Todd & Lisa Sheppard
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BRE # 01154225

BRE # 01314350


A Growing Trend in California: Fire Resistant Homes

December 24th, 2019   by lisasheppard

With wildfires becoming an increasingly serious issue in California, more and more homeowners are choosing to rebuild their homes with a fire-resistant design and materials, including metal roofs and pre-fabricated steel framing wrapped in non-combustible insulation.

While most of the loss was due to the fires ravaging through the neighborhood, many also lost homes because of traveling embers getting into nooks and crannies, causing homes to burn from the inside.  The non-combustible insulation provides residents time for the fire to move past the home to seek safe refuge.

The state’s guidelines for building in areas that are more fire-susceptible are becoming increasingly strict, and require the use of materials that offer at least one hour of fire resistance, though many are choosing materials that go above and beyond.

Careful thought and planning by homeowners and architects is a step in the right direction. Experts agree,however, that the best way to slow an inferno is clearing all landscaping within 100 feet of your home.

Surge in Sonoma County Home Prices as Wildfire Survivors Buy Existing Homes

October 23rd, 2019   by lisasheppard

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Real estate experts indicate that Sonoma County housing market experienced a late summer surge due to a second wave of wildfire survivors opting to buy an existing home rather than rebuilding.  This second wave of buyers has driven up pricing on single family homes and added to the existing inventory shortages.  August saw a median home price of $712,000, up from the previous record of $697,000 in June 2018 and a substantial increase from the median price of $658,500 at the height of the Spring peak this year.

This buying spike was expected since a significant amount of homeowners have not even begun the construction and many are reaching their limit for insurance payments to cover their monthly rent.  Still others who had dreams of rebuilding are coming to the realization that, in most instances, the insurance payout does not cover of the cost of a rebuild.

For many, it comes down to deciding whether to commit to the time, hassle and expense of a rebuild vs. finding an existing home without all the hassle.

Sonoma, Marin & Napa County Home Prices Decrease in July

September 14th, 2019   by lisasheppard

While the median price has dropped slightly, home sales increased in the North Bay in July from a year before.

Marin County and Napa County sales increased by 15.5% from July of last year, but the median price decreased by 3.6% in Marin County and 4.6% in Napa County.

In comparison, homes sales in the Bay Area were the lowest since 2011.  Sales have fallen on a year-over-year basis for the last 12 months.  For the Bay Area, the 4% decline in median price reflects a modest dip in home prices and a change in market mix, reflected in all 9 Bay Area counties.

Sonoma County saw the smallest jump in sales and the least decrease in median home price. Sales volume was up 7.4% from the previous July, while the median price was down only 2.2%.

Summer Sees Slowdown & Pickier Buyers in the North Bay

July 17th, 2019   by lisasheppard

An annual Summer slowdown in the North Bay housing market is the norm as buyers focus their attention and energy on summer activities.  However, local experts indicate that there might be something more to this slowdown with homes remaining on the market much longer and, in some cases, price reductions becoming necessary to sell the home.

Sales in Napa and Sonoma counties in the first five months of this year were down 11% by volume from that pace a year before, down 17% in dollar volume and down 7% in average selling price, according to the latest Bareis listing data.  A healthy market typically has enough inventory to equate to one-third of the listings in any price range in escrow at any given time. A balanced market has three months of inventory, any more than that trends towards a buyer’s market.

Currently, Sonoma County inventory is sitting at two months’ supply.  There were a total of 560 new sales in May, up 21.5% from a year before. But  inventory of high-end homes (over $1.4 million) was 7.2 months, up 50% from a year before.

The hottest markets in Sonoma, Napa and Marin counties are Petaluma and Rohnert Park, particularly for homes listed under $1 million. They have 37% and 133% more listings, respectively, and brisk sales are keeping their inventories to just 1.5 months.

Today’s buyers are more selective and are looking for the 3 “L”s:  lot, location and layout. Flat lots in nice neighborhoods that are close to shopping, schools and parks are a hot commodity, as are homes that are turnkey and do not require any major work or improvement. Buyers previously did not shy away from fixer-uppers, but these homes now have to be listed at super low prices because buyers know that the cost of construction materials have increased since the fires and tariffs. The new lumber tariff of at least 20%, depending on the mill, has added about $9,000 to the cost of single-family homes and about $3,000 to multifamily units.

Well-priced homes are still getting multiple offers and selling quickly. The current North Bay housing market is not a strong seller’s market like it has been in the last eight years, however, it is not necessarily a buyer’s market yet either. Well-priced homes are still getting multiple offers and selling quickly.

Sonoma County Luxury Homes Sales to Get Boost from Tech Money

June 9th, 2019   by lisasheppard

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Luxury homes and estates in Sonoma County are poised for buyers from San Francisco or Silicon Valley…buyers looking for a second home or vacation home who are seeing the perfect Wine Country residence.

The latest wave of Bay Area tech companies that have started up or are expected to go public this year equates to the potential for thousands of new millionaires looking for high-end luxury estates.  According to date scientist Deniz Kahramaner, wealth from tech companies typically takes a year to two years which is when you can expect to see more tech money being pumped into the housing market.

While the expectation is that the majority of workers will likely remain close to San Francisco or Silicon Valley, many companies are now affording employees the opportunity to work from home.  The influx of money and demand on the Bay Area housing market will continue to fuel long-term price increases. People gradually move out to more affordable areas where they can get more for their money.

Sonoma County is the ideal location for many of these luxury buyers looking for the wine country lifestyle.


