Archive for the 'Horses and Wine Country' Category
Last Sunday I held open a wonderful country property in Sebastopol, listed by my good friend and colleague Izetta Feeny. It is a great value, a four bedroom house on nearly two acres withing good commute range of San Francisco. The family that currently owns the house home schools their four children there and there is an assortment of goats, chickens, geese and two miniature donkeys and four big dogs that round out the family. The house is nicely situated on a knoll with 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside and hills. This morning I bet they can even see snow on some of those hills.
As the house is set at the end of a series of country lanes, I was curious how people found me. It turns out that all of the eight parties or so who came by had found about the open house via our on-line ads. People had driven from as far as Fremont and Oakland with their children to see this one house, and one person came with her realtor. We had a great time chatting and comparing notes. In 1998 I was doing the same thing, driving up to look at properties on weekends from my home in the East Bay.
Like me many of these people were looking for a different lifestyle, but concerned about what they might give up by being “so remote”. I had to laugh because I certainly don’t feel that way any longer. Seems like a lot of people want more room to roam, either for themselves, their children or their four legged friends.
As I sit here in my office contemplating the extraordinarily heavy rains falling at the moment, the first of 3 expected to hit Northern California in the next few days, I am checking my supply of batteries and flashlights, firewood and dry hay and feed for the horses. They are safely blanketed with water-proof sheets and two are standing out in the open, the third intelligently under his shelter. Thought I’d take a look at PG and E’s website to see what they suggest for storm preparation, and found this neat new animation about all the various ways our power can go out during a storm. I hope you are staying dry and warm, unless you are a horse!
Pricing residential country property is very challenging-there are so many variables to consider beyond beds and baths, square footage and age, location and condition. The size and condition of the septic system, the condition of the well and its capacity and water quality, zoning, expansion possibilities and more. (If you would have told me back at Swarthmore that I would become reasonably expert in any of these issues –especially septic–I would have doubted your sanity. Since a good 70 percent of the properties in Sonoma County are on well and septic, one of the most valuable services I can offer my clients is my ability to work with them, along with a team of experts Â to carefully ensure that a property will be suitable for their needs, now and the foreseeable future. There are many great resources and people available to assist in the process, and an agent knowledgeable in country property can streamline the search and buying process for their clients, and help them to avoid pitfalls.
But the true wildcard in valuation of country property is the setting. An exceptionally private, serene setting with pastoral or dramatic views, in a tranquil location of (name your pick) wild hills and orchards, vineyards, horse farms, quaint farmhouses, redwoods or oak-studded hills, or various combinations of these, have a perceived value to the buyer that is very difficult to value.Â It seems that many out of town buyers coming to a wonderful destination such as the wine country of Northern California, all want the proto-typicalÂ vintage farmhouse with wrap-around porch in a scenic setting.Â They dont’t want to see or hear neighbors close by, and they’d probably like to see (orÂ own) a vineyard or two.
Â Is the setting wild card factor worth $20,000 per acre, or more? Will a property be so gorgeous or secluded that someone will “overpay” by six figures?Â Is it really over-paying if a willing buyer puts the money on the table?
A client and I Â viewed a property priced at $1.1 million the other day that perfectly met my buyers’ needs for a weekend home in Sonoma county. By all rights, and based upon extensive touring, the property, in my opinion and the opinion of many agents I know, should have been priced under $1m, possibly closer to $950Kor $925K, even if in perfect condition. However, it was exactly a kind of property that would be a perfect weekend retreat for someone from the city, with privacy and views on a less than 2 acre parcel that would be difficult to match. The property was in apparently poor condition with an older septic system, unknown pest issues and in a low water area.Â Â I told my client that even though the property was extremely overpriced, someone could come in from SF or the peninsulaÂ with an out of town agent and pay the premium, since, as one friend said, you can hardly buy an outhouse in Palo AltoÂ or SF for a million dollars,Â so what is the big deal if it meets the intangible need for peace and quiet on Sunday morning.
