Archive for the 'Country Property' Category
In the spring of 2011 the median price of a country home with 2 acres or more in Sonoma County was $740,000. Those days and those low prices are now in the rear view mirror as country property sales are hot along with the summer weather.
Today the median Sonoma County country home price with two acres or more is $1,095,000. While you will find country homes listed in the 6oo-800,000 range there is a good bet that there will be multiple buyers lined up for each one and sales prices are exceeding list prices in many cases, some times dramatically.
What does this mean if you want to buy a country home in Sonoma County?
A. Come prepared with a cash offer or make sure your loan approval is rock solid and a TRUE pre-approval. You will want to have at least a 20% down payment to be competitive. Inspection and loan contingencies are still the norm here (unlike closer in to San Francisco and the Bay Area) but the more you can do to strengthen your offer the better off you will be!
B. Be prepared to go over asking price and have your agent find out how many offers you will be competing against so you can make an intelligent offer. HINT: for a less competitive environment, ask your agent about one of the over-priced/poorly presented properties in an area you like. You may find you can minimize the competition by pursuing one of those ugly ducklings.
What does this mean if you are selling a country property?
A. You can take advantage of the competition amongst buyers by putting your best foot forward and hope a bidding war moves your sales price up in to new territory. Homes that following the three P’s: Preparation, Pricing and Promotion will fetch top possible dollar for today’s market by reaching and appealing to the widest possible set of possible buyers. Don’t under prepare because the market is so good anyway the property will sell “no matter what”. When homes are going for 30, 50 or even 300,000 over asking (!!!) you might be leaving a lot of money on the table.
Click on the link above to go to my Scribd page for a more in-depth view of the real estate market in Sonoma County. And feel free to call or email me if you you’d like to discuss Sonoma County country property!
I have been away from posting for far too long. One of the things that has kept me occupied (besides the day-to-day of working with home buyers and sellers!) is my work this year as Chairperson of the North Bay Association of Realtors (NORBAR) Education and Technology Committee. I have volunteerd on this committee for over five years and find it rewarding to work with my peers to create and promote training for realtors throughout Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino Counties. We have developed new agent training (the practical kind) and many other courses on technology for realtors, etc. One of our most successful series has been the Country Property Series for Realtors. We have been working away on the latest round which will take place over five weeks in June and July. If you are planning to buy or sell country real estate in Sonoma County, you want to make sure you work with a realtor who is very qualified to help guide you through the complexities of a country property transaction. Here are the classes we are teaching. Our faculty consists of experienced realtors and subject area experts. These courses are only available to realtors but I just wanted to give you and idea of the scope of things to consider when buying or selling a country property! This is a list of topics!
- Week 1: Market Study--sales trends in country property. I will be teaching this with Mike Kelly of Keller Williams.
Septic Systems Mike Treinen is teaching this class. He is a licensed septic consultant and used to work for the county of Sonoma in that capacity. He is the guy my clients hire to analyze and inspect their systems, current and proposed. Wells, Springs and Water Quality County Resources (an overview of the Sonoma County Permit Resources and Management Division (aka PRMD)
- Week 2: Zoning and Permits These two topics alone will take up a whole afternoon of our time and we will only scratch the surface. If you are buying a property you want to be as sure as possible that the zoning matches your planned purposes for residential use, vacation rentals, agriculture, livestock, etc.
- Week 3: Survey, Grading and Drainage Issues
Environmental Issues (toxic waste and endangered species anyone?) Legal Issues (easements, encroachments, boundary disputes, ask me about my current escrow with an easement to nowhere.)
- Week 4: These are subjects close to my heart and I will be teaching moderating on both with some of my esteemed colleagues.
Equestrian Property–how many horses and what can I do with them? Vineyard property and wineries –valuation, improvements and the tiger salamander, what does it mean?
- Week 5: Money, Taxes and Insurance--they are different for country property.
Loans and Appraisals (when is acreage too much?) Property tax issues 1031/121 Exchanges Fire codes and insurance issues Many of us who have attended in the past will be attending again as the issues change and evolve and we can always sharpent our skills. There is always something new to learn and that is what makes buying and selling Sonoma County Country property so interesting!
