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Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

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Change is in the air and on the ground

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

 

Change is in the Northern California air. With the shifting seasons, our areas are seeing a change in drought conditions and even a change in landscaping trends. Even with the wet weather we have enjoyed recently, there are lasting changes from the drought we can still see in the natural landscape as well as the attitudes of those of us who call this special place home.  

For years, the landscaping trend in California has been focused on reducing our need for supplemental watering. Landscapers have been working in overdrive since 2014 to tear up traditional sod yards to replace them with drought-resistant, native species of foliage. This type of landscaping helps to improve your property’s environment in so many ways, and at the same time, saves your family time and money. 

Homeowners that opt for these alternative landscaping ideas, tends to see more wildlife and more fascinating ways to live in the space, themselves. Swapping typical landscaping plants with native species encourages native species (insect and bird) to visit your property. When you change your yard from grass to a variety of drought tolerant shrubs and flowering plants that attract pollinators and other wildlife to your landscaping. What a wonderful way to add life to your space. These nontraditional yards create a dynamic backdrop to your home that traditional sod just can’t create.

Drought tolerant landscaping uses many different techniques to reduce the water needs of the space as a whole. Homeowners can section off parts of the yard to use in different, interesting ways. A patio with a nice table and chairs can help a family spend more time enjoying food and family outdoors. Fire pits with seating for relaxing can create conversations and warmth in those crisp spring evenings. Small plots for herb gardens can give your property a little taste of that farm to table lifestyle. Pathways and hidden crannies create an alluring yard full of interest and intrigue that with capture the imagination of children and adults, alike.  

Even using different species of grasses can help to cut down on water consumption and help your family save money and benefit the planet. Landscapers are trading traditional grass species for species like buffalo grass or sedge grass, which can use half the water of traditional species. There are so many innovative ways to incorporate water (and money) saving techniques to your landscaping, catching on this California post-drought trend, has never been easier, or more beautiful. 

For additional reading:

http://www.totallandscapecare.com/landscaping/california-governor-declares-drought-officially-over/

http://www.water.ca.gov/turf/

 

 

 

For Spring Cleaning in Sebastopol, Keywords for Googling

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

Ah, springtime! As the daylight hours grow longer and buds and blossoms dot Sebastopol’s trees and gardens, even when a rainy day is in the forecast, the feeling of new life in the air can’t be denied!

Also undeniable is the all-too-apparent fact that Sebastopol’s bright April sunlight is now illuminating months’ worth of dirt on the windows. And now we can see more areas of the carpet that show the winter’s accumulation of … what is that? For residents from one end of California to the other, the balmy weather definitely triggers a popular urge to put households in shape. But since there is a simultaneous contradictory urge to get outdoors to enjoy Sebastopol’s good weather, it seems like an apt moment to try to retrieve some of the many time-saving tips that are out there on the web.

In other words, it’s time for Google. To aid in in Sebastopol’s Googling efforts, here are some valuable spring cleaning search keywords. Enter any of these in combination with “spring cleaning” and Google will bombard you with scads of valuable insights and shortcuts:

  • “White Vinegar.” It’s a universal disinfectant that’s carried in gallon jugs on Sebastopol grocery store shelves. Many of Sebastopol’s professional housekeepers know how effective and environmentally friendly diluted vinegar is—and how rapidly the residual odor disperses.
  • “Sponges.” Cut down on paper towel consumption by collecting a variety of quality sponges and having them at the ready. If you wet and microwave them regularly, bacteria won’t accumulate (and they’ll smell fresh, too). Side benefit: when you nuke wet sponges, stuff on the inside of the microwave will come off easily!
  • “Dusting mitt.” They’re useful for more than just Venetian blinds. You can also substitute with athletic socks (then just throw them in the washer).
  • “Baseboards.” Vacuuming the floors doesn’t eliminate the edge problem—that’s where the most stubborn winter debris tends to shelter in place. If you use whatever attachment (soft brush or nozzle) that lets you vacuum the baseboard contour before starting on the floor, the problem disappears.
  • “Baking soda.” The cure for smelly carpet areas: sprinkle, let stand overnight, vacuum.
  • “Cola.” Clean toilets by pouring, waiting an hour, flushing. But when you google “cola” with “spring cleaning,” you’ll also find warnings about the deposits cola leaves behind. Solve that by following up with an undiluted cup of—you guessed it—vinegar.
  • “Lemon.” Google this one along with “spring cleaning” and you’ll be able to choose which of the 2½ million hints to put into action!

For some Sebastopol homeowners, this spring will find them putting their homes up for sale. If that’s the case, give us a call for a professional Realtor’s® take on which spring cleaning efforts are likely to reap the greatest rewards!   

