Chapter Titles Preface
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22

The Book

Chapter Titles_________________________CHAPTERS 1-22


Chapter 1____________________________IN A PERFECT WORLD

Chapter 2____________________________TYPES OF REAL ESTATE AGENTS

Chapter 3____________________________DEFINE YOUR OBJECTIVE

Chapter 4____________________________WHAT CAN YOU AFFORD?

Chapter 5____________________________WITHOUT WATER THE PROPERTY HAS NO VALUE

Chapter 6____________________________ACCESS

Chapter 7____________________________LIVING OFF THE GRID

Chapter 8____________________________COMMUNICATION

Chapter 9____________________________JUDGING VALUE

Chapter 10___________________________WILLIAMSON ACT TAX SAVINGS ARE IN DANGER

Chapter 11___________________________PROBLEMS

Chapter 12___________________________BUILDING

Chapter 13___________________________ZONING

Chapter 14___________________________HUNTING PROPERTIES

Chapter 15___________________________FIRE DANGERS

Chapter 16___________________________FINANCING

Chapter 17___________________________KNOWING THE MARKET

Chapter 18___________________________WHY DON'T PEOPLE LISTEN?

Chapter 19___________________________THE CONTRACT

Chapter 20___________________________MAKING AN OFFER

Chapter 21___________________________OPENING ESCROW

Chapter 22___________________________GOOD LUCK, IT IS WORTH THE EFFORT

Home Page

Chapter Titles Preface
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22


I am a Real Estate Broker and my concentration had been on country property for over fifty years. I am now retired. This book is designed to provide practical information for understanding the system when you are buying or selling property. The emphasis is on country because that tends to be the most complicated. It will also work for residential. This should give you a process you can evaluate the people,the property and make an intelligent decision. We are assuming that you have bought some real estate before, so this will not be a text on minute details. This will give insights to the physical and people problems.

It can be very frustrating. It is not an efficient market. Hindsight is our best teacher. Having over 60 years of business experience, buying, selling and owning all kinds of real estate has provided a lot of it. I have also had a paralleled career for over 30 years as a Financial Advisor. I ended up with my own business and was multilicensed. We have been able to help hundreds of people find their dream place and make intelligent investments. Putting this information into a book form is the hope that you unlike my children can learn from my mistakes. Many of the things that I will cover here I have previously written short specific informative pages on. Those, such as Living Off the Grid hit several items. With this book I hope to cover those in a more detailed fashion. In many cases I have included those original efforts for people who skip to what interests them.

Chapter Titles Preface
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22


People do lie, cheat, embellish, steal, omit, hide and twist the facts to improve their situation. THE REAL ESTATE BUSINESS IS NOT A PERFECT MARKET. As the market becomes tighter and agents' commissions are tougher to come by, it gets worse.

Most agents do not like to go further than 25 minutes from their office. They consider it their marketing area. My market area was 1.5 hours from my office. I was dealing primarily with country property of 20 AC or more and they were spreadout over large area typically starting 5 to 10 miles outside the local city center.

Most agents will cooperate with their listings and place them in the local Multiple Listing Service. They also often hold onto a listing for a week or two to see if they have a prospect that fits and they then would not have to share 50% of the commission with another agent. When an agent receives a listing,he is required to post it immediately in the MLS system. Holding a listing off the MLS requires a signed waiver from the owner which is rarely done as the owner wants exposure. If a property has been listed previously agents will let it expire and then change some information to make it look new like changing the acreage from 415 to 400. Many continue to advertise a property after it has gone into escrow on the bate and switch ploy. Especially if they do not have any other listings. The last time I did a survey on this problem 20% of the ads of the property was not still available.

The MLS system used to be more accurate but now that agents are inputting their own information into the system and more liberties seem to be taken. Agents should have seen every listing in their market area. They should also have seen every property that is similar to any listing they have. MANY DO NOT.


Chapter Titles Preface
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22


When you are looking for an agent or responding to an ad, who answers your call may not be the most qualified to help you. Do not be afraid to ask questions about them and their experience. There are many good agents.

There are also some notable exceptions. I have seen agents take a listing they HAVE NOT SEEN. Recently an agent listed 640 AC with a 1930 cabin in poor condition. The access is over an hour from the nearest town and the road has serious unsolvable problems that every few years close the road for the winter.It is not suitable for a residence. It is worth about 1.7 million as a recreational property. The agent listed it for 5.5 million. Another time a lady took a listing from her boyfriend of a bare land property four hours from her office. She never went to see it. My client made a very simple offer but since she had only sold inexpensive home's she did not understand it. It was all cash to the seller. She finally insisted on writing a new offer on her forms which created a contract two times as long as mine. It was so convoluted that the title company insisted she rewrite it. You can't fix stupid.

The old rule of thumb is that 20% of a sales force sells 80% of the inventory. The 80% then sells 20%. In the real estate business, it is worse. In 1990, there were about 2,900 agents in the Sonoma County MLS system. By 1996 the economy was poor and it was to about 2,100. Those 800 were not missed. In 2005 We went back up to about 4,100 agents. Then we headed down to about 3,000. It is a business that looks easy and the bar to entering it is low.

My most recent report shows that 10% of the sales force sold 88% of the inventory. Their average sales volume was $6,442,451. In this top 10%, only 18% had a balanced approach of dollar volume between representing both buyers and sellers. Some agents do not like the responsibility of having listings. Taking good care of listings is a lot of work.

Several of the top producers have several "assistants" which are licensed people who funnel their activities through their team leader who gets credit for their volume. They tend to be primarily listing agents as buyers are not typically comfortable with this approach. These producers will often take a wide variety listing. A primary tool to obtain listings may be following up on expired listings. They are usually proud of handling over 100 transactions a year. Their listing volume will usually exceed their sales volume by a huge margin.

The other 90% sold 12% of the inventory which is about $97,477 each. Obviously, there are A LOT OF PART TIME PEOPLE which skewers the numbers. There were only seven agents from the Russian River north in Sonoma County in the top 10%.

Agents usually break down into these broad categories: TEAMS who are primarily listing agents often producing over 100 transactions a year. Strong, self-promoters. BOUTIQUE who works a specific type, such as B&B, residential, commercial or country. They usually cover a large area. FULL TIME and usually area bound. Mostly residential, but willing to try anything. PART TIME will always be in an office. Never on their own. Since they do not want to admit they are parttime, it is hard to identify them. NEW AND OR STARVING will be the most common users of low commissions to entice Seller's to list with them.It is a major factor in their failure.

50% OF listings coming to market are now 
at a less than usual commission. The math 
becomes interesting:

$600,000    Sale Price       $600,000
X 6%	    Commission           %X 5%
$36,000	    Commission	         $30,000
$18,000	to selling office	 $15,000
$18,000	to listing office	 $15,000
$11,900	typical split to agents	 $10,500

difference	- $1,400
If you think agents do not avoid 
properties with low commissions, 
I am sorry.

A common method of not taking someone to see a property is: They have a neighbor from hell. They have a very poor attitude and they will fight over every nickel. It needs quite a bit of work. It is overpriced.

DUAL AGENCY means instead of having different agents represent the Buyer and the seller one acts for both. This has the potential for trouble if one side decides they were not treated fairly. Most name brand Brokers will not allow it. About 1/3 of the time,I acted as a dual agent. My web site drew a lot of prospects because it was very detailed and obviously, I tried to provide good information. I included the problems. I was the benchmark for providing upfront information on listings. Since my listings were in more rural areas many agents would not bother to look at them. I was active for more than 50 years and I never had a legal problem.

