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Monday, October 15, 2018

A Honey of a Bee Story


One Year After The Firestorm

As fate would have it, it took a dedicated team of Architect, Builder, Permit Liaison, and owner exactly one full year to finally receive a building permit to rebuild our home lost to the October 8, 2017 fire.  While that is frustrating, gratifying, and maybe surprising, there was another lovely miracle (besides our beloved cat Jimmy Topaz rising from the ashes after 6 days).  We had a bee rescue!

There was still a robust hive of honey bees in one of the Oak Trees that stood nearest our house.  We had known of the hive before, but this was one of the trees that burned hottest, and did not survive.  By Providence, the opening to the hive was on the side facing away from the structure, so fire did not enter the tree.  We realized that bees were thriving after the fire, as if thousands of acres of plant life had not just been erased around them.  We hired arborists to remove a dozen trees— while trimming the remaining will be an ongoing project.  In so doing, we were faced with the property rights of honey bees.  So we called the bee man! 


Bee expert Rob Keller is devoted to Napa Valley’s bee population and is an activist for them.  He is The Napa Valley Bee Company.  Eager to come over and assess the hive, it surprised even him, who sees so many, by its size.  They lopped off the top of the tree at about 7 feet, saving the base for him to inspect.  He determined that the hive extended almost 6 ft, from 5 feet above ground down into the roots below soil level, and he observed a colony of beautiful, wild “heritage” honey bees.  He wanted to remove them to safety, and place them where they would mix with domestic bee colonies “farmed” in the County, to strengthen the gene pool. 


To move bees, one must trick their mysterious GPS systems or they will get disoriented and exhaust themselves trying to return to their home hive location.  So, Rob sealed the cut top of the trunk with a towel, and waited for dark of night to move them, when they would not struggle to return.  He needed to move beyond a 3-mile radius— a distance that “re-sets” their navigation system from base camp.  To get ready, the tree was dug out below grade, and cut, but propped up until the men could carry the heavy segment of tree trunk containing the hive to his truck, for transport.  Amazingly, throughout this work Rob wore no protective equipment.  Working together with Rob were jolly colleagues, the arborists of Pacific Tree Care, who were so gratified by the effort to save the bees, since the hive would otherwise tragically go into the chipper.  They, however, suited up as apiarists for the maneuver!  The last chain saw cut below ground was “blind” and accidentally sliced a bit of honeycomb, which was indeed oozing with dark, golden honey.  The cut was not fatal.  Rob pointed out another little miracle:  the tiny tunnel just one bee high, into and out of the bottom of the hive, was between two roots under the ground, and so fire did not enter the hive from the bottom!

After sundown, off they went into the night to a new Napa Valley home.  Rob Keller is a hero.  A Hometown Honeybee Housing Hero.  We think he’s the bee’s knees.  

Posted By Linda Fischer At 5:44 PM •
Monday, February 5, 2018

The Fires— Fast Forward


They say the flames traveled 200 feet per second. 

I saw, I worried, called 9-1-1, hurried to gather keys and phone and laptop, turn cars around, and run to neighbors.  Across our lane, our daughter kicked through a corral fence and cut wires to free the miniature mule and goats.  She pushed a dog into the car.  All were not saved.  

They say the wind gusted over 70 miles per hour.  A steady slap of sand turned everyone sideways as we prayed it would somehow stop.  Soon enough fire was on three sides of us, and we drove into the future.

I was in four homes in a month.  My family is fortunate, we have a beautiful rental, and slept in our own brand new bed, after weeks.  Many are still in hotels or vacation rentals, or with friends, or out of the area commuting to work.  Many are only now beginning to understand this is the new normal, for a few years.  Suddenly becomes permanent change.

I have a client who once said, “I’m not a Que Sera, Sera sort of person.”  Well I have become one.  What will be, will be.  It is your reaction to it that you choose.  People express sympathy when they find out we lost everything in the fire, and I say, “Thank you, we’re fine, we have so much company— 600 homes in Napa, 5100 in Sonoma.  I am so fortunate.” . . . to have a place to return to and rebuild, good insurance, family with the time and strength it takes, and a great design/build team.  I point to what I’m wearing and say, “Every single thing I needed was given to me from friends old and new, near and far.”  There are disasters around the world every day; now we know compassion.  Fires and mudslides took thousands of people’s homes in Southern California, just as children awaited Christmas, and families had holiday travel plans.  Puerto Rico still waits for electricity.  We are so fortunate.

