Archive for the 'Neighborhood Profiles' Category

Lake of the Pines Real Estate. How Are We Doing? Part 1

said on May 18th, 2012 filed under: Lake of the Pines, Localism, Neighborhood Profiles, Real Estate Nuts and Bolts


This is the first of a five-part analysis of real estate at Lake of the Pines, California.   In Part 1 I will compare average-sized Lake of the Pines homes that sold during the past 12 months (May 19, 2011 through May 18, 2012) with average homes that sold the previous year (May 19, 2010 through May 18, 2011). For this first study I am defining average-sized homes as between 1500 and 2500 square feet and excluding “lakefront” homes along the shore.

                                                     5/19/10 thru 5/18/11           5/19/11 thru 5/19/12        

Number of homes sold                                  46                                                    43

Highest price sold                                   $435,000                                      $405,000

Lowest price sold                                      $150,000                                         $73,000

Average price sold                                    $241,992                                       $248,931

Median price sold                                      $224,000                                      $239,900

Average list price                                       $254,694                                      $262,824

%sold price/list price                                     95%                                               95%

Price per square foot listed                         $137                                             $136

Price per square foot sold                           $130                                               $129

Average days on the market                          119                                                  94



You can see that about the same number of homes (43 to 46) sold this year as in the previous year, but sold 25 days  faster (94 days on the market to 119).

Prices have risen slightly, about 6%, (comparing the median of $224,000 in 2010-2011 with the median of $239,900 in 2011-2012).

Prices have risen slightly, about 3% (comparing the average of $241,992 in 2010-2011 with the average of $248,931 in 2011-2012).

Prices are almost identical (comparing price per square foot  ($130 to $129).  This is probably the most reliable indicator of value.



Prices of homes sold at Lake of the Pines have been relatively unchanged from the previous year through this year.   




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Favorite Restaurants in Auburn, California

said on May 15th, 2012 filed under: Auburn, Localism, Neighborhood Profiles

Here are 9 of my favorite restaurants in Auburn, California.  Notice I did not say “The 9 Best Restaurants,” because all I would  get with that statement is a bunch of guff from the “experts,” by which I mean my colleagues at Century 21.  But who can argue with “favorites?”  If I like ’em, I like ’em, so there.  <bronx cheer>

I’m a working man.  I like restaurants that deliver good food with a smile, lots of it, and cheap.  Luckily,  I live in Auburn.  This town is not the Culinary Capitol of California.  Bus loads of tourists do not make pilgrimage from San francisco to our Epicurean El Dorado.  The best you can say about our restaurant scene is that we have a few pretty good restaurants . . . and they’re cheap.  There are also several over-rated, over-priced eateries that offer mediocre fare, but they are not the topic of this blog, fortunately for them.

In my list of working man restaurants you will find breakfast, lunch, and dinner spots.  The service is friendly, the atmosphere relaxed.  I’m not going to rate them in any kind of order . . . except that I’m going out on a limb and save the best restaurant in Auburn for last.

So here they are, in alphabetical order:

AUBURN THAI GARDEN   On the corner of Highway 49 north and Palm Avenue, about 6 blocks from the I80 exit.  Lunch and dinner.   With tax, lunch costs $7.45.  For dinner, do try the mango curry, if mangos are not available, try the rambutan curry.

Auburn California restaurants

AWFUL ANNIES.  This is a long-time favorite with us hillbillies.  It’s a breakfast and lunch spot in the center of Old Town Auburn, a district that is only about 2 square blocks, so it’s not hard to find Annies.  Parking is free.  By the way, parking is free everywhere in Auburn, and I am not making that up.  Free.  Parking.  Welcome to the foothills.

This is the dining deck or porch at Awful Annies.  It’s mostly imaginative breakfast fare, gourmet sandwiches, salads with lots of no-meat choices for you veg-heads.  Breakfast about $10, lunch about $15.

