Real Estate News and Analysis

No, the Kincade Fire Didn’t Level Sonoma County. So Go Visit.

Posted on November 13, 2019 by michelle_magnus

Photo Courtesy of A. Rafanelli Winery

A. Rafanelli Winery in Dry Creek Valley is among Sonoma’s many wineries hoping to welcome travelers after the Kincade Fire. “We’re here. We’re ready. We’re waiting,” says winemaker Shelley Rafanelli.

Article courtesy of AFAR.com by Matt Villano


No, the Kincade Fire Didn’t Level Sonoma County. So Go Visit.

This past Monday was a glorious afternoon on the plaza in downtown Healdsburg. Not a cloud in the sky. Brisk, fresh air to inhale. Over by the fountain, a toddler busily placed leaf after leaf on the surface of the water and watched his “boats” float away. Under the gazebo, a gaggle of teenagers strummed guitars. Across Healdsburg Avenue, inside Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen, servers were buzzing around the dining room preparing for the dinner crowd. Through the windows at nearby stores, you could see shoppers buying shoes, clothes, and locally made art and knickknacks as souvenirs to bring back home.

Yes, this is the same Healdsburg that was threatened by the raging Kincade Fire last month. And, yes, that same fire destroyed more than 140 homes and most of a historic winery as it churned through nearly 78,000 acres of a largely unpopulated area in the northeast corner of the county. There’s no question that the fire harmed Sonoma County; days of forced power and gas shutdowns from the regional utility affected the entire San Francisco Bay Area.

Cal Fire declared the Kincade Fire 100 percent contained on November 6. A few days before that, this part of wine country was back to being as beautiful and vibrant as ever.

In Geyserville, Healdsburg, and Windsor, the three communities closest to the fire, small businesses run by local artisans are open for business. Restaurants, from hole-in-the-wall taco stands to the Michelin-starred Single Thread, are cranking out delicious meals. Heck, even Soda Rock Winery, which lost nearly all its modern production and visitor-oriented facilities in the blaze, is back to hosting weekend tastings in a 100-year-old barn that survived.

“People have a tendency to see images of burning houses or hear, ‘Natural disaster!’ and think the worst,” says Dave Hagele, Healdsburg’s mayor and a long-time resident. “The truth is that while this fire did a number on a whole bunch of wild land to the north and east, the part of wine country that people know and love is carrying on with business as usual.”

Understanding “the burn zone”

Perhaps the best way to explain the situation in Sonoma County is with simple math. There are 1,131,520 acres of land in Sonoma County, and about 78,000 of those were burned. That means less than 7 percent of the land in Sonoma County was affected by the Kincade Fire. Which means that more than 93 percent of the county was unharmed and today looks exactly as it did on October 22, the day before the fire started.

Sam Bilbro, owner and winemaker at Idlewild Wines, was frustrated with some of the negative press the region was getting after the fire, so he created an Instagram post that tells this story with a picture. The image depicts a map of the county with the burn zone delineated in red. Compared to the rest of the map, the red part is minuscule.

“You look at this map and you realize the fire was a really small part of Sonoma County,” he says. “Our cities, our forests in West County, our coastline, and the Sonoma Valley are as they’ve always been.”

The Significance of Rental Price Increases for Real Estate

Posted on July 23, 2019 by michelle_magnus

According to Inman, “Rents in the US just keep going up and up…..The average rent was up 3.2% year-over-year in June. Last month also saw the biggest average rent increase in more than a year….”

In a nutshell, it’s a perfect time to buy rather than rent. Reasons why include:

  • Very low interest rates
  • A real estate market that has “softened” over the last year more in the direction of buyers
  • Tax breaks that come with buying and owning
  • Control over the place you call home
  • Realizing the “American Dream”
  • Building equity/apprecation over time (a house can be like a big piggy bank)
Zeroing in on Sonoma County, here’s what we have:
And take note: the “doldrums” of summer is the perfect time to visit open houses, get pre-approved for a loan, and make an offer. The market is typically “slow” this time of year, with more inventory and less bidding, so you are more likely to get something you want at a price that works.
Need help finding the right place? Give us a call. We are here to help you find your dream home!
Mark Stevens & Associates, 707 322 2000
Graphs courtesy of RentCafe

What’s So Special About Anderson Valley?

Posted on June 11, 2019 by Mark Stevens

See our latest Anderson Valley vineyard listing…..

