Growing up, I used to visit my aunt in Guerneville during the summer so that my cousins and I could go out into her backyard to swim in the Russian River. Her home was perched right on its banks, and the ground floor would often flood during heavy rains. It eventually ended up being too much maintenance for her, so she had to sell it.
As an adult, I found myself perusing real estate listings to find homes by the river so I could create a wish list of places to look at when I was ready to buy. In recent years, these listings have dwindled so much that I can count them on one hand. It turns out that I wasn’t imagining things – homes for sale right on the river are not only rare, they’ve been replaced by vacation rentals.
I spoke with a couple of longtime residents who’ve concurred that Guerneville has changed to reflect a constantly shifting population; overcrowded with tourists in the summer months, and a virtual ghost town during the off-season.
There are currently 627 owner-operated vacation rentals available in Guerneville. Here are a few of the properties that are being offered as holiday hot spots right along the Russian River;
Riverview – Riverfront Home near Downtown Guerneville
From $475/night. 4 Bedroom, 2.5 Bath, 1,207 Square Feet.
This is very much how I recall my aunt’s house; square, nondescript, but that grass leads directly into the river.
What my aunt’s house did not have was a custom dock. However, I’m certain that if she were to have known that she could rent her house for $475 a night, she would have had one built – no question.
Happy Days – Guerneville
From $295/night. 3 Bedroom, 3 Baths.
This is a view of the rear of the house. According to the listing, the ground floor “was built in 1890 as a Victorian-era cottage and since elevated above flood levels and updated extensively.” Perusing the ad, the interior was comfortable in the way that crashing at your friend’s house for the night would be; homey and more cozy than a motel.
$295 a night may seem high, but for a tourist the convenient access to Johnson’s Beach is what sells it.
Blue Canoe – Riverfront/Hot Tub/Dock/Boats
Average $275/night. 3 Bedrooms, 2 Baths.
The owners of this home purchased it in 2010, and they’ve been upgrading and remodeling with the intent to use it as a rental. They’ve even added extra amenities they think guests will enjoy: “Big and small kids alike will love the foosball table, ping pong table, large collection of board games and our 46′ HDTV. At the end of the day, take a soak in the hot tub or curl up with a book in front of the wood burning fireplace.”
This vacation spot also offers “…a canoe and 3 kayaks (2 single, 1 tandem) and a canoe for seasonal use (spring, summer, and fall – weather permitting) and life jackets so your entire group can go paddling together.”
I live in Sonoma County, but even I’m tempted to take a vacation at this home.
Mojo’s Lair – Private Riverfront Retreat
Average $342/night. 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms.
The living room in this vacation home has custom wall to ceiling windows that offer a better view of the river below, along with a deck for visitors to relax on to enjoy the sights.
I don’t know if all these custom docks are additions from when the homeowners decided to turn their homes into a vacation retreat, or if this is something that’s evolved over the years, but I can appreciate it from the standpoint of keeping muddy shoes off the clean floors – my cousins and I always had to scramble across the dirt to get back to the house after swimming; mopping was never my aunts favorite chore.
Best Value on the River – Guerneville
Average $342/night. 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2400 square feet.
The pattern becomes clearer the more listings I view – this is an owner run vacation rental that’s been updated inside and out, with stunning views of the Russian River. Though $342 is a bit rich for my budget, I wouldn’t mind winning the lottery and taking a few days to relax here.
And of course there’s a dock with kayaks for visitors to enjoy.
Moon River Guerneville – Spectacular Riverfront Views
Average $309/night. 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms.
I have to end with this home to avoid being redundant (right on the river, kayaks, remodeled) though this is one of the more architecturally attractive ones I’ve seen thus far. The owners have also upped the ante by providing a set of towels for each person who’ll be staying, and radiant-heated stone floors in the bathrooms.
There are no docks to be seen, but they do offer kayaks for the adventurous. With 627 of the privately owned homes being offered for short term rentals like these, I can see why listings for homes for sale on the river have become so scarce.