Posts Tagged 'Sonoma County'



The Holidays are Underway

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Every year I say how much I love Thanksgiving.  It is the truth.  This year my holiday lasted long enough to have two full traditional dinners and the commiserate following day leftovers.  I will be eating leftovers for a week and I gave many of them away.  I did enough cooking to  fulfill my obligation as the reigning matriarch of the family and to enjoy the compliments of friends and family.  Why do I like it so much?  Friends sitting in the kitchen – babies playing with whatever is within reach – family hanging out.   The holiday is one of the lowest key of holidays because it is about nothing but being happy, eating great food and spending time with loved ones.

Uncle Dan keeping Bree happy

I tried to make this Thanksgiving meal a little healthier.  A sweet potato salad with no butter or brown sugar was not quite as popular as the usual.  No one wanted to say it was the lack or either butter or sugar so the comment was “sweet potatoes should be warm.”   Personally, I loved it along with at least one other person.  I passed on mashed russet potatoes for South Beach Surprise Potatoes which is really mashed cauliflower.   Must say that the “potatoes” had mixed reviews.  The Victorian Dressing was probably the best I have ever made.  I think it was the Wildflower Bakery breads that really made it so special.  Of course, there were four pies for six people so no one was left without enough calories.

The wonderful weather blessed us for three days among these spells of rainstorms.  It was enough that we could meander in the garden and take a trip to the beach on Friday.  My friend in gardening, wine tasting and traveling, Gail Lee, brought a fresh bouquet from her backyard.

What shocked me about this lovely bouquet is that it contained roses, irises, alstroemeria and potato vine – in late November.  Having flowers from a personal garden in the late fall and winter are rare and this variety makes me wonder if global warming is finally hitting.

I hope everyone had as wonderful a Thanksgiving as I and wish the best of the season to you all.

Real Estate Market in Sonoma County – Many Offers and Cash is King

On October 1 I entered 152 Firethorn Drive, Rohnert Park into the MLS.  After a week of constant showings and a well attended open house, I received 10 offers on October 8.  We accepted a full cash offer from a party that was willing to do inspections during the period of review for a preapproved short sale with Bank of America.  The sale closed on October 30 with no hitches.  This home was a fixer but was in a great location and had good “bones”.

Yesterday I learned that an offer we submitted on a major fixer in the Rincon Valley area of Santa Rosa was not the winning bid.  They received 17 all cash offers and ours was the only one for an owner occupant.  The asking price was $229,000.  I believe that the final contract price was around $255,000.  We will not know until the property closes.  What is a “major fixer”?  The roof was caved in at one spot and the floor boards underneath were rotted through.  Read the article below and you will learn that this is not an unusual scenerio.

Realtors’ 2012 Housing Survey:

Competition Is the Name of the Game in California

A highly competitive market pushed California’s housing recovery into high gear in 2012, forcing homebuyers into bidding wars for available homes and rewarding sellers with the strongest prices seen in years.

A new report — the California Association of Realtors’ annual Housing Market Survey — helps explain the dynamics of today’s market.

The survey found that 57 percent of home sales received multiple offers in 2012, the highest in at least the past 12 years, with each home receiving an average of 4.2 offers, up from 3.5 in 2011. Lower-priced homes – typically short sales and bank-owned properties known as REOs – attracted more offers than equity sales. Seven of 10 short sales and REO sales received multiple offers, while only half of equity sales received more than one offer.

Such a competitive housing environment has led to more properties selling at or above the list price, with 41 percent of homes selling without a markdown from the asking price, the highest since 2005 and up from a long-running average of 32 percent.

Additionally, homes sold faster in 2012, with equity sales selling in 32 days compared with 67 days in 2011. REOs took 30 days to sell compared with 50 days in 2011, while short sales took 90 days compared with 141 days in 2011, reflecting the still-difficult process.

Many regions in the Bay Area saw even tighter markets.

“San Francisco saw a higher percentage of multiple bids than the statewide average,” said Patrick Barber, president of Pacific Union International’s San Francisco region. “A solid majority of homes here are selling at or above the asking price.”

Chart showing the share of home sales with multiple offers.

The share of California home sales with multiple offers is the highest in at least 12 years.

