Firestorms in Sonoma County!

By | Natural disasters, Sonoma County info | No Comments

The night from Sunday to Monday October 9 2017 as well as the weeks immediately after that won’t easily be forgotten. When I was living in the Netherlands, flooding was something a large part of the country had to deal with. After a major flooding in 1953, new laws came into place to protect the country. Living in California, the main natural disaster we anticipated was an earth quake. That was a scary Having to evacuate within 10 minutes because of imminent danger due to a firestorm most likely cause by a combination of faulty PG&E lines and a storm, was not something we ever imagined would happen.
IMG_0868and memorable night. Our neighborhood was
blocked of by the national guard for more than a week, it was not safe to go back.

The local newspaper has a section dedicated to this disaster. An other great article can be found here. Very soon after the disaster the city of Santa Rosa and the county of IMG_0777Sonoma came up with this website:

The fires destroyed at least 5500 structures and  caused a major shift in our local Real Estate market. Our local markets sales and inventory dropped while prices rose by double-digit percentage points.

Lots are being clearedFor many of us this was a rude awakening as to insurance coverage. Many learned that depending on the advise of their insurance agent as to cost to rebuilt might not be that smart.  My suggestion to all is: check your insurance policy and ask a local builder what it would cost to rebuilt your home. This will give you more realistic number and this number should be used to make sure you have the proper insurance coverage in case of a major disaster.


Home Improvement Projects are booming

By | Around the house, Buyers, Sellers | No Comments

The Return on Home Improvement Projects

When it comes to interior projects:  kitchen upgrades, complete kitchen renovations, bathroom renovations and new wood flooring are among the best investments. These projects also appear to have the highest expected value at resale. Exterior projects that bring the best return on investment and attract potential buyers are: new roofing; new vinyl windows; new garage doors. The majority of these exterior projects are projected to nearly cover their cost at resale.

Remodeling projects can greatly improve both the value of and satisfaction with your home. This makes a remodel project worth your while, no matter the reason for a project,

This report highlights the best projects to consider in either situation and showcases just how much of a difference a good and professional remodel can make in real numbers.


Time to garden… landscaping in the spring.

By | Around the house | No Comments

While in the Netherlands it takes till April until the nice spring weather start, Springtimein Sonoma County, it’s usually February that gives me that ‘it’s spring again’ feeling.  Such is life in the Bay Area.

While January is the perfect time to plant bare rooted trees, spring is just around the corner. Besides, it’s never too early to start thinking about spring plantings and home landscaping plans for the coming year, especially if you plan to put your property on the market.

The Professional Landcare Network, the national trade association for landscape professionals, offers smart advice for homeowners looking to get a jump on spring. Here’s a quick summary of the organization’s recommendations:

  • First, inspect the trees and shrubs in your yard, looking for limbs or branches that might be broken or damaged. Prune them or have them removePruning treesd by a professional.
  • Rake away leaves and other debris from plant beds, prune any dead branches, and create tidy borders around the beds using an edging tool.
  • Test the soil every few years to make sure it has the proper pH balance and nutrient mix. Most garden centers sell soil-testing kits if you’re in do-it-yourself mode, or you can consult a lawn-care or landscape professional.
  • Depending on the plants in your yard and the soil conditions, you may want to fertilize it, along with trees and shrubs. Check with an expert for the timing and type of fertilizer. When possible, choose slow-release or controlled-release nutrients to prevent runoff and increase absorption
  • Add an inch-thick layer of mulch in plant beds and around trees, but don’t let the mulch touch the tree trunk and never let it accumulate to more than a three-inch depth. Mulch makes planting areas look neat and also helps to retain moisture in the soil. It keeps the roots cool in the summer and insulates them in the winter.
  • Check your outdoor lights for broken fixtures. Reset timers when daylight saving time begins on March 8.

If you have questions about pest management at home or in your yard or garden, a local  nursery is a great resource. Personally I find the people at Harmony nursery in Sebastopol very helpful and very knowledgeable.

Happy gardening and share some pictures when you have a chance


A new Purchase Agreement for California

By | Buyers, Disclosures, Sellers | No Comments

When we bought our first property in CA we had to educate ourselves. Real Estate in the Netherlands is totally different, it has more resemblance to what is customary on the east coast. The purchase agreement is different in every state and they change from time to time.  Last week we had an official training in our office to go over all the changes in the new purchase agreement we use in California. The last time this agreement changed so much was 17 years ago.

The new agreement is 10 pages long, the changes reflect recent changes in law as well as feedback from the industry. The program used by Realtors to fill this out, automatically adds forms as needed. Here is a sample draft : new RPA draft

I see quit often that a purchase agreement is filled out in a rush: at the end of a day of looking at properties. Everyone is tired, there is no time to go over the offer at length. Much better for any buyer is to go over the standard agreement beforehand and discuss questions and details that reflect specific needs before making an offer. Personally I give every buyer a Buyer’s Guide for our area the moment we discuss the plans to purchase property. Besides other good information, there is a copy of a current purchase agreement and other forms that are normally used as well as the local general disclosures. This copy can be studied/highlighted so I can answer any questions. Just sold

There are many important details that need to be decided upon when buying a home. It is important to address these before making an offer, not in a rush while preparing the offer.


Purchase Real Estate with Bitcoin

By | Buyers, Economy, Sellers, Sonoma County info | No Comments

Image source

An article on August 8 in WSJ online caught my eye: Lake Tahoe Property Sells for $1.6 Million in BitcoinsBitcoin is a software-based online payment system, a digital currency. Here is other article about this transaction in Martis Camp’s Lodge Estates. The transaction was paid using the bitpay service. 

At first it looks unusual but from a transaction perspective it is  more like a cash transaction. Instead of dollars, euros or yens, bitcoins are used. Similar to when paying with ‘foreign’ currency, an exchange rate is used. The property in Lake Tahoe sold for 2,739 BTC which was at the time appr $1,6 million.Dutch Euro

What currency or method is used to pay for property is something to agree upon between the buyer and the seller. Whether a buyer uses a mortgage, pays cash, uses a digital currency, or even an exchange -for instance an other property of equal value- doesn’t matter as long as the  parties involved agree and the method of payment is legally acceptable. Of utmost importance is to check with a CPA/financial advisor for tax consequences and an attorney as to possible legal consequences.

Bottom line: whether or not paying in bitcoin does not make a whole lot of difference to a transition as a whole. Buyers do their due diligence – the standard time for inspections etc in our local contracts is 17 days-, sellers do their due diligence -in this case whether the method of payment is acceptable – and upon agreement the deal closes.