Still somewhat of a secret in the viticulture world, Anderson Valley is to Pinot Noir what Hog Island is to Sweetwater oysters. Meaning, its “terroir” is perfect for two continually trending grape varietals, namely Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Our newest offering for a 15+acre vineyard planted exclusively to Pinot Noir in the Anderson Valley AVA brings this popular varietal into sharp focus.

Like the Sweetwater oysters of Hog Island, not a lot of places can create a decent Pinot Noir, much less a great one. Because of its unique valley formation stretching from the inland 101 corridor to the Pacific coast and flanked on either side by mountains surrounding rolling to nearly level alluvial terraces, Anderson Valley is the perfect configuration for Pinot Noir vineyards. Elevations range from sea level to 2500 feet and annual precipitation ranges from 35-80 inches. The valley delivers the critical one-two punch of cool, ocean-tempered nights with heat-laden, sugar-forming days for fruit that is described as “elegant yet powerful.” As they say, Cabernet is the king of wines (nod to Napa) but Pinot makes kings. Most would agree that a great Pinot Noir can be confused for a nuanced Cabernet, and this is the type of fruit we are talking about here.

The Anderson Valley is 2,500 acres and home to approximately 88 individual vineyard plots and 49 winemaking operations. The valley runs along more of an east-west axis than the more typical north-south alignment. This orientation permits Pacific fog and breezes to penetrate further inland, making for an overall cooler microclimate. Grapes in Anderson Valley are on average three weeks behind grapes from most other California winemaking districts due to its proximity to the Pacific ocean. The Navarro River runs along the lower length of the valley, acting as a cooling influence for the hills on either side. Vineyards are seen at elevations approaching 2,500 feet, but most vines are planted in the low-lying foothills. It is not uncommon, especially in the more southerly half of the valley, to see vines planted right up to the edges of redwood groves. Because Redwood trees like to grow in cold soil it is thought to indicate soils that will grow premium Pinot Noir. Unlike Sonoma and Napa counties, if there is a heat event in the area the vines can easily and quickly recuperate, and the grapes will continue ripening steadily. This makes for a rare combination which produces Pinot Noir fruit that is unique. Hot days combined with a 40- to 50-degree drop in temperature at night results in concentrated fruit on top of elegant tannin structure that has both power and elegance.

Anderson Valley is roughly 16 miles long and for every mile from Boonville to Navarro an average of 1 degree in temperature is lost. As such, when it’s 85 in Boonville, it’s 70 in Navarro. Boonville makes for sassy, fruit-forward pinot. Five miles down the road in Philo the pinot is more piquant with darker fruit. At the end of the Valley–known as the “deep end” and closest to the Pacific–the fruit is herbaceous and spicy.

Anderson Valley’s soils vary but tend to be rich in loam, with differing amounts of rock and
gravel. A recent survey showed that of Anderson’s 2,500 acres, nearly 70% (1,700) were Pinot
Noir, with Chardonnay (559) second, followed by Gewürztraminer (103), Merlot (73), Pinot Gris
(41), and Riesling (22). The aromatic whites, especially those of Navarro, Handley, and Husch,
are often the best in the state. Though produced across a spectrum of sweetness, the most
successful are bone dry in style. Pinot Noir has long been the regional star and tends to land
somewhere between the more citric, high acid style that typifies the Sonoma Coast and the
soft, generous style associated with Carneros. Historically, Chardonnay has taken a backseat in
Anderson Valley but has recently been enjoying a sudden surge in quality.

Being somewhat new to Sonoma County by way of Colorado, I was exposed to this hidden gem of a place–Anderson Valley–through my work as a license real estate assistant for Mark Stevens, a realtor of 30-years who specializes in country estates, wineries and vineyards. It still surprises me how many Sonoma County residents know so little of Anderson Valley, and have actually not been to the valley. Some of the things I love about Anderson Valley is just how plain gorgeous it is, with grassy oak-dappled hills flanked by redwood forested mountains. The feeling is definitely country, with a good dose of farm-to-table gourmet offerings, and of course, amazing wineries and tasting rooms. There is good hiking and camping at Hendy Woods State Park, recreating on the Navarro river, and the promise of the ocean down the way.  Anderson Valley is a great secret worth discovering.

Check out our new listing, Philo Hillside Vineyard

Cheers, Michelle Magnus

June 2019

Michelle Magnus at Hendy Woods State Park in Philo, CA

Mark Stevens & Associates Joins The Agency in Healdsburg

Posted on May 01, 2019 by Mark Stevens

Watch out Healdsburg, California….there’s a new RED in town! Mark Stevens & Associates is excited to announce that it has joined The Agency.