How long have you been in the real estate business?
Full time?
What geographic area do you concentrate on?
What type of inventory are you most comfortable with?
What was your income last year? Why? What is it usually?
Have you ever been sued? Why?
Do you have a web site?
Is it one done by address? This is not a negative but it is usually provided by a vendor who specializes in this and is not a great indication of a lot of marketing expertise.
Where do you advertise?
What Is your weakest point? Your strongest?

Chapter Titles Preface
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22


Are you looking for a weekend retreat or a full-time residence? If a retreat, do you want it to be a future retirement home? What can you afford is in a separate chapter.

RESIDENCE Medical Services? How often you need to go to a grocery store? Internet? Satellite's upload is slow...Star Link has made a huge improvement in that.We have it and it has been great. Phones? How far from Safeway is practical? Commute time? Are children in schools a factor? Utilities? Access? Garden? Hobbies? Fire danger? The feeling you get from neighbors in the area. Do you like views from the top of the hill or do you prefer to be tucked into a grove of trees?

RETREAT All of the above plus you should stay within a three-hour drive of your present home. Longer than that you typically will not go there often enough to justify buying it.

To have enough room in the country you need a gentle acre with less than a 20% slope. This is approximately 210' x 210'. About the size of a football field excluding the end zones. This allows you a probable fire defensible area, room for a garden of 20' x 40'. A house, barn and garage.

Privacy is typically an automatic objective. It is not a function of size which does help. It is a result of the type of setting. It is also highly dependent on uponyou. If you prefer sitting on your porch with a good book to being in your media room playing with an Internet game your needs are far different. Some people are just more comfortable in the city.

If you're a klutz, you need to have the resources to hire things done or have a partner who is not.

My first wife was from Spain and in her culture, it predicated going to go shopping every day, so everything would be fresh. I think this came from her older relatives as she grew up with them and not having ready access to refrigerators. She did not belong in the country.

FARM INCOME Rationalizing your desire to live in the country by thinking you will make your income from the property is probably not realistic. It is typically cash intensive and only practical for grapes and marijuana. It is also a lot of hard work. There's a reason only 2% of our population are now farmers. At one time it was 70%.

SIZE MATTERS. You need enough to ensure privacy. If it is a hunting property, at least 100 acres.

PARTNERS It may work for a few years, but people change, get divorce and then add children to the mix. Some partners do not do their fair share of whatever. An enlightening way to evaluate a partner is to take them camping. Many years ago, a friend's wife showed up at the camp site dressed in white. My first thought was oh, my god. She turned out to be great. If you can do without partners you will be far better off in the long run. You end up with all the problems of keep keeping a marriage working and you do not have sex to make up.

Chapter Titles Preface
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22


You need to establish your comfort level which will keep you for waking up in the middle of the night worrying about it or becoming a captive to the payment, so you do not have the time to enjoy it.

Country properties typically require AT LEAST 20% down. 80% of standard lenders will not lend on 5 acres or more. Bankers seem to think that the larger pieces of property are more likely to fail financially. Just the opposite is true. Your best alternative is if you have a strong relationship with a bank is by asking them. Secondly can you increase the loan on your residence. The interest rate from a country property will be likely to be 2 to 4% higher than your home interest rate. Also deducting the interest will be easier on your residence. Asking a local mortgage broker to qualify you is probably not going to work. He is a commission earning person and may have no experience in land. He may lead you down a country path to a dead end.

If he is a hard money broker that means his connections with local investors who may be willing to lend. He is likely to want from 2 to 10% of the loan for his fee and the interest will be from 8 to 12%. A local farm credit bureau might require farm income. A seller carryback loan is often arranged. The interest rates vary greatly, as well as a number of years and how often payments are made. All those things are negotiable. A very rough rule of thumb is $100 in monthly payment will often deal with $10,000 of mortgage. Real estate taxes generally will be about be about .0125% of your purchase price.

If you're buying properties if it is in a Williamson Act or timber preserve zoning, there is a real estate tax benefits discussed in ZONING. That means if you have $50,000 for a down payment and can afford $2000 per month, you're probably good to look up to $250,000 for a purchase. PRIMARY RESIDENCE Look at which are paying in rent. If that's what you can for the math is simple. Owning a residence for give you a deduction on the interest you pay. VACATION RENTALSThey have become popularand are now being evaluated by every city and county and are receiving restrictions. Look into those restrictions.

MAINTENANCE Is dependent upon what you have for improvements and the access road needs. Estimating 10% of your monthly payment is a good guess.

Chapter Titles Preface
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22


WITH OUT IT WE CAN NOT SURVIVE The amount of water on earth is the same as it was 100 years ago. We just keep recycling it.


SONOMA COUNTY requires 1 gpm for a residence. ¼ gpm under class K construction. They set thestandard of usage at 150 gallons per day per person. If you have a spring or well that produces 1 gpm it creates 1,500 gallons per day. 2 gpm = 3,000 gallons per day. A normal person uses about 75 gallons per day. If you try hard, you can get down to 50. A garden usage varies hugely. A minimum of 500 gallons per day.

MENDOCINOCOUNTY They do not have a minimum requirement to build. They seem to think if you are so stupid that you will build without enough to bad.

WATER SCARCE AREAS There are some such as west of Petaluma around Two Rock. Much of the rest of the Sonoma County is miss labeled. The rural areas mostly use springs. When they labeled the areas in Sonoma County where they did not see a lot of pins on their maps indicating wells,they felt water scarce was appropriate. Our screams fell on deaf ears even with over 60 inches of rain per year on most of it. PROPERTY VALUE Without water is zero. That is unless you are growing hay. Then you pray for rain. MORE LAWSUITS have been fought over water than any other reason.

The Press Democrat is a local newspaper in Santa Rosa CA. It ran a good detailed history/article on water 8/29/10 under Green Living. "Our Water Lifeline"

WELLS they are the tapping of underground aquifers or porous rocks. Water tables or levels can be as little as 10 feet underground. Most wells are in the hundred to 200-foot range and costs can run to drill and fully equipped from $15,000-$30,000. By placing a submersible pump in the well you then use electricity to move the water into a storage tank. If you are lucky, it is on a hill above your need. For every 10 feet of elevation, you can guess about 3 pounds of pressure will be created at delivery. Hundred feet of elevation will give you 30 pounds of pressure which is about normal for a house. Wells are now required to have a waterproof seal at 50 feet that theoretically that prevents any contamination. Very often it doesn't work. Wells are generally more successfully drilled on the top of the hill than the deep valley. Water is held in porous rocks which allow it to work its way out.

SPRING water is brought to the surface by a shelf of rock or clay that daylights on a hillside. Occasionally you can see in artesian spring that pressure brings to the surface on gentle ground. Spring flows at the beginning of winter can be from 20 to 80% of mid-summer.

My springs have had a 10' x 10' roof over them and a wire enclosure with the gate. A cement collection box with a redwood removable lid protects water collected. There are two drains.Small amounts of sediment etc. will collect in the bottom of the box over time. One drains at the very bottom to drain out the settlement occasionally. A second one rises about 3 inches above the bottom, so water is drawn to the water storage tanks from the top of the spring source. It has a fine mesh screen over the entrance. Right below the spring boxes a second trap to additionally filter out sediment. My preference is a spring over a well.

MAINTENANCE At least once per year I treat the intake of the spring with two or three chlorine pills about the size of a marshmallow.Yes, you can taste it for a week or so but it is easy. When taking samples of water for properties I am involved in evaluating I have found contamination so often I take a sample and then treat them with chlorine.If I must come back to take another sample, it has typically been cured. There are several ways to treat a water source if chlorine does not do the trick. Ultraviolet is one.