Sharing the gold

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

Sonoma County is world renown for many things. The natural landscape of Northern California evokes all the senses, all at once, and is one of our area's most enjoyable and precious assets. The Sonoma County Park System is such a constant in the area now, that many remember a time when the system and the protection and recreation it provides, did not exist. Fifty years ago, on the 30th of January in 1967,  the first county park was created in Bodega Bay at Doran Beach. With camping, fishing, hiking, and many other outdoor recreational opportunities, this park is still a local staple, even today.

 

And now at the Sonoma County Park System’s golden anniversary, the beauty expands over 56 parks across 11,000 acres. Among this pristine collection of lands, trial systems, beaches and water recreation areas are available and protected for the use of all of us. Visitors enjoy the novel experiences available in these locals and residents gain intimate knowledge of their favorite, local outdoor playground.

More and more people are enjoying all of the park splendors. As the population has tripled since the inception of the county park system, 50 years ago, so has the yearly membership holder, now around 25,000 individuals. And although budgets always fall short of utopian aspirations, the system has recently added four more major parks in the last seven years. Taylor Mountain, North Sonoma Mountain Laguna Trial, and Coastal Prairie Trail have been added and improved for the public to enjoy. In the future, the change in ownership of Tolay Creek Ranch, a 1,665-acre plot to help double the Tolay Creek, Regional Park.


From towering redwoods, to dramatic coastlines, and every wild space in between, our parks are little pieces of the best this area has to offer. Whether an outdoor adventure or a relaxing place to unwind, the Sonoma County Park System is as diverse as interests themselves.

 

For more information, and further reading:

The Press Democrat, “Sonoma County parks system began 50 years ago with Doran Beach”

Doran Beach Regional Park

Sonoma County Park System

 

20% Down Payment Fiction vs. Sebastopol Reality

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

It turns out that the run of admirable national and Sebastopol home sales advances have been pulled off despite a couple of strong countercurrents. At least that’s the theme that emerges from last month’s Aspiring Home Buyers Profile report, which supplied one obvious and one not-so-obvious widespread beliefs among would-be future homeowners.

Sebastopol home buyers are always a mix of current homeowners (who will usually also be selling) and first-timers. Among the latter group, a major drag on their willingness and ability to invest in their own Sebastopol home is the student debt phenomenon. Enough has been written about that in recent years that it’s hardly a surprise: 39% of non-owners cited student loan payments as a primary reason they weren’t planning on being able to buy anytime soon.

Much less expected is the proportion of current non-owners whose reasons centered on a piece of widespread misinformation. Apparently, the same percentage—39%—were convinced that they need more than 20% of the price of a home to qualify for a loan. Another 26% believe a purchase is only possible when they can produce a down of 15%-20%—and a majority of the remainder (another 22%) think they need a down payment of at least 10% - 14%.  

The chief economist for the realtor.com website summed it up concisely. “Aspiring buyers think it takes twice as much to buy a home” as it actually does in most cases. Although the actual numbers for any Sebastopol home purchase always depend on the details of the particular situation, the actual national averages will come as a shock to most. According to the latest National Association of Realtors® survey, the average down payment on a purchase mortgage was only 11% in 2016. That’s the average—in many cases, it was much lower. On Friday, CNBC’s Diana Olick quoted Attom Data Solutions’ finding that “down payments are shrinking…to a 6% average.”

That’s a pretty wide gap between common belief and current reality—one with real world implications. After all, if you assume a down payment has to be twice the amount actually required, it probably means you won’t even bother thinking about buying a house until long after you might have been able to get started. That could mean thousands of rent dollars diverted from what could have been spent on retiring a home loan. Long term, the difference would be significant. 

If you are considering becoming homeowner in Sebastopol or have been putting off even thinking about it because of what could be an incorrect assumption, we hope you’ll give us a call. There is never any obligation, of course—and the old saying is absolutely true in this case: it can’t hurt to ask

What Luxury Real Estate Means in Sebastopol

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

Luxury real estate is at the apex of the homeownership experience. All around the world, luxury homes are coveted, not only for their superior structures, but also for the lifestyle they provide to their occupants. In places like Sebastopol, Ca the luxury home market is a contrast, yet beautifully interwoven into the charm of this Northern California paradise. The atmosphere of this place, and the lifestyle it provides, can go hand-in-hand with the home of your dreams.

In luxury real estate, the sale price defines the term. Ranging from $1 million (in certain locations) to the upper limit of home value possibilities, luxury means different things in different places. On average (globally), luxury real estate is values at around $2.2 million. This average incorporates ranges in price that are as diverse as the styles, locations, and amenities they afford.  

