Buying Country Property or “What did I just step in?”

Here in Sonoma County,Calfornia, “The Wine Country” folks are snapping up “Country” properties. Country could be defined as 2+ acres of land (0.8084 Hectares), using an “on-site” waste disposal system or “Septic Tank” and drawing water from an “on-site” well. Here’s the first part of my 4 part series which appeared in our local newspaper, “The Press Democrat”. I write a column approximately twice a month. Enjoy!

West County Country

Buying “Country Property” So you want to raise some chickens and things? Pt I


In my last column two columns we have been discussed writing a lean and mean offer that will stand-out from all others in a “Multiple-offer’ situation.  I gave techniques on writing offers with a minimum of inspections (all according to the buyer’s level of sophistication and comfort level) in order to make your OFFER “cleaner” and more attractive to a Seller. However, those techniques concerned a “town or city” property on public sewer and water on a subdivision lot (3500 to 6000 sqft). Now I want to explore the complexities of purchasing a “country property” replete with multiple acres of land (an acre is 43560sqft), septic systems, well water,  permitting issues for older buildings or additional “units”,  property line disputes and possible toxic issues. And you thought buying a “town” property was tough and complex.

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Real Haunted Houses, Unusual deaths in Homes! –Scary real estate tales to tell!

Join Allison and I as we talk about scary moments in our Real Estate careers! Pet Cemetery, Hunted Houses in real life, how to disclose these issues.  Do you have a body buried at home? Some older pioneer homes have a few graves on the property. Folks who have died at home? Ghosts and Goblins got you down? Tune in as the Real Estate Hour talks disclosures and real life hauntings!

This is one of Allison's favorite holidays--Halloween!

This is one of Allison’s favorite holidays–Halloween!

Mike Kelly’s Press Democrat Columns PLUS the latest on “Affordabiity in the Bay Area”

I’ve put together all of my popular Press Democrat real estate columns into one “Drop Box” folder including my latest on the real estate “Affordability” issue.

Lack of Affordability means a shrinking Real Estate Dollar!

Lack of Affordability means a shrinking Real Estate Dollar!

Many think our affordability has disappeared by looking at the long-term average in California we are about “average”. Now San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties are horribly askew with affordability indexes in the Teens but we are comfortably residing at 29%. This means that only 29% of our population can afford the median priced home at the median INCOME for the county (now around $58,000). Solano is the big affordability champ with an index of 52%. San Francisco is at 14%. But you probably just KNEW that. Click the link below to go to my Press Democrat Column DropBox folder. Enjoy! They are there for you to gather knowledge about the real estate market. We LOVE smart, savvy Buyers and Sellers.

Here’s the Link:

Interesting Forbes Story on what they’re calling; The Next Housing Crisis

Disturbing News on Santa Rosa’s Housing Stock!


The Napa earthquake showed us all, in graphic detail,  what happens when homes are NOT retrofitted for earthquake safety. Here in Sonoma County we have many homes built in the late 1800′s through the 1940′s. The issue with this is “cripple walls”. These walls were used extensively in building during these years. Below is a diagram showing what they look like and what happens during a severe earthquake. The “ladder” type wood under the foundation are the cripple walls. The house has literally “Tipped” off of its foundation.  Here is a breakdown of how many homes may have this construction characteristic JUST in Santa Rosa! Remember, the hardest hit area in the last “BIG ONE” of 1906 was Santa Rosa.

Year Built:                       Amount of Homes

1900-1910                     509

1911-1920                     561

1921-1930                     854

1931-1935                    288 (great depression)

1936-1940                    796

1941-1945                    572

That’s 3, 580 homes which could suffer severe damage in a 6+ sized earthquake.  However, we do have simple remedies to this issue. One is to retrofit the cripple walls with “sheer” walls of 3/4 inch plywood. Also, you can bolt the foundation sole plate down, install brackets which hold the home together as a unit. But DON’T delay!!

Diagram of a house resting on cripple walls and the failure of these walls to support the house.

Diagram of a house resting on cripple walls and the failure of these walls to support the house.

Cripple walls fail and literally "tip" the house off of its foundation.

Cripple walls fail and literally “tip” the house off of its foundation.

South Napa Earthquake–ShakeMap–What next for Napa Valley Realtors and their Clients?

Showings the severity of the shaking.

Showings the severity of the shaking.

