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The Best Sebastopol Real Estate Agent’s Top 5 Qualities

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

If you are just about to commit to buying or selling a home in Sebastopol, the first important task before you comes with identifying the best Realtor® to assist your effort. That comes first because although you might begin by combing through the current Sebastopol listings or driving through the neighborhood to spot what’s going on, there is always a possibility that acting without delay will be important. If that happens to be the case, zeroing in on the best Sebastopol agent takes first priority.

How you ultimately select that best real estate agent for you involves a selection process that’s a lot like any business person's procedure—except that it’s easier to identify the candidates. You won’t have to post “help wanted” ads since the candidates (us included) are all actively looking for you! We are the prominent Sebastopol brokers and agents whose names you see on the web and on our “FOR SALE” signs. They’re all over the place.

The true lion’s share of the work of identifying your best “hire” will come in the conversations you have with the leading candidates. Whether you call them up or drop in on them at their office (or run into them at an open house), it’s important to bear in mind that these conversations, whether casual or not, are actually employment interviews. You’re the boss; the agents are applicants—and the hiring decision is a very important one. During these interactions, if you can determine that the agent you’re speaking with is strong in these five qualities, you’ve found your agent:

1.    Accessible. The best Sebastopol real estate agent for you is easy to talk to—the kind of person you connect with automatically; who puts you at ease. The best agent will be someone who is engaging and enjoyable to talk with.

2.    Professional. At the same time (it only seems to conflict with the above), the best agent is a professional at all times. After all, some of the most durable friendships wind up being with people we’ve “been through the wars with” in business!

3.    Sympathetic. A lot of the business at hand will consist of pinpointing your personal tastes and leanings and prioritizing them correctly. The best Sebastopol real estate agent for you will be keenly aware of your preferences—which won’t be the same as everybody else’s.

4.    Authoritative. That best agent knows Sebastopol inside and out; is personally familiar with the current crop of area listings; is known and widely respected by her or his Sebastopol real estate colleagues.

5.    Dedicated. Your best partner in the upcoming campaign will be committed to the real estate profession—not just for this week or for this transaction, but for the long haul. The best Sebastopol real estate agent will be there for you the next time, too!

Needless to say, when you are narrowing the field for who you want to become your own best Sebastopol agent, we hope you’ll call us for a chat!

Elements of Outdoor Entertaining

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

Here in California, especially in the summer, we love the indoor-outdoor living. That is, when our exterior spaces act as additional places to live, work and play. The outdoor spaces of our properties are so much more than your basic backyard, they are an extension of your home. Enhancing these spaces can help your family and friends to enjoy your outdoor spaces, and there are a few elements to incorporate into your living spaces that can emphasize all of your exterior assets. 


5832 La Cuesta Drive, Santa Rosa, California

Preparing Food
Having a safe and comfortable space to prepare food is an essential element to any backyard entertaining and living space. Grilling out with friends or cooking for your family, in the breeze, is quintessential California living. These spaces should be far enough away from the home as to not pose a risk while using the grill, with adequate ventilation. These spaces can also have shade so that the cook can be comfortable in the summer sun. Outdoor cooking spaces can allow the host, or cook in the family, to still be included in the fun in the sun.  


5832 La Cuesta Drive, Santa Rosa, California

Enjoying Food
Having a comfortable place to “eat, drink, and be merry” is another essential place to have in your backyard living spaces. These spaces allow for your loved ones to gather and be together over food and conversations. Creating an inviting space through comfortable seating that is organized in a way to enhance togetherness will help for people to be naturally drawn to these places. 


5832 La Cuesta Drive, Santa Rosa, California

Activities
The perfect outdoor living space has a little fun mixed in there too. A pool can provide the element of fun for any backyard experience. Whether it is for cannon balls or lounging, a pool can create the life in the outdoor lifestyle. If a pool is not your style, other activities can help to get people moving in your outdoor spaces. Small patches of grass can be used for a bocce ball r croquet courts. Just imagine your backyard lifestyle, there are people chatting, others eating or cooking, and a few throwing a football or lounging by the pool. Activity is as much a part of optimum outdoor living as any other element in life. 