So what has happened to Real Estate in Napa County four months post firestorm?  

First of all, most of Napa County was unscathed.  All of the cities and towns were spared!  The Silverado Resort community was the only populated area in Napa to burn.  The rural Eastern parts of the County on all sides of Silverado were burned or threatened.  Atlas Peak, Soda Canyon, Capell Valley, Wooden Valley, and the East side of the Silverado Trail from Yountville Cross Road to Hagen Road were burned or threatened.  The rural Western ridges and canyons of Mount Veeder, Dry Creek, and Patrick Road were burned, seemingly randomly, just as many were saved.  Almost all of Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena, Angwin, Calistoga, Berryessa and American Canyon were safe.  

Today, a visitor to Napa Valley would see postcard scenery, vineyards carpeted in yellow Mustard, the Wine Train like a zipper connecting East and West of a busy community.  Every road has normal traffic now, including cyclists and joggers.  Dining, wine tasting, concerts and events are in full swing.  Vines are pruned and resting dormant now, one more month before bud break.  All the grapes were harvested, mercifully, though roads were closed, power was cut and trees were falling.  Wine is in tanks now, winemakers are stirring and checking, their only brief rest of the year just past.  Thousands of acres burned black, but tiny green sprigs insisted, and grew.  The Earth and the year are new again.  

Contractors are busy.  Government is busy.  The recovery is full speed.  The EPA came in fluorescent vests, checking for toxicity.  Permits were pulled to clear debris and haul away the tragic ashes.  Lenders have offered disaster loans— no down payment to purchase or rebuild.  Everywhere there are handmade signs thanking first responders for saving lives, asserting #NapaStrong #RebuildNapa.


Astonishingly, only a handful of burned parcels are for sale.  Most have done the math, it is too valuable not to rebuild.  Napa value is so much higher than building cost.  So burned parcels hold future value.  And areas not burned continued their value appreciation, despite the devastation.  I will venture than some properties that survived in the middle of the devastation will have improved values because neighbors will build new homes, though right now these properties might not sell well.

The scope of this article is Napa.  I cannot begin to assess the Sonoma County devastation.  Here we count the number of affected people we know, there it is everyone they know.  The General Plan in Napa and Sonoma differ significantly, in that areas for housing cannot expand in Napa County, but can to a degree in Sonoma County.  This has implications for economic recovery of burned areas.

Though all this rebuilding has come at great cost, it might also be a great generator of pride, prosperity and purpose.  Data since the fires continue to show, Napa is an unbeatable investment in quality of life.  Just my sense.    

Posted By Linda Fischer At 6:12 AM •
Monday, September 18, 2017

The Right Way, The Right Time to Right-Size


As a Boomer myself, I have taken care of my parents’ and grandparents’ homes and transitions as they grew older.  I joke with my daughter, "I’m organizing my life so you have a really great Estate Sale some day."  Seriously though, it is so beneficial to prepare for your future your own way, on your own time.  As a certified Seniors Real Estate Specialist, I feel it is important to help my Clients with issues related to aging.  Whether for you or a family member, I can empathize, and offer my network of resources to help make life easier to enjoy, longer.  We all deserve our Golden Years-- just my sense.

I hope you find this article by Michael Longsdon to be very helpful.  Feel free to pass it on. 

(Original article by Michael Longsdon;

Downsizing for Seniors: What to Keep, What to Leave Behind

Life brings a lot of things our way. And it’s easy as the years go by for those things to add up. Over time, what we cherish now might later become annoying or even burdensome. All that stuff begins to feel like a load we can no longer carry; it’s just too much. If this sounds like something you’ve been thinking about, then you might be ready to do some downsizing.
While it’s a tough process for some people, it doesn’t have to be. There are great benefits that come from freeing yourself of unneeded possessions:
  •  A simpler life. After all, anything you own also owns you. Why keep servicing items that no longer pay their own way? Letting them go is a wonderful way to unburden yourself.
  •  A bigger bank account. One thing almost everyone needs is cash, and a great way to get cash is to sell stuff. Yes, you’ll have to let it go for less than you paid, but so what?
  •  More peace of mind. That may sound absurd, but it's true. Studies show that a cluttered home can cloud your mental focus and contribute to problems like depression.
  •  More happiness for others as well as yourself. As the saying goes, “one person's trash is another’s treasure.”
Fewer hassles, more money, and enhanced satisfaction - all those things and more are yours just by ditching stuff you never use.