In the East Bay, nearly 70 percent of home sales received multiple offers in the third quarter, and many homes went into contract within two weeks of coming on the market.

Across the state, the competitive market is being fueled by favorable home prices and record-low interest rates combined with pent-up demand and a severe shortage of available housing.

“Well-qualified buyers are recognizing the once-in-a-generation opportunity to purchase a home in California and are jumping into the market,” C.A.R. President LeFrancis Arnold said in a statement accompanying the survey. “However, the fierce market conditions have forced many buyers to compete with all-cash offers and investors, setting off multiple offers and bidding wars, making it even more difficult for first-time buyers to become homeowners.”

Other findings from the survey:

  • The percentage of homebuyers making all-cash purchases has more than tripled in the past 11 years, from 9 percent in 2001 to 30 percent in 2012.
  • Demand for investment properties and second homes remained strong in 2012, with investors accounting for 16 percent of sales and second-home buyers for 7 percent. The remaining 77 percent purchased homes as a primary residence.
  • International buyers accounted for 5.8 percent of sales in 2012, relatively unchanged from 5.7 percent in 2011. Buyers from China, Canada, India, and Mexico made up the vast majority of international buyers at 39.1 percent, 13 percent, 8.7 percent, and 8.7 percent, respectively.
  • Reflecting tighter lending standards, very few homebuyers have a second mortgage. The share of home sales with a second mortgage has fallen dramatically from a high of 43.4 percent in 2006 to 1.8 percent in 2012.

The C.A.R. report was based on a questionnaire sent to a random sample of 15,000 real estate agents  throughout the state.

 

Summer is Really Over

While every time of year in Sonoma County is beautiful and much better in climate year round than any other spot on earth, the transition to winter is my least favorite time.  I love the summer mornings with the sun peeking through the redwoods in the early morning.  It is invigorating and demands that I rise from the comfort of sleep to start my day gusto.  This last week has been a week of anticipation for the change from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time.  I wake in the morning to total darkness, look at the clock and it is almost 7 AM.  I have had trouble getting going in the morning and not once this week have I managed to get my workout in before I need am off to work.  Yesterday the dreariness was intensified by a much needed rainstorm.  It was the type of storm that barely requires a raincoat and only occasionally were the windshield wipers needed at full throttle.   Nothing to complain about at all even without the harsh contrast of devistation experienced on the East Coast from Hurricane Sandy.

Great Friends – Sally & David Ewald

September and October packed in those wonderful late summer outings.   Being Wine Country – most of the events had a great deal of wine involved.  The Rotary Club of Sebastopol put on another terrific lobster feed.  This event raises money for the many projects supported by the Rotary including mentoring of Analy High School students in business and philanthropy.

Lobster and Pinot – Complimentary

Two weekends each October is ArTrails – open studios throughout Sonoma County.  My last post was on Peter Krohn whom I interviewed for the Sonoma County Gazette.

Ceramic Man by Suki Diamond
http://www.sukidiamond.com

Ceramic Water Features
by Gerald Arrington
http://www.arringtondesign.com

I managed to get a few hours of studio hopping in before I went on to Napa for a decadent Chocolate and Wine tasting event that raised money for the Boys and Girls Club of Napa.

It is now 7:15 AM and still no light outside.  I did take a break from writing to do a Turbo Jam workout.  I can still get 4 workouts in this week.  I look back and think of the sun and great times of the last few weeks and remind myself that in every year some rain must fall.  And that the clocks will be turned back in just three more days!

Chocolate and Wine in Napa
Coco Tutti was a Favorite by All

Artist Profile – Peter Krohn

Luminescent Botanicals is the name Peter Krohn gave his collection of stylized prints.  The stark contrast of vibrant florals on a black base grabs your attention.  Then you are caught by a familiar image in an unfamiliar juxtaposition.  And finally, the detail of each individual item draws you into an intimacy with nature.   These pictures are a true facsimile of botanicals but are only natural in that they are living – whether emerging or declining – plants.  The placement of each element is painstakingly executed to produce a compelling work of art.  Peter chose his words well.  In fact, Peter has written a brief narrative of his feelings about each piece that reveals the depth of his knowing the right words to choose.

