A Sonoma County Best Buy?

This is my first Best Buys? post, so I want to make clear what I’m up to here: these will all be current BAREIS (Bay Area Real Estate Multiple Listing Service) property listings. You can assume that they do not belong to sellers I have contracted with, unless I specifically say so. Please also understand that I have no aspiration to represent both sellers and buyers in the same transaction. My motto — when I work as your agent, I represent you and you alone.

I have not conducted any formal systematic comparisons to arrive at these selections. I have no special arrangement with the listing agents to promote these listings and I did not specifically query them for any details to arrive at my opinion. What appears under the Best Buys? heading are simply properties which caused me to say to myself “Wow, this looks like a great deal, I wish I had a buyer right at this moment to match up with this property”.

I bring these to your attention so that if you or some one you know are sitting on the fence waiting for that ‘great deal’ to come along, that you might be inspired to take action and to give me the opportunity to talk with you about the ins and outs of ’good deal’ making.

As with the majority of great buys in today’s market, these typically are not move-in ready or are suffering from the buyer enthusiasm dampening effect of having been on the market for much too long (usually due to having started out at price that was much too high).  Or some, now owned by a lender who has foreclosed, are simply priced low in an effort to generate a quick sale; and, to the surprise of some buyers, may actually end up selling for much more than is initially asked, due to competitive bidding.

This first Best Buy is a country property located in western Sonoma county, on Occidental Road, between Sebastopol/Graton and Occidental. It’s been foreclosed on and is being sold by the bank (so its buyer will not have the benefit of an individual seller’s disclosure). It sits in the middle of three quarters of an acre, is south facing and surrounded by redwood trees which are at some distance from the house, so that it still gets plenty of sun. First impressions are that it is in quite good condition with a remodeled kitchen and bath, fresh paint, and new windows – though they haven’t yet been completely trimmed out on the inside.  The tax records indicate that it was built in 1944 and that it has 1400 square feet with four bedrooms and one bath — these last two pieces of data provide a tip as to why it might be priced at only $382,000.

There are two bedrooms and one bath downstairs. Upstairs is one large room, running the full width of the house. It has been freshly painted and has new unfinished pine boards installed as the finish ceiling with a partially completed bathroom area at one end.  If there ever was a fourth bedroom upstairs it has been eliminated. Having noticed this discrepancy between the bedroom and bath count on the tax records and what actually exists, plus other obvious remodeling work, I checked Sonoma County (PRMD) Permit and Resource Management Department’s history to find out if any permits had been taken out for this work, I discovered nothing in the online records.

So. I suspect that this property is priced as it is partially to offset the fact that its new owner will be taking on some challenges including rectifying unpermitted work, which may even include some compromising structural modifications (tearing out walls without adding reinforcement it seldom acceptable).  On the other hand it is a positive possibility for a bedroom to have been eliminated to create the master bedroom and bath suite rather having added a bedroom — which can easily violate septic system constraints and be impossible to legalize.

Is this still a good buy? It could be, and would be definitely worth considering for someone looking for an affordable country property with basically ‘good bones’.  It would be especially well-suited for a contractor or experienced do-it-yourselfer who is capable of doing the work themselves and who also has a temperament for dealing with county regulators. It might also be a good buy for the buyer who can afford to hire someone to do the work — provided it does not turn out to be so extensive that the discounted price is eaten up by permit fees and retrofit expenses.

Whether it turns out to actually be a Best Buy depends largely on factors that are as yet unknown.  It attributes – charm, setting, location, lot size, extensive updating – and its list price are certainly attractive, making it worthy of further investigation by anyone who might be good match.

But just to gain the right to conduct further investigations requires an accepted offer. So how does a possible candidate get a foot in the door if there turns out to be competitive bidding? By having the resources and documentation verifying those resources immediately available and by having an agent who is capable of writing a strong offer along with a convincing cover letter that clearly communicates that buyer’s suitability for this unique property.

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