In 2012 I lost a sale due to contamination of a spring. That it never happened before. Guardia is very rare in this Sonoma County. I saw one incidence of it in 1989 in a poorly developed spring. COLIFORM &E. COLI are the common descriptions for contamination. If you Google them you will find tons of information. Basically, they come from plant material or animal waste seeping into the water system. The silver bullets are chlorineand ultraviolet systems. I have only seen a couple of the ultraviolet systems installed as chlorine normally does it. The phone book and internet are full of companies that will be more than happy to sell you a system.

LAKES & PONDS They are very desirable and not often found. They are useful for recreation and water storage. They can often add $50,000 to the value of a property. CREEKS Also desirable. Many are seasonal.

WATER CERTIFICATION TO BUILD Sonoma County has a 5-page description for approving a water supply. It is Available from the Permit & Recourse Management Department. An over simplification is testing must be done from July 15 to October 1. The test for wells must be done under the supervision of anengineer and will run for 8 to `12 hours. Springs are the same testing time but no hourly requirement.

The next county north is Mendocino. It has no water requirement. They seem to think if you are so stupid that you do not evaluate it enough to satisfy your requirements shame on you for being so stupid.

Chapter Titles Preface
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22


If you need to drive to work identifying your parameters is easy. How far are you comfortable to be from Safeway, post office, and a hardware store? Do you have children who need to get to school?

EASEMENTS Deeded easements will show in your title report. Since title companies went through the recession in 2008, they eliminated a lot of expensive people. They also condensed their record-keeping systems. It used to be someone from the title company would drive out to a property to confirm what things looked like. Those people are gone. Hiring a separate person to examine the easements in the title report for a country property is a very good idea. Time companies also often include unnecessary escape clauses for their liability. Their liability is limited to the total acquisition price of the property. Not the 20 years of appreciation of value to when you discovered the problem.

Easements probably cause more problems than anything in the country except water.

PRESCRIPTIVE An oversimplification is prescriptive easements are created by adverse use of access over another person's property and they vary on how long they must be used for. In California it is five years. Then it could be taken to a court to be proved.

IMPLIED You divide a property and an easement is implied if youmust get to it by going over the front half of what was divided.

NECESSITY Often done by a judge. They can be created for many uses such as utilities, travel, views etc.

DEEDED They are created by recorded document. Descriptions are written to find allocation backwards and often start with a section #. Following them can be more that difficult. Although an actual map showing it is logical it is only in the last few years it has become a requirement. They are now also required to be created or approved by a licensed surveyor.

There is an excellent report on the Internet under CAL POS CTnxs - B.HT M about the details of surveying and definitions of easements.

TITLE COMPANY ERRORS Let me tell you how a title company can make your day. I brought property in a rural location in 1973 1.5 hours from Healdsburg in Sonoma County. Where you live is probably in a town where developer filed asubdivision map and created your property by filing a map, paved the streets, installed sewer lines and electricity and then gave it to the city to maintain. They also recorded easements. The idea is the same if you take a 6000-acre ranch and divided into 160-acre parcels except the easements are created are given to the property owners rather than the city or county for everybody. In my case the title company help the developer sell 17 lots in 1972 before the map was recorded to create easements for all 40 parcels. Since 17 lots of been sold they could not grant an easement over land they did not own. When they realized what they had done they should've gone back and made agreements to do that with those 17 property owners. The title company instead got cute. They changed the wording to on the following sales that they granted them easements that were PROPERLY recorded previously. Then they continued to sell property without telling the people who were buying it that they didn't have access over those 17 properties. In 1998 I got suspicious and spent six months following the trail. The title company felt that they had no obligation to admit the easements had not been provided. They are thus all prescriptive. I did sue the title company and won. In another case I found where the title companies had been reporting that there was a Williamson act in effect on the property. The county had started phasing it out in 1971 but the property had changed assessor parcel numbers and had not been picked up.

PHYSICAL ACCESS Can you get there in 99% of the time in all weather conditions. If yes you have a chance of living there. If the property is not touching a paved county road you are likely looking at a maintenance process. That may or may not be covered by a road maintenance agreement. Obviously if it does have an agreement, it makes life easier. I have created road maintenance agreements. Once you get more than 50% of the owners involved then a judge is likely to uphold assessments if they are not paid.

A gravel road ideally should be set up sloping to the outside to get rain off it and rolling dips instead of culverts. Water bars are small interceptor ditches to direct water offthe road where there is a grade they work. Grading a road every year is not a sign it is well designed. The most effective tool for controlling water to prevent damage is a shovel when it's raining.

Culverts are typically in a necessity on these roads. Unfortunately, unless they are watched they can be a problem. If water running through the culvert that is 10 feet under the roadbed it only creates 3 pounds of pressure to push something that's blocking the culvert out of the out of the way. Once you get a couple of sticks and then a couple of leaves in and little bit of dirt it's easy to block culvert. I've seen roads washed out overnight because people didn't take care of the debris in front of the culvert. Having a metal stake on the right-hand edge of the culvert facing upstream and another metal steak 18 to 24 inches in front of the mouth of the culvert helps. The right-hand stake allows you to find the culvert if it's buried. The one in front of the culvert will often straighten out a stick coming down stream or at least keep it from blocking off the mouth of the culvert.

COUNTY RECORDS Are both kept by address and Assessors numbers. most are accessible but wells are often exception. Well drillers felt the information on what they learned should not be shared with other well drillers so you may need an authorizations original signed in blue ink. The following form is what I used.


I authorize all California Counties and all vendors to these properties to provide to___________________________________________ access to any and all records in your possession. I am aware that some of the documents in my file(s) may be classified as confidential or secret by one or more California Statutes such as well logs. Such documents may contain personal financing regarding real estate or business actuations and operations as well as income from investments. I hereby waive my rights of confidentiality under sections 408. 451 and 481 of the IRS Taxation Code as well as any other applicable statues of administrative law

This includes the authority to obtain documents pertaining to the assessment, history, activities, inspections, repairs, construction permits, well logs, percolation tests, police reports, THP Plans, Williamson Act, etc. of my property listed below. This authorization is valid for a period of two years from the date of signature.

____________________________ AP#_______________________________________________Address_________________________ AP #_______________________________________________Address__________________________________________________ AP#________________________________________________Address__________________________________________________ AP#________________________________________________Address___________________________________________________ AP#________________________________________________Address___________________________________________________

AN ORIGINAL SIGNATURE IN BLUE INK IS REQUIRED. _____________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________ Signature Date Signature Date _____________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________ Print Name Print Name _____________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________ Signature Date Signature Date _____________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ Print Name Print Name _________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________ Contact Address Phone Email

Chapter Titles Preface
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22


I have been fortunate and been able to live in the country since 1990. It has been with and without electricity from PG&E. Water has been either wells or springs. In 2005 we built a new compound with no physical attachments to the grid including phone lines. We have a lot of hindsight and have a good idea what works and what doesn't. Living very green was the result.

One night just before I went to bed I was surfing the T.V. and ended up watching Survivor Man build himself a new compound/cabins off the grid in Canada. One of the first things he said was how discouraging it was to look for property and find that the Real Estate Agents did not provide accurate descriptions of what they were selling. It also made me think about the things that I know that I take for granted that obviously are not common knowledge.