Here, we offer fresh perspectives on how macroeconomic factors are impacting luxury home prices, inventory, and sales globally. This year (defined as 11/15 - 11/16) in Sebastopol, there were 79 luxury homes for sale and eight of those homes sold in that same time frame. Sebastopol is seeing growth in this sector of real estate. In the first quarter of 2015 (September to November of 2015), there were 18 luxury homes for sale and one home sold in that same period. Although price per square foot and overall home price has seen a slight decrease during those same months the number of luxury homes for sale and sold homes increased over the year. In the first quarter of 2016, there were 25 homes for sale and three sold. Luxury home inventory and sales grew from 2015 to 1016 by 40% and 200%, respectively. Another important statistic to note which speaks to desirable location and lifestyle, is the number of days homes are on the market. Luxury homes were on the market for a total of 218 days in the first quarter of 2015, and decreased by 23% to 168 days.

In Sebastopol, luxury real estate has changes in the last year. Some demographics of success have increased, while others have waned. The last year say over 70 listings of luxury real estate and 8 sales of luxury properties. This means that luxury home inventory and sales grew from 2015 to 1016 by 40% and 200%, respectively.

The trends seen in Sebastopol, are not uncommon. Home inventory is indirectly proportional to the price of the homes in the area. Still, luxury homes are very desirable and the need for these properties is on the rise in the area, as seen in the general market trends. The luxury home market in Sebastopol is because its richness in property and lifestyle.

See yourself lounging pool-side in your own Northern California luxury property? Give us a call and see which properties will help your dreams be realized.

A “Kitchen Mirage” Could Speed Sebastopol Home Sales

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

 

When we see a feature with a title like X Ways to Make Your Kitchen Feel Bigger, we are unlikely to pass it up. Making any Sebastopol kitchen feel bigger would be a definite plus for any Sebastopol home sale. On the scale of honorable pursuits, it would be right there next to cleanliness.

Increasingly, today’s Sebastopol homebuyers think of the kitchen as a (and possibly the) center of family entertaining—the center of gravity where everyone hangs out more than anywhere else. It’s true that if another room features a giant TV entertainment center, that might be serious competition for the family’s attention. But although it might be a place that will occupy goodly chunks of everyone’s time, it’s in the kitchen where family members wind up interacting the most and which gets the most scrutiny when it comes to a home sale.

There’s no debate that in today’s Sebastopol market, a claustrophobic kitchen can retard an otherwise appealing home’s sale. Yet actually hiring an architect, contractor, pulling permits, etc. to physically expand a kitchen is a major undertaking that runs the risk of costing more than it returns. So finding ways to make your Sebastopol kitchen feel bigger without blowing out walls and tearing up the property for months on end, well—that’s definitely worth looking into. 

To cut to the chase, most of the Feel Bigger Ways aren’t magical: they turn out to be design ideas that maximize storage efficiency. To achieve positive Sebastopol home sale results, the idea is to systematically substitute suffocating kitchen clutter with eye-pleasing open space. 

One clear tactic is to make the most of any existing kitchen island. The space beneath is ideal for “smart” storage solutions. Googling smart storage yields 1,000,000+ results (not to mention the ads), comprising a ready-made resource for maxing out the cubic feet that are ready to use right there in the center of the kitchen.

On the opposing side of the “feel bigger” agenda is the suggestion to abandon one of Sebastopol most popular design ideas of bygone eras: the overhead cupboard. In most layouts, those utilitarian storage solutions assail kitchen occupants’ sightlines exactly where it will do the most harm. When you remove those overheads, a whole lot of claustrophobia goes with them. Unfortunately, a good deal of storage space goes with them.

That brings up two other tried-and-true alternatives. First, placing shelving on unused wall space can solve some of the storage dilemma—most pleasingly, when it’s some variety of open shelving. Kitchen design publications are filled with examples of appealing open and glass-windowed shelving.

Second is what could be the most useful, least expensive, and easily adopted insight for making your Sebastopol kitchen fell bigger: just get rid of excess kitchen stuff! It’s simple but true. Removing unused utensils, pots & pans and kitchenware can work miracles. For the gourmet-pleasing cooks who can’t get by without a lot of exotic cookery aids, the solution is an off-site storage solution in the garage or dedicated closet. The minor inconvenience will be worth it if a quicker home sale results—besides, the extra going back and forth is healthy exercise, right?

If you are planning to list your Sebastopol home, a good place to start is with a no-obligation consultation about your home and today’s Sebastopol real estate market. Call us!

