Sunday’s Press Democrat included a story reporting that sales of country properties have shown a significant increase over the last year even as sales in town registered a slight decline.
In interviews, real estate agents who specialize in country properties also talked about what it takes to find the right home outside the city limits. Here is a little of what they shared.
New buyers of country homes have to learn about wells, septic system and boundary lines.
Moreover, they must determine whether their lifestyles and dreams will fit with a particular piece of property.
Julie Hunter, owner/broker of Hunter Prestige Properties in Santa Rosa, said she tries to help buyers think about such matters with a simple question: “How far away from a quart of milk are you willing to be?”
The answer will affect where she takes them to look at properties, especially if they answer “five minutes.”
Ann Harris, an agent with Coldwell Banker in Sebastopol, said she also asks questions before setting out to look at homes.
“If you don’t like heat,” said Harris, “I’m not going to take you north and east” in Sonoma County. For those who don’t like wind, she steers clear of certain portions of the west county.
Beth Bruno, an agent with Frank Howard Allen Wine Country Group in Healdsburg, said she needs to get buyers out to look at properties just so they get a sense of what size acreage they want.
“I have learned that people do not understand what 15 acres looks like,” she said.
City buyers need to get termite inspections and a report on the shape of the roof. But country owners may need a report on their land boundaries and, in some cases, reports on soil stability.
Almost all buyers will want reports on wells and septic systems.
Along with learning about the potability of well water, buyers ought to learn about supply.
Tony Parrish, an agent with Frank Howard Allen in Petaluma, said buyers want to know the well’s current volume in gallons per minute, “not what it was 10 years ago.”
As with many deals today, agents and a mortgage banker said it is often more difficult to get financing for country properties, especially those with more acreage.
“When you hit over 10 acres, tons of lenders just drop off the planet,” said Otto Kobler, branch manager in Santa Rosa of Summit Funding, a mortgage banking based in Sacramento.
One concern is that the lenders won’t be able to sell the loan to investors, he said.
Those who look for country properties can benefit from a little investigation. Tom Havstad, owner of Permit Consulting Services outside Occidental, recommends potential buyers talk about the property with the staff at the county’s Permit and Resources Management Department.
Another suggestion: “Get a copy of the zoning rules that apply and read the whole thing yourself.”
Some information on individual properties and their permit history also can be found at the county’s PRMD web site.
He said some buyers have learned that the county has put liens on homes due to construction done without permits. As a result of the lien, the property can’t be sold until permits are acquired, fines are paid and the work conforms to the current building code.
“You’ll wish that you’d learned about it earlier rather than later,” Havstad said.
— Robert Digitale