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Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

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This Land is Your Land

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

Land purchases are sought out by buyers for different reasons. Sometimes, land can be a great, low-maintenance investment or it can be the start of a client's dream. The spectrum of reasons for buying land is just that far-reaching. This spectrum makes finding the right land for the right person, so interesting! We love matching motivations to parcels and feel like we are really helping to set in motion something special for our clients.

Some of the reasons buyers seek land are universal, regardless of what their ultimate goal for the property may be. There is a huge opportunity for increased property value when buying land, after all, they are not making any more of it. This opportunity is compounded by the fact, land can be very low maintenance. Whether you are investing to one day resell, or build your dream home, when there are no existing structures of maintenance issues to impede your vision, the possibilities are endless (and less expensive). Also, in the competitive market, we often find ourselves in, here in California, land purchases may be a way to relieve some of that tension. Often times, buying and selling land is less stressful and buyers often reap the benefits of that fact.

All of these benefits can be found at our listing at 3500 Sweetwater Springs Road. This property has breathtaking views, one of those perks found more often when buying property versus neighborhood homes.  Gently rolling ridge top features open sunny meadows, natural springs and incredible views of the Russian River Valley, Mt. Saint Helena and beyond. The views continue to sweep through the entirety of the 480± acre parcel. This property is the perfect canvas awaits to create your dream estate with vineyard potential. There are multiple building sites on this property that will provide the idyllic backdrop, your dream in wine country has always deserved.

 

Sebastopol Home Ownership: a Bedrock of the American Dream

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

 

You’d think that the whole notion of the American Dream is vague enough that it would be immune from challenge, and for the most part, that’s still true enough. Not so for its principal emblem, which most Sebastopol residents would agree is owning your own home. Being free to work hard to reach that goal—no matter who you are or how humble your origins—has long been the leading sign that the Dream is alive and kicking.

Even so, lately it’s been getting hard to ignore some media discussions that seem to challenge homeownership’s legitimacy as a pillar of that whole American Dream notion. Simply put, the suggestion is that the financial benefits to be had from owning your own home are no longer valid—or at least, that they are growing less valid. 

There’s no arguing that there are many situations where renting makes more financial sense than does buying. Most of them are related to the expected duration of residence. As The New York Times observes, “Buying tends to be better the longer you stay” if only because the upfront costs are spread out over many years. In one of its Upshot commentaries, the Times presents a calculator which adds up “Initial,” “Recurring,” and “Opportunity Costs” for various rent and buy situations in order to show at what monthly rental dollar amount “renting is better.” 

Sorry, Times. Your calculator may accurately display the tradeoffs in dollar costs—but it overlooks one factor that can ultimately prove to be the most significant. It’s the real-life factor that is built in whenever Sebastopol families decide to graduate from renting to buying. It begins to take form with the first dollar saved for a down payment and continues until the last mortgage check clears the bank. 

You can call it “enforced savings”—but whatever its name, in addition to the emotional benefits of owning your home, a measurable infusion of financial independence is the usual outcome. For example, when the Federal Reserve last reported “Changes in U.S. Family Finances” during the years from 2010-2013, it found that although median incomes fell 5%, “the median net worth of homeowners increased 4%, whereas that of renters or other non-homeowners did not change.

If the American Dream is one of self-reliance and independence, then owning your Sebastopol home isn’t likely to disappear as its leading goal anytime soon. It’s one of the greatest parts of our job to help clients turn that distant dream into today’s reality. It’s a process that starts with a simple call to our office!

Same Ol’ List: Not Just for Those with Homes for Sale

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

 

It’s that time of year again when those of us who write about Sebastopol homes for sale and related matters have a hard choice to make: do we run the risk of boring everyone to death by writing the same ol’ spring cleaning blog, or can we (please!) just skip it this year?

This time, despite our inclination to do without it for once, we are once again making the same decision. Yes, here is yet another spring maintenance reminder list. (Here’s the list first, ending with why we always make this same decision):  

  • Of course, clear the gutters, downspouts—and any channel that water finds on your property
  • Take a look at the roof—if anything looks screwy, best to assume it needs a closer look
  • Seal the deck (unless you did that last year, in which case check whether it’s still doing its sealing job—with weather like we’ve had, it might not last another season)
  • Inspect the driveway and walks
  • Do a test run of the sprinkler system
  • Change smoke and carbon monoxide alarm batteries
  • Change air filters
  • Take a leisurely stroll around the house to check for infestations (“leisurely” because the evidence can be minuscule)

This isn’t an exhaustive list, so as you’re taking the leisurely stroll you’ll probably notice one or two details that can use attention: some caulking here, a screen that could use replacement there. 

