Horses and Wine Country

This page is devoted to all things horsey in Sonoma County, and elsewhere if relevant. Please watch us grow, and let me know if you would like to contribute your writings and photos or horsey news to the site. (with credits and link love of course!)

The place to start linking to if you are interested in horses and Sonoma County, is the Sonoma County Horse Council.  This volunteer led group was founded in 1993 to advocate for horse-owners and horse-related businesses in Sonoma County.  Like many such organizations, it was formed in response to a threat, in this case a plan by the Sonoma County Planning department to require use permits for most equestrian related facilities, despite zoning regulations which permitted equestrian uses as agricultural.  If you follow the links, you will see they have come a long way, and assembled a powerful voice out of a diverse, horse-loving community.  Sonoma County has one of the highest rates of horse ownership in the country.

 I have posted about this important organization before, but wanted to permanently add some links on this page as well.  In addition, they have assembled a useful list of links to local and regional equestrian resource groups, including places to ride and one of my favorites, Bay Area Equestrian Network.  For a link back in time to a 2006 article about horses and wine country from Bay EquestMagazine, click here.

When I started to ride seriously as an adult, my Hanoverian/Thoroughbred cross Reilly and I trained with Sarah Sheehy, Terry Church and Siri Larssen, all in either Marin County or Sonoma county at the time. I have stayed in touch with them over the years and just received word of an updated website, Natural which links them all together and promotes Natural horsemanship, inspired by Tom Dorrance and others, for the disciplines of hunters, jumpers and dressage. The purpose is to develop a partnership with your horse based upon improving the rider’s balance and feel so as to allow the horse to develop their utmost potential in a sound, healthy and natural way. There are many practitioners of natural horsemanship in Sonoma county. Natural Sporthorse links to some of the best and has links to many other resources as well. Worth a visit!
Click for the most recent horse-related posts. Check back for more or sign up for our RSS Feed.

Pardon Our Dust! Meanwhile Sonoma County Country Property Values up 37% since 2015

filed under: Country Property, Market updates posted on April 4th, 2018

This website came into existence in summer of 2007 and we saw the end of a market runup and a catastrophic nationwide recession beginning in late 2007.The Sonoma County real estate market hit a low in February 2009 and bounced along the bottom for a few years. Since 2012 we have seen steady appreciation in prices and sometime in the last year the median value of Sonoma County homes exceeded the previous high. Currently the median price is just under $700,000. Country properties never saw the frothy runup that single family homes did in the previous decade but they have been making up for lost time every since. Over the last three years homes sitting on over an acre have increased in value by 37%. The home you used to be able to buy for $935,000 now will cost you a bit under $1,300,000. Why? At only an hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge, our beautiful country properties represent a tremendous value compared to the skyrocketing costs of an SF Bay Area home. And the stress and congestion of Bay Area freeways and urban living make our homes on acreage very appealing. As one of my clients recently told me when we celebrated her two year anniversary of buying her Healdsburg home, “This property helps me maintain my sanity and I am enjoying the peace i find up here even more than I hoped I would!”

NOTE: We are in the process of designing a completely new website so pardon our dust while we work on that in the background!

Here is a look at the median price of listed and sold properties over 1 acre in Sonoma County since 2015

posted by Pam Buda // Comments Off on Pardon Our Dust! Meanwhile Sonoma County Country Property Values up 37% since 2015

West Sonoma County is Home to Outstanding Plant Nurseries

filed under: West County, Wine Country Living posted on June 22nd, 2015

Go Ahead Stop and Smell Them!

Go Ahead Stop and Smell Them!

Last night I had an impromptu dinner with clients (now friends!) at the lovely estate property we found for them a couple ofyears ago near the Laguna de Santa Rosa, in the heart of the Russian River Appellation.

I remarked how fabulous the landscaping looked, particularly the new raised beds they added. The perennial garden. lavendars and olive trees were looking really lush and healthy. And of course the four acres of vines are happily heading towards the harvest a few months from now.

With ten acres total and a green thumb or two, one is always open to collecting new plant treasures. But where to find them? My client bemoaned the plant choices she saw at the big box and hardware stores.