Awful Annies


BIG SALAD.  This is a deli-style soup, sandwich, and salad hangout for the lunch crowd (“crowd” is a kind of joke, but I guess you have to live up here to appreciate it).  It’s in Downtown Auburn, not to be confused with Old Town Auburn which is about 10 blocks down the hill.  Lunch is about $10.  No menus.  The offerings are on a chalk board above the prep table.  That kind of place.

Auburn, California restaurants

CHANG BROTHERS.  There are no, repeat NO, great Chinese restaurants in Auburn, but there is one pretty good one, at least I think so, even if my colleage Connie thinks it stinks.  Hey, Connie, lighten up.  The lunch special is $6.25 and you probably can’t eat it all.  Usual fare, soup, rice, entre, egg roll.  Try the Orange Chicken.  One of the best offerings is the “Tea List.”  You can choose from a half dozen different teas, well-brewed in an iron pot at your table.  Black, green, or golden.  Yum.  This is one of my favorite places to take a book and my “Don’t Bother Me” sign.

Chang Brothers is a strip mall joint in the Bel Air shopping center on Highway 49 North.

Auburn, California restaurants


KATRINAS.  Everybody likes Katrinas.  It’s a bit quirky.  Closed on Monday and Tuesday.  Breakfast and lunch only, 7:00am to 2:30pm.  Small, crowded.  Now and then you will see a male bus-person, and I swear I once saw a man back in the kitchen when the door was left open too long, but for the most part this is an all-woman operation.  Excellent quality.   The portions are HUGE.  Two people should share one salad and one entre, no more, I’m warning you.  Even then you will probably box up the leftovers and take them home.  Typical Auburn prices.  A couple can eat well for less than $30.

Katrina’s is on Highway 49 North, sort of catty-corner to Auburn Thai Garden, but a block closer to the freeway, and on the other side of the street.  Doesn’t look like much from the outside.

Auburn, California restaurants

MELS.  Lots of people won’t like this choice because Mel’s is a chain-restaurant.  OK, it’s a gussied-up burger joint.  Lots of unhealthy, greasy food, burgers, fries, shakes, “Blue Plate” dinners and big ‘ol meat platters.  But it stands out from the other Auburn restaurants in one vital regard–it stays open 24 hours a day.  Very useful, Mels.

Mel’s is on Highway 49 North, before Bel Air and the Home Depot.  Yep, we got a Home Depot in Auburn, about 3 years ago.  Big doin’s around here.


STRINGS.  OK, if I included one chain restaurant, I might as well put in another, especially since I go there so often.  Strings is near the corner of 49 North and Bell Road in the KMart BestBuy shopping center.  I always order the same thing, and it might be the single-best dinner entre in Auburn.  Pasta Sienna.  $13.99 and worth it.  One of the things I like most about the Strings routine is that the server brings one big salad to the table, family style.  Quite charming.


WINGS.  This breakfast and lunch spot is out at the Auburn Airport.  Connie complains that it is too noisy, but Connie is very particular.  The coolest thing about Wings is that you can sit outside and watch the planes take off and land.  Typical Auburn prices.  $8-12 for lunch.

TRE PAZZI.  Here it is, the place you’ve been waiting for, Auburn’s best restaurant.  The name of this place translates as “Three Crazy Guys.”  It was started a couple of years ago by, guess what, three crazy guys, the most insane of whom happens to be a local realtor, go figure.  It is open for lunch, but everyone needs a dinner treat from time to time.  This is it.We save dining at Tre Pazzi for special occasions, not because it’s expensive, but because we don’t want to wear it out.  CJ’s favorite entre is the pappardelle con ragu di cinghiale ($15), which is a ragu of wild boar.  The insalata mista ($4)  is an exquisite little salad, fresh and light.  For desert you must try, I’m giving you no choice, must try the tre veluti ($5).  You  cannot eat this entire desert without getting a chocolate headache.  One evening four of us went to work on the tre veluti and came away satisfied.  Can you believe those prices?


