So, You’ve decided to buy a house…now what?

Home Buyers can now visit our site for important buyer tips and information….and check back often as we’re constantly updating.

Want to set up a home search? You can always connect and set up a search in the “Search Homes” link at the top right corner of our Blog———————————————————>>>>

And, don’t miss the handy “Mortgage Calculator” to help you determine how much house you can afford.


Scammers are already at work trying to capitalize on the national mortgage settlement to access your personal information—or worse, your money. The Attorneys General have already received reports of scammers in Alabama calling borrowers claiming to be one of the major banks involved in this settlement and offering a cash payment to consumers if they simply provide the routing number to access their bank account. If you receive an unsolicited call from one of the major banks, you can identify a scam in several ways:

  1. Does the caller identify themselves as representing your loan servicer? Or do they ask you to provide the name of your loan servicer? If they ask you for the name of your servicer, they may be a scammer.
  2. Does the caller offer to provide your personal information to assist you in identifying your account? Or do they ask you to provide that? If the caller is from your loan servicer, they will be able to tell YOU your personal information because they will have it. You should never provide your personal information (including bank account numbers, social security numbers, etc.) to an unsolicited caller—no matter what they promise you.
  3. Does the caller offer to speed your settlement relief for a fee? They are definitely a scammer! Neither the banks nor the Attorneys General will charge a fee to speed your settlement.
  4. If you think the caller may be legitimate, ask for their contact information, tell them you are going to call your bank’s hotline (located above) and confirm, then call them back. Chances are if they’re a scammer, they won’t want you to check on them and they won’t provide their contact information.

Provided by; . Visit this site for more information about the National Mortgage Settlement.



At the end of it’s first year, the Sonoma County Vacation Rental Ordinance has us wondering “what’s this ordinance REALLY all about?”

Russian River Area Realtor and Vacation Rental Ordinance expert, Kyla Brook — and long time Sonoma County Permit Consultant extraordinaire, Tom Havstad return, Sunday 2/12/2012, to fill us in on some strange goings on at the Permit Resources Management Department (PRMD)….hmmm, imagine that.

Do you own a vacation rental in Sonoma County? Have you complied with the Vacation Rental Ordinance…are you paying your TOT(transient occupancy tax)? …if so, did you also apply for a zoning permit? No? Tune in..this show is for you.

Thinking about buying a vacation rental in Sonoma County? Despite the economy, Sonoma County remains a “destination”, bringing visitors from all over the world….which is a great boon for the local economy. In the Russian River area, vacation rentals flourish…and play a vital role in the city’s economy. Kyla Brook, who has been following, and filling us in, on the Vacation Rental Ordinance from its very inception, has some great insight to offer us…and a helpful list of items the vacation rental buyer should be aware of, and should be sure to investigate as part of their due diligence.

And of course, if it has anything to do with Sonoma County permits, zoning, and/or code violation, we haven’t found anyone more knowledgeable than Tom Havstad. Tom knows the ins and outs of the PRMD, the Sonoma County Planning Department, code enforcement, tax assessor, building department…state and county codes, laws and ordinances. He’ll walk us through the requirements of the Vacation Rental ordinance, what to do and what NOT to do, and he’ll bring to light a rather disturbing possible consequence of the ordinance, leaving us to wonder ” What is this ordinance REALLY all about? “

To reach our guests;

Kyla Brooke, MS, CDPE,  Herth Real Estate
707-481-0098 cell, 707-222-6006 office,


Tom Havstad, Permit Consulting Services

phone/fax:   707-874-2078, cell:  707-695-0857

website:, email:


Here are some helpful links from the PRMD and the Sonoma County Tax assessor.



Join us this Sunday, 2/12/12 as we unravel the latest mortgage relief effort…could THIS be the real game changer??


Federal Government & Attorneys General reach landmark settlement with major banks

Roughly $25 billion in relief for distressed borrowers, states and federal government.

From the “” website.

After many months of negotiation, 49 state attorneys general and the federal government have reached agreement on a historic joint state-federal settlement with the country’s five largest loan servicers:

The settlement will provide as much as $25 billion in relief to distressed borrowers and direct payments to states and the federal government. It’s the largest multistate settlement since the Tobacco Settlement in 1998.

