“Affordable” Housing in Sonoma County? Yes!

Posted on September 15, 2020 by michelle_magnus

Sticker shock was in full force when I moved from Northern Colorado to Northern California in 2016. In Colorado, $350,000 could get you a modest three bedroom, two bath rancher along the Front Range. In Sonoma County wine country? Not so much.

I had about $80,000 as a down payment and a new job and after adjusting to the new market metrics, I began to get acclimated to my environs and the crazy California housing market. I was renting a downtown Santa Rosa apartment for about $2200 a month…..renting. It was driving me crazy because who wants to throw away that much money every month towards something you don’t own and that pays someone else’s mortgage? For the past twenty years I had owned my own home and I knew the value of owning rather than renting. In addition to having your investment appreciate in dollars, there is also the psychological value of knowing that you are in charge of where you live (meaning, no landlord to raise the rent or end your lease or decide to sell).

After getting my ducks in a row and working with a good realtor, I discovered an established town home complex called Courtyards East in Windsor and fell in love. The complex is mostly owner-occupied and surrounded by heirloom oaks and mature Redwoods and maples. Located near the 101 highway it also made for easy commuting. Once I discovered all the nearby hiking trails, I really fell in love and felt like I had stumbled upon a secret that not many others seemed to know about. And the town of Windsor is so quaint and cool–Oliver’s Market, Russian River Brewing Company, and weekly town green concerts in the summer (pre-COVID). And there are so many other great places nearby….world-renowned Calistoga is a mere 30 minutes around the corner, and the  same for funky Russian River towns like Guerneville and Monte Rio with the coast just a few minutes further. And don’t forget Santa Rosa and all its conveniences is a short drive down the highway, with Healdsburg only five miles north and always a draw for wine tasting, shopping and dining.

Three years have passed since I got my foot firmly lodged in the Sonoma County real estate market and it’s time to let someone else do the same and take advantage of “affordable” housing in Sonoma County. My beautiful town home, which holds so many great memories, is now available as I transition into a new life in a new home with a great guy (soon to be my husband). If you are done with renting and want a home under $400,000, and want to take advantage of today’s crazy-low mortgage rates, come take a look at my place at 216 Courtyards East in Windsor. You’ll be glad you did!

Rare Home and Rental Find Within Sebastopol City Limits

Posted on September 15, 2020 by michelle_magnus

Two for One Makes this Offering Very Special!

Welcome to 7934 Juanita Court located within the city limits of Sebastopol with easy access to all Russian River recreation and wineries. The main house is a single story Rancher with two bedrooms and a half bath. The second dwelling is located at the back of the property and is a contemporary, spacious studio with a full bath and kitchen. This offering is a rare and fantastic home and rental opportunity within the city limits of Sebastopol.

Loads of charm potential and investment value in this 2 bedroom/1.5 Bathroom Rancher in the heart of Sebastopol,complete with a gorgeous detached Studio with a full bathroom and kitchen located at the back of the property. Tons of rental potential. Main house would be easy to transform into a charming, adorable home. Floor plan features two bedrooms on either end of the house for maximum occupant privacy. Features original hardwood floors, 2-car garage, large backyard with outdoor shower and mature trees. Within walking distance to parks, restaurants, art galleries, The Barlow, and more. A little TLC and a few finishing touches will make this home sparkle!

Live the Good Life in Healdsburg

Posted on July 21, 2020 by michelle_magnus

Healdsburg is a small, tourist community in Sonoma County in the heart of California’s beautiful Wine Country. Healdsburg truly takes the pleasures of life seriously with natural beauty, world-class wineries, farm-fresh food, and friendly residents. Considering moving to Healdsburg? Get ready to experience life in what is frequently ranked as one of the Coolest Small Towns in America and one of the Best Small Towns in the U.S.

The Sonoma region is best described as a haven for wine lovers and a grown-up’s theme park with restaurants that are less pretentious than in nearby Napa Valley yet just as chic and three of America’s top wineries all within reach.

The population of Healdsburg, CA is 11,721 and it’s one of 30 communities in Sonoma County, CA ranging from small coastal villages and quaint towns to major cities like Santa Rosa. The city has a median age of 44.6 years old, far above the national average 36.8 years, and this reflects the community’s high share of professionals, retirees, and highly educated residents. About 28% of people in the city have at least a bachelor’s degree compared with just 19% of the United States as a whole. Healdsburg is somewhat diverse with an ethnic composition of 62.6% white alone, 33.7% Hispanic of any race, 2.2% two or more races, and 1.1% Asian.

Looking for a safe place to live and raise a family? It’s hard to beat Healdsburg’s low crime rate. This safe city has far lower reported crime rates for theft, property crime, burglary, and violent crime than the California and national averages.

