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Showing Our Gratitude

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

We are very passionate about what we do. We love to help people. Typically that looks like helping you find the perfect home for your family. Yet, there are other ways our team helps our community be the best it can be: philanthropy. Bill Gates once said, “Effective philanthropy requires a lot of time and creativity - the same kind of focus and skills that building a business requires”. We have honed our skills helping to find our neighbors, old and new, homes and we then extend that expertise and additional resources to the Northern California family, at-large.  

 

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Redwood Empire HOG Chapter #3494
One of our favorite philanthropic outlets is through our local Harley Owners Group (HOG) chapter. Through this tight-knit group, we participate in charity events and fundraising. Group rides are a great (and fun) way for us to raise awareness of those causes in that we are most actively engaged.
 

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Veterans

Another area of philanthropy we are passionate about is supporting our veterans. We enjoy working with the unique situations veterans face in finding properties to suit their needs. We like to honor the sacrifices they have made and continue to make, for the country we all hold so dear. This help can take many forms and we would be happy to discuss the ways in which we support our local veterans with you if you are interested in getting involved or in direct support.

 

Philanthropic giving, of time or resources, is one of our favorite things to do. It shows our community how much we appreciate their support and allows us to give back and show all our gratitude. This small town makes us who we are, and together we can help house the future!

 
 

Half a Dozen Vacation Safety Tips for Sebastopol Homeowners

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

 

An overstuffed curbside mailbox, blazing porch light at noon, or a pile of newspapers out there by your front door all indicate a couple of things Sebastopol homeowners would do well to avoid. For burglars and housebreakers of all stripes, these are like lighted billboards announcing:

  • This Sebastopol homeowner is off somewhere enjoying a nice summer vacation; and
  • This afternoon and/or evening, there’s nobody home!

Every Sebastopol homeowner deserves an extended break now and then—and the July/August weather makes now the ideal time for many—but it’s also high season for break-and-enter artists (or just ‘enter’ artists, since 34% of burglars walk in through the front door). As long as we’re discussing the percentages, the common assumption that break-ins are midnight outings doesn’t hold water. Sixty-five percent of burglaries happen in broad daylight; most between 10am-3pm.

For vacation-bound locals, a few precautionary steps will do much to avoid a miserable discovery on your return home. If your home is currently listed, we think it’s a good idea to notify your agent to add a “Do Not Disturb Occupants” rider under the “For Sale” sign (whether it’s occupied or not!). In general, here are another six good vacation safety tips:

  1. Recruit some trusted neighborly help to keep an eye on the place and gather any mail and newspaper overflow. Most Sebastopolites are delighted to help—and you should offer to reciprocate.
  2. DON’T POST VACATION PIX on Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media haunt until you get back. High among leading vacation safety no-no’ s are tweets like, “Off to Maui!”
  3. Think like a thief (that is, take a few minutes to case the joint). You’ll find yourself securing little-used doors and windows that are usually unlocked.
  4. Either unplug automatic garage doors that can be triggered by remote control frequency scanner or install a deadbolt lock.
  5. Do a better job of hiding the spare key. Thieves know all the common places. A spare key can be a vacation safety backstop if you need to phone someone to help get into the house in an emergency, but a spare key under the flowerpot is asking for trouble. Best hiding place: inside an envelope, you entrust to your neighbor.
  6. Cancel deliveries. An Amazon Prime carton beside the front gate is a commonplace—but when one or more remain uncollected for more than 24 hours, it’s a virtual invitation to the unscrupulous.


Even for Sebastopol neighborhoods that are safer than most, vacation time burglaries can happen anywhere and anytime that basic vacation safety precautions aren’t observed. A few minutes of prevention should yield added peace of mind while you’re on the road as well as a pleasant return to a safely secured home. We will be standing by to help when you start planning the more extended kind of outing: to your next Sebastopol home!       

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!

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/

 

 

 

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.

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!

For Sebastopol Mortgage Rate Quotes, ‘Published’ vs. ‘Promised’

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner


Whenever you’re in the planning stages for your next Sonoma County real estate venture, the best available mortgage rate is a number you look for. Whether you are thinking of a purchase of a new area home or simply refinancing your existing property, that rate determines how much you will pay each month.