And here are the reasons why we always wind up deciding to repeat the same old points:

  1. Because first-time homeowners often need to be reminded that now they make up the first line of defense
  2. Because if and when your home comes up for sale, having religiously maintained the place will make a real difference
  3. Because for homeowners, a stitch in time saves nine…ty.
  4. Because once you’ve attended to your spring maintenance list, summertime enjoyment of your property won’t be spoiled by nagging upkeep worries

That last one could be the most important. Your Sebastopol home will only come up for sale one time, but you can enjoy it year after year when you feel good about how it’s cared for. But from our point of view, when the day comes that your Sebastopol home really is on the market, not having to scramble to correct maintenance lapses makes the whole process that much easier. Then all you have to do is give us a call!

Breathtaking Vistas

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner


Some properties have a certain draw, a way of capturing your imagination and not letting it go. Often times, a home has one characteristic, the main focus, that runs through every aspect of the property, setting it apart from all of the others. Moments after stepping foot on 4059 Burnside Road, one can easily identify this stunning property’s unique signature.

With awe-inspiring views of the majestic Mount Saint Helena ridge tops, Sonoma County vineyards, redwoods, and valleys below, this Spanish-inspired home will capture your heart. Enjoy the privacy and seclusion on approximately 7.35± acres, nestled in the hills of the beloved West County. This home features exquisite architecture that was thoughtfully designed to capture the breathtaking views in each room and frame the artistic distinction of profound natural beauty outdoors. 


The 4,182± square foot home includes 3 bedrooms and 3 full bathrooms. The outdoors is brought in again through the use of materials found in the natural environment. Faux wood beams mimic the forest found outside the back door and are matched to the rich wooden-frame windows found throughout the home. The floor tiles and stone are a warm earthen brown, with rustic, old-world, and rich colors mirroring the hues found in the surrounding hills, easily seen through the many large windows.

This home’s architecture is meticulously calculated to maximize the view from every location in the home. The whirlpool tub is set in a large bay window, helping you wash the day away while bathing in the setting sun. The luxury kitchen is oriented so that entertaining friends and family are simultaneously comfortable and awe-inspiring.


Enjoy pursuing your culinary goals while enjoying the incredible views in this gourmet kitchen complete with a Thermador 5-burner gas cooktop and warming drawer, granite kitchen island, dual under mount sinks, built-in wine rack, informal dining area, custom cherry wood cabinetry, and a built-in refrigerator.  Bring your wine up from the naturally temperature-controlled, 800± bottle wine storage closet – built below the frost line – to your kitchen in the classically charming dumbwaiter.

Many details of this home bring not only comfort but also an appreciation for the artistic design of the home. Renowned Marvin windows with low-E-tinting frame the landscapes outside. A locally sourced, custom-forged iron staircase banister welcomes you upstairs, as well as the custom solid wood doors and crown molding, with Peldaño Portuguese tile throughout. The entire home is wired with Cat5 ethernet, built-in security system, and custom doorbell chimes.

The master bath is a spa-like escape with the Aquatic Century whirlpool hydrotherapy bathtub with reheating element, steam shower and Japanese Toto toilet with bidet, all in the tranquil master bathroom adorned in travertine tile, vessel sinks and views of the valley and vineyards below your mountain top retreat.

Additional amenities include a 20 x 20 upstairs office complete with built-in desks, bookcases, and stunning views. A dedicated laundry room with Corian counter space which is plumbed for both gas and electric. There is an on demand hot water heater with recirculating pump and a dual-zone heating system.

The property includes 7.35± acres of lush countryside overlooking the Mount St. Helena ridge tops. From the property, you can gaze upon vineyards, redwood forests, and the peaks and valleys that make up our beloved Sonoma County.

Outdoor amenities include a total of (5) 2,600± gallon water storage tanks housed under the deck. 4 tanks are reserved for irrigation and are sourced from the roof’s rainwater runoff, and 1 tank contains filtered water from the well.  Also included is an underground fire suppression water tank.

The 557± square foot garage can occupy 2 cars and the outside decking measures approximately 1,960± square feet.


There is something about the view at this property that begs you to come back and gaze at the great expanse in front of you. Everything in this home and in the property that surrounds it is dictated by that stunning view. Windows become picture frames and decks become platforms for the imagination. Come and take a look for yourself and see why we think this property is truly spectacular.

 

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!

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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