 

Peter Krohn began his journey as an immigrant early in life.  He was born in Zurich, Switzerland- the son of two German refugees – and spent his toddler time in Milano, Italy.  With Hitler’s war looming in Europe, the Krohn family lit in Montreal, Quebec to establish their new life.  The environment that Peter grew up within was inner city and little tolerance for creating anything that did not result in income.  Peter recalls that he took a class from the Canadian painter, Arthur Lismer.  Lismer was the influential member of The Group of Seven in establishing a recognizable style for Canadian painting with his organic connection to the Canadian landscape.  He further distinguished  himself by establishing children’s workshops to promote the arts to the children in Montreal and Toronto.  Lucky Peter was one of those who benefited from Lismer’s passion.  However, as much as Peter wanted to be a part of the art community, he was taught that art was a pursuit for those who were not required to bring in money.

 

Since painting was not an acceptable creative outlet for Peter, he turned to the written word.  Having read the epitaphs to Peter’s prints, I was not surprised to learn that poetry was a great part of Peter’s development as a young man.  He shared the stage with another Montreal native, Leonard Cohen, reading poetry he had written to the local crowds.  But the life of an immigrant could not be sustained on poetry either.

 

Peter worked a number of jobs that kept pushing him towards advertising.  After failing to find employment that stimulated his imagination, Peter founded his own ad agency.   Krohn Advertising was recognized as the “most creative” firm in Montreal by his peers.  Peter produced photos, ad copy and TV spots.  And still this self effacing man does not see that he has been an artist his adult life.

 

After twenty years in the advertising world, Peter changed everything by moving to San Francisco.  He enrolled in The California Institute of Integral Studies and entered the world of couple’s therapy.  He met his wife, Beth, while both were volunteering at San Francisco Suicide Prevention.   In 1985, Peter and Beth wanted to move to a place where they could have a garden, enjoy the country and pursue their careers.  Sebastopol was suggested as the ideal place for them to plant their seeds.  Thankfully for our community, the Krohns settled on a tree lined lane outside of Sebastopol.  This environment has allowed Peter to slow down and observe the blossoming of poppies, the gathering of bees and the aspects of botanicals that are often missed in the bustle of daily life – very far away from the crowded alleys of Montreal and the cramped quarters of city life.  Sonoma County is the treasure that he had sought throughout his youth and early adulthood – the home for his creative vision.

 

Peter began an honest pursuit of his lifelong dream to “become an artist” about five years ago.   He discovered Scanography through Tim Fleming of Petaluma and has raised it to a new artform that he has dubbed PhotoGraphica – a marriage of scan photography and computer enhancement.  His son, Zak Krohn, collaborates with him by contributing much of the computer image modifications.  I saw my first Peter Krohn PhotoGraphica piece while interviewing Amber Moshin in 2011.  I was mesmerized – yes, breathless.  The production possibilities were swimming in my imagination.  How was this stunning work of art generated?  Peter showed me how he gathers the subjects from his garden (or roadside or friend’s garden) and then carefully places them on the scanner or above the scanner.  There are stands, brackets, clips, cogs, strings – whatever it takes to suspend the objects above the glass of the scanner.  The scan is done in darkness and the vegetation jumps with life as the beam crosses the bed.  Fascinating!  Peter and Zak are experimenting to vary the background from black to other shades and colors.  Peter’s studio is full of prints on paper, canvas, aluminum – any substrate that could render a unique representation of the same image.  To visit Peter’s world of art is an adventure and an honor.

 

For the last two years, the Santa Rosa Photography Club has awarded to Peter’s work the “Image of the Year” distinction.  Peter first participated in Art@theSource this June and was an instant hit with the freshness of his offerings, demonstrations of scan art and beauty of his location.  If you missed his first open studio, you have the opportunity to experience it during the two weekends of ARTrails, October 13, 14, 20 and 21.  Follow the tree lined Yule Tree Lane off of Pleasant Hill Road and enter the world of PhotoGraphica.   He is Studio 117 in the catalog.  To view Peter’s work, go to his website at photographicakrohn.com.