You mean you don’t know about Emerisa Gardens Retail Nursery I cried? I have made several good friends by frequenting them, and learned enough about a lot of plants to be dangerous! Every once in a while I go by for a good plant fix! Emerisa’s retail nursery in NW Santa Rosa is only open from March through October, but it is a great place to learn about and see interesting perennials, grasses and interesting plants for both sun and shade. Their demonstration garden shows you what the plants look like when full grown and the STAFF are incredibly knowledgeable and very helpful. Chances are, if you hire a landscaper, they buy a good portion of their plants on the wholesale side. They have whimsical pots and garden “objet” plus very good gardening gloves too!

And what about Harmony Farm Supply nursery? Besides a really nice and thorough nursery near Graton in West Sonoma County, including a great selection of bare root trees and berries in winter, Harmony is where you might find me picking up the spare irrigation parts that always seem to be needed, even though my collection in the garden shed is growing! Also very helpful staff and a good selection of veggie starts and various soil amendments and garden tools. Plus they install solar systems! I have learned more than i ever thought I would about drip irrigation in the aisles of Harmony Farm Supply.

And little Fulton, California is home to two of the best nurseries you will ever find. Cal Flora and Urban Tree Farm. Cal Flora specializes in native plants and has some incredibly passionate people working there (including one of my clients!). Urban Tree Farm is ENORMOUS and has acres and acres of every type and size of tree imaginable, plus other plants as well.

And how about Sonoma Horticultural Nursery? Sonoma Hort as locals say? Acres and acres of stunning azaleas, camellias and rhodoendrons, many very rare varieties. A truly beautiful place to visit and picnic too!

And then there is Western Hills Garden just outside Occidental. It is only open one day a week and there is a charge to view the ten acre site but it is worth it. Saved by volunteers, it is really a labor of love and home to many rare perennials. Worth a trip!

I could go on and on–it is not hard to see why Luther Burbank thought of Sonoma County as horticultural paradise1 A lot of other folks do as well. We grow more than grapes here! Let me know your favorite nurseries!

posted by Pam Buda // Comments Off on West Sonoma County is Home to Outstanding Plant Nurseries

Attention Home Sellers: It is Still a Seller’s Market in Sonoma County

filed under: Sellers posted on January 29th, 2015

In the last two years the median home price in Sonoma County has increased a combined 36-38%. Each individual home has not appreciated at the same rate but home are selling more quickly and for more money than they did two years ago. Inventory continues to be low. At the current rate of sales through December, 2014, all the existing homes on the market would be gone in less than TWO MONTHS. Historically the market would be considered balanced if there were 4 to 6 months of inventory. A market favoring buyers would have more than six months of inventory–we have not seen that condition since 2009 to 2011. Here is a look at the Month’s Supply of Inventory for the last year.

This graph looks at the inventory supply for “Pended” homes–that is, newly opened escrows. That is a more current view of activity than “Closed” sales which looks at sales that were new escrows a month or so ago. If I look at Months Supply of Inventory for Closed Sales then supply would be 1.2 months. So if you are a buyer the more current view might be slightly more encouraging.

What does this mean for me if I am a seller? It is safe to say that now may be a very good time for you to put your home on the market at a strategic, enticing price and have it showing in top condition. You may attract multiple offers, sell quickly and for more than your asking price. Great news for sellers, right?

What does it mean if you are a buyer? Should you fold your tent and go hide somewhere? NO! My buyers who won out in multiple offer situations last year set a limit as to how high to go over asking and stuck to it. This year those houses are worth on average 12 percent more. Prices are rising. List prices are not an indication of value but if chosen wisely will get the seller maximum exposure and the best true indication of market value–that is determined by the actual number a willing buyer and a willing seller will meet on. More buyer advice in my next post…

posted by Pam Buda // Comments Off on Attention Home Sellers: It is Still a Seller’s Market in Sonoma County

Explore Sonoma County Through Google Glass

filed under: Wine Country Living posted on November 20th, 2014

If someone has never been to Sonoma County they might be surprised at how incredibly huge it is, how diversely beautiful it is and even as a local this quick video reminds me how I can even go on vacation here without really leaving home.  Enjoy!