Things You Should Keep Forever

There’s always a chance of accidentally disposing of something you need now and always. Separating these items from your unwanted possessions is vital if you want to avoid big trouble later on. Before you start downsizing, here’s a checklist of things you should set aside:
  •  Copies of your will, tax returns, deeds, contracts, and other legal papers
  •  Savings bonds, stock certificates, and anything else you can readily convert into money
  •  Contact numbers, address books, and pictures or other mementos of loved ones
  •  Medications and a list of all the medicines you take
  •  Essential electronics and chargers for each device
Choosing a Place to Spend Your Golden Years

Once you’ve downsized your possessions, you’re likely ready to downsize your home.  The rest of your life can also be the best part of your life, and the key is smart planning.  This includes choosing the right housing situation. Your options include:
  •  Staying put. Many seniors are able to remain in their existing homes thanks to aging in place innovations.
  •  Selling your current home and moving into something a little smaller. Your options range from ground-level apartments to a cozy house with a private yard.
  •  A retirement community. Choosing the right location means checking reviews, meeting staff members and residents, and making sure you’ll like the local climate, shopping venues, activities, etc.
Keep in mind that you’re setting yourself up for the next chapter of your life. You want to do this with minimal stress and maximum ease, which is why downsizing can be the perfect choice. Less space to maintain means more time for the things you want to do.

Why You Should Hire a Moving Company

Once you’ve whittled down your possessions and settled on your new living situation, it’s time for the big move. To eliminate the chance of injury and to expedite the process, consider hiring a moving company when it’s time to relocate. Here’s why:
  •  Professional movers can help relocate boxes and furniture more quickly.
  •  Passing the job to a contractor frees you from sorting through and boxing all those things you decided to keep.
  •  Having movers allows you to detach and focus on what’s ahead, not what’s behind you.
Change is part of life, and sometimes it’s hard. But recognizing the need for change is the best place to start. When you opt to downsize, you’re simplifying your life and paving the way so you can enjoy the rest of your days.

Posted By Linda Fischer At 6:09 AM •
Monday, June 5, 2017

How Smart are Smart Homes?


Is smart home technology getting warmer?  Now should you invest in home automation?

The marketplace offers a plethora of gear to conserve energy, both yours and your utility company’s.  “Smart home” technology refers to automation and control— it’s a subcategory of passive or net-zero-energy building.  It takes energy-efficient concepts a step further, and seeks to control systems to optimize the energy that is produced or conserved.  Smart means turning systems on and off automatically according to a model of efficiency, so nothing is wasted, while increasing comfort and ease.

You can upgrade your home to automatically control not only heating and cooling, but window, floor or facade thermal gain or loss, glare, privacy, lighting, security, audiovisual, information system security, pool maintenance, landscape irrigation and more.

Home automation systems can turn on and off locks and alarms, lights, home theaters, media, cameras, all in different indoor/outdoor zones.  They can even pre-heat the oven, light the fire, and adjust the music— all as set-it-and-forget-it digital control systems.  On arrival at the airport, from your smart phone, you can turn on the spa and warm up the house  . . .  or shut the house up, if you forgot to in your haste to get away.

These systems can be quite affordable, but some are an investment; and it’s not easy to figure out if they will pay for themselves over time.  Don’t you wish you knew if you would save or make money in the end?  Here are some ideas to consider.

If you plan to stay in your home for five years, it is wise to invest and enjoy these features.  But if you plan to sell sooner, it’s very possible your choices will not be current technology when your buyer comes along to pay for them, or, your buyers might have a different way of living, and not benefit from your improvements.  In addition, prices on innovation go down and early adopters pay more than buyers who wait awhile.