If you are eating lunch in Auburn and need that coffee after-glow, head over to the best coffee shop in town to get your caffeine buzz.  DEPOT BAY COFFEE COMPANY roasts, grinds, and brews the best cup in town.  Nohing else comes close to Depot Bay.

Now, this is what a coffee house should look like!

















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Auburn Real Estate, First Quarter Comparisons, 2011 to 2012

said on May 5th, 2012 filed under: Auburn, Localism, Negotiating, Neighborhood Profiles, Real Estate Nuts and Bolts

Here is the analysis of Auburn, California real estate comparing the first quarter of 2011 with the first quarter of 2012.  For this study I have used only residential homes (one or two dwellings per parcel) and excluded raw land, commercial property, condominiums, and multi-units (duplexes, apartments, etc.).  I selected Auburn, Southwest of Auburn, Meadow Vista, and Christian Valley as the geographic areas for the comparison. I excluded the non-incorporated areas of Auburn that are north of the Bear River in Nevada County, thereby eliminating “South County” and Lake of the Pines.  The data was obtained from the Metrolist Multiple Listing Service.


Here is the lowest priced house sold in the first quarter of 2011.

This property near downtown Auburn on Electric Street was listed for $79,900 and sold for $69,900 after being on the market for 85 days.  It s0ld for 87% of the asking price.  At 665 square feet it sold for $105 per square foot.

Here is the highest priced house sold in the first quarter of 2011.

For the past couple of years, the priciest homes in the Auburn area have been located in the Winchester Country Club near Meadow Vista.  This home was put on the market at $1,387,500 then reduced to $1,245,000 and sold for $1,165,000.  It was on the market for 59 days and sold for 94% of the listing price.  At 4142 square feet it sold for $281 per square foot.


Here is the lowest priced house sold in the first quarter of 2012.

This property out on Mount Vernon Road  was listed for $59,900 and sold for $65,000 after being on the market for 25 days.  It s0ld for $5,100 above asking price.  At 1104 square feet it sold for $59 per square foot.

Here is the highest priced home sold in the first quarter of 2012.


As in the previous year, the priciest home in the Auburn area was located in the Winchester Country Club near Meadow Vista.  This home was put on the market at $899,900 and sold in 3 days for $900,000, a whopping $100 above asking price.  At 5288 square feet it sold for $170 per square foot



2011 number of houses sold     123

2012 number of houses sold     137

2011 average days on market     121

2012 average days on market     82

2011 average price per quare foot     $143

2012 average price per quare foot     $144

2011 %selling price/listing price     96.49%

2012 %selling price/listing price     97.18%

2011 average original price     $340,326

2012 average original price     $320,755

2011 average listing price     $309,455

2012 average listing price     $3o6,871

2011 average sale price     $298,610

2012 average sale price     $298,212

2011 median sale price     $259,500

2012 median sale price     $263,000



Houses sold a bit quicker in 2012 than in 2011, and a few more houses sold first quarter of this year than in 2011, but the cost of home buying was virtually unchanged.  You would have trouble finding a “flatter” market.  Inventory remains low, and lower-end houses priced at market value are snapped up quickly by first-time homebuyers and investors.  Interest rates have fallen even lower which makes houses more affordable, but lending requirements have tightened, knocking some marginally qualified buyers out of the market.




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The Cheapest Real Estate in Auburn, California

said on April 28th, 2012 filed under: Auburn, Localism, Neighborhood Profiles

This is the lowdown, and I do mean “low,” on the Auburn Greens Condominiums in Auburn, California.  Consistently, these units are the most affordable housing in Auburn.  So what’s wrong with them?  I’ll get to that in a minute.  First, an overview.

Three hundred condominiums were built in the early 70s in northwest Auburn, along Highway 49, between Bell Road and Dry Creek Road.  The condominums, all built on the same design, are in 4-plex units that range from 803 to 922 square feet.  There is a downstairs unit, also called a #1 that is, according to many, to be the most desirable.

There is an upstairs unit, and two side units, both two-story.  Here is one of the two-story units along the side.