Major decisions for our Napa Valley Realtors and the clients they represent–In the Yountville, American Canyon and town of Napa some 120 properties are IN ESCROW, another 275 are “Active” or for sale. Approx. 25 are “Pending” sales usually indicative of an imminent closing date–what to do next? Another issue–LENDERS–what are THEY going to require? Re-inspections? New Appraisals? How does a seller indemnify any future damage caused by this quake? FEMA states damage may appear weeks after the quake. What about a multiple contract scenario? We are seeing escrows linked to other sales in other areas. Now the chain is broken. Uggghh! My sympathies go out to my brethren in Napa!

Is Damage From This Morning’s Napa Earthquake Lurking in Your Home? Here’s What to Look For;





We gathered some napaquakeinformation from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Here is a checklist on what to look for inside and outside your house to see if it had suffered damages from the earthquake.

Tune in to The Real Estate Hour Today (Sunday 8/24/2014) on KSRO 1350 AM and 103.5 FM..or streaming live on – for more information and local updates
1. Check The External House Structure:
• Survey all portions of your house to see if any part collapsed or sustained damage.
• Check to see if the house shifted on its foundation, or fell away from the foundation in any place.
• Check to see if the house is noticeably leaning, or looks tilted from a distance.
• Look for severe cracks or openings, especially around outdoor steps or porches.
• If inside the house, check to see if you are experiencing seriously increased vibrations from passing trucks and buses.
• Look for cracks in external walls. Check to see if existing cracks in the walls are getting bigger.
• Check to see if mortars are separating from the blocks.
• Look for sink holes or large divots in the ground next to the foundation.
2. Check The Chimneys:
• Look for cracks between the chimney and the exterior wall or the roof.
• Look for cracks in the liner.
• Check to see if there is unexplained debris in the fireplace.
3. Check Utilities:
• Check to see if power lines to your house are noticeably sagging.
• Check to see if hot water heater is leaning or tilted.
• Check to see if all the water connections, dry-pipes, toilets, faucets are secure.
4. Check the Inside Of the House:
• Check to see if doors and windows are harder to open, and if doors do not shut properly.
• Check to see if the roof is leaking. Look for water damage to the ceiling.
• Check to see if the furnace has shifted in any way, and if ducts and exhaust pipes are connected and undamaged.
• If inside the house, check to see if you are experiencing unexplained draftiness. Look for cracks in the walls, poorly aligned window frames, and loosened exterior siding. They can all let in breezes.
• Check to see if the floor is separated from walls or stairwells inside the house.
• Look for cracks between walls and built-in fixtures such as lights, cupboards or bookcases.
• Look for gaps around plumbing pipes that exit the foundation wall.

According to FEMA, the effects of an earthquake are sometimes slow to appear. Residents are urged to inspect their homes for damages that may have just come to light. Officials said walls can separate and cracks start to form weeks after the earthquake strikes.
FEMA officials said earthquake damages can be subtle as well. If not fixed in time, cracks between the walls can allow water to leak in and cause serious problems in the future, for example, rotting wood or a problem with mold. A structure that has shifted from its foundation leaves unsupported areas weakened and liable to break away.

Boomerage Buyers? It just got HARDER for you!

Fannie Mae is changing the waiting period requirements for borrowers who have had a previous deed-in-lieu of foreclosure or pre-foreclosure sale (aka “Short Sale”) from the current two year wait, with a 20% down payment, to a four-year waiting period regardless of the down payment percentage; though a two-year waiting period will be permitted if the event was due to extenuating circumstances (must be able to document the reason: job loss, medical reasons, divorce, etc.)

This is a major upset for those who thought they could get BACK into the market. However, “hard money” (see our post from ARC Financing below) will allow you to purchase if you have significant down payment. Of course the rates going to be hard but if you want and can get into this market for a year or two and then refinance out go for it!

New guideline takes effect August 16, 2014. If you did NOT make this cut-off then you’ll need to wait until you have the four year period under your belt. This alert was sent us from friend, Bob Finn, Mortgage Advisor.–NMLS: 294794-Direct: (707) 836-9264 or   




  1. Mobile: (707) 331-3563
  2. 26 Years of Mortgage Lending Experience
  3. Mortgage Advisor

Open House Today, August 17, 2014 1-4pm 1377 Gaspar Ct, Rohnert Park

Come on by and see Mike today at this great Rohnert Park property. Unique Custom home by local contractor,distinct Tahoe feel, vaulted ceilings, 3 very big bedrooms,tons of storage, dormers, cupola, Next to Golis Park w/pathways, tennis courts, playing fields. Big cul-de-sac Lot w/new decking and carpeting. 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 2195 sq ft of living space and a 7800 sq ft lot. Listed at $479,900

Listen to Mike and Allison on "The Real Estate Hour", Sundays, 9 to 10am PST, KSRO, 1350AM or 103.5 FM and