Be aware too, some systems are indeed “green” and conserve energy, and some are merely hyped and are only “greenwashing.”  Know the specs on the upgrade you’re considering and how it will function in your particular property.

Building codes change all the time, as health and safety and environmental awareness increases.  We’ll see changes possibly for fireplaces, digital cable, window allowances, even carpet and flooring off-gassing standards.  You don’t want to over-improve or become obsolete quickly, though these improvements may add immensely to your enjoyment of home.

There are financing programs that exist to lend on energy updates.  You may be offered HERO or PACE loans by the vendor.  Be sure to understand that your improvement cost might be added to your property tax, and the next buyer might not want higher taxes to pay off systems they don’t consider valuable or state of the art.  If you are doing a remodel anyway, definitely consider smart home elements.  Renovation loans can help pay for them.

Do inform yourself about smart home automation.  Invite specialist (usually HVAC) contractors to do a free energy audit of your home.  They’ll tell you where you spend energy, lose heat, let in cold, recirculate unclean air, and waste hot water.  Building science has come a long way, and a little money spent tightening up your house can save money over and over.  

All this efficiency comes at a cost, but it might pencil out to be your smartest investment.  Just my sense.        

Posted By Linda Fischer At 6:26 PM •
Monday, March 13, 2017

Looking Back, and Looking Ahead

Looking back, and looking ahead, there is no time like the present to borrow and buy.

The City of Napa median price is up 14% year over year.  If you purchased a median priced home in January, 2016 at $570,000 it is worth $650,000 in January 2017, a year later.  Your home increased in value $80,000!  That's $6,666 per month= one could look at that as the monthly cost of not buying. 

And, if you purchased last January with a loan, say with 20% down, you used $114,000 to earn $80,000 in one year - that's a 70% return in one year, going on to double your money in under two years.  Add to that the fact that you deduct your mortgage interest, which is most of your monthly payment, so put that in the picture as tax savings.  Home ownership is simply the best way to live, and grow your hard-earned money. 

County-wide, too, prices are going nowhere but up, though more slowly in the luxury category than near the median.   

There is no better leverage on cash than this kind of real estate growth.  The cost of money is inching higher, nevertheless locking in interest rates can capture the lowest price of borrowing in a generation.  Get pre-approved now, and purchase what you can afford as soon as possible, so you don't put yourself behind the affordability curve.

There will be no more parcels created in Napa County, except infill within towns and cities.  Beyond the urban core, agricultural preservation prohibits subdividing existing parcels, and so each parcel may have only 1 allowed residence plus possibly a second dwelling and sometimes a cottage.  Aerial search of Napa County sees huge swaths of land, but it is reserved.  Aerial search in the towns and cities reveals fewer and fewer parcels of undeveloped land.  New housing projects have been only 6, 8, 12 single-family homes at a time on a development - and those are just a handful in total.  What we will see more of are Accessory Dwelling units on existing lots - homeowners adding a second unit half the size of the main house.  Thus density will increase, parking on streets will increase, and property values will increase partly because of the rental income these additional units can fetch.  Buyers will buy properties for the present home, and the potential to add an Accessory Dwelling.

Renting in Napa County is tough and getting tougher.  A look at your numbers might confirm, the time is now.  Even if you cannot afford your ideal, if you purchase now and improve and sell in a few years, you'll be on your way to your ideal.

You need a reliable and savvy lender, and a Realtor who will help you secure that home while guarding your investment and negotiating hard for you.  Work smart, work as a team with your Realtor and lender.  I'm always very glad to introduce buyers to top local mortgage professionals who will care about my Clients as much as I do. 

When to buy, what to buy, how to finance, with what professionals working for you:  These are a few of the most important decisions you'll make in life.  Just my sense.

Posted By Linda Fischer At 6:34 PM •
Saturday, January 14, 2017

Linda Fischer Awarded as a Top Rated Real Estate Agent in Napa

Online PR News – 28-November-2016
– Napa, California – Linda Fischer has been selected as one of the Top Rated Real Estate Agents in Napa to be featured on TV Top Real Estate available on Xfinity On Demand. TV Top Rated Real Estate features videos of Top Rated Real Estate Agents and their homes listed for sale which will allow consumers to select the best Real Estate Agent when buying or selling their home. As a top rated agent, Linda Fischer is one of the exclusive agents that is able to offer her clients the opportunity to sell their homes on television 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week. Linda Fischer has also been honored on top real estate television shows as an award-winning Real Estate Agent.