FIRE DANGER Do not place yourself in a position where you do not have a defensible building or camp site or a good way out. A fire can move very fast and you CAN NOT OUT RUN A FIRE MOVING UP HILL. Consider the prevailing winds. I have inside sprinklers in my house as well as my 2,000ft barn and 3 car garage. I have mostly metal roofs. There are three sprinklers I can turn on on the roof of the house that also cover the redwood decks. There are 100 ft. hoses in 7 locations around my 2 AC. of fenced and mowed yard. No trees overhang the house.The trees are limbed away from the ground. We also have a $100 attachment for our garden hose that sprays foam which is 5 times better in smothering a fire than just water.

WATER It amazed me that water was not the Survivor Mans priority. Without water a property is toast. Springs are my first choice. Above your building site is best because gravity will deliver it to you. That is what we have. It gives me 70 lb. of pressure at the house and 2,700 gallons of storage with visible water level indicators on the storage tanks. I also have a pressure gauge where it is visible in the house. If you have a spring below the house you should pump it up to storage tanks to give you adequate gravity pressure. Wells are good but if you have a problem with the pump you need to call someone who can pull the pump and then work on it.

ELECTRICITY I hunt, and my wife has a green thumb. She freezes a lot. We have 2 regular freezers and a normal 2,500 sq. ft. home with 2 different zones for forced air, heat & air conditioning. We have ceiling fans in almost every room, 2 additional small freezers we occasionally use. I have a reach in cooler for when I do my own butchering of wild game. My hunting trips often bring home 200 or more lb. of meat. We use about 30 to 35 kilowatts per day. Even if electricity is available having a backup generator is a good idea. In 97 our PG&E power was off for 14 days. One source of power now is water driven Pelton system. Running full bore in the winter it produces 35 KW a day. At the end of summer before the rains reach 15 inches it is down to 1 or 2 KW per day. Gravity from a different spring powers it. There are 25 solar panels and a large battery and inverter system. In November and December when the solar is waning and the rains have not affected spring flow our 25-kW generator can come on automatically and it powers the system and recharges the batteries. The types of systems most cost effective in their order are water driven Pelton, solar and then windmill. Wind mills attract lightning strikes. My neighbor had $150,000 of damage from a lightning strike. I had about $7,000 of damage from the electricity that traveled almost a mile through the ground.

BUILDING PAD You need at least 1 good AC. of gentle ground to do everything you need. We have 3.

ACCESS/LOCATION You need all weather access.

HEAT Previously I have had houses from new to built in 1932. New now means extremely good insulation and a much tighter building. In our last compound I burned 5 to 6 cords of wood every winter. In this house I set up an area that I could put in a wood burning stove. I quickly decided I did not need it. We have 2 forced air heaters using propane. We spend about $50 per month on Propane and that includes cooking.

BUILDING MATERIALS You now have choices of Green materials. A possibility is creating your own lumber. Hardie Fiber Cement panels are excellent for exteriors as it is fire proof. It is hard to beat metal for a roof.

SATELLITE I have had an office in my house for 40 years. It is probably better equipped than 90% of offices you walk into in town. Satellites give us TV and Internet. Star Link has been great.

STRUCTURES Obviously a comfortable house. My needs include a barn, garage, carports and a buried wine cellar. The wine cellar is a 20-ft. steel storage container which I had braced inside. I also tared the roof. We put it in with a small tilt to the front in case it ever leaked.

A GARDEN & CHICKENS If not, why are you thinking about moving to the country?

FENCING Pigs are easy to keep out with a 3 ft. high electric fence of high tensile strength wire with ratchets to keep it tight. It allows me to step over it at any location. Your dog will keep 99% of the deer out.

FIXING THINGS OR CREATING YOUR OWN SOLUTIONS. If you cannot, you may not belong here.

Chapter Titles Preface
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22


Star Link has made a huge positive impact. It is 5 times faster than my old service.

The internet has been a game changer. Obviously, cable will not be available.

CELL PHONES-Power can be boosted (Wilson) from less than 1 watt to 3. This will often take you from 1 bar to 3 or 4. For about $900, also can take you from no service to a usable signal. It can be portable or hard wired to your car. Cell phones started out at 5 watts and are now down to less than 1 watt. The signals bend a little and do bounce to some extent.

Over the years "can you hear me now" is less of a problem. Not in all areas. Coverage across the United States is very good with Verizon, then there are areas here like the Russian River where AT&T rules.

Now that it has been decided you can take your number with you, changing providers is not a problem. Since I have had my numbers for 28 years it was a consideration when I eliminated my landlines.

MY RANCH I can pick up my regular phones in 8 locations on my 2 AC compound. I am using a cell phone service from Verizon and AT&T. The cell lines are Bluetooth capable, with a Dock-N-Talk to my hardline phones.

MY SYSTEM-A yaggie antenna ($150) is a directional antenna, with a meter you can swing it 360 degrees and pick out the strongest signal. A hard wire (SWAG $100) then connects it to a 3-watt ($500) booster which uses 12 volts or 110 for power. The booster will typically take you from 1 bar to 3 to 4. You then lay your cell phone on a small plastic device which acts as a conduit for the boosted signal. If you want to stop there and use the one cell phone you can buy a $20 handset and pick it up and talk like you are on a regular phone. Another alternative is to put the cell phone on speaker mode. Because I need/want /like phones is several spread out locations I have a Dock-N-Talk ($200) to Bluetooth all my hard and portable phones to my 2 phone lines.

LIVING OFF THE GRID is more dependable than having PG&E in many areas. If you are using a phone message recording system and you lose power it will not work. An alternative is to use the AT&T message system. My wife Penny & I happen to own Plan B, which is a 24/7 answering service. I have my phones forwarded to it if I do not pick up after 4 rings. If you have more than 1 line and or your phones use a power source you are toast if the power is out. One solution is to have a simple phone attached to one line and the ring tone will come with power from AT&T. On my system a cell phone may ring without the booster, if not use a 12-volt battery to bring the booster back on line.

MICRO WAVE REPEATERS- I had one for 2 years. If you are line of site to a phone line you need an agreeable neighbor that will allow you to see the line and equipment from both ends. With this you can easily have up to 4 lines. For the first 2 years it was good, it ran about $7,000. When the equipment had problems, I found the vendor only wanted to sell me new equipment. "Your system is no longer manufactured". You need 2 solar panels (or power), and 2 or 3 good car batteries at each end. In my experience if the panels are visible from the pavement, someone will steal them. They stole everything I had. Again, the vendor was not responsive. After 3 days of waiting just for a quote I started looking. That is when I changed to the present cellular system I have now, which has been much more dependable.

CELL PHONE HISTORY-In the mid 80's I had the first briefcase telephone. From the top of the mountain behind Lake Sonoma I could hit the only tower which was above Oakland, about 95 crow miles. Then we progressed to what we called bag phones which were about 9 by 7 inches and weighed about 4 lb. They were 5 watts. Then we went to what looked like small military radios, also 5 watts. At that stage the cell companies were doing great, and then they reduced the range and power to less than 1 watt, which is where we are now.

AFRICA I have been there 12 times. We are so lucky to be living here. When there I am typically 1 hour from a small town and 4 or more hours from a city. Cell service has been a boon to undeveloped countries. I have for $550 taken portable packages of the above (what I have hard wired into my cars) and given it to my guide and to the ranch for their employees. Before that they had to hike about a mile to a location in a field where they might be able to make a call. They love it!

MY VENDORS- Precision Wireless Services 800 772 3007 707 886 6855

Mobile Enriched Electronics 707 528 3351

Chapter Titles Preface
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22


THE VALUE IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER. We could stop there because that covers most of it.