The agreement settles state and federal investigations finding that the country’s five largest loan servicers routinely signed foreclosure related documents outside the presence of a notary public and without really knowing whether the facts they contained were correct.  Both of these practices violate the law.  The settlement provides benefits to borrowers whose loans are owned by the settling banks as well as to many of the borrowers whose loans they service.

  • About the Settlement: Learn about the settlement, who is affected and what claims may still be pursued against the banks. Find links to your state Attorney General’s Office to find state-specific information and contacts.
  • Help for Borrowers: Learn how to find out if your loan is affected by this settlement, the timeline for relief, how you will know if you are eligible. Find links to your state Attorney General’s Office to find state-specific information and contacts.
  • News: Read the national news release and find links to your state Attorney General’s Web site for state-specific news.
  • Loans owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac are not impacted by this settlement.  You may visit the following websites to learn if your loan is owned by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac:

Here’s what the plan will do for homeowners in specific situations;

Mortgage underwater but current with payments. More than 10 million homeowners in the U.S. owe more on their mortgages than their houses are worth. The latest plan would enable people who have been making loan payments on time to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage by refinancing with lower-interest loans guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration.

Mortgage underwater and behind with payments. More than $12 billion to be set aside to reduce principal for homeowners who are behind on their payments and owe more than their houses are currently worth.

Victims of foreclosure fraud. The plan will provide payments of about $2,000 a piece to approximately 750,000 families that have been the victim of improper foreclosure practices. Most commonly—routine electronic notarization of documents being transferred from one financial institution to another as part of the foreclosure process–a practice known as robo-signing.

This will most likely apply to people who lost their homes between Jan. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2011.

January 2012 Sonoma County Market Update; Inventory’s down…”under contracts” up….

A month by month, year over year look at the Sonoma County, California Real Estate market. 

Sonoma County’s available home inventory is down 24% over last January…with properties ” in contract” a whopping 42% higher than last year at the same time.  January 2012 hit a 12 month high of 602 homes under contract. However, it’s important to note that about a third of those homes are Short Sales which will take on average 166 days to close. …and, some will not close.  But all in all, it’s a great indication that the combination of low prices, low interest rates, low inventory…and increased consumer confidence, have many buyers down off the proverbial fence.

This is good news for Mike and I as we are busy, busy, busy!!

Properties currently "on the market" by month

Properties entering the market down 10% over last January with a surge in April/May 2011, then a pretty steady drop throughout the remainder of the year.

62% of under contract properties are “bank influenced sales”…Short Sales, or REO (foreclosure) Unfortunately, this program does not distinguish between Short sales which take on average, 5 mos to close and sell at or slightly below market value,  and REOs that close in 30 days or less, and are typically priced low to move quickly. All bank influenced sales will affect market value to some extent, REOs much more so than Short Sales.

Properties under contract (In Escrow) with shaded "bank influenced sales" Short Sale/Foreclosure
Full market, Under contract (in escrow)

More good news…Sold properties up 17% year over year.

Sold properties by month

Still quite a gap between homes on the market and homes sold, but look at the difference between Jan 2011 and Jan 2012.

Supply and demand by month (on the market vs sold)

As we continue to make our way through the surplus of bank owned properties, most of which are in the lower end of the market(Under $350,000) , you can see where the strong market is. The median home price is exactly the same as last January at an even $300,000.  The median price means that half of the homes sold where under that price and the other half were above.  While we are seeing a good increase in activity in the mid range ($400,000-1million), sales are still sluggish. This is why the Median price for “on the market” homes is so much higher than the median “sold” price.

Median price ; "For sale" median vs "sold" median

What this market is missing is the “move-up”market. Those home buyers who, in a normal market, would be selling their “foot in the door” home and using the equity they gained to buy up. For the past 4 years, that equity “gain” is, for the most part, nonexistent.

However, with the strong medical and technology growth in Sonoma County, we’re seeing quite a bit of relocation into Sonoma County. This may be just the boost the mid-range market needs. …Stay tuned.