Sebastopol Real Estate Agents: Positives and Negatives

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

 

There are a couple of ways to look at the difference between the way you approach a typical Sebastopol home sale and the way your real estate agent does. One is positive, the other, less so—but considering both reveals something about the value we Realtors® add to the process.

Most Sebastopol homeowners do decide to enlist the services of an experienced Sebastopol real estate agent, but sometimes it’s only after trying to avoid it. The reason is nearly always because, although the percentage of the standard agent commission is only 5% or 6% when the sale amount is hundreds of thousands of dollars, it can seem like an awful lot of money for hardly any work at all. 

The reality is otherwise—and in fact, since it’s a competitive business, those commissions would certainly be lowered here and there if it were commercially feasible to do so. But supporting the ongoing office and networks involved make that unrealistic. And then there is the other factor, which is to make all that background noise as invisible as possible. Part of a good agent’s accomplishment is to quietly assume most of the tedious tasks of the buying and selling process so that the client can concentrate on only those issues necessarily theirs to perform. Good agents don’t burden their clients with all those details—and certainly, don’t complain about them! An unfortunate but unavoidable consequence is that the job seems far simpler than it actually is. 

And in fact, the principal reason that most buyers and sellers do rely on Sebastopol real estate agents is because it’s the nearly universally accepted common practice. For a transaction as important as buying and selling a home, most people safely assume that it’s not prudent to make it a DIY project. Too, since teaming with a Realtor was probably the path chosen by their parents (and most of their neighbors and friends), there is little impetus to change the method that has succeeded for everyone in the past.

There is another good reason people count on their Sebastopol real estate agent, as well: it has to do with the perspective we add. When a client is house hunting, the overriding goal is to find the Sebastopol home that offers the most pleasing combination of features that fits their budget. When an experienced agent is part of the scouting team, another dimension is present: a sounding board for how properties stack up against the wider Sebastopol market in terms of competitive value. If a home is a perfect fit with a client’s gotta-have-it features list—but is nonetheless overpriced—an experienced agent is there to supply that perspective. When the later time comes to sell and reclaim value, that input can prove to have been all-important.

Whether selling or buying, staying abreast of the Sebastopol market is a key part of making discerning choices. Call us anytime to discuss what’s new!

Buying a Home in Sebastopol before 2017 Ends

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

 

To end the suspense, the answer to the title question about when is the optimal time to buy a home in Sebastopol has been officially answered. The answer is, more or less, “now.” All right, there’s an alternate answer, “as soon as practical”—but that is a less dramatic-sounding version of the same thing. 

The official nature of that answer is due to its source, generally considered to be the apex of the residential real estate industry: the National Association of Realtors®. The “®” is there after “Realtor” because the group literally owns the word “Realtor”—that’s how much of an industry leader the NAR is!

We are members because of all the resources it makes available for the benefit of our Sebastopol clients. Among the raft of those is a steady stream of research about the market, new and proposed California and national legislation, and a wide range of new information about selling and buying a home. 

Since its pronouncements need to accurately reflect conditions throughout the country—informing more than a million brokers and agents—its words are (as you’d expect) carefully weighed. Which brings us around to the single best time for buying a home, which the Association shared on January 23: “before 2017 ends.”

Three “crucial” reasons were presented in Lisa Gordon’s presentation, each of which is hard to argue with:

  • Tick! tick! Mortgage rates are rising. No one can be 100% certain of future offerings by Sebastopol’s home lenders, yet there has seldom been such unanimity in signals that the future points upward. That means that who lock in rates early should see meaningful savings when it comes to buying a home. To drive the point home, the article harkened back to 1981 and the 18% mortgages buyers had to face. Today it hovers above 4%.

  • Tick! tick! tick! Fewer homes on the market. This national trend has consistently moved in the same direction. By November, the number of homes on the market had fallen by nearly 10% from the previous year: a precipitous drop. The Sebastopol listings aren’t always in lockstep with national trends, but the potential for even stiffer competition between buyers when spring and summer activity peaks is quite real.

  • Tick! tick! tick! tick! Prices are still rising. “We have yet to see a price ceiling,” is what one agent says—and the sales figures bear him out. After the 5% rise in 2016, even pessimistic projections anticipate higher prices. 

For sure, neither the NAR nor we are neutral observers when it comes to selling and buying homes—so the hurry-up reasoning might warrant a degree of skepticism. But the changes in Washington have added a new factor barely touched on in the NAR piece: uncertainty. If you are among those planning on buying a home in Sebastopol at some time in the future, that might be the most convincing argument of all. The current listings and Sebastopol’s real estate environment are knowns—and they are, by historic standard, pretty terrific. You’ll be able to confirm that yourself when you give us a call!