COUNTRY PROPERTY can be extremely difficult to value fairly. Commercial property is worth the value created by the income stream it can produce and is relatively easy to value. Since country properties are so different, we are constantly balancing apples, oranges and distance, time as well as ambiance and improvements to come up with a logical value. As an example, we are continually comparing similar sized properties in Cloverdale or Yorkville or anywhere within an hour and a half of Healdsburg. These are the things we look at.

THE IMPROVEMENTS are only of value to the Buyer if they can use them. Their condition, obsolescent, appearance, location on the property and ambiance are all a factor. I have a client who designs houses for people with serious money and he firmly believed in the 80's you could not do a proper job of building a house under $1,000 per sq. Ft. Ninety-five percent of the properties will run from 5 to 20% of that. There are several rules of thumb. A building without permits is worth about half of what it would be with permits. Naturally there are exceptions. There is a nice non-permitted house for sale now, which I give no value. It is a misplaced, non-usable improvement. Dated kitchens are usually more of a concern in houses over 10 years old. It is amazing how many new nice houses are built without decent master bedroom closets.

WATER NEEDS vary greatly by the use. Its quantity and quality also define what the property is capable of being used for. Without water, I do not know what you can do with a piece of property, thus it has no value. If you figure 150 gallons per person in a house per day, you can cover basic needs. A small garden can easily use 500 gallons per day. A large landscaped yard 1,000 gallons per day. You must look at the area water history realistically. Unfortunately, SonomaCounty is not capable of doing this. They have taken a sweeping view and declared about 75% of the county to be water scarce and this is not true. By doing this, they have created a system where you are forced to certify your water source between July 15th and October 1st. Springs can be excellent. Bankers, due to their lack of understanding, generally do not agree. If water is a problem, you will often see clues; lack of a garden, neighbors sharing a supply, water being delivered for drinking, stains in the house plumbing fixtures. A neighbor who drills a well in the same aquifer as you are using can affect your water supply by his heavy use. The true test of a spring is a long hot summer. On a well, it is an 8 to 10-hour test. More wars between neighbors have begun over water than almost anything. Finding something in a well that is not perfect is the usual rather than the norm. Chlorinating the supply takes care of 95% of the problems.

ACCESS to more remote properties falls into broad classifications. First of all, can you get there in 99% of the weather conditions, even if it takes a 4x4? If yes, it has the potential to be lived on. The next stage is if it is accessible by a passenger car. Then is it dirt or gravel road and, if yes, then how long do you drive on non-paved roads. Many people will not live on a gravel road. High banks or cliffs are a hindrance to many people. The closer a property is to town, the higher its value due to the time taken to drive to it.

THE NEIGHBOR FROM HELL can be just as bad if you have 160 acres or live in an apartment. Talk to the neighbors during the contingency period if you did not do so before. Look at them, their house and their cars. Listen to them and ask about the other neighbors. People will tell you amazing things if you ask. Obviously, we eliminate properties where the neighbor loves every car he has ever owned and has them in his front yard.

THE LAY OF THE LAND defines what you can do with it. There are many wonderful older houses that are, by today's standards, much too close to a busy road. Anybody can say his or her property can be a B&B, but if Highway 101 is 120 feet away, who will come a second time? To live in the country typically means you are outdoor oriented. My rule of thumb is you need at least one good acre of gentle land. Lots of 40 acre and even larger properties just do not have it. Privacy is virtually always a goal. Building below a road can be a serious negative. Who wants every car that drives by looking into your yard or windows?

FIRE You can clear the fuel supply away from your house. You can use non-combustion able materials on your roof. Stucco is great but expensive. If you are in a dead-end canyon and a fire comes up the canyon, what can you do? If there are no good solutions, do you want to be there?

AMBIANCE The feeling the property gives you as you come to it. Hard to quantify, but possibly the most important single factor. Most people like views. Some like to be in the redwoods. One is not better than the other. Just different.

DISTANCE IS NOT MILES, it is time. We balance out the distance from things like Safeway, restaurants, Highway 101, the Golden GateBridge, etc. We also take into consideration the type of road.

REPUTATION OF THE AREA has some impact. Healdsburg is a better name than Cloverdale. However, there are some spectacular properties in the hills overlooking Cloverdale. The RussianRiver area is still spotty, but there are also some great properties there. There are 6 subdivisions in rural Western Sonoma County. Their CC&R's effect value.

WILDLIFE I cannot think of any time it is a negative. Even pigs are fun to watch. Deer and pig populations are down by about 90% from 15 years ago. The only logical reason is mountain lions are no longer allowed to be hunted. The result is it is not logical to buy a property for just hunting in Northern California.

PAST SALES are used by bankers. They are not very bright. They are a clue and they help us check what we think against reality. What is more important to me is what is available. The law of supply and demand is KING. Ask my wife what she would have paid for a parachute when our engine quit in our helicopter.

INVENTORY IS CREATED by death, divorce, job transfer and a change in needs. My guess is in a healthy market about 10% of the inventory is on the market. The cycles in real estate are influenced by an incredible number of things, most are obvious. The country inventory for sale normally is probably closer to 5%. Change in use and job transfer is less of a factor in deciding to sell. Remember, supply and demand is KING. As the supply shrinks, more agents take unrealistic listings.

UTILITIES, primarily electricity. Without it, I reduce the value by $50,000. Our rule of thumb has been it costs about $60,000 per mile to bring in electricity. Many banks will not lend unless you are hooked up to PG&E. The alternatives are solar, wind, water and generator. Usually a combination of these gives the most effective solution. For $50,000, you can have an extremely effective, virtually automatic system. For information, try A telephone is important. Cellular reception can be boosted. Propane can be delivered almost anywhere you do not need a 4x4. Buy your tank. The savings from being able to shop vendors will probably pay for it in 2 or 3 years. SEPTIC SYSTEM Percolationis the test to prove a septic system can be designed to work. It can be critical. Some properties are not capable of meeting today's septic requirements. Systems installed can vary in price by as much as $12,000 to $50,000. If you are planning on buying to build hire a local engineer to look at the soil. Typically for under $1,00 they can tell you what the probilities are. Designing a system can run up to $5,000. Clay is your enemy.

LISTING AGENTS and Sellers are often not familiar with other similar properties unless they are virtually next door to their listing. Buyers typically become very familiar with the market and inventory. This is why you should never fall in love with the first property you look at unless you are with us. The number of times we see similar properties within a mile of each other that vary greatly in price, is amusing. It is difficult to judge your own children, but that is why we are here. The Internet is a wonderful tool, but it will never replace us. It is only as helpful as the information we feed it.

WATER Stains in the house plumbing fixtures possibly indicate a high iron content. It can be cured with filtering. A neighbor who drills a well in the same aquifer as you are using can affect your water supply by his heavy use. The true test of a spring is a long hot summer. On a well, it is an 8-to-10-hour test. More wars between neighbors have begun over water than almost anything. Finding something in a well that is not perfect is the usual rather than the norm. Chlorinating the supply takes care of 95% of the problems.

VINEYARD POTENTIAL has to have some substance. Some effort must be made to prove the capability of the ground to produce a desirable crop. It takes money and time to evaluate the dirt, slope, area, and future market. I could not justify $100,000 per acre for bare ground to plant a vineyard. Some have paid that much in the past. The water supply will become more and more important. The costs to plant it and the care and harvesting of the crop are substantial. Once you reach a return on investment that is less than you can get by leaving your cash in the bank, you have lost any sound investment profile. There are now a few producing vineyards that realistically have a value over $85,000 per acre range. Very few. The old saying in farming was to find out what all your neighbors were going to do and do the opposite. Farming is a gamble with many things capable of hurting you. When people are trying to value the ambiance of being in the wine country, they are not concerned with the thought of making money. We cannot base values on those very few instances. If you are an experienced farmer and you have your own equipment, you can plant a good vineyard for about $25,000 on gentle ground. If you are hiring it done, the dollar range is from $35,000 to $45,000 on gentle ground. $65,000 on difficult ground. Farming costs can run as high as $4,500 per acre. Basically, when we value a vineyard, we are valuing a commercial operation and we work backwards from the income stream. The goal is typically a 15% to 20%return.

