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Valentine’s Day In Sonoma County

Posted on February 11, 2015 by Mark Stevens

Whether you’re single, in love or just want to get together with friends, there is something for everyone this Valentine’s Day in Sonoma County. Take your pick from the list below and have an amazing weekend!

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New Experience Coming to Healdsburg

Posted on January 26, 2015 by Mark Stevens

For a little over a year now I have had the pleasure of representing Kyle Connaughton, a culinary educator and award winning chef, and his wife Katina in their search for the ideal site in North Sonoma County to fulfill their dreams and aspirations to develop a world-class restaurant.  Single Thread Farms Restaurant & Inn is set to open later this year and will include a farm, a 55-seat tasting-menu restaurant and five hotel suites.

All About the New Experience:

  • Customized tour of the 3,000-square-foot rooftop escape with canapés, greenhouse, water feature and garden
  • Three 11-course menus will be available:
  1. Meat/seafood/vegetable
  2. Seafood/vegetable
  3. Vegetable only
  • Winemaker Pete Seghesio’s butchery and a small tasting room for his Journeyman wines will take up part of the second floor and will be Sonoma County’s smallest licensed winery
  • Kyle compares the experience to the Japanese term “Omotenashi”, which embodies the true sense of hospitality and attentiveness to the guest’s needs

New Year’s Resolutions for Homeowners & Home Buyers

Posted on December 31, 2014 by Mark Stevens

Whether you’re a homeowner or looking to buy your first home, 2105 is to set some New Year’s Resolutions!

Homeowners

  1. Boost Energy Efficiency

Start small with replacing your light bulbs with fluorescents for LEDs. Another way to save is with sealing and insulating your ductwork, which can improve the effectiveness of your heating and cooling system by 20%. Lastly, switch to installing energy star windows that can slice up to $350 off your fuel bills.

  1. Make extra mortgage payment

If you can swing it, try paying extra on your mortgage. If that seems daunting, just add extra money to your payment a few times throughout the year. This will help you save money in the long run.

  1. Raise your insurance score

The first step in raising your insurance score is to raise your credit score. Pay your bills on time, and get you credit card balances down to improve your score and in turn, lower your insurance premiums.

  1. General Maintenance

How long have you been putting off those home repairs on your “to do” list? Now is the time to take care of some of those. It’s also a good idea to do a walkthrough of your house and take note of any small things that could potentially become bigger problems in the future.

Home Buyers

  1. Keep track & raise your credit score

This is a no-brainer. Keep tabs on what your credit score is and stay on track with your bills as well as paying off your credit card balance.

  1. Shop around

Do your research on what your options are before applying for a mortgage. Talk with multiple lenders, covering a local lender, credit union, mortgage broker and an online broker. Collecting all of their information it will help you negotiate the best deal for you.

  1. Find the right agent for you

This will be a big, if not the biggest, purchase you will make in your life and it can be a little confusing and overwhelming. It is very important to find a real estate agent who you feel comfortable with and who can help lead you through the process

  1. Become organized

Purchasing a home requires quite a bit of preparation and your agent and lender will need a lot of paperwork from you before you go through with any transaction. Make sure to have all of your financials, employment records, assets and any other related paperwork ready.

Preparing For A Storm

Posted on December 10, 2014 by Mark Stevens

California is expecting it’s worst storm in five years starting late tonight (12/10/14).  Many Sonoma County natives are aware of how to weather one of these storms, but since it has been a while since the last big one it is important for the community to be reminded just how dangerous these storms can be.

Knowing road safety, how to prepare your home for a flood, power outages and creating storm kits are all very crucial during a storm.  Follow these guidelines to make this storm a safe one for you and your family.

Road Safety –

  • Only drive if you have to, if you do have to drive give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination and drive slow.
  • Drive in the middle lane of the freeway during heavy rain, water tends to gather on the outside lanes especially lanes with wall barriers.
  • Never drive through standing water, you never know how deep it can be can it can severely damage your car.
  • Fill up your car with a full tank of gas.

Preparing Your Home – 

  • Trim any big branches that could fall during high winds before the storm hits.
  • Have a bucket handy incase of any leaks.
  • Have several towels ready to use for any leaks in the ceiling, windows or doors.
  • If you are on well and septic, fill up any bathtubs or buckets with water to flush your toilets if the power goes out.
  • Friedman’s Home Improvement in Sonoma County is offering 20 free sandbags per customer to prepare for any upcoming flooding.

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Storm Kit – 

  • Flashlights and a supply of batteries to last several days.
  • A radio powered battery to listen to weather updates, road conditions and power outages.
  • Canned food and non perishable snacks.
  • Enough drinking water for your family and pets if you have them, to last a few days.
  • Candles and matches/lighters.
  • Sanitation items like antibacterial wipes
  • First Aid Kit
  • Medications (7-day supply) and medical items
  • Charge your phone to 100% before the storm hits in case of power outages.

Resources – 

  • 24-hour Power Outage Information Line: 800-PGE-5002.
  • Red Cross of Sonoma County: (855) 891-7325
  • All Emergencies: 911

 

Preparing Your Home for a Winter Sale

Posted on December 08, 2014 by Mark Stevens

Preparing your home to sell in the winter months

             What makes selling a home more stressful? Selling it in the middle of winter. What makes selling a home less stressful? Following these tips and hiring an agent who can, and will shoulder the bulk of the burden. Your lawn is brown, the weather is probably wet and overcast, and, unlike the longer days of summer, you have less time to open it to prospective buyers during the much sought after daylight hours. Not everyone has the luxury of waiting until the traditional spring or summer home-buying season to plant that “for sale” sign in the front yard. While it’s true that in most areas you’ll probably have fewer buyers during the winter, you will have less competition from other sellers. And, luckily, Sonoma County ‘typically’ has mild fall and winter months – save for our “El Nino” years. Be prepared to put a little effort into the process – it’s more difficult to make something look really appealing this time of the year. The trees are baron, the grass is a tinged shade of yellow green and the ground is littered with crunchy leaves. If you do it right, you can really make your house stand out.