posted by Pam Buda // Comments Off on Explore Sonoma County Through Google Glass

Sonoma County Country Property Home Prices on the Rise

filed under: Country Property, Market updates posted on July 14th, 2014

Sonoma County Country Property Sales Report provided by Pam Buda July 2011 through June 2014 by Pam Buda

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!

posted by Pam Buda // Comments Off on Sonoma County Country Property Home Prices on the Rise

A Country Property Course for Realtors in Sonoma County

filed under: Country Property posted on May 30th, 2014

A view across a private horse arena in Blucher Valley Sebastopol

A view across a private horse arena in Blucher Valley Sebastopol

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!

posted by Pam Buda // Comments Off on A Country Property Course for Realtors in Sonoma County

Holiday Greetings from the Sonoma County Wine Country

filed under: Sellers posted on December 24th, 2013

Happy Holidays everyone! 2013 has been a great year–a return to “normal” (whatever that is) in the real estate market for 2013. If December’s activity is any judge, I suspect that early 2014 is going to be a very strong market. My gut tells me we will see more appreciation again this year, with many moveup buyers within the county and many continuing to relocate or buy second homes here in 2014. We will see more “chains” of linked transactions as a seller sells and becomes a buyer on the next transaction and so on along the tree of real estate life. I hope you take advantage of the holidays to be with your loved ones and to have a respite from our busy world. We will be taking a short break and will be back in the office on Monday January 6, 2014! See you then!

Cold weather makes for a dramatic sunset at the old Saitone Vineyard, Russian River Valley.

Cold weather makes for a dramatic sunset at the old Saitone Vineyard, Russian River Valley.

posted by Pam Buda // Comments Off on Holiday Greetings from the Sonoma County Wine Country

Happy Thanksgiving from Sonoma County’s Wine Country

filed under: Market updates, Russian River Area posted on November 27th, 2013

posted by Pam Buda // 2 Comments »

Median Sonoma County Home Price Rises 25% in the Last Year

filed under: Market updates posted on November 27th, 2013

Here are the latest charts for residential real estate market statistics in Sonoma County. They represent market data from the BAREIS Multiple Listing Service as displayed by Clarus MarketMetrics. The continuing big story is the 25% rise in the median home price versus October of 2012. This is a direct result of actual appreciation in home values as well as an increase in the number of higher priced homes being sold.

It does not mean that every home has appreciated 25% in value–just that the overall mix of homes sold lands at that higher value. At the lower (sub $500,000 ) price ranges, in some cases appreciation might have been as high at 28%, whereas at the upper end the appreciation is more modest, but the rate of sales has increased greatly.

I have attended a few economic forecast meetings this fall and the “experts” think we will see more modest appreciation in 2014, more in the neighborhood of 6%. This probably makes some sense as the overall mix of types of homes may have stabilized so there will be less of a bump from that change. Although last year I believe the same experts predicted 5-8% appreciation for 2013 so who knows?

Bottom line if you have questions about your specific situation, whether buying, or selling, or just sitting pat but curiuos, give me a call or pop me an email and I will be happy to research it for you!

Sonoma County Home Salest Report October 2012 through October 2013 by Pam Buda

posted by Pam Buda // Comments Off on Median Sonoma County Home Price Rises 25% in the Last Year

Dressage in the Wine Country Celebrates the Sport Horse in Sonoma County

filed under: Horses and Wine Country posted on September 7th, 2013

Wine Country and Horses is celebrating its seventh year tonight at Dressage in the Wine Country at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds! I am so appreciative to those of my clients and friends who are gathering tonight to celebrate the sport horse in Sonoma County. Whether your discipline is dressage, hunters, eventing, barrel racing, trail riding or jousing (JOUSTING?), you can find kindred spirits in the horse community throughout Sonoma County. If you want to know more about country and horse properties here, contact me and I will send you the latest Country Property Market Repot for Sonoma County. See you there!

William Hamersky and Rohan Demonstrate Head Lopping at Full Tilt Farm in Sebastopol

posted by Pam Buda // Comments Off on Dressage in the Wine Country Celebrates the Sport Horse in Sonoma County