I am still daydreaming about the gorgeous West (Sonoma) County estate property I saw yesterday. I knew I had to share it with you. Not only does the home sit on 29 +- stunning classic Occidental acres off Frati Lane, but it features one of the most thoughtfully designed contemporary country homes I have every seen. In addition, there are two adjoining buildable/probably also plantable lots surrounding this parcel. You could have a total of 66 +- acres to enjoy now and hold for investment value or as an idyllic family compound. Occidental can be problematic when it comes to water but this is a Zone 3 property and the listing agent, Randy Rousseau, quoted some pretty high production rates for the three installed wells. (my comments continue below the listing info.) This would be great for horses but the personal estate vineyard potential could be significant.
We're sorry, but we couldn't find MLS # 21301206 in our database. This property may be a new listing or possibly taken off the market. Please check back again.
The main home has wonderful flow indoors and out, great privacy, very high design and materials quality. You can tell it was designed for function and usability and simple elegance. Minimalist and I could easily picture living there myself! 😉
There is a salt water lap pool and a solar system and geothermal heat pump for sustainability.
The property is priced at $2,300,000. It is rare to find this type of contemporary design in Sonoma County, particularly in West County. When you add the location, setting and abundance of land and water, old apple orchards and redwoods, you have an unbeatable combination. I believe that the property could have been price higher but it should sell quickly as it is. The entire package of home and two buildable lots at 66 acres +- is on offer for $3,600,000. If you would like to see it email or call me and I can arrange a showing.
The location feels like the end of the world but it is only 5 or 10 minutes to downtown Occidental, about the same to Graton and a few minutes more to downtown Sebastopol. Vineyards, wineries, world-class dining and the stunning Sonoma Coast are all in easy striking distance of this week’s Pam’s Pick tour property!
Yesterday I wrote about a conversation I had with clients about their experience finding the right country home for them. They pointed out that many country property buyers who might not be aware that they have many towns in Sonoma County that they can consider for their wine country homes, not just the most famous ones. Here is a little closer look at some nice Sonoma County communities that haven’t received all the hype (yet.)
As the 4th largest city in Northern California, Santa Rosa is more than a town but it also contains some of the most gorgeous countryside, where you can find classic country retreats, grand estates and horse properties large and small. Santa Rosa is divided in to four quadrants, Northeast, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest. The terrain AND climate vary widely as it stretches for miles. Here is a link to the newest country property listings in Santa Rosa (2 acres or more) Santa Rosa Country Property Listings (NOTE: These listings are displayed with acres in square feet, so it is a little confusing. FYI, 87,120 sf is two acres!)
Sebastopol is a much smaller community than Santa Rosa, but it also stretches for miles, from the windy southern edge bordering Petaluma which is nice and close for southbound commutes, to the gorgeous wine country estates of the Vine Hill Road area to the north and to the redwood forests of Occidental to the west. Graton is also part of West County and it stretches to Forestville on its northern border. Many of my clients have found country properties here and would have equally considered others from Santa Rosa to Healdsburg and east to the Valley of the Moon. Here are some current Sebastopol Country Property LIstings (87,120 sf equals two acres.)
Forestville is probably filled with the greatest contrast in terrain. On the western side it becomes very wooded and increasingly hilly as it merges into Guerneville and the Russian River area. This part of Forestville has many tiny river cabins, some in the flood and many country properties, many of them very wooded and shady. But the southern and eastern part of Forestville, surrounding the town with the same name, is as wine country as it gets, with vineyards and orchards expanding in all directions, often bordered by redwoods. There may not be a lot of country property inventory here but it is worth adding to your search list. I leaned that lesson a few years ago with clients from Berkeley looking for a weekend home. We could not find just the right property for them–it was all about the setting and ideally a home needing work but with some style and views. On a Sunday drive, I found the perfect property for them, just over the border from Healdsburg in, you guessed it, Forestville. Here are a few Forestville Country Property Listings (87,120 sf equals two acres.)
When people think of Windsor, they generally think of the expanse of tract homes on the east side of 101 as you go north from Santa Rosa. In recent years, they also think of the bustling town green with its shops, restaurants and farmers markets.