APPRAISERS they took a big pounding in the recession that started in 2008. They got caught being very loose with the numbers. Now the pendulum has swung the other way. An appraiser is looking at what is sold recently. In country properties because of the huge differences he often goes quite a distance. What I don't see is them using time to drive to the property from a central town is a balancing factor. When I am looking at a property to set a value I'm comparing it to what has sold recently. More importantly I am comparing it to what else is on the market. My advantage is 10 filing cabinets of reports of properties going back into the mid-70's and continuing to keep abreast of what is on the market in the country. I do not know another agent who does that. I continually see agents telling their sellers that the problem is the price. Very often it is actually that the property is unusual and there aren't that many buyers looking for that item. The agents often get the price reduced several times to where the property eventually sells for less than they should've.

EXAMPLES Lou and Bills property in the Wildwood Subdivision, Annapolis was originally listed by another agent for $975,000. After a year they came back to me. I had estimated $650,000. I listed it for $649,937 and sold it shortly for exactly that for cash.

27801 Skaggs Springs Stewarts Point Road was a house perched above the road by Junior Olsen's Quarry. It started at $1,999,000. It sold 19 months later by the third agent for $850,000. I had estimated $800,000. That was an example of the agents taking the price the Seller wanted tosee. Not what they should have known it was worth

1501 Felta Road Healdsburg was listed in 5/07 for $3.3 mil. It sold in 1/10 for $1.95. I had estimated $1.9.

11750 Old River Road, Hopland. It came on the market for 1 million in 11/06. Three agents later sold it for $450,000 in 2/10. I had pegged it at $650,000. I know it was a difficult fit but the owner was told that the problem was price. It sold for less than it should of if it had been well merchandised and carried a realistic commission. This this property is on the market now so I cannot identify it. It is within 15 minutes of downtown Healdsburg and the seller decided not to complete it. It is 2 ½ miles up a good gravel road that I have sold property on. That is not ideal but if you tell the prospect beforehand it's not such a big problem. It started out in mid-2013 at 6.5 million. My wild guess is it could take $750,000 to finish it. I estimated that its present value was 4.9 million. In early 2017 the prices been reduced to 3.9 million. It's hard for me to believe that I'm $1 million off. I think somebody's could end up with a very good buy because the sellers being told price is a problem. The fit is the problem.

Chapter Titles Preface
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22

Williamson Act


The State used to reimburse the counties for lost revenue through The Act. IT NO LONGER DOES. Many property owners have slipped out of conforming to the farming requirements. In the continuing hunt for revenue there has been several times where eliminating this break or modifying it has come up for discussion. The most logical is a much more stringent enforcement of its requirements which in the past have been nonexistent. The end result are possible penalties and the loss of the tax break which seems to be as much as a 75% reduction in taxes charged. There are actually three sections to the Williamson Act. Their differences are extreme. California Land Conservation Act of 1965 also known as: Williamson Act. Williamson Ag Preserve. Ag Preserve. Agricultural Preserve. Williamson Act Contract. WA. Williamson Act II. SUB SECTION: Farmland Security Zone. Williamson Act I FURTHER SUB SECTION: Open Space Ag. II Contracts. Land Conservation Plan.

For simplicity I will just call it The Williamson Act or Act. It was created in 1965 to give farmers a tax break as the rising farm land was often too valuable to farm as real estate taxes continued to rise. With it came restrictions on development and the requirement for farming income. This does not include timber production, horse boarding or other non-food or fiber producing endeavors. The tax break is a minimum of a 25% reduction in assessed value. In some cases it seems to be as much as a 75% reduction in the tax on the land. Not the structures of any sort, the dwelling unit nor the land associated with them. Each property varies in the evaluation process and I have not been able to get a clear explanation of how they do it.

WILLIAMSON ACT It eliminates most commercial uses on the property not directly associated with farming or education related to farming.

YOU MUST PRODUCE FARM INCOME. Farm income is from food or fiber. Not horses or timber activity. Being in a land conversation trust such as the Sonoma Land trust does not eliminate the income requirement in the Williamson Act. By reducing the use of your land it should reduce your assessed value.

*50% of the land must be used continuously for agricultural or open space or a combination of that.
*FOR NON-PRIME LAND $2,000 per farm plus $2.50 per acre. A 1,000-acre farm needs to produce $4,500 per year.
*FOR PRIME FARM LAND Grapes and bushes. $1,000 per planted acre. Logically in Act I.
*For fruit or nut trees $300 per planted acre.
*Other none processed products $200 per acre.
*For less than 40 acres of prime agricultural land a minimum of 10 acres to a permanent crop.
*For less than 12 acres a minimum of 6 acres to a permanent crop.

FARMLAND SECURITY ZONE/Act I It is supposed to be a minimum of 100 acres and requires more intensive farming. It produces a higher % tax benefit.

OPEN SPACE AG II CONTRACTS. Minimum size is 40 AC.

Most properties that are in danger of losing their Williamson benefits will qualify for this ACT. THE ACT II DOES NOT HAVE FARM INCOME REQUIREMENT. It has the same tax saving benefits and can allow for dividing the property. You cannot farm under it. A biologist must prove it has benefits for wildlife, open space and even endangered plants. If you decide to actively farm you must go back to the regular Williamson Act.

Changing to the Open Space AG.II Contract requires hiring a Biologist and mapping services which have been running from $3,500 to $5,000. $85 per hour and half time for travel plus direct expenses. Dealing with CA Fish & Game and then following the interesting process through the county system. You pay a county fee of $3.604. A current title report should be around $1,000. Having been through the process with several properties, we seem to be the local "experts". We have set up a consulting business to help others do the same. Joelle Lombardo completes the forms and coordinates the process for you. She bills at $50 per hour. Half for travel time plus direct expenses. That has been running from $2,000 to $5,000. It will probably take close to a year to complete the process. Costs are probably from $8,000 to $13,000.

To figure out if it is logical for you take your assessed land value and multiply it by .0125. That should be very close to what you would pay without your Williamson Act exemption. We hope you hire us to be your guide through the process.

The county has a 57-page website dealing with this process. Here we have condensed their information to one page. We try hard but we are not perfect. They showed the last revision on May 7, 2013. If you are concerned about your Williamson Act please go to their site for clarification. Uniform_agpres_rules_farmland_security_zones.pdf; ATTOOO32.htm

Chapter Titles Preface
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22


There is no car that fits all needs. There is no airplane or boat that perfect for all situations. Every property will have some. If you walk into the purchase knowing them in advance and have been shown how to mitigate the problems that you're in good shape. Many agents hide them.

The problems can come in every item about a property. Your agent should be able to help you define the problems. He should then introduce you to good people who can mitigate them. In a real estate transaction everything is negotiable. When involved in an escrow with another agent I push hard for all communications to go to all parties via email. The reason I do this as I have asked questions of a listing agent and later found out he lied to me. If you can ask that question of the agent and copy seller as well as your buyer it levels the playing field.