Top rated Real Estate Agents like Linda Fischer were hand selected and interviewed by an independent research team who determined them to be the top 5% in the region. Real Estate Agents were selected because of popular reviews by customers on review websites such as Yelp, Trulia, Zillow, Redfin, and other leading independent real estate rating companies.

Linda Fischer has lived in Napa Valley for 25 years and feels fortunate to have her real estate practice in this extraordinary place. Her team at Coldwell Banker Brokers of the Valley is the unmatched leader in Napa and the surrounding region, 140 associates in touch up to the minute, with information to help her sell, or find, a property faster, and at the best price. For Linda, it's all about what is best for her clients. Her purpose and passion is to be the RealtorTM Who Makes The Difference in every client's transaction. Her goal is to find a client's buyer or next property, then negotiate and protect their interests, through close of escrow and after. She gauges success by her clients to who look back and feel that she made a real difference for them.

Past clients hold Linda Fischer in the highest regard. “It's not easy to keep focused on the important details when buying or selling a house. Linda Fischer knew how to keep her eyes on the prize. We despaired—but she made it happen for us in a remarkably short time. We found her knowledge of the market—as well as the ever-changing complex legal landscape—to be comprehensive, and her guidance impeccable. She was keenly aware and understanding of our needs and had the tenacity of a prizefighter. She is incredibly sharp, extraordinarily creative, and at all times the personification of grace. Linda Fischer proved herself a gem—a one of a kind. We can honestly say—no one will work harder for you.” - Christine and Paul Anthony - Napa Valley

Linda Fischer and her team has been awarded over the years with top achievement awards such as:
Trusted Agent
Coldwell Banker Chairman's Circle
Number One Coldwell Banker Office in California
Number One Broker in Napa Valley

Posted By Linda Fischer At 7:15 AM •
Saturday, December 17, 2016

What’s Just Over The Hill?

Who Knows What 2017 Will Bring?

Napa and surrounding areas will most likely continue on their trend lines:  prices increasing gradually, inventory limited, perfect properties selling fast and challenging properties taking longer, a seller’s market for the most part, cash as King, and pre-approved financing essential.

Interest rates have recently gone up a quarter point, and may again.  Nevertheless, these are historically low rates, lower than appreciation, and real estate outperforms most alternative investments.  Purchasing power will decrease with any rise in interest rates, so there is no better time than the present to purchase.  Equity can be yours in 2017 if trends continue.

Certainly any effort to improve property can create wealth.  Home equity lines of credit (HELOC) and renovation financing rates are also historically low.  Leveraging the cost of improvements against their value plus appreciation, is one of the best ways to make money, on paper.  

Investing in rental property, for income with the added benefits of depreciation and expense deductions, is also one of the best ways to deploy your money.  This, in addition to property improvement and appreciation, can be a real bonanza over time.

We are fortunate to be in the San Francisco Bay / Silicon Valley region, and most especially blessed to be in Napa Valley.  The world will always clamor for the jobs, weather, scenery and quality of life this place offers.  And with Napa County’s Agricultural Preserve based General Plan, growth is constrained, and demand will outpace supply.

Wondering what is over the horizon accomplishes nothing.  Choosing a strategy based on probabilities achieves results!  It is precisely how wealth is created.  Just my sense.

Posted By Linda Fischer At 7:38 AM •
Tuesday, September 27, 2016

North Bay Biz Journal Invites My Views

The Key To Home

Posted By Linda Fischer At 4:37 PM •
Wednesday, August 31, 2016

All The World’s A Stage

Even drive-by curb appeal is part of “staging.”

If you’re thinking about selling, set the scene long before your first Open House. 

Look at your home as part of a streetscape, and consider what it “says” in marketing terms.  Does it look tired and taken for granted, or does it look well-loved, desirable, the envy of all the neighbors?

