Archive for the 'Country Property' Category

“There is no such thing as land . . .”

said on August 18th, 2012 filed under: Country Property, Localism, Real Estate Nuts and Bolts

. . . only usable land.”

That was my first real estate lesson about land.  I learned those words from an old-timey country realtor who drove around Nevada County in a beat-up blue Pinto buying and selling land.  He didn’t look the part of a big-shot realtor, but he made a zillion dollars . . . and he knew just about everything there was to know about dealing land . . . usable land.

Just what does that mean . . . usable land?

Typically, “usable” means that the land is flat, or has some flat areas suitable for various purposes, or that the topography is gentle enough that you can do things on it without falling off the side.

But there are two other considerations, beyond flatness, that are even more important:

1.  What activities can be accomplished on the land in a cost-effective manner?

2.  What do you want to accomplish on the land?  That’s right, you.  I’m talking to you. Suppose a big parcel of land is ideal for cattle ranching, but you have no interest, zero, zip, nada in raising cows.  How usable is all that ranch land for you?

PASSIVE USES

What is the point in (a) buying, (b) paying annual holding costs, and (c) maintaining one hundred acres if you are going to use only the quarter of an acre site your house actually sits on?  OK, before you start arguing with me, I concede that there are “passive” uses for big land parcels.

Here are three:

1.  Privacy.  Surround your home or business with a lot of land, and you can create a visual and sonic buffer against the cruel world outside.

2.  Lifestyle.  Some folks embrace the idea of snuggling themselves down in the bosom of Mother Nature, enveloped in the sights, sounds, and smells of trees and birds and running water.

3.  Investment.  A big spread may not be your cup of tea, right now, but good ranch land may appreciate in value so that you can make a killing when you sell it sometime down the line.

ACTIVE USES

But for effectively “using” large land parcels, here are some of the more conventional pursuits:

  • Subdividing the land for residential or commercial development
  • Vineyards
  • Orchards
  • Farming
  • Horses
  • Livestock raised for food or dairy
  • Timber
  • Trails
  • Business
  • Apiaries (bees)
  • Kennels
  • Mining
  • Growing dope

I bet you can think of plenty of un-conventional uses for land:  campsites, seaweed drying flats, swamp tours, zip lines, ferries, toll booths, hot air balloon launching pads, wildlife sanctuaries, trout streams, koi ponds, sacred groves, truffle forests, ATV courses, Druidic dance circles, and, OK, I’ll stop now before I get really silly.

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What Is Nevada County’s Top Agricultural Product That Isn’t Marijuana?

said on July 22nd, 2012 filed under: Country Property, Gardening, Localism

What is Nevada County, California’s top agricultural product?  No, it’s NOT marijuana.  Well, maybe it IS.  Who’s to say?  The pot growers are reticent to publish annual reports on their crops, or so I deduce, having seen no such report since I’ve lived here.

Weed notwithstanding, what is our top agricultural product?  When I first asked this question, 10 years ago, the answer stumped most readers.

The answer was . . . are you ready . . . wait for it . . . timber.  But, no, argued some, timber isn’t agriculture!  But, yes, I replied, it certainly is.  Timber is a crop grown for harvest, like any other, except that the growing season lasts 75 to 100 years.  Wrap your head around that.  Most timber “farmers” will never live to see their seedlings harvested.  Wow.  I don’t know about you, but that really messes with my mind.

Over the past decade, timber has fallen from Nevada County’s number one product to number three.  Why?  Think about it for a moment.  In the middle of the past decade, we were plunged into a housing crisis that devastated the economy, nationally and locally.  What’s the major use of timber?  New housing construction.  No new houses being built, plummeting demand for lumber.  Lumbermen out of work, saw mills closed,  truckers collecting food stamps, contractors doing odd jobs, developers doing . . . well, whatever developers do when they’re not developing, going bankrupt, probably.  It gets down to this, housing drives everything in this country.  True, that, but it’s not the focus of this article.

OK, the top agricultural product is no longer timber.

What’s your next guess?

If you say, wine grapes and vineyards, you would be . . . wrong, again.  Wine grape production dropped by 31%, due largely to “hail and frost at critical moments.”