You would think that getting a good idea of what that number is should be pretty easy. Certainly, you would be encouraged by what you find on the web. That number—the mortgage rate—is available online almost everywhere you turn. It’s in TV ads. It’s on the radio. It’s almost looking for you


But as everyone soon learns, those numbers aren’t exactly the ones that you need. What appears in the ads and pop-ups isn’t necessarily that number (if by “that number” you mean the mortgage rate you will wind up paying). 

This whole topic was addressed this last weekend by USA Today in an article that did a good job of explaining why the actual mortgage rate that most applicants will be offered is not readily available. The rates in the ads are called the “published” rates. Unlike many other kinds of consumer advertisements, in mortgage financial parlance, a “published” rate isn’t the same as a “promised” rate. As this month’s survey by Freddie Mac specified, the mortgage rate average of 3.45% was on average only available to customers who chose to pay an additional fee—in this case, .5 point of the loan amount. For a $275,000 loan, that would cost the borrower $1,375 up front to get the “published” mortgage loan rate.

That isn’t the only wrinkle. As USA Today put it, “Lenders also publish rates that have very specific prerequisites.” The rate may only apply to applicants with specific credit scores. The rate might call for a minimum loan-to-value percentage, too—or only be available in specific areas (which may or may not include our area).

This might sound like a deliberate bait-and-switch tactic by the lenders, but when you get to the reasons for all the razzmatazz, it’s actually necessary. Our Sonoma County mortgage lenders are able to keep rates competitively low by only lending to borrowers who have a very good chance of repaying the loan. Those whose histories indicate that they pose a higher risk of not being able to keep up their monthly payments have to expect that they will be quoted a higher interest rate. The last time mortgage lenders stopped doing a good job of those risk calculations, it triggered what we now call “the great recession”—and just about everyone paid a price for that.

So it may be inconvenient, but in order to really find out what your true interest rate will be for a specific real estate transaction, you have to go through the motions of applying for it. In this age of readily available instant information, that can seem like a run-around—but it’s necessary. We're here to make this and every other aspect of your Sonoma County real estate doings as easy as possible. Call us!

Sebastopol Homes for Sale: The Pronounced Food Connection

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

It’s interesting to look into how many ways the universe of food —be it restaurants, markets, cooking, gardening or eating—intersects with the world of real estate. The connections are many and important. That’s true from the moment a future Sebastopol homeowner begins to look into the current crop of Sebastopol homes for sale.

We commonly think about residential real estate predominantly in terms of shelter. The listed homes for sale are vying to become the roof over our head; the place where the family will be blissfully protected from the elements. But since it will also be the place where we prepare our meals, store the groceries, and experience the holiday celebrations and feasts that will be remembered forever as key moments in our family’s life together.

Food is central to all these things—it’s why homes for sale that can claim superior kitchens have a clear advantage over those with cramped layouts or dated appliances. The popularity of formal dining rooms may be waning, but the importance of the kitchen has never been more pronounced. Interestingly, large, showy kitchens don’t always get the highest marks from experienced family head chefs. For some, a more compact layout that creates an efficient “work triangle” (the imaginary line connecting cook top, sink, and refrigerator) can win favor by saving steps—and time. In any case, most Americans think of the kitchen as the house’s nerve center around which family life revolves. And in summertime, when the action moves outside, an extra advantage goes to the homes for sale that have patios or decks that look ideal for outdoor grilling.

It is also true that for even the most dedicated amateur chefs, hectic workday schedules can mean that cookery of any kind is forced into becoming a strictly weekend pursuit. For those whose professional lives make that an unavoidable reality, a property’s proximity to quality Sebastopol dining outlets can be a major selling point. One way alert homeowners take advantage of that is by preparing a list of their favorite local eateries—or even by prominently displaying a collection of current take-out menus from nearby restaurants.

When you think about it, it makes good sense to take a look at the ways homes for sale in Sebastopol can make the food connection part of their marketing approach. Call us for a rundown of some of the other lifestyle elements that we can use to demonstrate to prospective buyers how readily your property can fit into their vision of what a treasured home should be.

 

 

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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