Here’s a view of the dining area and kitchen inside of one of the two-story units:

Some of them are upgraded, “tricked out,” as we say.

The “Greens” are touted as “entry-level” housing or “investment” properties.”  I suppose both of those claims have merit, but there are numerous problems: advanced  age and poor condition, high association fees, low rents, falling prices, and a down-and-out neighborhood with a long “tradition” of crime, burglary, vandalism, and violence.

Most of the units are 40+ years old, and showing their age.  Unless a unit has been recently re-furbished, I can tell you, without even going inside, that there are going to be water damage and dry rot issues in the bathroom wall nearest the shower head and in the bathroom floor.  These units, though built on concrete slabs, have a long history of subteranium termites.  Windows are shot, sinks leak, etc.  Once again, some of them have been glammed up with granite countertops, hardwood floors, new cabinets and so on, but those are the exception.

You can paint lipstick on a pig, but . . .

Oddly, there are TWO Homeowners Associations, cleverly called Association One and Association Two.  Both of them have, in my opinion, high association fees for what you pay, what you rent, and what you get for your money.  How does $180 a month sound?  Yikes.  That’s higher than Lake of the Pines (currently $175 a month) and you get a LOT for your money at LOP.

I’ve sold a couple of Auburn Greens units, though it was several years ago when the market was hot.  I sold one for about $140,000 and one for about $115,000.  Because some “tricked out” units were going for $190,000, we thought we were stealing these properties.  Now?  Hold your breath.  For the past year, they have been selling for about $50,000.  I just saw two units that were sold this year for $40,000 and $41,000.  Ouch. If you want one, you are going to pay cash, because nobody is going to underwrite a mortgage on these units.  Except “Sal.”  He’ll give you a “hard money” loan.  Don’t be late with Sal’s monthly “vig.”  Sal has a rent-collector named Guido who carries a baseball bat.

Rents followed prices downhill.  At the height of the market, these little condos were renting for $850-950 month.  Now?  $500 to $700 per month.

From these figures, we can do some easy investor math.   $50,000 cost (cash–no mortgage interest deduction), $700 month rent (high end), $180 month association fees, $100 month maintenance and management fees, property taxes, taxes on the income..  Unless you are looking to show a loss on your tax returns, these units are not worth your time and energy.

First time buyers, entry-level buyers.  Auburn Greens can be rough and tumble, not the place, in my opinion for the elderly or to raise kids.  My advice.  Rent cheaply somewhere else, save your money for a down payment, buy a better home in a better neighborhood.




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Auburn, California’s Secret Gold

said on January 21st, 2012 filed under: Auburn, Cultural Events, Localism, Neighborhood Profiles

In addition to great real estate deals, ideal location, superb climate, and terrific outdoor fun, Auburn is a gold mine of surprising cultural treasures.  My favorite is the Auburn Symphony, one of the finest community symphonies in America.

Tonight I returned home from the Symphony’s second major concert of the year, satisfied and happy, reprising the minor key surprises of Mozart’s Piano Concerto 24 in my memory.

Before snapping into the Concerto, the Symphony warmed us up with Mozart’s Overture to Idomeneo, about 10 minutes of dramatic, though eerie,  adventure.  A short break, then Maestro Michael Godwin introduced our soloist, the brilliant Russian prodigy, Konstantin Soukhovetski.  We enjoyed Soukhovetski’s piano artistry three years ago, and we were even more delighted tonight with how much he has grown in power and showmanship.  His reckless attack on the Concerto’s first movement left CJ breathless.  Or maybe it was Soukhovetski’s long, angelic blond locks that he whipped around like a young Franz Listz.  Anyway, CJ liked him very much.

The Symphony wrapped up the evening with Bruckner’s challenging (for us as well as the orchestra) Symphony No. 4 .

If you live near Auburn, or if you don’t mind driving here for an evening of rich, joyful entertainment, hie thee to the Auburn Symphony.  Perhaps you’ll see us there, Row J, left side, near the front.