 

 

 

Open Houses in Sonoma County

417 N Main Street, Sebastopol

Tomorrow (yes, that is a Wednesday) 417 N Main Street in Sebastopol will be open from 9:30 AM until noon.  Agents and individuals are welcome to visit.  There is no sign outside this home and it is not listed in the MLS – but it is for sale with an asking price of $450,000.  This sale is not a short sale or a bank owned property.  Real people are selling their home of many years.  Specifics on the home are:

Modern bathroom has vintage style

  • Built in 1903 and many original details are still intact
  • Addition which includes Family Room with gas fireplace, bathroom, laundry area and two bedrooms was completed with permits in 2005.
  • 4 bedrooms with 2 baths
  • Granite countertops in Kitchen
  • Hardwood floors in Living and Dining Rooms
  • Ceramic Tile in Kitchen and Family Room
  • Parking in Back with Alley Access

New ceramic tile floor in kitchen

The updates to this home have been done with attention to the style of the era in which it was built.   The latest improvement to the home is a new ceramic tile floor in the kitchen.  It was much needed and makes the kitchen shine.  When you visit, you will see pictures of this home when horses and buggies were the mode of transportation.  Today it is tucked back from Main Street but clearly across the street from Safeway.  While many folks comment on the busy street, my clients have loved sitting on the porch sipping coffee and watching the hustle and bustle of Sebastopol life.  There isn’t a better location to watch the Apple Blossom parade and no excuse to not have all the ingredients for a spur of the moment special meal or dessert.

I have no expectation for the open house tomorrow.  It is on a Wednesday – it is not advertised in the MLS.  I am prepared for whatever comes.

152 Firethorn Drive, Rohnert Park

This weekend I held an open house at my listing in Rohnert Park.  152 Firethorn Drive is a 4 bedroom single level home in need of much tender loving care.  The list price is $299,000 which is within range of many buyers.  I knew that I would have a good turn out.  The crowd was amazing – at least 40 people visited – I could not keep up my count and answer questions both.  Yesterday I received 8 offers.  Today we will compare the submissions and chose a buyer.  The market is HOT!   Buyers who are trying to do it on their own without an agent, are at a disadvantage.   Even with the internet, they do not have access to everything on the market or all of the details that are in agent’s comments on the MLS.  Of course, I would love to work with  more buyers and sellers.  If you know anyone, have them contact me.

Open  houses are a great way to see how the market is.  As one person put it to me at the open house, “This is a real wake up call.  I thought we were in a buyer’s market.”  Prices are still affordable but not as low as last year.  Interest rates are at an all time low – FHA is at 3.25% with a 3.5% down payment.  If a home is priced well, it will have offers in a few days.  Short sales are getting more reasonable in timing.

What a great time to be in real estate!

The End of Summer is Here

Looking back at the September posts of the past, the garden seems to take center stage.  Since my move to Joy Road, the garden has not had the same place in my heart and in my life. Why does it jump back into my psyche at this time of year?  There could be a multitude of reasons for this but I think that September is the overall Garden Month.  Not only are flowers in abundance but the fruits and vegetables are fantastic.  Sonoma County is a great place to live for many reasons but the growing conditions and the overall weather are a huge part of all those reasons.

So last week I had a total Sonoma County snack.  Sitting by myself with the remnants of a cold, I was craving some great tastes after a week of no taste buds.  Luckily for me I had local artisan goat cheese with a hint of jalapeno.  Add to that some local, ultra ripe figs and a glass of zinfandel.  Okay, it might have been the week of canned soup but this meal was a Sonoma County feast.  The freshness of the ingredients and the melding of flavors is what eating is all about in modern cuisine.  I hit the jackpot!

The growing season has been strange this year.  Call it Global Warming – Call it Confused Weather – Call it Random Temperatures.  I waited until today to harvest my first zucchini while there is an abundant harvest of eggplant.   There are lots of cucumbers and nice zippy peppers.

So it is the end of summer.  I have cleaned up my patio, weeded the flowerbeds and started a new compost  bin.  The next few weeks will be the harvest of the year.  I plan to eat well and make the best of these last weeks of warmth and sunshine.  So happy to be in Sonoma County.

