Archive for the 'Real Estate Nuts and Bolts' Category

Lake of the Pines Elementary School – Auburn, Ca. Cottage Hill Elementary

said on May 2nd, 2013 filed under: Auburn, Lake of the Pines, Localism, Neighborhood Profiles, Real Estate Nuts and Bolts

Lake of the Pines Elementary School – Auburn, Ca. Cottage Hill Elementary School is located near the community of Lake of the Pines. They serve approximately 550 students in grades Kindergarten through Fifth. They are in the Pleasant Ridge Union School District, their physical address is: 22600 Kingston Lane Grass Valley, CA 95949 Phone: 530.268.2808 continue reading…

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Combined Home Sales for Lake of the Pines, Alta Sierra, South County, Peardale/Chicago Park, Grass Valley, Colfax/Weimar, Penn Valley, Nevada City and Auburn Ca. in 2013

said on April 25th, 2013 filed under: Alta Sierra, Auburn, Grass Valley, Lake of the Pines, Localism, Market Trends, Real Estate Nuts and Bolts

Home sales for Lake of the Pines, Alta Sierra, South County, Peardale/Chicago Park, Grass Valley, Colfax/Weimar, Penn Valley, Nevada City and Auburn Ca. in 2013. As we finalize our look at our local Real Estate happenings, we have combined our areas into one one report for you. For this analysis, we’ll look at sales data from the Nevada County Association of Realtors for the first quarter of 2013. This analysis shows the “average” sold data for homes that were not short sales.


Number of homes sold                                       149


Average Days on the Market (DOM)               111


Median Asking Price at time of sale                          $353,931


Asking Price per square foot                          $161.76


Median  Sold Price                                             $341,819

Percent sold price to asking price                   97.35%


The average size of homes sold                   2,104 sq ft


High sold                                                          $1,650,000


Median sold                                                     $290,000


Low sold                                                            $99,000




This analysis of home sales for Lake of the Pines, Alta Sierra, South County, Peardale/Chicago Park, Grass Valley, Colfax/Weimar, Penn Valley, Nevada City and Auburn Ca. in 2013 covers the first quarter of 2013.



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Home Sales for Nevada City, Ca. in 2013

said on April 23rd, 2013 filed under: Localism, Market Trends, Real Estate Nuts and Bolts

Home sales for Nevada City, Ca. in 2013. As we move up the highway from Lake of the Pines we come into Nevada City, Ca. For this analysis, we’ll look at sales data from the Nevada County Association of Realtors for the first quarter of 2013. This analysis shows the “average” sold data for homes that were not short sales. continue reading…

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Tru . . . Tru . . .Tru . . . Trulia.

said on March 20th, 2013 filed under: Real Estate Nuts and Bolts



Which of the two “real estate sites” is more duplictious and underhanded?  Early this morning I recieved an angry phone call from a gentleman who had been home shopping online and found one of my listings, sold back in September, but still carried as “active” on one of the aformentioned sites.   He claimed that most of the properties he found listed as available were, in fact, sold or cancelled.  I worked hard today to calm him down and, hopefully, gain his business.

The gentleman and I share something in common.  Our lack of trust in Trulia and Zillow.

Here’s a re-blog from realtor Greg Swan who writes today in his acerbic

My client went shopping for houses on, and only 75% of those she found were bogus listings.”

He goes on.  . . .

Trulia and Zillow both present inactive listings as though they were active to fool the public into thinking that they have more inventory than the agents they exploit for advertising money, even though their listings come straight from the MLS systems. Mere real estate brokers would be fined out of business for pulling these stunts.”

Despair you nothing, though, hard-working dogs.*  Every time Trulia or Zillow are caught pulling these bait-and-switch stunts, one more active real estate shopper is turned off of their sites forever.  Nice going, suits . . . ”

These lines from Swann’s article jump out at me:

” . . . to fool the public.”

“. . . agents they exploit for advertising money.”

” . . . bait-and-switch stunts.”

” . . . one more active real estate shopper is turned off of their sites forever.”


Thanks for the grand slam, Greg.

*By the way, “dogs” refers to realtors who subscribe to the Bloodhound.


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Enter the CRAWLSPACE . . . if you dare!

said on March 18th, 2013 filed under: Localism, Real Estate Nuts and Bolts

Enter the CRAWLSPACE . . . if you dare.

Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here!

Crawlspaces are damp, dark, and cold.  Most people do not like slithering around inside of them, underneath all the weight of the building, where unknown THINGS drip, and crawl, and scurry.  Spiders, and rats, and snakes, Oh My!


But if you want to feel the pulse of the house, get a sense of how it’s running,  you need to peek under the floor.  Follow me beneath a typical home in northern California, and we will see what we can see.  Don’t be scared.  I’ll hold your hand.  Shhhh!  What’s that?