Here we have the same house, Before and After it was readied for sale.  With a little vision you can transform what looks like a rental into what looks like a gracious home, and, put money in your pocket.  In a competitive market, which house will sell first, and which house will fetch a higher price?  It is the one whose strengths and potential are revealed and whose drawbacks are minimized.  In real estate people tend to think about staging interiors.  But very often attention paid to exteriors is an untapped money-maker.  Paint, landscaping and a little carpentry can add many tens of thousands to a home price.

What a difference well-chosen exterior paint and trim can make!  It’s easy to prune overgrown plantings, or completely remove out of scale or improperly placed trees and shrubs, to reveal features of a home.  Often the home’s dimensions, and even windows and porches, are completely obscured by ugly plantings.  Make the outdoors as “livable” as the indoors, by “making places” with lighting, pathways, interesting architectural details, seating, colorful plants of the season.  Outdoor appeal can make a small house seem like so much more “house,” and buyers will pay more.

Data even suggest a brightly painted front door makes a difference in selling price.  New, contemporary style address numbers subliminally suggest a home is updated, even if it’s not.  New outdoor furniture cushions make a home look lifestyle magazine-worthy.  And don’t forget to put away the “Kentucky,” all those little tchotchkes in the garden that are personal.  Creating a crisp, neutral, idealized exterior sets up an expectation of a stylish, up-to-date interior.  This alerts buyers that there may be competition to purchase this home, and a good offer would be their smartest move.  Set the stage starting at the street.  Just my sense.

Posted By Linda Fischer At 7:27 PM •
Monday, June 27, 2016

What’s Normal About Median?

IMG_3689.jpgAnd who’s flocking to these median-priced homes in Napa?

Nothing about the median home price is normal in Napa.  Or local.

The median single-family home is now more than $575,000.  What “normal,” average, “medium” single family can afford that?  If a normal, average family is 3.3 persons, and it is, then a 3 or 2 bed, 2 or 1 bath home is what they need.  In this price range in Napa, those houses are getting smaller and smaller, 1000 to 1500 square feet.  That is getting very close to “cottage” in size and number of rooms, in fact overlapping.   Charming, except when 3.3 people need to get ready for work and school.

So who are these buyers for these “median” houses?  Here we’re talking all of Napa Valley, that is, town and country Napa County, not just the City of Napa (where prices are even higher).

Well, they aren’t first-time buyers.  What renter (if that’s what a first-time buyer used to be) can afford to save over $100,000 cash for the down payment and closing costs-- even if they could manage the mortgage payments?  They would also need to pay property taxes in excess of $6000/year.   Statistically only 1 in 17 adults between 20 and 49 can expect to receive a financial gift from their parents; so forget that—buyers need to actually earn the money, and then be able to stash and save it.

So who are these buyers for these “median” houses? 

Some, I think a lot, are right-sizers, which is another word for downsizing.  They already own a home and have significant equity, so they can sell, and use their cash to buy “down” to a house that frees them up to relax and enjoy life.

Some are trading up, but very few.  Even if a condo or entry-level home sells for $400-500,000, by the time that owner pays off their loan and sales commission, they don’t have sufficient cash for the median house at $575,000.

So, they are investors, absentee buyers, and second home buyers.  They are not “normal, median” families!  I surmise about 20% of these properties are destined to become rentals, and about the same number, second homes.

These buyers are people from all over the world with cash to invest in rental property for its income return.  They might have made money on other rental properties and want to exchange their gain into rental property in Napa to defer taxes and because of the appeal of owning in Napa, and because Napa has huge rental demand.  They may eventually switch a rental into their own second home. 

And, these buyers are people who can afford a vacation home in Napa-- by definition not their single-family (primary) residence, and by definition not local.  Napa is a second home market for people all over the world, single or with a family.

Note, they come from all over the world.  Maybe half of these buyers are Napa locals, the other half are from the wide Bay Area region or beyond.  Also note, cash deals account for about 20% of all transactions here in Napa.