 

Well, what is it?  What is Nevada County’s top agricultural product?

 

Cattle and calves.

Yep, this is cow country, ranch country.  Add to that surprise, the number two agricultural product is Pasturage.  You didn’t see that coming, did you?

 

(The statistics and  the quote in this article are from the Nevada County Department of Agriculture’s Annual Report for 2110, published October 13, 2011.  The target year lags behind the actual report by about a year.)

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Deer Resistant Plants for the Foothills

said on July 13th, 2012 filed under: Auburn, Country Property, Gardening, Lake of the Pines, Localism

Deer are everywhere in the Sierra Foothills, and nowhere are they more numerous than at Lake of the Pines, California, where they move around through the un-fenced yards, lordly and arrogant,  eating just about everything that grows.

Can you actually establish landscaping, green and lush, that is impervious to the plague of deer?  Yes.

These are shrubs and trees reputed to be deer resistant, though those of us gardening in our area know that some deer will eat almost anything, and that all deer will eat almost anything if they get hungry enough.  I have seen hungry deer nibbling on the needle tips of junipers, though I have never seen them touch an oleander.

The worst offenders within deer herds are the fawns.  Like most babies, the fawns haven’t yet learned what to avoid, and they put anything into their mouths.  Because of their small size, the lowest and most tender growth of almost any kind of plant gets the special attention of these youngsters.  You might think about protecting newly installed “deer resistant” plants for the first year with screen or fencing.

Other trouble makers are the bucks during the fall “season.”  These sex-crazed lads will tear up plants just for the hell of it, and they will use your new trees to tune up their antlers for the mating wars to come.  You might think about wrapping the trunks of newly installed trees with burlap until the lust dies down.

All that said, here are my 12 favorite deer resistant plants for the lower foothills.  The photos are all from my own un-fenced yard at Lake of the Pines.   I am putting my plants where the deer mouths are.  These are July photos, so most of the specimens have already lost their flowers.

A DOZEN FAVORITE DEER RESISTANT PLANTS FOR THE CALIFORNIA FOOTHILLS

Juniper.  Lots of people don’t like juniper because they are scratchy and boring, but many types have adapted to dry conditions and take little water to hang on through the summer.  Juniper can form screening hedges and hold down  problematic hillsides.

There are also “softer” and low growing species of juniper.

Oleander.  Thank God for oleanders in July.  Oleanders are profuse boomers and provide the most reliable color in the summer landscape.  They are, as you know, poisonous, so don’t eat them.  The deer are also well aware of the toxicity.

Grevillea.  Sturdy and reliable.  My favorite types have delicate pink flowers on them almost all year.  They are prickly.

St John’s Wort.  A surprise discovery.  This plant is 3 years old.

Elaegnus.  This is a new addition, a “silverberry” variety.  We put it in this year for the first time.  So far so good.

Nandina, aka Heavenly Bamboo.  Not a real bamboo, and it will not get out of control.  You can trim it like a hedge if that’s your thing.

Azelea (and rhododendrums) The deer will eat some species, and they will eat young, tender new growth, but they leave old leathery azeleas alone unless they are desparately hungry.

Abelia.  This is glossy abelia.  Takes very little water.

Barberry.  Gorgeous red foliage to contrast with the green and grey-green on most foothill shrubs.  Lots of thorns.  Ouch.

 

Wisteria.  Wisteria grows so high and so fast that it will soon grow itself out of reach.  Of couse, if you don’t keep it under control, it will eat your house.

Yarrow, CJ’s favorite,  and Lavender, my favorite.

 

Dafodils and Narcissus.  These are not shrubs, but they do come back year after year to enliven the early spring.  Each year you should plant new bulbs.

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Inspect the Pond?

said on May 31st, 2012 filed under: Country Property, Localism, Real Estate Nuts and Bolts

Yep.  If you’re gonna buy country property, and there’s a pond on it, you should inspect the pond.  Can you actually find and hire a “pond inspector?”  In our rural neck of the woods, you can.  One of the best-known is Keith Crabtree who has a business called Green Acres 101.  I’ll give you the link to his website at the end of this blog.