 

 

819 Chileno Valley Road, Petaluma

ImageHave you been wondering where I have been?  I have continued to celebrate my birthday for these last three weeks but it is not what has been keeping me from posting.  This has been a very busy year and the time to settle down and write about real estate, Sonoma County and my activities has just not made it to the top of my list.  But today I have the rare opportunity to get caught up on things non-telephone while I wait for an 86 page fax to be sent.  Yes, I do try to make the most of every minute!

I have been on the search for properties to list for sale.  I like having two to three listings at all times.  (My only active listing is in escrow and should close in early August.) Listings keep me connected to the market and I enjoy the marketing, staging and negotiating that comes with being the listing agent.  I love my buyers and showing property so don’t think that I am not available for doing that!  Today, a listing taken is paramount to a sale if executed properly….

I am pleased to introduce you to 819 Chileno Valley Road – just minutes west of Petaluma.  This well loved home has three bedrooms and an office (which was once a bedroom), two bathrooms and light filled living space.  The kitchen is spacious and the formal dining area can accommodate a crowd.   Two bedroom areas exist – one on each side of the house – to provide separation for visitors or using the home as a vacation site with multiple couples or family.  The interior has views of the rambling hills from all of the rooms.   Of course, I love the garden.  The home is situated at the edge of 4.8 acres.   Gardens surround the house.  The remainder of the property is useful for privacy – horses – or maybe even a small vineyard.  There is a seasonal creek and a pond for migrating birds.  Yesterday I disturbed a beautiful blue heron (anyway, that is what I think it was!) who was enjoying the pond while walking the property.

Corda Winery is just 1.5 miles down the road and they grow some great pinot noir grapes.  There is a great outbuilding – a bit rustic but could be transformed into an artist studio, workshop or tack room.

I am holding an open house on Sunday, July 22 from 1 to 4.  Come by and visit me.

Celebrating 200 Years at Fort Ross

When was the last time I posted at My Wine Country Village?  I guess I was riding in the 1913 roadster in the parade.  So much has happened since then that I don’t know where to begin.  Real estate is keeping me busy but not so busy that I miss out on all that is happening.

This year is the 200th anniversary of the Russians establishing a settlement at Fort Ross.   The region is in full swing of celebrating  this occasion with a variety of events.  The first was the visit of the tall ships to Bodega Bay.  Thousands of locals headed out to the coast to see these beautiful replicas in our harbor.  I made it out one day to see them sailing out to sea with a load of excited school children and beaming retirees.  I don’t think the sponsors expected such a wild response as tickets were sold out weeks in advance for the excursions and the lines were long to just get on the boat for a look at life at sea in 1812.

Being the lover of dishware that I am, I could not pass visiting the Sonoma County Museum in Santa Rosa for a look at the china servings of the Romanov Dynasty.  This exhibit spanned the reigns of Nicholas I, Peter the Great, Catherine the Great to the last tsar, Nicholas II.  Each tsar had at least one set of china commissioned.   The craftsmanship and detail were exquisite on each piece.  The first sets where made in Germany at the famous Meissen factories.  But the Romanovs wanted their own Russian porcelain producers and brought the artistry to Russia.  One dinner set had over 4,500 pieces including accent pieces as well as dinnerware.  Portraits of the tsar as well as depictions of battles and scenery were found on the plates, cups, tureens …..

The factories produced a variety of porcelain items.  One of the favorite gifts of the era was an egg.  The most famous of these were the Tiffany eggs that have toured the great museums of the world.  But the painted porcelain egg has been around much longer and is just as stunning.   We, also, saw snuff boxes with portraits of the user and decorative boxes.

The exhibit ended on May 27 and that was the day I managed to get there.  Nothing like a deadline to get something done.

Since this celebration is about the establishment of Fort Ross, a trip to the old fort has to be on the agenda.  On a beautiful, warm day a few weeks ago, we visited Fort Ross.  Fort Ross is north of Jenner along the rugged Sonoma County coastline.  I first visited the fort in 1958 with my parents.  I have a wonderful picture of them standing on the bluff with the wind in their hair.  Oh, if my scanner were working, I would find that picture right now and add it to this post.   As a college student at UC Davis coming to Fort Ross and shooting pictures of the church and the various detritus of the settlement that was abandoned in 1841 was a favorite weekend outing.  In those days, Highway 1 went through the fort and there was free reign to see the ruins.