So these statistics for “median single family residence” are very misleading, if you confuse median with normal.  Median just means equal number of transactions at both higher and lower price-- the middle price, not the average price.  And it has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with an average family, except that the average family is competing with these investors and cash buyers and down-sizers and vacation home buyers for the very same house.  This competition is much more acute here in world-famous Napa Valley than in markets elsewhere.  Welcome to Paradise. 
In a multiple offer situation, as is common in this median price category, whose offer is most likely to be accepted?  It is that of the cash buyer, or the buyer who can afford to toss in a bit more money to secure the deal.  Many “average” families are shopping at the limit of their loan pre-approval, and cannot compete.  They may write offers on three or more homes before they finally get one accepted.  Meanwhile fatigue and frustration set in, as prices are going up.  The median price in Napa County increased $10,000 in one month between March and April! 

For all these reasons a buyer’s agent ought to truly internalize their clients’ needs and wants, and, advise realistically how to craft a competitive offer that will prevail.    If you’re a buyer, know your competition!  And, work with a dedicated pro who feels your pain, and works hard and fast like it’s her own money that’s flying out the door.  Just my sense.

Statistics by city and county

Posted By Linda Fischer At 5:15 AM •
Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Smacked by Taxes

Who Pays For Development?

You do.  Development might be a dirty word, but it’s what pays for society.  In a way, we’re all developers, anyone who improves property.  Property tax is based on value property owners create.  Municipalities hit developers, whether individuals or corporations, with fees and mitigation requirements, and the cost of those are passed directly to the buyer, not only in the sale price, but also over and over in annual property taxes.  It’s redistribution of wealth, in another disguise.  Property owners and property developers pay for the local amenities all of us use: roads, schools and colleges, hospitals, emergency services, telecom, bridges, water and sewer, and transportation.  Renters do too, in higher rents. 

But wait, there’s more-- special neighborhood improvement districts, plus some areas have special fire and flood protection assessments, mosquito abatement, or mandatory higher insurance costs.  Special taxes are even proposed on every property within 9 Bay Area Counties to benefit the regional ecosystem.

Elections have consequences.  Look at any property tax bill and you’ll see a full menu of special interests, only there is no choice; it all comes on the bill.  Every ballot proposition can be traced to a line on the property tax bill, paid by property owners.  Even popular ideas cause unpopular tax rates.  Eventually it creates the widening gap between haves and have-nots, or what used to be called the middle class.  This is one reason homes are not affordable for so many.  Whether it is a vineyard being developed, or an estate home, a subdivision of so-called affordable housing or market rate housing, it’s where the Counties and Cities go looking for the money to pay for programs.  Those fees and costs have to be recouped, or investors would never risk financing any development.

It’s all on the property tax bill, whether in Napa, Sonoma, Solano, or Marin or any other California County.

In addition to the tax bill, there can be homeowner association dues and transfer fees.  Property taxes are recurring, but parcel transfer taxes hit sellers or buyers when ownership changes.  Transfer tax can be significant, and varies from County to County and City to City.  Further, a County might have its mandatory upgrades, such as low-flow toilets or sewer laterals, the cost of which are collected at “point of sale.”  There’s even a lobby to force replacement of wood-burning with gas fireplaces, which would be a point of sale cost.

So beware.  Within 25 minutes of one another, two homes each priced $600,000 could have first-year expenses differ between $6,000 and 14,000.  Compound that year in year out, and it really matters!

Everyone should understand the cost of property beyond the sale price. When buying property, make sure you review the itemized tax bill, in view of the old assessment value.  Chances are it will go up for you.

But keep tax burden in perspective.  Let’s say you bought in 2000:  Given the increase in price of an average home, while mortgage rates have fallen, had you refinanced along the way . . . even after principal, interest, taxes and insurance . . . you could have lived in a home all these years for free, taken almost $200,000 mortgage interest tax deduction, and, still made a profit greater than $100,000 selling today!  So, even smacked by taxes, real estate remains the best investment I know of.  Just my sense.

Posted By Linda Fischer At 7:01 PM •
Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Way We Are

The Way We Are

People buy houses while laughing, talking, listening to music, cruising in their car, on the treadmill, watching movies in bed, waiting for their Starbucks.  They shop before they engage a real estate agent, to learn about the market, prices, and availability.  They check Open Houses, then zero in on what they want and can afford.

You knew that.  But did you know where they go to do it, what website?

Of course, you knew Zillow and Trulia.  But did you know, more people look to Coldwell Banker?  It is the leading real estate website.  43 million sets of eyes in 2015.  In social media it’s the branded real estate company that surpasses all others.