Chapter Titles Preface
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22


To build in the country you need at least a gentle acre. That's about 210' x 211'. The first thing you work on should be a water delivery and storage system. Each 10 feet of elevation gives you 3 pounds of pressure. A normal house has 30 pounds. I have 70 at my house.

BUILDING WITH OUTPERMITS doesn't make much sense anymore. The valueshave simply gotten too high on the properties. The resale of the improvements cuts their price in half. If you lose them from a fire your insurance company may not cover them.

PERCOLATIONFOR A SEPTIC SYSTEM The testing of soil to judge its ability to absorb waste products from a house. In other words when you flush the toilet this is where it goes. You can do this yourself but I think you're far better off hiring somebody who is experienced and licensed to do this and can deal with the county inspector on a level footing. My first choice for years has been Rob Hoffman licensed in engineering and surveying 707-542-6559. The slope of the ground cannot exceed 30%. The types of soil greatly control what you can install. Septic systems can run anywhere from $10,000-$35,000 installed.

CLASSK construction. This is a looser set of building requirements that were created statewide in the early 70's to combat the large number of non-permitted buildings that were being built. Safety wise there is no difference from standard regulations. They do allow a wood stove instead of forced air heating system. They will allow you to move into the structure prior to its completion. In general building inspectors don't like them because they give them less control. Digging out information from the county is generally interesting. You must have a minimum of 20 acres to use them. Your water requirement is then 1/4th gallon per minute instead of 1 gallon per minute. In Sonoma County. My house was built under class K.

Redwood and fir on your property may not have potential for income value but they may be converted into lumber to build with. A portable mill can be brought in to create what you need. You might have to bring in someone to grade the lumber. Milled lumber on-site will probably run you about $.75 per board foot.

Insurance coverage on buildings in the country is continuing to get more difficult and more expensive. Since the October 2017 fires in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino took over 6,000 structures it will get worse. That fire almost exactly followed a major fire in 1964. There were many less houses there in 64.

Chapter Titles Preface
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22


As you move out from town you move into zoning regulations that steadily increase the minimum size of the property. The basis for this comes from when property was divided in the 1800s. The Gold Rush in 1849 was a major factor. The government wanted to bring people out west to settle and create revenue for the government. They gave the land away and it varied from 40 acres up. The rougher or further from town the bigger the piece they gave because they felt it took a larger piece to make a living on.

Leona Dixon Cox homesteaded hundred and sixty acres that had not been given out in 1932 in Sonoma County. It was 40 minutes from Healdsburg or two hours from the Golden Gate Bridge. She wrote a book about it called Frontier Woman. It is still in print and it is fascinating. Her old property now carries a minimum of 240-acre zoning. You may want just 3 acres, but you want to live 20 minutes from town you will probably find there is not anything allowed under 20 acres. 40 to 160 is most common.

The typical zoning in the country is rural residential development or RRD. It will then be followed by figures such as 240-D which means you can build one residence plus a granny on 240 acres. If it's 40 that you can do that on a 40-acre piece. If you've built under class K year limited to the primary residence and cannot build a second unit unless you have enough acreage in production for farming to qualify.

TPZ zoning is a timber protective tax benefit. The rate is set each year but if you can figure out exactly how they do it let me know. I have sat down with the appraisers and cannot get them to get be a straight answer. Under TPZ the area of the buildings (usually one AC.) and those buildings will be taxed at a regular rate. TPZ typically limits you to one residential structure. If you figure on forty cents per acre for the balance that is a good guess on what your real estate tax will be.

Chapter Titles Preface
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22


A broad definition of the human race is that we are predators. Actually, we are the top predator. To that I plead guilty. I have hunted in the western US including Alaska and Kansas for everything. I have been to Africa ten times. The second time my primary weapon was a bow. I have taken elk, deer, pigs and some African game with a pistol.

I have already won the game of the most toys, but I am ensuring my position by adding more.Most of them I can justify as they help harvest our dinner. I just bought a replacement for my E Bike. It is legally a street legal Moped. Two wheel drive. 60 Mile range. QUIET!

Most agents think any country property is great for hunting. Unfortunately, that is not true. It takes a combination of food sources, terrain and cover. It also depends on how the land lays, the neighbor's dogs and access, to name a few of the components.

Due to the lion problem buying a property in Northern California just for hunting is not logical.



SPOTTED OWLS have not fared well, so we are spending tons of money protecting them. Each timber harvest costs about $2,000 more for their protection and we pay for that cost as it is passed down to the consumer. Federal Wildlife (PD 7/24/13) wanted to shoot 3,600 Barn Owls who are bigger and are displacing Spotted Owls for about 3.6 mil., $800 each. If it is a bright idea, why not put a bounty of $400 each in those specific areas? We don't have to worry about them shooting Spotted Owls as there is already a huge fine for doing so. I later read where they are now shooting them for about $800 each.

WOLVES I stated hunting S/W Montana abut 1982. I became friends with a rancher who lived on the 5,000 AC. ranch his father and grandfather bought in 1900. About 1938 he imported Irish Wolf Hounds and concentrated on wolves in an area of about 300 square miles around his sheep ranch. By 1942 he had eliminated them. Prior to that the locals virtually never saw deer or elk. Starting in 1947 they killed their first bull elk. When I arrived in 82 I usually saw about 1,000 elk a week and 500 or so deer. I regularly harvested both my elk and deer until 2008 when I was seeing about 7 elk and 3 or 4 deer per week. The only change I know of is reintroducing wolves into Montana. I no longer hunt in Montana.

MOUNTAIN LIONS were sport hunted until 1990 in California. Before that you never heard of one near town. Now they are becoming common. One was even killed on Highway 101 in Santa Rosa. They also like Labradors on Fitch Mountain or goats in Kenwood.

COYOTES were trapped until the mid 80's. Then the cyanide stick was outlawed. Coyotes are extremely smart and trap shy. The cyanide stick shot a blank with a cyanide pill into their mouth. It also took raccoons and fox. It was also 99.9% effective. Until then we had sheep herds here. Soon again coyotes were eating 10 to 20% of the sheep and we no longer have sheep herds. Losing pets in the edges of town is a fairly recent event.

I happen to be lucky enough to live in the country. At 83, I have been a hunter since I could carry a sling shot, gun, bow or rifle. I have a lot of hindsight. 20 years ago I would expect to see 20 to 25 deer in 2 to 3 hours around our ranch. Now I see 1or 2. The ratio used to be 1 buck to 22 or 24 does. It was 2 bucks to 1 doe in 2018. In 2019 it is 5 to 1. 5 days of hunting we only saw 1 doe and 1 fawn. I think lions and coyotes will take a doe first as it is safer for them.

IF YOU LIVE NEAR TOWN YOU HAVE MORE DEER THERE THAN WE HAVE IN THE COUNTRY. The deer population is now down 90 to 95% from a few years ago. The tags from hunting do not show it because we are not hunting does. The normal mortality of fawns runs about 50%. We are possibly reaching the tipping point where deer could become endangered. Biologists with Fish & Game say they have no money for research. THE PREDATORS ARE NOW FOLLOWING the dwindling food supply to town. People or pets being attacked near town were unheard of a few years ago.

MOST CONSERVATION dollars come from hunters and fishermen or women. $882 million was raised in excise tax revenues that went directly to fund wildlife and conservation in 2012.

We are the perfect predator. By eliminating lion hunting, we again messed with nature and guaranteed the death of thousands of deer. Could anyone hear them scream if there was no one there? I no longer need deer warning whistles on my cars. I hardly ever see a deer in the 25,000 miles I drive in West Sonoma County each year unless I am near a population center like The Sea Ranch.