If you’re considering moving to Healdsburg, CA, you probably already know that life in central Sonoma Valley isn’t cheap. Healdsburg’s cost of living index is about 170 compared to the national average of 100 and the California average of 138. Much of this is attributed to high housing costs in Healdsburg, CA.

The average home price in Healdsburg is $647,600, nearly three times the national average, and the homeownership rate is slightly below average. Still, you can find homes that run the gamut with condos and townhomes priced below $250,000 to beautiful estates topping $3 million. You can start searching for Healdsburg, CA homes for sale to get an idea of what you can get with your budget.

So, how much does it cost to live in Healdsburg as a renter? Average rents in Healdsburg are around $1,466, according to RentCafe. That makes the city more affordable than nearby Santa Rosa where rent tops $2,200.

As a small city with just 4.5 square miles of area, Healdsburg doesn’t have many neighborhoods. That doesn’t mean you don’t have plenty of choice in where to live in Healdsburg, though. Every area of the city is highly rated for safety, great schools, and outdoor recreation.

One of the best places to live in Healdsburg if you like to be near the action and vineyards is the City Center. This is where most of Healdsburg’s businesses are located along with a handful of homes and apartment complexes. It’s here that you’ll have the best luck finding an apartment for rent in Healdsburg.

The Powell Ave/University St neighborhood is home to the Healdsburg Golf Club at Tayman Park and many residential developments with single-family homes. There are plenty of parks to explore in the neighborhood and one of the city’s famous vineyards.

The Lytton/Simi area is the largest area of Healdsburg and it’s home to the most open space, beautiful views, and spacious homes. If you want room to explore and more privacy from your neighbors, you’ll probably want to be in this area farther from the city center.

Take a look at our featured listing for Healdsburg: Turn-Key Craftsman Charmer

Article courtesy of Jesse Lovan. Access full article here:


Moving Forward (in Spite of it All)

Posted on May 14, 2020 by michelle_magnus

It’s not a stretch to say that what we are all experiencing right now with the COVID-19 pandemic is something none of us have ever seen before, expected or even imagined. I will be 73 next month and can certainly vouch that this is a first. The Corona virus has put a spotlight on the horror of a global sickness, something most of us never thought much about. Like 9/11, we are being confronted by things none of us ever wanted to contemplate and like 9/11 what we are discovering is that we have been caught asleep at the wheel.

Almost as bad as the virus itself is the generalized feeling that we should have been better prepared, “someone” should have known better (perhaps our government) and that this never should have happened in the first place. But similar to 9/11, it seems there must always be a first time and one cannot be prepared for everything, despite our best intentions. Like terrorism, the viral pandemic doesn’t care about a level playing field or being fair or the assumed sanctity of borders. And it makes even the most mundane things, like an errand to the grocery store, an undertaking fraught with risk and inconvenience as we head out armed with masks, hand sanitizer, and the awkward and unnatural maintenance of a 6-foot social distance. Indeed, we have never seen anything like this before, young or old.

As the daily news continually reminds us of what not to do, the question remains: What is left to do and what is best to do? For me, I have found that maintaining my own personal sanity and a positive attitude is at the top of the list and possibly one of the biggest challenges—and the biggest accomplishments. Despite the fact that “normal” has left the building, life still must go on.

To celebrate that intention, my wife Connie I and headed out to Stinson Beach for a long hike on Mother’s Day.* It was a perfect day for a long, hard hike due to a cold front that had blown in the night before, changing temperatures from the mid-90s to the mid-70s. Both of us having spent an idyllic childhood in Mill Valley, we were up to speed on where to park in Stinson in order to access the trails by foot. We were rewarded by a perfect day full of panoramic ocean views, spring wildflowers, old growth redwoods, and the feeling that we are truly blessed: out and about and enjoying all the beauty inherent in our glorious North Bay lifestyle……almost like normal.

As they say, we will get through this. And there are some things, like our beautiful corner of the world we know as “the North Bay area” that will endure and continue to offer up all its wonders to those who choose to live in this magical place we call home.


–Mark Stevens

May 2020

*Note: There were numerous courteous groups on the trail and when passing, we all applied our masks.

(More about the trail: The Steep Ravine Trail takes you to the Pan Toll Station, and from Stinson Beach to the Pan Toll station it is about a 1500 foot elevation climb)

San Francisco Sourdough & the 49ers

Posted on January 23, 2020 by michelle_magnus

Mark Stevens and his famous San Francisco-style sourdough….a labor of love.

San Francisco Sourdough & The 49ers

What do those two things have in common? You may be asking. Last weekend, during the final playoff game of the San Francisco 49ers versus the Greenbay Packers, I spent the day before furiously making batches of sourdough bread (recipe included later). Like the 49ers, San Francisco-style sourdough bread is unique; and, like the 49ers’ entry into the 2020 Super Bowl, it takes a lot of work and dedication. But it’s well worth it in the end….much like our favorite team here in the North Bay.

