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.


Natural and Man Made Hazards… Natural disasters

By | Buyers, Disclosures, Dutch stuff, Sonoma County info | No Comments

In 1953 there was major flooding in Netherlands: in the night of January 31 many dykes in the provinces of Zeeland, Zuid Holland and Noord Holland broke due to the combination of a spring tide and a northwesterly storm. Your first reaction might be ofcourse, about 50% of the country is below sea level… And you are right, Netherlands depends on the protection of dykes. The ‘watersnood of 1953’ caused a change in the priority (tax dollars) given to the maintenance of  dykes and water ways.

Now living in Sonoma County… part of the 3rd party Hazard Disclosure is whether a property is located in a flood zone. There are Special Flood Hazard Areas, areas of potential flooding, coastal flood areas, areas contained by flood control measures -dams- and more… Hmm sounds familiar ;)… It’s not that bad, parts of Sonoma County are more prone to flooding than others. When the Russian River floods it’s  due to extreme weather, the last time was about 7 years ago.

There are maps available showing where high risk flood zones are. When you buy a property and one of the requirements to get a mortgage is to have flood insurance, that’s a pretty clear sign too… There is a special form for this.

You insurance broker takes care of flood insurance btw. I just checked with Erin Temple of Vantreo Insurance.

Always read all the reports you receive when you purchase a property and before you remove your inspection contingencies. Then you know the risks of the location/property you are buying and have the choice to accept these or not. A good Realtor will go over the reports too, however it is the buyer’s responsibility to read and go over all the information given… Yes it’s a lot, but not doing your homework and have to find out afterwards is worse…

By the way: I love living in Sonoma County. It is a great place to live.


Time to Evacuate!

By | Around the house, Buyers, Disclosures, Sonoma County info | No Comments

Last week we stayed at a vacation house close to Lassen Volcanic National Park, the home was in a beautiful area surrounded by forest. At one of the last days of our vacation there was a thunderstorm at night which sparked a wild fire about 11 miles south of us. The fire spread fast and we had to evacuate the house that evening.

This is called a natural hazard and part of the disclosures when someone buys a home. Sonoma County also has high fire hazard areas. Besides having this covered by the home owners insurance, there is also a lot a home owner can do to defend his/her home against fire. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has a great website with lots of information.

Landscaping is important. One of the first things to do is to create a defensible space around the house, this is the buffer you create between your home and the grass, trees, shrubs or wild land area. This space is needed to slow or stop the spread of wildfire and it protects the home from catching fire. Also realize that firefighters are reluctant to go into a situation that will put themselves in danger and pick the homes that are easiest to protect first, depending on the situation.

While creating that defensible space, it is also important to use fire resistant plants for landscaping. While there are no ‘fire-proof’ plants, plants with high moisture and have low sap or resin content take longer to ignite. Hardwood trees like maple, poplar and cherry trees are less flammable than pine and fir. Check with your local nursery about fire resistant plants that are suited for your area.

And don’t forget to check with your insurance agent yearly to make sure you have enough coverage in case your home burns down. As mentioned before, a great local agent I can highly recommend is Erin Temple with Vantreo Insurance, she makes sure you have the correct insurance, whether or not you live in a high risk area.


Location, Location, Location: Historic neighborhoods

By | Buyers, Disclosures, Dutch stuff, Sellers, Sonoma County info | No Comments

Living in the Netherlands, it is not unusual to live in a home built in 1700’s, thus about 500 years old. Think about Leiden, Zwolle and even for instance Zwartsluis. World wide you will find many historic neighborhoods, great places to live. As to Santa Rosa I am talking about the older part generally quite often referred to as the JC area.

Before buying a home in an older, historic neighborhood, it’s good to know how this affects the home owner. For the Netherlands, there is an organization for historic monuments, ‘Monumenten Zorg’. The goal is to preserve these properties that have historic value. Take the city of Leiden. Should you buy one of these homes, it’s not unusual to have your remodeling project limited on the outside as well as the inside. A new kitchen? Need a permit. Change of color on the outside and even sometimes the inside? Need a permit. Sidenote: this is extreme, even for Netherlands: it usually affects only the outside, then it’s called a “beschermd Stadsgezicht” -> Protected City Image (that’s the best I can come up with as to translation)

This is not the same for every neighborhood, take for instance the JC area in Santa Rosa, only the outside of a home is considered. The Cultural Heritage Board reviews proposed alterations for historic homes. A good resource is the Processing Review Procedures for Owners of Historic Properties.  Currently there are 8 designated Preservation Districts in Santa Rosa: Burbank Gardens, Cherry Street, McDonald, Olive Park, Railroad Square, Ridgeway, St. Rose and West End.

Bottomline… it’s prudent to do your homework before buying a home. Your local realtor is a great source of information.



Location Wanted: Rural, Views, Surrounded by Nature – the Boonies!

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

Looking for that perfect home in Sonoma County? Depending on what you are looking for, changes are it is not connected to a sewer system but has it’s own waste water system, called a septic system. About 25% of all properties have their own septic system. Without going into details as to upcoming and ongoing changes in the requirements for septic systems -see this link- it is important to know whether the property you are buying or selling has a working septic system. It is one of the inspections to do when purchasing a property with a septic system.

Over the years I have had several situations where either sellers would refuse to do a septic system before putting their home on the market, or buyers not seeing the need to do a septic inspection. Let’s just say that the buyer who initially wanted to waive that inspection was really glad afterwards. The system had some problems which would have cause failure in the future. On a recent transaction, the seller had to put in a sew septic tank since the septic inspection brought to light that the wall in the tank had a hole in it. Luckily the seller was a contractor who had the resources to do this quickly.

Before moving to Santa Rosa, I had never lived on a property with a septic system. My grandparent had a farm in Netherlands, they had a septic system but quite frankly I never knew much about that. The house we live in right now is depending on a septic system for waste water. It’s not scary, it part of living in a more rural part of Sonoma County and I think it a great way to recycle 😉 Sidenote: click here if you like to learn more about septic systems.

Currently I am working to put a property on the market in Franz Valley, a small home on 9 acres. It’s on a beautiful location, there are 2 ponds on the property and yes, the house is on a septic system. We are doing a septic inspection before putting the home on the market, a local company, BDK septic services, will first pump the tank and then inspect the system.

Bottom line, for buyers and sellers: do the proper inspections before buying or selling property, you will be glad you did;)