But people looking for country estates, equestrian property and vineyard property would do well to include Windsor in their search. Again the inventory can be limited but there are some beautiful stretches of rolling hillsides and expansive vineyards in Windsor. Earlier this year i listed and sold a twenty acre west Windsor home and horse property which never hit the open market. A neighbor bought the property to plant pinot noir. (Alas, another horse property bites the dust, but that is another story.) On the west side of town there are some magnificent estate properties as well as some smaller country properties. On the east side of town there is the Shiloh Estates development of large country properties with high end homes on larger lots. There are also a number of country properties along the eastern ridge of the hills wich make their way up to the southern Healdsburg border. Here are some Windsor Country Property Listings
Graton and Occidental
I could have gone in a variety of directions with this fifth offering. Technically I already covered Graton and Occidental in the Sebastopol paragraph. But I thought I would mention them separately as well, as I have seen how clients who discover them for the first time are drawn to them. Often I will have people tell me that they have narrowed their search to either Healdsburg or Graton! They may have heard of Healdsburg before but not necessarily Graton. Like Occidental, it has a charming one street downtown. Also like Occidental, it has a number of really good restaurants and pubs, and its own markets and galleries. Not only do people like the scenic beauty of the area, but they like (I like!) to congregate in the small villages. The best of both worlds would be to have a country property and also be able to walk or bike to town. It isn’t always easy to find but it is not impossible! Here are some Graton and Occidental Country Property Listings
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 you are buying land.
Tomorrow we will take a look at some of these less well know country property locales, meanwhile you can look at all the latest Sonoma County country property listings here, and see some of my previous posts on country property topics here.
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.
We're sorry, but we couldn't find MLS # 21213674 in our database. This property may be a new listing or possibly taken off the market. Please check back again.
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 looking for a second home. Interesting contemporary design and construction details, a pool and pool house. The fact that it is tucked away at the end of a lane and not visible from the street provides the kind of privacy that many people are looking for in their wine country home. The listing agent is reviewing offers at noon on next Tuesday June 12. I suspect it will sell quickly.
We're sorry, but we couldn't find MLS # 21213483 in our database. This property may be a new listing or possibly taken off the market. Please check back again.
Yesterday I published a post about the dramatic increase in country property newly pending sales compared to the depths of the recession in 2009. Here is a link to the complete report. Enjoy! PLease feel free to comment or send questions. I’d love to hear from you.
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.
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!
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 directly from the well and, if there is a water treatment system, after that system so that you can determine if it is doing its job.
In certain areas of Sonoma County boron is a concern. Boron and grape vines do not get along. Parts of the Chalk Hill and Lytton Springs area of Healdsburg have high concentrations of boron in the water. If you want to plant grapes, you will definitely want to test for boron. If you are doing some serious vineyard planting, you will want to do much more elaborate water (and for that matter soils) testing than we are discussing here.
For more detailed information on Sonoma County wells and water quality, the Sonoma County Department of Health Services has a number of links and documents here.
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 weekend getaway place that I love to visit for dinners and parties.
At the very minimum, these are the basic inspections for a country property:
1. Well and Water Quality $400-$500.
2. Septic System $300-$700 if the tank needs pumping
3. Termite Inspections (aka Structural Pest Inspection) $250-$400 depending on the size and number of structures.
4. Professional Home Inspection (Contractor’s Inspection) $400-$500 or more if more dwellings.
5. Permit History Free but requires the buyers’ time to go to Sonoma County PRMD with their agent to pull the permits. As agents we are not allowed to pull permits due to liability concerns, but we can accompany you and show you the ropes.
Oftentimes other aspects will come to light in the initial investigation that will lead to investigation by other specialists: geologists, plumbers, arborists and very importantly, surveyors. Fence lines often do not accurately represent boundary lines and I have heard of cases where parts of entire structures were actually built across a property line on to a neighbor’s property. Not a fun thing to deal with! The only way to accurately know what the corners are for a property is to hire a surveyor. Sometimes sellers can identify corner markers but the survey is the most reliable way to get accurate information. Surveys can cost thousands of dollars but a mislocated garage or vineyard can be very expensive to undo!
Listings by Community
- Market updates
- Building and Remodeling
- This and That
- West County
- Country Property
- Horses and Wine Country
- Finance and Lending
- Wine Country Living
- Real Estate 2.0