Buyers

Signs of a Shift in the Tides of Sonoma County Real Estate Continue

Five Years Later A Shift of the Tides in Sonoma County Real Estate In case you are wondering why I have a video of the San Francisco Bay Model embedded here--it is a throwback nod to my first blog post in 2007, when I used the Bay Model as an analogy to explain Sonoma County's relationship to the Bay Area Real Estate Market. Well, just as our market seems to have a fresh start--so does the Bay Model--which completed a two year refurbishment earlier this year--you can take a look above! As I said in that earlier post, the Bay Area real estate tide eventually floats Sonoma County's real estate market boat. We used to say that our market was about 18 months behind the Bay Area market but I believe that is changing for certain marquis properties--country estates in Healdsburg and Sonoma for example, or very stylish homes in walking distance to the Plazas of either of those towns. That is where the Facebook effect is being felt here, as multimillion dollar homes or vineyard and equestrian properties are being snatched up by cash buyers. What does this mean for you as a home buyer today? You must have your ducks in a row to be competitive in this market. There are multiple offers at most price points and thirty percent of buyers (also at most price ranges up to millions of dollars) are cash buyers. That means full pre-approval if you are applying for a mortgage. Proof of funds if you are paying cash. If you need a referral to a good lender, I know some great lenders that I trust who can work with you to understand your options. Let me know if I can refer you. You cannot write a serious offer to buy a property without pre-approval from a lender and proof of the funds needed to close. What does this mean for you as a possible seller? The market for your home may be stronger than you think. While prices are not what they once were, you will find a much more active market to sell in to, and you will find great values for the next home you wish to purchase. We are seeing significant overbids for strategically price properties and prices may be coming up a few percent. Activity is strong at all price points. Million dollar plus properties...

The Road Less Traveled: Could Your Sonoma Wine Country Home Be in One of these Less Known Spots?

[caption id="attachment_1925" align="alignleft" width="300"] Nearly every home in Sonoma County contains at least ONE apple tree, if not many more.[/caption] I had dinner recently with clients who bought a country property in northeast Santa Rosa's Mark West area about five years ago. I love visiting their home as it feels like a mini-vacation! The pool is on a hillside overlooking dramatic wooded ridges. You cannot see another home from the extensive decks around the house, even though the lot is only 2.5 acres. For Jeff and Brian who spend nearly every weekend at the property, it is a welcome and necessary respite from challenging careers in San Francisco. Monday through Thursday they live in Noe Valley, but Fridays after work they head up to Northeast Santa Rosa with their springer spaniel, Margo for a relaxing wine country weekend. Vacations and holidays are mostly spent here and family and friends ensure a social life that extends from the Bay Area to the wine country. At dinner on the deck we were talking about their house hunt back in 2007. Brian was remarking how much they love their location between Santa Rosa and Calistoga--how beautiful it is--how convenient to SF, to Napa and St. Helena and how affordable it was compared to Napa County. "We had no idea that Santa Rosa had so much beautiful country! We didn't realize how many wine country alternatives to Napa and Sonoma that there were. We had no clue about Sebastopol, Forestville or Santa Rosa!" All they knew about Sonoma County was the Russian River resort area, or Healdsburg or Sonoma. They had no idea that they could find the wine country experience they were seeking in any of several Sonoma County towns. In fact, Jeff and Brian are like many of the out of town buyers I work with. They are not married to a particular location when they buy a country home or estate. Rather they are looking for a certain experience. So, with all due respect to the more well-known towns of Napa, St. Helena, Sonoma and Healdsburg, here are some surprising alternatives where you may find a perfect wine country home or estate. A good country property agent (myself included) will have a good feel for country property inventory throughout the county, and more importantly, they will know the ins and outs of wells and septic systems and zoning regulations, which are especially critical when...

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...

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"]...

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...

The Five Inspections every Sonoma County Country Property Buyer Should Have

When you are buying country property in Sonoma County you will need to plan to spend from $1500 to $2,000 or more on inspections. It is a big chunk of money but in the long run it will save you headaches and might save you a bunch of cash in the future. Smart sellers may provide some recent inspections as part of their presentation of their property, but in general as a buyer you should be prepared to invest in pre-purchase inspections once you and the seller have come to terms and your offer is ratified. After ratification you have a buyers' investigation period specified in the purchase offer. The standard term is 17 days but the inspection period can be shorter or longer. It can also be extended if necessary but it is not guaranteed that a seller will extend a contingency period. People often ask me when we are writing an offer if they have to specify in advance all the inspections they want to have. In California, absolutely not. You may not be able to anticipate up front all of the necessary inspections so you are not limited in any way. You can have your astrologist out to the property if you want! A good country property realtor can help you to avoid investing time or money on an obviously unsuitable property for your needs, but the only way you will know the whole truth about a property will be to investigate it thoroughly. I have a range of professional experts in various fields that I can recommend to my clients to choose from to hire, and we arrange most appointments as a service to our clients. As part of our Wine Country and Horses Country Property series we will be looking at many common areas to investigate Some properties may merit more extensive inspections. For example a few years back my clients decided it would be smart to have a geologist evaluate the 2.5 acre site they had in escrow. Why? There was a massive rock hillside just to the back of the house. The geologist crawled all over the property, assured them that the hillside was relatively stable, and pointed out a massive bolder up the hill over their pool that probably needed staking! Now they have a lovely, wonderful...

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

Over 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?...

25% Home Sales Drop in Sonoma County this October

A winter chill seemed to come early to Sonoma County's real estate market. Sales were at their lowest level for October since 2007. Sales also dropped from September of 2010, which makes me wonder if the news of robo-signing of foreclosure documents just put a huge wet blanket on already skittish buyers. Inventory was up only slightly, and newly pending sales maintained a very good pace, belying the drop in closed sales. It is possible that all the concern about the possible risk of buying foreclosed properties put a damper on sales. In that case short sales might be marginally more attractive to buyers.  (Editor's Comment: it is hard to make a short sale (they are anything but short) attractive to a potential buyer, but if it is the only game in town then I guess they look better, more about that in another post.) The median home price dropped about 9% to $342,500. It has been bouncing around in the mid-$300,000 range for over a year. I have been tracking home sales on this blog since mid-2007. This is the first big (non seasonal) drop in sales volume since late 2008. One month does not a trend make however.  It will be interesting to see if is a temporary reaction to the headlines, or represents a more sustained trend. What does this mean for you if you are a Buyer? If your income situation is stable (a big if for a lot of people), then this winter could present an excellent buying opportunity. Rates have dropped even since the summer to a decades low. Bottom line if you are a buyer now and the numbers work for you, this may be a great chance to buy with less competition at very low cost. If you are a Seller? Without a doubt the drop in sales has got to give you pause if you are a seller. However, to whatever degree there is uncertainty about foreclosure inventory, your "normal" home is going to look a lot more attractive, but not if you overprice it. I can think of any number of "normal" homes that are not priced in line with the competition and are just sitting, getting stale. If you are considering selling within the next two to three years, then you will want to be aggressive and pro-active about how you approach your sale,...

Sonoma County Home Sales Resume Pace 2 Months after Tax Credit Expiration

A look at the latest real estate sales trends for Sonoma County, based on sales figures through July 2010. The market is somewhat stabilized, with a greater diversity of properties for sale from "regular" folks, and less of a reliance on distressed properties. Newly pending sales through July matched the high rate of sales from April 2010, when the federal tax credit was about to expire....

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