Sourdough is arguably one of the most scientifically fascinating foods out there. It relies on Saccharomyces exiguous…a wild yeast. What’s that? You may be asking. Surprisingly, wild yeast is easy to make: One way is to take some grapes, place them in a bucket and let them ferment. Add the fermented by-product to flour and water, and Voila! You have the start of your “Starter” or “Mother Batch.” As the wild yeast digests the flour and water it creates carbon dioxide, which is what gives sourdough bread its distinctive airy, holey consistency (holes which are perfect for capturing melted butter, I might add). It’s also considered a “probiotic” which has taken the Wellness world by storm lately (think kombucha and so forth).

What your “Starter” should look like

Once you have your Starter going, you will add some of that to traditional bread ingredients (flour, water, and sometimes more “active” yeast that you can purchase from the store); this is usually a two or three day process (like the 49ers, greatness doesn’t happen overnight!). And to keep your Starter ready for next time, you need to add more flour and water, in a one-to-one ratio, so it can grow again. In theory, a single batch of sourdough can last forever….or at least a lifetime. As such, it carries with it a much loved and unique history all its own and has “heirloom” status (much like our beloved 49ers since 1946!).

Note the distinctive holey-character of sourdough bread from the carbon dioxide activity.

Despite the claim San Francisco has over sourdough bread, sourdough can be made anywhere in the world and in fact is the oldest form of leavened bread, dating back to ancient Egypt. (It’s theorized that bread dough was left out and wild yeast from a nearby fermented food product drifted into the dough and began the first sourdough starter.) So what’s the hype with sourdough bread being so much better when it’s from San Francisco?

Here’s scientist and food specialist Robert Wolke explaining it to NPR: “The sour flavors come from lactic and acetic acids produced by inevitable environmental bacteria, which are working on the flour’s sugars along with the yeast. Different bacteria make different sour flavors; San Francisco is awash in local bacteria species that make its sourdough bread famous. So sourness, per se, in some ryes and many other breads is quite desirable.” One could argue that the silver lining for San Francisco being “awash in local bacteria” (kind of an icky thought) is that it produces the ideal terroir for the best darn sourdough bread on the planet……at least in my opinion. Much the way our beloved 49ers are the best darn football team in the nation (again, my opinion).

So, when you’re wondering what to bring to the 2020 Super Bowl party this February 2nd to help the 49ers triumph over the Kansas City Chiefs, bring some San Francisco sourdough! And for inspiration, here’s my favorite San Francisco sourdough recipe:


San Francisco Sourdough Bread Recipe

Note: Plan ahead for this recipe because it could take 4-8 days to make depending on where you’re at with your “Starter”

  1. Your Starter must be from San Francisco to be the Real Deal….the authentic, heirloom mix (containing the highly sought-after SF bacteria), can be purchased from Vitacost or Cultures for Health, and comes as a dehydrated packet mix; or if you actually live in San Francisco, mix wild yeast, flour and water and leave out for several days at room temperature until bubbly and fruity smelling. If you are buying the dehydrated mix, you will need to prepare it and then leave in a warm place for 4-8 days until bubbly and fruity/yeasty smelling. After that keep it refrigerated. (Note: if you use 1 cup starter for your bread, remember to add one cup water and one cup flour to the remaining starter and leave out again to achieve fermentation for your next bread-making journey.)
  2. Ingredients: 4.75 cups bread flour; 3 tablespoons white sugar; 2 tablespoons butter; 2.5 teaspoons salt; 1 package dry yeast; 1 cup warm milk; 1 egg; 1 tablespoon water; ¼ cup chopped onion*
  3. In a large bowl mix 1 cup flour, sugar, salt and dry yeast plus the milk and butter; stir in the starter (roughly 50% of all flour added to the bread part of the recipe, so a little under 2 ½ cups for this recipe). Gradually mix in the rest of the flour.
  4. Place dough on a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes; oil a bowl and plop the dough into the bowl and turn it over; cover with a clean cloth for about an hour or until the dough doubles in size.
  5. Punch down and let rest for 15 minutes, then form into loaves and leave for about an hour or until doubled in size
  6. Brush egg mixture over the tops of the loaves and sprinkle with the chopped onion (if desired*)
  7. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes



Annadel Estate Winery

Posted on January 13, 2020 by michelle_magnus

Annadel Estate Winery in Sonoma Valley AVA
This 33+ acre winery estate is located in one of the best places in the world to live, work, play and raise a family. Included are four residences, a highly sought-after events venue, 10+acres of vineyards, an heirloom flower business, a public tasting room and more!
Approved Entitlements include a 60,000-case permit and 30 Events a year with an additional 6 Winery Events of 1-3 days duration.
Offering multiple revenue streams in location destination area….don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live and work in California wine country.
Learn More…..