Here’s a photo of Keith (white socks and sandals) consulting with my buyer-client, Jim Bradley.

This is a good time for a quiz.  What is the optimum color for pond water?

No, it’s not crystal clear “where you can look all the way down to the bottom and see the little fishes at play.”  If you can see all the way down, sunlight can get all the way down there, too.  Sunlight + dead plant matter + algae + photosynthesis = scum.  The best color is . . . green.  How green?  Green enough that a circle of white, concrete perhaps, disappears after sinking 18″ to 24″.  Bet you didn’t know that.  Neither did I until after Mr. Crabtree’s consultation this afternoon.  Of course, if you scoop up a glass full of the pond water, you want it to look clear in the glass.

This pond, according to Crabtree’s inspection is a “good looking pond.”  Besides being the right color, this pond has very little invasive vegetation.  There’s a bank of cattails on the far side, but they haven’t gotten out of hand yet.  Do you know how to control cattails?  I bet you don’t.  Drown them.  Yep.  Cut them off below the water line, the “dead” brown ones as well as the green ones, and let their hollow stems fill with water and drown.  If they are small and just getting started like these, you can pull them out, but once they establish a big root system, oh baby, you are going to have some work ahead of you.

young cattails

Another important element of a working pond is a spillway or outlet of some kind.  This is a good one.

You can lift out the boards on the water-side and lower the level of the pond.  Why would you want to do that?  One reason is so you can work on your pond, especially along the shoreline.  The other reason is to increase the holding capacity just before the big rains come.  You don’t want your pond overflowing the banks, do you?  No, of course you don’t.

There’s lots, lots more to learn about ponds (maintaining your fish, benign plants, circulation, aeration, leaks-and-how-to-fix-them, optimum slope, appropriate and inappropriate foliage to plan around the pond and so on), but I’ll save that for another blog, or even better, you can take one of Keith Crabtree’s classes by signing up on his greenacres.com website.

Here’s a final look at the pond, and one of the best reasons to have one.  You and your pooch can have so much fun!

 

 

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Unique Country Home for Sale in Auburn, California

said on May 30th, 2012 filed under: Auburn, Country Property

Here’s an unusual house we just listed for sale a few miles north of Auburn, California.  What’s so unusual about it?

Besides incorporating a dome as the central element of the architecture, it’s really big.  Don’t let the photo mis-lead you.  This one-of-a-kind home (I know that’s a cliche’) is 5,219 square feet with 5 large bedrooms and 5 baths, all designed with flair and surprise.

 

It was originally built in 1986, but the home has been enhanced with a recent top-to-bottom rennovation.

 

 

It sits on 5 pretty acres, mostly flat and useable.

 

Originally offered at $620,000, it is now listed at $549,900, barely $100 per square foot.  Here’s one of my favorite spaces, the dining room.

 

 

The best part of this property is the location.  It’s about 3 minutes east of Highway 49, just a few miles north of Auburn, California.  Quiet and convenient, you get there by driving down just about the loveliest country road in this part of the Sierra foothills.

 

 

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10304 Kenwood Drive, Grass Valley, CA Two New Photos

said on April 25th, 2012 filed under: Alta Sierra, Country Property, Grass Valley, Localism

I’m going to lose my job as Jenkins Team photographer if CJ keeps taking shots like these.  We weren’t happy with the cover photo I took of this immaculate house 3 miles south of Grass Valley, CA, so CJ Jenkins, Intrepid Girl Photographer, went out to bag a new one.  Well, CJ “brought home the bear.”  That’s what we say to each other after some singular accomplishment.

Me:  Did you bring home the bear?

CJ:  A big one.

Me:  I’ll skin it and cook it.

She’s the rain maker and I’m the closer in our business, if you haven’t already guessed that.

So here’s a much prettier look at the home:

 

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Cool Little Cabin in the Woods

said on March 23rd, 2012 filed under: Country Property, Localism

CJ and I just closed the transaction on a rural property between Auburn and Grass Valley, California.  We presented title to our buyers for this little “cabin” in the woods.  Well, it is in the woods, and if you can call 6 bedrooms and 3 and 1/2 baths with a swimming pool a “cabin,” well, it’s a cabin.

