Posts Tagged 'Wine Country'

4th of July in the Vineyard

sunflowers20140704_193247Remember those garden parties that were featured in Bon Appetit (I think I may be aging myself with this memory!) with the relaxed hosts, lively guests and gorgeous tables of food, flowers and tableware.  All the food was prepared by the hostess (or host), the flowers were from the garden and the landscape was picture perfect.  I always aspired to recreate those photo shoots but somehow the backyard events in San Jose (or where ever I was at the time) fell a bit short of the ideal.

20140704_193222To be completely honest, times have changed and I no longer have these fantasies of being the perfect hostess with the most talent but the 4th of July celebration that I attended was as close to perfect as possible with the modern day twists.  “And what would those twists be?”, you may ask.  The first twist was that the flowers were not from our hosts garden but that of the gardener extraordinaire amongst us, Jackie Reuling.  The food was a collection of dishes from all the attendees.  The host and hostess, Richard Auger and Mary Radu, were wonderfully relaxed and the guests were lively (particularly when the sparklers came out!)

20140704_205909This delightful soiree was under the spreading tree among the pinot noir vines outside of Sebastopol.  I met some wonderful new friends, caught up with some old ones and felt like I was in a magazine story.

I hope that you had an equally delightful 4th of July celebration.

 

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The Dog Days of 2013

suzanneDid you know where the term Dog Days comes from?  I had no idea until I heard it a few weeks ago in conversation and decided that I needed to know.  It turns out that the term was introduced before the Bible was written.   The Greeks and the Romans believed that the warm, sultry days were caused by the rising of Sirius, the DOG star, in the constellation of Canis Major (Big Dog).  They sacrificed a red dog to appease the star in hopes of avoiding many hot days.  I wonder if the dog was a Basenji?  Having spent about 15 years with a Besenji, Zephyr, I can imagine them being victim to this fate.  But that is another story all together.  t I loved Zephyr and mourned his death.  But he was a handful.  Historically, this time was July and August but I have remembered the sultry days in California to always be in September and often encompassing Labor Day.

knowltonpatio

We certainly experienced the warm and sultry days the first week of September.  And how better to embrace them than to have an evening enjoying the beautiful landscape and glorious foods of Sonoma County.   Russian River wines, local cheeses, Forestville bread, home grown vegetables and Bodega Bay salmon made up the menu. The temperature was perfect.  The setting was lovely.  The company was entertaining.  The sunset was inspiring.sunset

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

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!

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.

Today is My Birthday

ImageI don’t often talk about my personal life on my blog but today is a major exception.  This weekend was the birthday weekend.    Thursday was the anniversary of my sister Edyth’s birth.  Friday is the date that my sister, Jane, married her high school sweetheart, John.  Today is my birthday. Tomorrow is Jane’s birthday.  Seldom do we get to spend this special time together.  But this year is the 50th anniversary of the first wedding of our family.  I was 13.  Edyth was 17.  Jane was 22.

Friday was a wonderful reunion of my sisters, their husbands, my brother and his wife.  I do not remember the last time we had sat together for a meal.  It might have been at our parent’s home shortly after our father’s death.  That was in 1989 – quite a while ago.   While the celebration was for our birthdays – there were about 50 candles on the cake – the day was actually the anniversary of John and Jane.  Saturday was the official celebration of the Gibson anniversary.  The party was splendid.  Lots of family – friends – terrific food and great fun.

Today was  the icing on the cake.  I spent the night along with my daughter and son-in-law at my sister’s outside of Lodi.  Today we set out to come home to Occidental while avoiding the race at Sear’s Point.  We went through Davis and Winters – along Lake Berryessa – onto St. Helena.

We stopped in St. Helena to pick up olive oil.  If you have never been to the Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Company, you must go.  Not only does it have the best olive oil at the best price but a full display of Italian imported food stuffs and local products of similar quality.    The next stop was the Hydro Grill in Calistoga.

Calistoga is a quaint town in Napa County with much less hustle and bustle than St. Helena.  It is just over the hill from Santa Rosa.  We had a great lunch in a relaxed atmosphere.  Lunch with my daughter and her husband is always a treat.  I got home in time to rest up for dinner in Occidental with my friends Gail and Katy.  I am going to need days to recover from all of the celebration.  I hope that you have a spectacularly wonderful birthday when yours comes around.

Short Sale Senario in March 2012

It is mid-March and I am thinking, “Where did February go?”  I only managed to get three posts written and the last one was mid month.  I have not been vacationing or slacking – the real estate market in Sonoma County is on fire.

A great deal of my time these days is handling short sales – both as a buying agent and as a listing agent.  I get many questions about short sales and think it is time to write a primer for the uninitiated.

What is a short sale?   A short sale occurs when a home is sold that the sales price of the home is lower than the loans secured by that home.  In most cases today, the lien holders, usually banks, agree to take less money than they are owed instead of foreclosing on the home.  But the banks will do this only if they cannot get all of the money from the borrower.  The banks require a hardship and proof that the borrower cannot pay the loan amount.  If the borrower has sufficient assets to pay the loan down to where the sale will cover the loan, the bank will require payment in full.

How long does it take to get a short sale approved?  That depends.  And I really cannot tell you what it depends upon.  I have had a short sale approved in days and I have had one take over a year.  I recently heard that the average time for approval by the lenders on a short sale is three months.

Why does it take so long?   To the best of my knowledge, the process for a short sale starts either when the property is listed for sale or when an offer is accepted.  Different lenders have different guidelines as to if an offer is needed before they will accept a file.  If they do not accept files prior to receiving an offer, the process just starts later.  Once there is a file, it is put in a pile to be assigned to a loss mitigation officer.  This can take weeks.  Once it is assigned,  the loss mitigation officer examines the seller’s financial information and reviews the “hardship” letter.  Add at least a few more weeks for this to happen.  Most of these folks have hundreds of files on their desks so the first one in is the one they are working on.  If the seller is accepted as a short sale candidate, the file is passed on to someone else in the bank.  Again, it goes to the bottom of the pile.  When the file surfaces to the top, an appraisal is ordered which can take another few weeks.  The bank determines what they are willing to accept (this seems to go rather quickly) if it is the same person but if it goes to another department, it can take time to get to the top of the pile.  At some point during this process, the listing agent works with the escrow company to determine what the net proceeds will be based upon the offer accepted by the seller.  The document the escrow officer prepares is called a HUD-1.  The listing agent then prepares a package that includes the offer, the HUD-1, the seller’s financial information (updated), the buyer’s proof of funds to purchase and whatever specialized forms that lender may use including some government forms.  At this point, an acceptance can be issued.  After all of this waiting, the lender asks that closing happen in 30 to 40 days.  If there is a second lien, the whole process may need to be repeated with the second lender.

Why would I want to do this?  Good question.  With short sales becoming the preference over foreclosures, more and more homes are being sold short.  You may not be able to find the home you desire without considering a short sale property.  One benefit of purchases from an owner (other than from a bank after foreclosure) is that the seller must provide information on the home i.e. repairs made, nuisances in the neighborhood.  Banks are not required to provide this information.  There was a time that short sales were considerably lower priced than other sales but that differentiation has gone away.  Today the varying factor is the condition of the property.  Some short sale properties have not been maintained due to the financial hardship of the seller.  In those cases, you will find that the lower price is often below the amount it would cost to bring the property up to good condition.  This is why there is an active business of purchasing and remodeling homes – flipping is what it is called.

Who is the best buyer for a short sale?  The ideal short sale buyer is patient, can move quickly when the bank says to move and can is comfortable with not knowing what is going on.  If you are that person, you can have a great transaction.


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