THE AGENCY excels in the art of branding luxury properties and developments. They offer a fully integrated marketing solution with a scope of work that encompasses everything from branding to web design, advertising to public relations. A team of graphic designers, analysts, tech gurus and marketing specialists offers strategically driven marketing solutions for buyers, sellers, developers and investors across the globe. The creative team leverages relationships with traditional and new media outlets, as well as the most emergent technologies and social media strategies, to ensure maximum exposure for the properties we represent. They work to bring brands to life in the most comprehensive and compelling way possible, having developed the branding and marketing for more than $4 billion in luxury real estate.

With its new Sonoma County headquarters in downtown Healdsburg, this marks the 6th Northern California office to make its debut over the last year. Other Northern California offices include East Bay, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Monterey, and Marin. The new Healdsburg office is located next door to The Raven Theater and is currently a work in progress. Full move-in is expected sometime in early June, so please come pay a visit–it’s a great excuse to visit one of the prettiest, hippest towns in Sonoma County wine country.

New office address:  The Agency, 119 North Street, Healdsburg, CA 95448

22nd Annual Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival

Posted on April 16, 2019 by Mark Stevens

Come sip, sample and savor with us as we celebrate the 22nd annual Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival, May 17-19th, 2019! Taste Anderson Valley Pinot Noir (plus rose and sparkling wines) from more than 50 producers, enjoy mouth-watering food pairings by our best chefs and local caterers, and listen to live music while bidding on exquisite auction lots for local charity.

Events range from educational seminars to a BBQ, grand tasting, winemaker dinners and free winery open houses – all hosted amidst the spectacular beauty of Anderson Valley’s vineyards and towering redwood trees. Music lovers will be happy to learn about an added bonus – this year Camp Navarro will host a concert on Saturday evening. Our events are uncrowded and unpretentious, and the Pinots are spectacular, so reserve your tickets (and lodging) now!

Click here to learn more about the Festival…..

Click here to visit our amazing Open House in Anderson Valley during the Festival….Hilltop Beauty on 200+ Acres

Real Estate Market Snapshot: April 2019

Posted on April 01, 2019 by Mark Stevens

 

READ ON MOBILE…

California Real Estate Trends

Tight Supply » Low Affordability » Outmigration

Outmigration continues to be a big concern for the California housing market. Caused by the state’s housing affordability issue, outmigration has resulted in about 800,000 people leaving California since 2010. As of the fourth quarter of 2018, only 28 percent of California households could afford to purchase the median-priced home. While this number is up from 27 percent in the third quarter of 2018, it is down from 29 percent one year ago. The high cost of housing is forcing Californians out of their current county or out of the state entirely.

Those who are leaving California are mostly middle class and almost entirely comprised of people who make less than $100,000. In 2017, the minimum income required to buy a median-priced home in California was $110,890, while the annual mean wage for a variety of professions, including Registered Nurse ($102,700), Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officer ($93,550), Elementary School Teacher ($77,990), and Firefighter ($73,860) was well below that minimum.

Outmigration is even more problematic in areas that have poor affordability, most notably the Bay Area. In San Francisco the minimum income required to buy a median-priced home reached $290,630 in 2017, while the income of those same professions did not even reach half the income requirement.

Outmigration is a direct consequence of tight inventory in the housing market in California. Home building has not kept pace with housing demand in the last 12 years. Between 2005 and 2016, California only added 270 units for every 1,000 new inhabitants, and the Golden State lagged other states in housing per capita by as much as 40 percent. The more California “underbuilds”, the higher prices grow, and the lower homeownership rate becomes. In fact, California is ranked the second lowest in homeownership across all states, out ranked by only New York.

Because of the state’s low housing affordability and its difficulty in achieving homeownership, Californians are leaving and headed to more affordable states such as Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon.

Businesses and jobs follow the California exodus as well, with companies such as Toyota, Jamba Juice, and Comcast leaving the state, resulting in fewer jobs for those still in the state, higher income inequality, and a reduction in the access of less skilled workers to high-wage labor markets.

That said, California is still a place where people want to live. Results from a recent poll of those who live in California show that 63 percent would not be willing to move out of California to achieve homeownership. In addition, 31 percent of home buyers surveyed in the California Association of REALTORS® 2018 Consumer Survey said they did consider purchasing a home in another state that met their needs but ultimately ended up staying in California because they like the city that they live in/like living in California as a whole (38%), didn’t want to leave their job or friends and family (20%), and California is either their home state or they have deep familiarity with the area (11%).