We spent many months finding, negotiating, and closing on this property.  The challenge was to locate a home for 3 generations, grandma and grandpa, mom and dad, and the youngster, each couple with their own space, and plenty of room inside and out for the lad.  All members of the family wanted privacy and space in a rural setting.  That describes a lot of us, doesn’t it?  So many of us have that same dream.  Quietude, serenity, and a place to live close to the earth.   To remind us who we are, what life is about, and where we’re going.

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5 Reasons Nevada County Has the Potential to Feed Itself

said on December 19th, 2011 filed under: Country Property, Localism

Could we really be self-reliant?  Could we actually sustain ourselves with wholesome, healthy food and water?  The answer is . . . yes, for 5 principal reasons:

  • The population density is low
  • There is sufficient reliable water
  • We enjoy a benign climate supporting a wide variety of
    agriculture
  • The county has enough arable land
  • In recent years we have built a “knowledge bank” of small
    farmers and ranchers who actually know what they are doing

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Rural Home Inspections

said on November 7th, 2011 filed under: Country Property, Localism, Real Estate Nuts and Bolts

 

Inspecting rural homes will  involve several system reports not usually required in urban or suburban sales.  In addition to the items discussed in our other articles about home inspections (wood destroying pest, whole house, heating and air, chimney, roof etc.) rural properties typically require corner or boundary marking, septic, well, and possibly others.

In our area of northern California, Placer and Nevada counties,these inspections are usually paid for by the seller.

Usually.
On some sales, however, especially foreclosures and short sales, the lender or owner continue reading…

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The Costs of Home Inspections

said on November 3rd, 2011 filed under: Country Property, Localism, Real Estate Nuts and Bolts

Costs of home inspections will vary from one locale to another.   Below are typical costs incurred in Placer County and Nevada County, two counties in northern California characterized by small towns and farms.  These are the physical inspections of the property.   Other investigations may involve locating documents such as permits, examining title reports, and so on, and there may also be costs associated with those investigations, but the costs are not the subject of this article.

Whole House Inspection

  • This cost varies according to the size of the home, number of stories, and whether there are crawls (attic and below the house)
  • $350-500

Wood Destroying Pest Inspection

  • $125-200

Heating and Air Inspection

  • $75-100

Chimney Sweep and Inspection

  • $100-200

Roof Inspection

  • $75-100

Corner Marking

  • $200-400

Septic Pump and Inspection

  • $600-800

Well Test

  • Gallons per minute (GPM)
  • Total coliform bacteria
  • E. Coli contamination
  • $400-500

Mineral Tests for Well Water

  • The laboratory has a menu of tests that can be ordered in addition to the yield and potability studies that come with the basic well test
  • Iron, sodium, magnesium, mercury, arsenic, etc
  • $50-250

Electrical, Plumbing and other specialized inspections

  • Typically these inspections incur hourly costs as customary for the area.
  • $60-80 per hour

 

Not all inspections will be appropriate for all properties.  In an extreme case involving a large two-story farm house on rural property with a suspicious well, ambiguous  property boundaries, and a whole house inspection that called out for additional specialized inspections,  the total price tag for all inspections could run as high as:

 

$3,000

 

For a newer, single story home on a quarter acre subdivision lot, with piped water and a sewer system, the minimum inspection costs could run as low as:

 

$475

 

Can inspections, any and all, be waived by the buyer?  Yes.  Yes, but . . . the seller and both agents become exposed to great risks for non-disclosure and abrogation of fiduciary duty.  Even if the buyer signs waivers filled with dire warnings, even if the buyer assures the agents that she knows what he’s doing and accepts the property “as is,” . . . when a serious problem arises, “His Honor” is going to side with the poor, inexperienced buyer, and he’s going to lower the boom on the seller and the agents who should have known better than to let the buyer sign such waivers and stumble into a detrimental transaction.

There’s an old real estate saying I like to put on the bottom of my correspondence:

“What’s good for the buyer is good for the seller.  What’s good for the seller is good for the buyer.” 

What’s good for the buyer and seller is also good for the real estate agents.

Appropriate inspections are good for everybody.

 

 

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