  • Keep ice and standing water at bay

If the buyer can’t get in easily, the house won’t sell. That means keeping walkways and driveways free of standing water and slippery sheets of ice. Just like trimming the lawn in the summer, make the home looks like it’s been maintained. Consider salting the ice sheets, and revamping the walkways, so as not to allow rainwater to pool.

  • Warm it up

If you’re showing your home during the winter, think “warm, cozy and homey”. Think roaring fires and football games. Think spaghetti sauce and pumpkin bread. Think warm blankets and a ferocious storm. Before a buyer comes through, adjust the thermostat to a warmer temperature to make it welcoming, but not too warm – 70° is found to be a very comfortable temperature for most. If you have a gas fireplace, turning it on right before the tour can give the house a little ambience. With a wood-burning fireplace, you’ve got to be a little more cautious. If the house is vacant, don’t chance it. But if you’re still living there and will be there during the tour, it can add a nice touch. Many times, sellers leave right before the buyer’s agent and prospective buyers arrive. In that case, adjust the heat to a comfortable temperature and have the hearth set for a fire. Buyers feel the warmth and see the potential, and you don’t have to worry about safety concerns.

  • Take advantage of natural light

Encourage showing during the high-daylight hours. Make the most of the light you do have. Keep the curtains and blinds cleaned and open them as wide as possible during daytime showings. Clean all the lampshades and built-in fixtures, and replace the bulbs with the highest wattage that they will safely accommodate. Before you show the house, turn on all the lights.

  • Wash the windows

Windows are one thing that many sellers don’t even consider. In winter, that strong southern light can reveal grime and make it look like the home hasn’t been well maintained. Routinely wash the window interiors, and have a cleaning service to come give you a good scrub down on the exterior.

  • Play music softly in the background

To create a little atmosphere, tune the radio to the local jazz station (KJZY). Turn it down so that you barely hear it in the background. Soft music tends to have the most appeal to buyers. I think people tend to stay around a little longer and look a little longer.

  • Make it comfortable and cozy

Set the scene and help the buyers see themselves living happily in this house. Consider things such as putting a warm throw on the sofa or folding back the thick comforter on the bed. Tap into the simple things this time of year that make you feel like you’re home.

  • Give the home a nice aroma

The number one favorite – Chocolate-chip cookies. Just about everybody likes that smell. Or snicker doodles – love those. Other popular scents: cinnamon rolls, freshly baked bread, apple pie, apple cider or anything with vanilla, cinnamon or yeast. But don’t overdo it, either – candles in every room or those plug-in air fresheners can leave buyers wondering what you’re trying to mask. And let’s be honest – they don’t smell good. Watch the bad smells, too. Pet smells, smoke and musty odors can cling to curtains and carpets. Ask your real-estate agent or a friend to give it a sniff test. Then clean the house, air it out and replace drapes, carpets or rugs as needed before you show it.

  • Protect your investment

Some sellers (or their agents) will ask buyers to either remove shoes or slip on paper “booties” over their footwear before touring the house. Many buyers like that, it shows a pride of ownership and meticulousness that resonates with buyers.

  • Use the season to your advantage

When the holidays are over (all decorations should come down pretty quick after the holiday), you can still use winter wreaths and dried arrangements around the door to spark interest and add some fun, festive color.

  • Set up timers


You want your home to look warm and welcoming whenever prospective buyers drive past. But you’re not home all the time, so put indoor and outdoor lights on timers. Look at the outside lighting around the door. Is there enough illumination to make it inviting? If not, either get the fixtures changed or have new ones added.

  • Make it festive

Even if you’re not actually going to be present, greet your buyers as if they were going to be guests at a party. Set up the dinner table with the good china and silver. Have a plate of cookies for your guests, some warm cider or even chilled bottles of water. First impressions are so powerful. If it looks like you’re expecting me and greeting me as company, that’s a powerful impact.

 

 

Thanksgiving Recipe – Clam & Wine Pairing

Posted on November 24, 2014 by Mark Stevens

Restaurant autumn place setting

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful, a time for family, friends and community, and of course, food. What a better time to share a Thanksgiving Dinner recipe with you all?  This is a delicious appetizer that I don’t think is very common among many tables in Sonoma County.  It is a simple yet warm and welcoming finger food, ensured to make all of your Thanksgiving guests wanting more.

Diced Clams on Toasted Baguette

Ingredients:

  • 1 can minced clams
  • 1 8oz package cream cheese
  • Worcestershire Sauce, 1 tablespoon – (more or less to taste)
  • Lemon Juice, 1 tablespoon – (more or less to taste)
  • Garlic Salt – to taste
  • Sourdough baguette

Directions:

Mix the clams, cream cheese, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and garlic salt together

Chill in covered dish

Spread on thinly sliced rounds of sourdough baguette

Broil until lightly browned

Serve warm

Wine Pairing: Pair this appetizer with a crisp and refreshing Pinot Gris.  The acidity from this white wine will be a great duo with the cream cheese in the clam appetizer.  Make sure to serve the Pinot Gris ice cold. Sip, bite and enjoy!