That’s the recognition that Coldwell Banker has— known around the world.  Founded in 1906 in San Francisco after the earthquake, today it has offices networked across 43 countries.  That’s unmatched stability, reach, depth, and expertise.

So who cares?  If you are selling your house, your buyer might come from another country or another state, and they will arrive having viewed your house online, with the perception it is offered by a leading company.  Statistically, out of area buyers are a significant share of purchasers here, about one third to one half.  Coldwell Banker has proprietary tools to know what country your buyer is most likely to come from, and what California County, to what employers, their family make-up, income, even where they like to shop and play.
Big Data is the way we are.

As a seller you would want your listing to appear on the number one website buyers use,  We feed every one of our listings to Zillow, Trulia,,, and around the globe.  Even Craigslist.  In addition, the top website to come up anywhere you search ‘Napa Valley real estate’ is our own

Why wouldn’t you want this advantage?  Just My Sense.  

Posted By Linda Fischer At 5:59 AM •
Tuesday, March 22, 2016

3RDHome, Yes, Third

Calistoga spaexterior.jpgWith my compliments:  Lifetime membership in this exclusive home exchange club, exclusively through Coldwell Banker Brokers of the Valley.  3RDHOME is a reciprocal travel club for luxury second homeowners.  The idea is, you purchase a luxury residence in Napa Valley and with that, belong to a worldwide club of owners who trade weeks in each other’s luxury homes around the world.  There is no money exchanged, rather, weeks.  There is no limit to how often you can offer your home or travel to enjoy others.  Membership introduces you to architectural masterpieces in Asia, Africa and America, penthouses atop international crossroad cities, and villas in 130 countries.  Every trip is a new and luxurious choice.  All the while you own and enjoy your Napa Valley residence, and share it with other hosts only when you choose.  3RDHome is the wildly successful host/guest club founded by CEO Wade Shealy.  Membership in their President’s Club is $3000, but allow me to represent you in your property acquisition and it is complimentary.  Because of our clientele and management, Wade invited CBBOV to be the only real estate company in California to participate. 3RDHome reserves the right to accept a property into the program or not.  Thereafter, each booking costs approximately $495 per transaction, and you travel and pay only gratuities along the way.  What a way to go.  What a way to welcome people from all over the world to enjoy your Napa Valley property, who are homeowner members too.  Five years of 3RDHome data show that after New York City, Napa Valley would be the number-one choice of destination in the world among members.  Each guest stay at your home would give you the key to experience private luxury around the world.  How’s that for added property value?  Just my sense.
Posted By Linda Fischer At 3:51 PM •
Thursday, March 10, 2016

Out And About

Image1.jpgAs residential Realtors, we trade in The New Black, The Modern Farmhouse, Contemporary Craftsman, Minimal, Agrarian, Barn Redux, and other marketing tags.   I understand the need to describe and distinguish.  But I genuinely appreciate this example in which residential and commercial architecture blur in the Napa Valley.  These rural ag silhouettes don’t need labels . . . this place making, pedestrian friendly project in Yountville speaks for itself.

The newly approved Washington Street design for Handwritten Wines creates public space and commercial retail, office, and apartment spaces in buildings that connect to and are informed by their surroundings.  It invites passers by in, as an extension of their sightseeing day, or a respite during the work day.  It offers purposeful places that allow one to linger and reflect upon where you are in life, literally, in the middle of Napa Valley’s sea of winegrowing.

Like a great house, this commercial project creates comfortable, practical shelter from busy life, sanctuary for creative expression or renewal, and room for tasks.  And to those who bemoan any development, I say, thanks for the property taxes and sales taxes and transient occupancy taxes that make Napa Valley hum, and thanks for spaces that locals and visitors alike can share.

Architecture is lasting, and when it’s good, it’s good for all. This work by Michael Guthrie + Co. Architects enhances all of our experience of the site, not just the owners’ or the occupants’, but the community’s as well.  It has A Sense Of Place.  Architecture should belong, mirror, and enhance.  Just like the best neighbor, a building should converse with, listen to and share with the neighborhood.  This one does.  Just my sense.

Posted By Linda Fischer At 3:31 PM •

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