It looks like something you would find in a haunted house.  Nah, it’s just the plastic they wrap around heating and air conditioning ducts.  It has a tendency to deteriorate  if exposed to sunlight, even the narrow shafts of sunlight coming in through the foundation vents.  Or maybe some CREATURE shredded it . . . and maybe that CREATURE is still here?  Boogah! Boogah! Boogah!  Probably not.  The fix?  Just re-wrap it with more insulation or plastic or replace the entire tattered section.  No problem.

Moving deeper into the CRAWLSPACE.

Now this is a terrifying problem.  CELLULOSE DEBRIS!  Right there on the dirt.  Wait.  What is that, cellulose debris?  It’s anything made from a tree, and that includes wood, paper, cardboard, twigs, toothpicks, furniture, anything.  Got to get rid of that stuff.  Why?  TERMITES.  The little insectoid house-eaters love cellulose.  Stacking lumber, packing boxes and other forest products on the ground is just like ringing the dinner bell.

What is this?  Docktor Frankenstein’s laboratory?  I’m not sure.  It’s some kind of owner-built clustermess of a piping contraption waiting patiently to spring a leak and flood the crawlspace.  Really, Mr. Homeowner, hire a PLUMBER.

SNAKES!  No wait.  Not snakes.  Just television or communication cable lying around on the ground.  This is, unfortunately, typical of cable installation, sloppy and hasty.  It’s not a dangerous situation because there’s no significant current flowing the cables, but they get snagged and pulled lose (“Ethel, what just happened to the TV?”), and frankly, they look . . . unkempt.

Speaking of sloppy.  What the heck is this?  C’mon peeps, you can’t be leaving foundation posts just . . . floating in air like a GHOST.  Check the level and plumb, then install a new, correctly-sized post.

Now here’s a scary word . . . EFFLORESCENCE!  It’s in the same chemical family as . . . ECTOPLASM.  Well, that may be stretching it a bit.

Efflorescence is caused when water seeps through concrete and deposits soluble salts, most often calcium hydroxide.  It can be removed, sometimes by scrubbing or applying acid, or both, but here in the crawlspace, why bother.  There’s nothing harmful about efflorescence by itself.  But it’s never by itself.  Efflorescence is caused by moisture intrusion, and you definitely do not want that!  Correcting moisture problems in the crawlspace is the topic of another article, so all I’ll say here is that the best cure is prevention, stopping the water before it ever gets into the crawlspace.

Here you can see where water is getting into the crawlspace from the uphill side of the house and actually carving a little rivulet as it burbles merrily downstream.  I wonder where it is going?

The water is flowing into THE PIT OF DAMPNESS AND DOOM.  This is the downhill corner of the crawlspace.  Not good.  What can be done?  First, as mentioned above, try to prevent water from ever getting into the crawlspace, but that is not always possible, even with proper exterior drainage and grading.  If water DOES enter and flows into the PIT OF DAMP AND DOOM, be sure you encourage it to keep right on flowing.  In this situation you could first try installing a PASSIVE DRAIN.  Rent a concrete hole-cutter and drill a three or four inch hole through the foundation so that most of the water just pours out the downhill side.  Install a grate over the hole to keep critters from using it as a front door.  Better yet, extend a drain pipe from the hole so that the water moves well away from your foundation.

If you want a more elaborate cure, then you can install a SUMP PUMP  in this corner.  Obviously this PIT is a natural catch-basin, so putting in a sump pump is easy . . . and not very expensive.  The pumps cost about $200 and with a basin, switch, drain line, and a bit of circuitry put in by a LICENSED ELECTRICIAN, you can have your sump just pumping away for $300-400.  How much water can a sump pump pump?  Oh, about 4,000 gallons an hour.

Is there anything GOOD we can say about this crawlspace?  Sure.  For one thing, it’s WELL-INSULATED, tidy and professional.

Then you can admire the adequate VENTILLATION.

I have to tell you that ventillation, though required by County building code, has become controversial in some areas.  In very humid climates, not northern California by the way, foundation vents actually invite that drippy air into the crawlspace and INCREASE the moisture levels, creating an environment that cultivates mold and fungus growth.  In very cold climates, those foundation vents allow frigid air to blow into the crawlspace, freezing water pipes, causing condensation problems, and increasing heating bills.  What to do?  I have seen clever homeowners fit STYROFOAM COVERS over the vents for the winter months.  Sounds smart to me, think I’ll do the same in November, before the first freeze.