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Annual Real Estate Report

said on January 16th, 2011 filed under: Market Trends, Neighborhood Profiles

From January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010, here is your report for homes sold in the Nevada County side of our Golden Hills real estate zone.  This area is north of the Bear River and up to Nevada City.  In the report I have used the median price of homes sold, not the average price.  Median (an equal number of homes above and below the median) is a more accurate depiction of the market.

Area                                Median Price       #homes sold        price of homes

Alta Sierra                     $255,125                     -8%                            -8%

Grass Valley                 $215,000                   +7%                           -11%

Lake of the Pines        $275,000                   +4%                            +4%

McCourtney                  $260,000                  -32%                           -43%

Nevada City                  $292,550                 +17%                          -10%

Peardale                        $297,500                  -20%                          -24%

Penn Valley                   $279,000                 +24%                          -13%

South County                $365,000                  +1%                              -9%



The higher median price of South County sold homes is an aberation caused by the fortunate sales of a few very high-priced homes.  With that South County exception, the median price of sold homes in all areas is under $300,000.  Five years ago, who would have believed that?  Nevada City?  Under $300,000?  Get outta here!

The most affordable area is Grass Valley.  You can believe that.  I just picked up an investment home there myself, putting my own dollars where my advice is.  Yes, that’s my advice–buy investment homes in Grass valley.

As usual, Lake of the Pines is the most stable, most conservative area, the modest-yield certificate-type of real estate.  Number of sales went up a bit at 4%, and median prices went up a bit at 4%.  Nothing sexy, but the 14% differential between LOP’s modest +4% and Nevada City’s -10% is significant. 

This is probably the very best time to buy large rural parcels in the McCourtney area.  Not only is it beaten down in price and sales, but some of the finest, most beautiful land in the area is out in McCourtney.  Hmmmm?  Let’s go look at farm land in McCourtney.

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Weimar Institute Trails

said on July 15th, 2010 filed under: Fun Things to Do Outdoors, Neighborhood Profiles, Running and Hiking trails

Weimar trees at prayer cove

The trails at Weimar are not spectacular.  No long-range vistas of the snow-capped mountains.  No thundering waterfalls.  But these trails are some of my favorites of all the trails I know in the Sierra foothills. 

Weimar Institute is a Seventh Day Adventist enclave (ashram?) between Auburn, CA and Colfax, CA just off Interstate 80 at the West Paoli exit.  This place is HUGE.  Though I’ve run all the Institute trails, I’ve never tried to calculate the cumulative trail distance, but it has to be continue reading…

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12 Reasons Why the 4th of July at Lake of the Pines, CA is the Best Day of the Year

said on July 4th, 2010 filed under: Fun Things to Do Outdoors, Lake of the Pines, Neighborhood Profiles, Whimsy

At Lake of the Pines, California, 4th of July is the best, most fun day of the year.  Houses are decorated.  The population doubles.  It’s bigger than Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Halloween all rolled up in one ball of total happiness.

1.  Everybody, I mean EVERYBODY, shows up.  It lifts your patriotic spirit to see so many people having so much fun. continue reading…

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Alta Sierra, Lake of the Pines, and Lake Wildwood: A Snapshot of Homes for Sale

said on June 20th, 2010 filed under: Alta Sierra, Lake of the Pines, Lake Wildwood, Neighborhood Profiles

Here is a comparison of homes sold and homes currently for sale in 3 Nevada County communities:  Alta Sierra, Lake of the Pines, and Lake Wildwood.  This data is provided by the Nevada County Association of Realtors Multiple Listing Service (MLS).  There are a few more homes sold and for sale in these areas than indicated in this report; some properties, especially bank-owned properties, are represented by continue reading…

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7 Reasons to Live in South County

said on June 10th, 2010 filed under: Country Property, Neighborhood Profiles

The area we call South County is north of Auburn, CA just across the Bear River in Nevada County and just below Alta Sierra.

1.  The location is superb.  South County is near the mountains, canyons, rivers, and trails and it is also near continue reading…

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