Two Ways It’s Getting Easier to Buy a House in Sebastopol

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner


Buying a house should be getting easier.

For most people who are looking into buying a house in Sebastopol for the first time, the two greatest obstacles appear to be financial, and—for lack of a better word—emotional.

Let’s deal with the second barrier right off the bat. Emotional may not be an apt adjective because most of the emotions that accompany the process of buying a house are positive. The potential of joining your Sebastopol friends as a homeowner is certainly a positive goal. Accompanying your chosen Sebastopol Realtor® on house-hunting tours in search of your dream house takes energy—but they are also some of the most interesting shopping trips imaginable. And the pride of ownership that comes with unlocking your own front door for the first time is a truly satisfaction-producing moment.

Stacked up against all those positives is one strong negative for first-time buyers: the instinctive impulse to avoid the unknown. The process of buying a house is full of legal, technical and procedural details that can appear to be all but impenetrable to those who’ve never weathered them before. That makes it understandable why you’d want to put off tackling the whole can of worms—especially since buying a house is such a weighty transaction.

The reason this first barrier is ultimately overcome is probably also why nearly 90% of U.S. residential real estate transactions involve a real estate professional. It doesn’t take long before most future buyers learn that they can enlist the services of a professional like me to act on their behalf…for free! With a Sebastopol Realtor to guide and advise on all aspects of buying a house in Sebastopol, the technicality obstacle disappears. Veteran homeowners don’t give it a second thought.

Which leaves that other barrier: the financial one.

But here, too, buying a house should have gotten somewhat easier. Not because it’s any easier to make money—and not because having enough of the green stuff isn’t still a prerequisite to getting a front door key of your own—but because there are so many readily accessible ways to track and control personal finances. Keeping up with household expenses once meant conscientiously stacking incoming bills and mailing out payments at the end of the month—then having to wait for the bank statement to arrive to verify household balances.

Today all that information can handled online—and any number of personal finance software solutions like Quicken, Microsoft Money, and iCash make it easy to track and schedule just about everything. That means it’s a simple matter to keep on top of all the income and expense flows as their deadlines come and go month-by-month. This doesn’t make any expenses disappear, but it does make it much less likely that due dates will be accidentally overlooked—or that credit score damage will result. It also makes it a whole lot easier to project income and expenses into the future—and to plot a savings trajectory that produces the down payment you need when you need it.

Buying a house in Sebastopol becomes a less daunting prospect when your financial picture is organized for clarity—and when your house-hunting team includes an agent with wide local experience and personal knowledge of the current Sebastopol offerings. That’s us!

New Year’s Resolutions that Include Real Estate To-Dos

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

For most Sebastopol celebrants, the holiday season hasn’t been a single non-stop flurry of activities (even though that’s what sticks in our memories). In fact, the holidays usually include more stretches of free time than we generally experience. Probably because our regular schedules get shredded over the holidays, you can usually count on injections of unclaimed time—whether spent in airport departure lounges or at home, awaiting waylaid deliveries or overdue guests.

Such moments provide a disguised benefit. Especially this week, as we begin our voyage into Sebastopol’s New Year, there is no more apt time to steal the moments needed to consider what fresh initiatives might be possible.

It is New Year’s Resolution time, after all—and if a change in Sebastopol real estate matters could be due, that’s something that probably belongs near the top of the list. With that in mind, here are the most frequently named real estate-related subjects in popular New Year’s resolution lists:

Make extra mortgage payments — even a single extra payment a year makes a surprisingly large financial impact

Downsize — recognizing when family living space requirements shrink can mean significant cash savings as well as property maintenance time and effort

Upsize — sometimes the extra elbow room yields major quality of living gains

Save Up for a Down Payment — even if a new home isn’t contemplated in the near future, the sooner a regular saving plan is put into action, the easier it will be to meet the goal

Tackle Deferred Household Maintenance Items — for efficiency and pride of ownership

Buy an Investment Property — a thoughtful Sebastopol real estate investment can yield both cash flow and long-term growth benefits 

Get Organized — de-cluttering is a near universal New Year’s resolution 

Get Efficient — cutting energy consumption and/or water usage by converting outdated household systems should result in net operating outlays

When it comes to Sebastopol real estate initiatives, a list of your own New Year’s resolutions may be minor or monumental. If it’s the latter (and a possible change of residence is nearing) you might add one item to your New Year’s to-do list: call us!   

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 80

Contact Information

Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner
Artisan Sotheby's International Realty
7775 Healdsburg Ave.
Sebastopol CA 95472
(707) 696-6272
(707) 480-4098
Fax: (707) 824-0587