Why Developers Are Eyeing Santa Rosa

April 13th, 2019   by lisasheppard

Santa Rosa is in desperate need of homes and apartments, and city officials are pulling out all the stops to make it happen, including waiving development fees and relaxing rules on a scale not yet seen in the area.

In March, the Bay Area Council business association invited dozens of developers, investors, architects, brokers and others in the building industry on a tour of Santa Rosa to scope out the city’s potential. The response was overwhelming — the council filled a bus in 48 hours, and nearly 70 people ultimately joined the trip.  Developlers walked away with a new appreciation for the area after touring Santa Rosa and seeing first-hand empty land, vacant buildings, parking lots and garages that could be turned into housing.

Officials estimate Sonoma County has a shortage of 30,000 homes after the 2017 wildfires. While rebuilding has begun and communities are bouncing back, officials feel it still isn’t enough. The city is looking to build multi-family rental apartments to house those that don’t want to or cannot rebuild.  And Santa Rosa officials are considering raising downtown building height limits, now capped at 10 stories, and reducing parking requirements.

In addition, they hope to increase the city’s density and population by making downtown Santa Rosa more vibrant. Developers hoping Santa Rosa will be the next hot market still have to win support from the community. Local residents are on board with the city’s redevelopment efforts and of attempts to revitalize the area, but are concerned about the challenges and issues that may arise, including more traffic, less parking, and lower-income residents being priced out of the area.

Is This a Good Time to Buy a Home in Sonoma County?

March 23rd, 2019   by lisasheppard

Sonoma County sales are off to a slow start this year as many sellers sit tight and buyers wait for further price declines.  The usual winter dip in sales as well as the record rainfall that led to the worst flooding in decades has contributed to a decline in sales and in median home price.

In February, 227 single-family homes were sold in the county, down from 267 homes sold in February 2018.  The median home price also fell to $620,000 down 15% from the February 2018 median home price of $689,000.

Despite the robust first half, the local housing market flattened considerably in 2018. The total value of all single-family homes sold countywide last year was $3.65 billion, almost $60 million less than the $3.71 billion in 2017, the first annual decline in the value of county home sales since 2011.

The wildfires in October 2017 contributed to steep price increases and low inventory/high demand through June 2018.  There was a sudden influx of buyers looking for a place to live and home insurance companies were obligated to provide temporary housing similar to homes lost by fire survivors. Homes listed were snatched up quickly and inventory was depleted. The second anniversary of the wildfires in October 2019 will mark another critical milestone, with most home insurers ending monthly rents on temporary homes for fire survivors, which may translate into more buyers entering the market as some survivors choose to move on.

Many agents feel that sales activity will pick up again during Spring. Through the remainder of 2019, projected inventory of homes is expected to grow by 20%, while the median sales price is projected to increase by 3%.


Merry Edwards Sells Sebastopol Winery to Champagne Maker

February 23rd, 2019   by lisasheppard

Sonoma County’s acclaimed winemaker, Merry Edwards, has just sold her Sebastopol winery to Champagne Louis Roederer, the French company famous for producing Cristal Champagne.  The deal includes the Merry Edwards brand, winery, inventory and 45 acres of vineyard land.

Roederer currently owns three properties in Mendocino County, in addition to wineries in France and Portugal.  This deal marks their first venture into Sonoma County.

Roederer was most impressed with Merry’s distinguished record with Pinot Noir, a growing interest and focus for the company, as well as the fact that she built her winery from scratch.  Merry was one of the great pioneers that broke through gender barriers and made scientific discoveries that were crucial to the California wine industry.

Merry will continue working at the winery for at least another year during the transition.

Sonoma County’s Sluggish Housing Market…Will It Continue?

February 2nd, 2019   by lisasheppard

With homes staying on the market longer and buyers rejecting over-priced homes, many Sonoma County home sellers are wondering when and if the sluggish housing market will bounce back.

The slowdown started last summer when buyers started losing interest in over-inflated home prices and the post-wildfire frenzy to find a home diminished, driving the median home price to $639,000 at the end of the year, from an all-time record of $700,000 in June 2018.

Many experts feel the market shift/downturn was long overdue because of the large appreciation in home prices over the last few years.  Rising interest rates, trade wars and stock market volatility are affecting are the housing market and causing a shift.

Home sales in November and December decreased to levels not seen in the last eight years, some of that the result of a natural cyclical, seasonal decline. As Spring approaches, it is likely that more sellers will list their homes and home buyers start actively looking for homes and sellers.

Home appreciation is still expected this year, however, at much lower levels than in past years.

November Saw a Continued Slowdown in Sonoma County Housing

December 24th, 2018   by lisasheppard

November saw a steep decline in home sales and a dramatic jump in available homes…all good news for buyers.  The median home price fell to $615,000 from its $700,000 peak in August of this year, representing a 9% decline.  Home sales fell it its lowest level in 8 years, while the number of homes on the market increased 77% from the same time last year.

Many feel that the correction is due in part to the fact that the wildfires put a significant demand on market availability, driving prices up as buyers were desperate and willing to pay more to secure a new home.  However, many of those buyers have now purchased a home and are no longer in the market and that, along with the typical market slowdown that occurs every winter, is driving a steeper-than-normal slowdown.

Real estate professionals anticipate another bump in the market when fire victims’ insurance payments run out and those who lost their homes and are unable to rebuild will enter market looking to buy a home.

Many feel that a market correction is long overdue.  It has been predominantly a seller’s market for the last few years in Sonoma County, and still remains so but less than in the past.  If the current trend continues, Sonoma County will return to more of a balanced market, which works well for both the buyer and seller.