This is every sellers’ secret fantasy:Â that Brad and Angelina (or a Google couple flush with exercised stock options) will fly in on their jet and fall so in love with their property that they will throw caution to the winds and over bid.Â Sadly, that almost NEVER happens, and the property sits.Â I guess every once in a while the exception proves the rule, though.Â Back to the country retreat I mentioned above. Â This summer I have seen almost everything that meets that description in Sonoma County, and sold several country properties to buyers from the Bay Area and elsewhere, some for weekend homes and some for folks who moved up full time from San Franciscio, Belmont and the East Bay.Â Â As we were preparing to write an (perhaps insultingly low) offer on the aforementioned shangri-la, the listing agents informed me that his sellers had accepted a one million plus offer from the SF buyer and his SF agent, and they were “going to take the money and run”.Â Â Â The property is still in its contingent period, and the price may be negotiated down further once all the inspections are complete, but I learned a lesson–you can never truly put a number the intangible value that a fabulous setting brings to a country property.
For more inspiration about the wine country from a horsey viewpoint. This article was posted last year in the monthly on-line magazine from Bay Area Equestrian Network, an invaluable resource for all things equestrian in Northern California. There are other regional equestrian magazines around the US, but this is one of the first and most widely visited. I bought my truck and my living quarters trailer through this site, although www.usedtrailers.com and www.endurance.net are also good trailer-finding resourses, but that can be a subject for a different day. Ciao for now.
Hi All, This is the first post of what i hope will be a series of regular comments on the Sonoma County wine country lifestyle and my experiences as a realtor with Coldwell Banker entering my fifth year of business. I am a high tech refugee from the Bay Area who traded in my home with views of San Francisco Bay for 3.5 acres in the wine country northwest of Santa Rosa nine years ago. My purpose was to fulfill a life long dream to own a horse property and have some more room to roam for myself and my Vizsla dogs, with whom I compete with at field events along with the horse or rather now, horses, plural. Personally I spent countless weekends searching both Sonoma and to a lesser extent, Marin and Napa counties before I found a beautiful spot on a quiet lane in the Olivet area. Wine Spectator just featured this part of Sonoma County so I guess it is catching on. (registration required).It was one of the last places I expected to buy since many of my friends owned property over in the Valley of the Moon area, i.e. Kenwood, Glen Ellen and the town of Sonoma, and their places were my base while I searched. However, one day I found a really neglected 3.5 acre piece surrounded by vineyards and horse properties which had sat on the market for over seven months. It had been very overpriced and showed poorly. Not a good sales strategy but a great opportunity for a buyer (and experienced friend) to whom setting was paramount, and the rest could be fixed. The place was full of stuff, not well maintained and a student lived in it and had the heat on to over 80 degrees every day. The grounds were neglected and there was an old prune orchard on a big chunk of it. However, the setting was secluded, with vineyard views and a quiet, peaceful feel away from major road, yet 10 minutes to everything. I was sold.
Anyway, I am very glad to have landed here, as are my horses, and absolutely love Northern and Western Sonoma County, which have so much to offer. I really donâ€™t miss the Bay Area, and can easily get to the Golden Gate Bridge in an hour (traffic permitting of course.) I fell so much more in love with the area that I began to help friends find similarly idyllic places here, and before long I got my real estate license and joined the Santa Rosa office of Coldwell Banker.
When I say I fell in love with the area, I mean, not just the space for the critters and the garden, but the access to fine food and dining, bountiful farmers markets, interesting plants and nurseries for gardening, and yet all of the big town conveniences, particularly over the last nine years with some good foreign cinema, better shopping and more and varied restaurants. What I hope to acheive in this blog is to share some of the aspects related to this lifestyle that I enjoy as I come across new restaurants or other items of interest, and of course to keep you abreast of the current market for Sonoma County real estate and wine country living, and of course, all things related to Sonoma County wine country horse property.
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