4059 Burnside Road, Sebastopol, California​

A View
A view can draw you outside and keep you outdoors. If you have a property with a view, your outdoor living is enhanced by giving you a sense of place, as you gaze out at the expanse. All of the things we love about the outdoors, its ability to restore us, to make us think about life, to breathe in the fresh air and to breathe out our stress can be seen in one snapshot. The view provides the backdrop to life, it gives the living a context in the world as a whole. 


4059 Burnside Road, Sebastopol, California​

Easy Access to the Outdoors
One of the biggest impacts our home can have on your indoor-outdoor lifestyle is how easy it is for us to access that outdoor space. When our homes have easy access to the outdoors, we are more likely to use those spaces as extra living spaces. You can enhance the ease of access by having large windows, beckoning out outside. The egress can be enhanced through large doors (i.e. french doors) that can be left open to allow the breeze to percolate through the whole home, incorporating the outdoors, in, and vice versa. 

Outdoor living spaces can enhance the life in your California lifestyle. There are many aspects that can increase the use of these places, on your property but make access easier, and the spaces more inviting, comfortable, safe, and entertaining. 

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!       

Top 6 Obscure Tips for Coping with Sebastopol’s Weather

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

 

The heat of summer is upon us. The extreme temperatures of late caused us to rummage for a few useful tips for coping with Sebastopol’s hot weather. Most everyone can guess the commonsensical ones, like the NAR’s number one Home Showing Tip in Hot Weather: “Keep the house cool;” or the lead safety tip from the National Weather Service: “Stay out of the sun.”

Seriously, here are some ideas that don’t appear often. Some are only applicable in special instances, but all of which make a lot of sense:

Comb your fins. 

This tip for coping with Sebastopol heat spells has nothing to do with keeping any tropical fish well-groomed: it’s about your air conditioner. You’ve probably noticed that the sharp metal ridges that populate the exit side (the “fins”) are easily bent: just brush up against them, and they crumple. The problem is that when bent, they retard airflow. What you probably didn’t know is that there is actually a tool called a “fin comb” to straighten the condenser fins. 

Sub-tip: turn off the power before you comb.

Vacuum the pollen. 

This tip for summer pollen is already applicable here in Sebastopol, where springtime pollen is equally evident. The idea is to vacuum the front door flashing and window jamb crevices where pollen lurks, eliminating lingering allergy or asthma issues.

Rethink expensive suntan lotions. 

We can’t vouch for this one (we don’t have the lab equipment to test out CR’s findings)—but was surprised that Consumer Reports says that WalMart’s in-store brand (“Equate”) tests highest for effectiveness and lowest in price (less than half of some). If true, it might be practical to leave those fancy French-sounding versions in the shade.

When the house is empty, don’t turn the A/C off. 

Instead, set the thermostat up a few notches so that the place doesn’t absolutely bake. Sub-tip: when you enter a too-hot home, resist the temptation to set the thermostat ‘way cold: it won’t cool the house any faster.

Plant for shade. 

This is a strictly long-term tip, yet it’s one that’s probably the most valuable of the lot. Sebastopol homeowners whose roofs and walls are shaded by majestic trees and plantings have the best of it: lower cooling bills and the pleasure of shady porches and yards. When you are thinking about improving your Sebastopol home’s landscape profile, this is the tip to remember! 

Visit the grocery store. 

A lot. The wikiHow site explains that not only are grocery stores air conditioned (they are here in Sebastopol, though that’s not universally true)—but for extra chill, you can “visit the freezer section and peruse for a while.” 

All right—we admit we threw in wikiHow’s tip to round out the half-dozen. Another summertime tip that you could take advantage of right now, before Sebastopol’s summer ends: give us a call if you’re ready to plan your next real estate venture!  

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.

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!

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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