The Human Society is now operating off a war chest of about 180 million dollars. Their objective is eliminating hunting in little steps. Catherin Bigelow is a lady who has talents that I respect. She has also been sold a bill of goods that has caused her to create an animated short story and she repeats what she believes that elephants will be extinct in 30 years. In some areas where Boko Harem and other war lords operate that might be true. That is not true in most of Africa.

I have spent about 6 1/2 months hunting in Zimbabwe. My most probable accident is driving at night which I avoid. The second is an elephant charge as I see them EVERY DAY I am in the field. The recent probation of elephant trophies from Africa is actually hurting their survival as hunting guides actually are their best protectors as they are an important cash crop and their sharing it with villages helps support the elephant survival.

We have made huge changes in the world in the last 200 years. Much of it was good. We are getting better but the anti-hunters obviously do not want to look at some of their results. Do we really want to sit still while they are spending money to bring wolves back in California?

Chapter Titles Preface
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22


There are some properties that have come on the market that I have never shown. If a property access is from below and that area carries a strong fuel load it is a potential problem. Is there another way out that you can drive? You can't run up hill faster than a fire can.

Years ago, I lived in Alexander Valley where I had built a house with a stucco exterior and concrete fake shakes for roof. The area was rolling hills and grasslands. I could see my neighbor's house about 400 yards away. One summer day we did have a fire that seemed to be moving in our direction. My neighbor came out with his chainsaw and dropped all of the oak branches that he could reach to the ground. The grass fire probably would not have caught those branches on fire. When he dropped them onto the ground he simply increases the fuel load. It pointed out that when you're in a panic there's not much you can do.

Look at the trees that are close to your house and deal with them. Hardie panel when painted looks like regular boards on the side of your house. It's actually made out of concrete and fiber and is fire proof. Metal roofs are very hard to burn. Placing a sprinkler system surrounding your house gives you the possibility of what it down the grasses. SCOTTY FIREFIGHTER 800 214 0141 sells an attachment for your hose for about $130. It allows you to spray foam which is about four times better than water is a fire prevention. Make a list of the things you want to grab if you don't have a defensible location.

MY HOUSE I have 2,700 gallons of water in my storage tanks that's have 70 lb. of pressure at my house. All roofs that were possible are metal. The areas under the eaves are boxed in. There are no rain gutters so no leaves in them to catch fire. There are 3 rain bird sprinklers I can manually turn on to soak my roof and redwood decks. There are 7 100 ft or more hoses with rain birds attached spread around my yard. The exterior is Hardy Panel which is a cement by product which looks like wood.The house, garage and barn have fire sprinklers. Nothing is stacked up against the house that will burn including grass. The yard is mowed and a four ft of dirt just outside the fence is rototilled and sprayed to prevent growth.

The large oaks are limbed and do not overhang the house. There are grounded lightning rods on the barn which is the tallest building. I have 2 gun safes and they are lined with thick drywall inside. There is a 20 ft. metal storage container buried where I store interesting things like gun powder for reloading and ammunition. My gas and diesel storage tanks are not close to buildings.

911 typically takes you into a central dispatch and then they'd direct your call to Cal fire. The number in Sonoma County to directly call Cal fire is 707 576 1365.

When you were building you were assigned a street address. Giving that street address to Cal fire allows them to locate you exactly. If you don't have an address have the GPS coordinates handy by your phone.

In the early 70's there were seven subdivisions in Sonoma County that were created with large parcels and gravel roads. Originally the people typically like to be hidden. All but one of them have now named the streets and put-up signs so in case of an emergency your location was easier to find.

Chapter Titles Preface
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22


When you're dealing with country property of more than 5 acres the number of lenders is cut by about 80%. This comes from the mistaken idea of bankers that country property is risky. Actually, the opposite is true. Country property tends to be more recession proof than in town.

You are likely to be paying at least a percent higher in loan fees. You need to find a loan broker who is familiar with dealing with this kind of property. An agent's job is to know how to help you find that loan broker or lender. A seller carry back is the simple solution. They can vary from 3 to 5 years and very occasionally to 10 years.

Chapter Titles Preface
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22


Bankers and appraisers use past sales as their benchmark.

So do some agents but the real benchmark is what inventory you are competing with or trying to buy that is now on the market.

The only way is to see that is going there. Ask how long it has been on the market and is this the original price. An agent should not be a potted plant. He should be able to tell you what he thinks it is worth based on what he has seen. If you are thinking about selling look up what looks like the competition and as you interview agents, ask them how yours compares to those. If they do not know they are not doing their job.

As I write this there is a property within 2 miles of my ranch that just come on the market with an agent who is over 3 hours away. He has it listed for at least 200% of what it will bring. There is a property which is very comparable less than a mile away for less than half what they are asking. Go figure. You and or you agent must know what the competition is, or you are burning time.

Chapter Titles Preface
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22


Because they do not look up to you or level to you. They are looking down at you. We listen to those who demonstrate or have implied more knowledge than we have on a subject. When an agent lies about the time to drive to a property you are immediately suspicious. Many agents think that problems will be over looked by the rapture a prospect feels one he has gotten there. That is why I do not show a property that I have not been to before I take a prospect. EVERY PROPERTY HAS SOME PROBLEM.

Chapter Titles Preface
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22


My first choice is the forms from Professional Publishing. They are clearer. The CAR forms were written by a group of attorneys with the idea of covering their ass. They tend to be 20 pages where PP are to 6 to 10.

Unfortunately, a contract is only as good as the people who are involved. It identifies the property. Details the terms and time frames for the transaction. Most agents are gate keepers. They have the unfounded idea that the Buyers and Sellers should be kept apart and all information should go through them.


Chapter Titles Preface
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22


There are many variables that control the value. The condition of the property. Are the improvements usable to you? Time for you to drive to basics like Safeway. Condition of access.

In the country the listing price may have no basis in reality. As I am editing this I became aware of a listing that is about 100% over market.

Just because you go into escrow does not mean you are done. You may find out additional information which changes your estimate of value to you. I know of one where the price was reduced from 4.8 mil. To 3.7 when the agents miss information was discovered by the Buyer. The buyer threatened to sue unless they reduced the price.

Chapter Titles Preface
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22


The title company is to be the neutralentity that insures you of the facts about what you are buying or selling are accurate including all liabilities and exceptions to the title. The amount of insurance is limited to the purchase price. If you find an errorin the information provided to you 10 yearslater their liability is limited to the original purchase price.

Typically, the agent gives verbal instructions to the escrow officer who takes notes of the contract terms and details and then fills out the OPEN ORDER FORM. I insist that the form includes all contact information, phone numbers, email addresses and escrow instructions for all parties including both agents, the buyers and sellers and insurance agents that will provide coverage for fire, liability and so forth.

I then have that form circulated to all parties and ask all to look for errors. Every time I have found a problem is the documents at closing it has been in an error in that form. This also makes it easy to circulate details and contact information to your insurance agent or whomever else is involved.

Chapter Titles Preface
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22


At this moment I am 83 and have lived in the country since I was 30. There has always been a garden, livestock, pets and the ability to sit on the porch at the end of the day and enjoy a drink and the view. There are some offsets as I have typically been from 15 to 35 minutes from town. That means you plan your time when out. Communicating with clients and friends has gotten continually easier.

We were thrilled when we got the first FAX machines which were on roles of onion skin paper in the mid 80's. Our first computer was an Altos and cost $17,000. It was basically a good typewriter with a memory and could handle bookkeeping.

© JOE WHITE 2023