If you want to visit Fort Ross, you will need to come on Friday, Saturday or Sunday as the hours have been limited along with all the other California State Parks due to budget cuts.

Today there is a parking lot, a visitor’s center and a path to the recreated fort.  The original church burned in a fire but the replica is indistinguishable from the original – at least to the eyes and memory of an “older” woman.  The armory is rebuilt and you can look at the guns and equipment used to defend the fort from intruders.  The Russians were very successful at working with the local Indians and it seems that the defensive actions were taken to protect the settlement from foreign enemies and not the local population.  The storeroom shows the farm implements and the cooking methods of the day.  The head of the settlement built a sturdy home for his family and brought the best of furniture and accouterments that the era offered.

The visitor’s center has an informative display about life at the fort and the lives of the native Indians. All in all, it is well worth visiting even if it is not the bicentennial year.   The fort was full of school children on a field trip to learn how the settlers and Indians lived.  Fort Ross is alive and well these 200 years after its establishement.

Take a beautiful drive along the coast and take in some local history.

P.E.O. in the Apple Blossom Parade

ImageThe Apple Blossom Parade is an annual event in Sebastopol that brings out the town.  I have worked at the parade for a few years but this year I decided it was time to really participate.  I am a member of Chapter AJ of P.E.O. and we are celebrating our 100th anniversary this year.  Appropriately for this year, many members of our chapter are also a part of the Redwood Empire Model T Club.  Melding the two groups, about a dozen P.E.O. sisters rode in seven Model T’s through the streets of Sebastopol.  Below I am riding in a 1913 Roadster.  It had a bit of trouble with the slow pace of the parade but we managed to not overheat.

Image

For those who do not know about P.E.O., this organization was founded in 1869 by seven friends who wanted to establish a lifelong bond.  They quickly added more women from their college in Iowa and established the tradition of helping women attain their goals through higher education.  The first chapter established in Sonoma county began on February 12, 1912.  We provide scholarships locally to at least five women yearly and contribute to scholarships that are granted from an international pool.  While doing this, we seem to always have a good time.  Our chapter has 60 active members and we are one of two chapters in Sebastopol.  I am honored to be Chapter President this year.

The parade was a great deal of fun.  We are dedicated to getting more people involved in raising money to support local women.  For many years we have held a highly successful rummage sale.  We have benefited from the Dine and Donate program of Mary’s Pizza.  We do fundraising at our meetings.  When you see P.E.O., think Philanthropic Education Organization because that is what we do!

Image

Pruning Roses in 2012

How is your garden reacting to this strange weather pattern?  I finally watered my plants in the ground last week for fear that they would dry up.  They were thankful to receive some moisture and I am thankful that we had a bit of rain and I see more in the forecast.

Pruning should be coming to the end.  I have not started mine and am anxious to find time in the next few days. Between work and the common cold, I have been having some difficulties in getting this done.  But then, I am not sure the roses realize that we have had the “cold” of winter.

The one question that has kept going through my mind is “Do I put down the Osmocote with the weather being so warm?”  I really have not come up with an answer as of yet.  The theory behind fertilizing at the time of pruning is that it is easy to spread before the mulch is put down and that it would not start releasing until the weather warmed up  –  well past the time that we would have a freeze that could damage new growth.  With the days as warm as they have been, the fertilizer should start releasing immediately.  If we don’t have any freezes, the plants should start sprouting new leaflets and we could have roses in April.  But, alas, who is to know if we will have a freeze and all of the new growth would be lost.  I keep going back and forth.  Since I will probably not get my roses done for another week, I am thinking I might go ahead with the Osmocote and cross my fingers.  My other option is to do half the roses with Osmocote and wait to fertilize the other half nearer the end of March.

Winter Bouquet

I fear that we will be seeing greater and greater variations from our known and constant weather patterns.  Right now I have hellebores, azaleas, camellias, calla lilies and roses in bloom.  Yes, roses.  Ribbons and Roses, a large miniature that I grow in a pot in the middle of my garden and Dainty Bess, also in a pot, have buds that will open in the next few days.

What is a gardener to do?  I have decided to do the best I can and let nature take its course.  Which is wise since what I do has so little affect compared to our magical planet.


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