If you’d like any more information about the Sonoma County Real Estate market, or about your homes value, neighborhood sales data, etc. please take a minute to call or email Allison Norman at 707-799-3617, or Mike Kelly at 707-322-8503 ~

20880 Heron Drive, Bodega Harbour,California–BEST VALUE UNDER $600,000! Sweeping Ocean Views

We have one of ONLY 3 properties currently available in the prestigious and sought after Bodega Harbour in Bodega Bay. Call Allison NOW to preview this coastal home: 707-799-3617. This Coastal property has sweeping views from the Marin Headlands to Bodega Head. Watch the “crab boats” ply the waters as they come and go through the Jetty to their crab pots out in the blue-green Pacific Ocean. Sunsets, seals barking from the rocks below, fine coastal dining and golfing to your hearts content–all facets of the Bodega Harbour experience. I’ve prepared a chart showing just HOW tight the market is out at the coast. If you thought obtaining a coastal home was beyond your limits RE-THINK this again! At $529,300 this home is affordable and would make a GREAT vacation rental bringing in extra income when you are NOT there. Or make it a “year-’rounder” as it has just under 2,000 sqft PLUS a guest suite below with kitchen and full bath.


  As you can see by the above chart–ONLY 3 homes are currently on the market in Bodega Harbour. Our listing at 20880 Heron Drive is  THE best value when comparing square footage and views AND the guest unit down stairs. Also–if you’re THINKING OF SELLING–our final % to List Price is WAY above the average. Saving almost 11% when selling your home can be HUGE in today’s marketplace. If you wish to search for property simply use our “Market Snapshot” in the upper right hand corner or call Allison Norman to schedule an appointment to see your home.

After a bit of confusion last week…THIS Sunday, SMART TRAIN General Manager Farhad Mansourian, joins us for this week’s show

After a bit of confusion last week, Join us THIS Sunday 2/05 as we discuss the status of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit project, better known as SMART, with General Manager, Farhad Mansourian.

Last week, SMART General Manager, Farhad Mansourian, addressed a room full of Sonoma County Realtors and affiliates. His goal was to educate the real estate community, so that we can better inform and educate our clients. I was surprised by how much I (along with many of my fellow Realtors) did not know about the many layers and details of this huge project.

Mr Mansourian, will join us on The Real Estate Hour, Sunday 9-10AM PST 1350AM, to discuss SMART’s short and long range goals, their progress, the jobs the project has and will continue to create, roadblocks they’ve overcome…and those still looming.

This will not be a political discussion of the right or wrong of SMART.

Mr Mansourian was hired to see this project through in these trying times. For him,the question is not whether there should be a train. 70% of the voters in two counties decided on SMART. His job is to make it happen. We look forward to hearing what he has to say.

It will be hard for us to take phone calls for this show…SO, here’s your chance. What’s your burning SMART question??

Sonoma County Short-Sale History–How many, Hot-Spots of Sales, How LONG does it take? Read ON!

Here in Sonoma County,California  Short-Sales are a consistent part of our monthly sales. Our market currently is 50/50 Distressed (gun to your head selling–short-sales) and Bank Owned(REO-real estate owned or foreclosed upon bank owned homes). The other 50% of the market are “elective” or “equity” Sellers.  Our clients keep asking  WHEN will  a “normal” market appear? A normal market, to us, will be total “Distressed/REO” sales in the sub 5% range of total sales.  In January Short-Sales made up 27% of total Sales with just slightly more REO/foreclosed upon homes at 27.7%!. Our “Elective” sellers are less at 49% of total sales. But this is NORMAL as in the “Winter” market most “elective” sellers DON’T market their homes. The Banks and Distressed Home sellers have no “Selling”  SEASON.


2011 Short-Sales by Month-No big surge here!

See any take aways from the above chart? NO BIG SURGE of SOLD short-sales.  Many though the promise of the government program called HAFA (Housing Affordability Foreclosure Alternative)  would be a “game changer” However, the numbers are JUST not there.  And NOTE the DOM or Days on Market ending the year at over 6 months! currently we have an enormous amount of properties IN ESCROW as Short-Sales. The “Under Contract” numbers are through the roof! We currently have close to 3,000 properties IN ESCROW.  Why the big number? Short-Sales GO INTO ESCROW but don’t leave anytime soon. So they “pile-up” and give us these bloated Continue to Show numbers. Of the 3,000 homes IN ESCROW as CTS or Continue to Show (early in the escrow process)  1911 are short Sales.  Short Sales account for 64% of ALL the CTS properties.  How many are currently “pending” (deal firmed up, contingencies removed) ONLY a paltry 38.  That’s a mere 0.02%.

     The other chart below shows 2008 through 2011 Short-Sales. We had an initial BIG jump between 2008 and 2009 but nothing dramatic year over year:


Tracking of Short-Sales began late in 2007. Here's "valid" numbers 2008 to 2011.