3-5% nationwide. Prices seem to be rising in some of the hardest hit markets such as Las Vegas and Florida. Many Bay Area markets are sizzling hot and overbids are rampant. The Sonoma County home sales numbers seem to confirm this trend. What do you think? Last year...

Facilities or Fundamentals? What are the Top Things to Consider When Buying Horse Property in Sonoma County?

[caption id="attachment_1757" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Roses line the path to this Sonoma County barn"][/caption] In my post earlier today I talked about the two factors driving most horse property buyers I have met in Sonoma County. I related my own experience buying my own horse property here, and I pointed out a new listing yesterday that fit the bill on both accounts:  dialed in facilities well thought out from a horse-owner (and of course HORSE) viewpoint, plus beautiful wine country bonuses--panoramic views, one of the most popular Sebastopol locations, and a good southerly route for San Francisco Bay Area commuters. This has sparked some conversations with other horse property clients and friends of mine.  I just spoke with one who said that her thinking evolved as she searched for property. In the beginning she thought it was about finding the right set of horse improvements, such as barn, fencing and arena.  Over time (and working with me I might add), her thinking evolved.  She began to realize that location, setting, proper soils and drainage were all paramount, not to mention adequate space for her horses.   Those were non-negotiable.  Facilities she could add.  And she has! The further advantage of putting in your own facilities is that you can design them as you wish, for your horses' needs.  No need to adapt to someone else's vision.  Plus horse improvements depreciate rapidly, so the condition of the improvements should be carefully evnaluated. I have seen lots of properties advertised as having arenas which are nothing more than a rectangular fenced area. I have seen covered arenas advertised that had no footing.   Horse fencing advertised that is not safe for horses, etc. As we further talked though we discussed some cases in which buying existing improvement can make sense. Obviously if they are in great shape and match your needs, then it is cheaper to buy them already installed.  Something which can cost several hundred thousand dollars such as a covered or indoor arena loses that value once installed and a seller will rarely recoup it these days, so you might as a buyer have a good opportunity to get a very nice arena at a good savings. So you can make a case in either direction.  One thing to consider in buying (or selling!) a horse property is that it makes sense to work with a realtor who knows horses and horse property so you can...

Is it Sonoma County Horse Property? Or is it Horse-Able? What matters most to you?

[caption id="attachment_1740" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="[idx-listing mlsnumber="21212955" showall="true""]Grazing at Home Next to a Russian River Valley Vineyard"][/caption]I have been working on "how-to" series this month. How to Buy Country Property? What you need to know about Water and Country Property. Last but most definitely not least is "How to" buy horse property in the wine country? This blog is called Wine Country and Horses after all. I thought it would be a pretty straightforward matter until I started talking to my clients who have purchased horse property through me, until I realized there was one basic point to consider before getting in to the details. When you buy your horse property, what is most important to you as you search? A. The land, location (including trail access), setting and house? B. The fencing, barn and arena, if any? I realize that my clients tend to fall in to one of the two camps. I personally was in the first camp. The setting and location and to a lesser extent the house were paramout to me. I would have loved to find a property that also had a barn and fencing but that was secondary. I had to find the right place first for the horses and me. For the right price I could buy the property and put the improvements in as I saw fit. When I was looking for my place in 1999, I saw one house in Sebastopol that didn't do too much for me, but the neighboring property had a nicely put together arena, fencing and a barn. If that one had been for sale at the time I might have bought it. [caption id="attachment_1752" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Arena with a View"][/caption] Guess what? It came on the market yesterday. Here is a link to the listing. If you want a combination of a true wine country Sebastopol location, PLUS dialed in horse facilities: a six stall MD Barn with paddocks off the stalls on one side, trailer parking and a bunch of pasture turnout linking barn and a nice arena with proper drainage and footing, here you go. I have seen most of the horse properties, or horse-able properties in Sonoma County. IF you want to learn more, please call or email me. [idx-listing mlsnumber="21212955" showfeatures="true" showlocation="true"]...

Detailed Luxury Home and Ranch Report for Sonoma County Home Sales

Sonoma County Million Dollar Plus Home and Ranch Sales Report through April 2012 Here is the detailed set of tables and charts looking at the sales statistics for million dollar plus homes and ranches in Sonoma County. It would be difficult to break this data down and look at trends in the rate of sales in different communities such as Healdsburg or Sonoma since the sample size is so small. That is why we so often look at the county as a whole. Typically the most desirable locations will see the quickest rebound and highest activity. Good sales activity doesn't mean sellers can overprice their properties and hope to be successful, but they can be more positive about bringing well-presented and well-priced properties to market, because the buyers are out there. Trends of note--the number of expired listings has declined steadily over the last year. During the depths of the market downturn many properties were pulled off the market when they didn't sell. A lower rate of expired listings is obviously coupled with a higher rate of newly open contracts and closed sales. While we may have had some price declines in this segment as recently as 2011, all the signs point to stabilizing prices and possible modest price appreciation in the years ahead. All data is pulled from the BAREIS Multiple Listing Association. That is, it is provided by the various brokerages in the county from their actual listing sales data....

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