So what’s the verdict on this crawlspace?  How would I grade it?  (Old professors never die, they just crawl away.)  As it stands right now, I would give it a C plus maybe a B minus because I’m that kind of easy grader.  But with a modest amount of work, and just a few hundred dollars, less than a thousand, I could quickly bring this crawlspace up to an B plus . . . or maybe an A minus.  I’d certainly buy a home with an A minus crawlspace . . . especially if I could get it for a bargain price.  Wouldn’t you?


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Bidding for a Home at On-Line Auction: Part 2

said on February 20th, 2013 filed under: Market Trends, Negotiating, Real Estate Nuts and Bolts

Here are some aspects, and some risks, of the auction for you to consider.

You cannot place the bid yourself. We have to do it for you. That’s because we have the required “ticket” to the auction–a real estate license. Our license promises the auction house that we have vetted you properly, and that you are financially qualified to make the purchase if you are the successful bidder.

There are extra costs involved in winning a bid.   Sometimes the costs are modest, a few hundred dollars, called a “technology fee” or something like that. These fees are tacked on to the price.  Sometimes the fee is not modest at all, a one percent surcharge. If the property is $250,000 then the surcharge is $2,500. I have seen the surcharge as high as five percent!  You read that right. So whatever is the final bid, add five percent. On a $250,000 purchase it would be $12,500. Yikes.

As in any California real estate transaction, you will make an earnest money deposit (EMD) when you open escrow. The difference here is that the amount is set by the auction house, $5,000 is typical, and it is non-refundable. No matter what. It will apply to the purchase price as long as you complete the purchase. But if the purchase fails, kiss your earnest money goodbye.

The auction house will dictate the escrow company, title insurance company, the “closing” company, the time frames, and even the type of contract used. It will all be stacked in their favor. You, and your agents, will have very little to say about this, and very little recourse if things go wrong.

Auction properties are sold strictly “as-is,” and the sellers are not fooling around. There is no, repeat no investigation period once your bid is accepted, to be more exact, once they have your non-refundable earnest money deposit. You should do all of your investigations before you give them your money. Sure, you can keep investigating once you are in escrow, but if you find something horrible, something that makes you want to cancel, well that’s tough, because they are not going to give you back your money. Not. going. to. give. you. back. your. money.

All of that sounds pretty scary, but there are upsides.

The bidding process is exciting and fun.

Sometimes you can score a great deal for yourself.

It will often go much smoother than I have described. Last year we bid and won a lovely home for a young couple, first-time buyers. They were able to purchase a home below market value, a home they could not have afforded otherwise. The closing agents we worked with were competent and pleasant. Our “kids” are very comfortable, and very happy, in their new home, the wonderful home they won at auction.

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Bidding for a Home at On-Line Auction: Part 1

said on February 17th, 2013 filed under: Localism, Negotiating, Real Estate Nuts and Bolts, Success Stories

When a bank-owned home comes up for auction there will be a minimum opening bid. Nobody knows what that minimum bid is until the property is placed “on the block.”  There will be a period of time, usually a couple of weeks, for bidding. Often, the bidding is transparent. That means you know what the other bids are.

We’ve been to this rodeo before, and here’s what we like to do:

(1) We place one bid very early in the process at the minimum increment allowed. This lets us continue reading…

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No-Nonsense Look at the Lake Of the Pines Real Estate Market

said on February 12th, 2013 filed under: Lake of the Pines, Localism, Market Trends, Real Estate Nuts and Bolts


Let’s dispense with anecdotal examples. Let’s swerve around wishful thinking.  Let’s take an honest look at the hard evidence–actual sales of homes at Lake of the Pines, California.

For this analysis, we’ll compare sales data from the Nevada County Association of Realtors for two six-month periods:

(1) August 12, 2011 through February 12, 2012

(2) August 12, 2012 through February 12, 2013

This will give us a year-on-year comparison.

Lake of the Pines is divided into two real estate sub-markets.  Lakefront homes and everything else.  Lumping lakefronts in with everything else drastically skews the results.  For the purpose of this article, I will exclude 10 lakefront homes sold, 8 in the first six-month period, and 2 in the second six-month period.



Aug 12, 2011–Feb 12, 2012          Aug 12, 2012–Feb 12, 2013

Number of non-lakefront homes sold                                                                     36                                                      44

Average Days on the Market (DOM)                                                                       88                                                      90

Asking Price at time of sale                                                                            $255,478                                           $256,277

Asking Price per square foot                                                                              $135/sq ft                                         $135/sq ft

Actual Sold Price                                                                                               $244,420                                          $246,425

Sold price per square foot                                                                                  $129/sq ft                                         $130,000

Percent sold price to asking price                                                                        95.6%                                                 96.1%


Conclusion.  The real estate market at Lake of the Pines, excluding sales of lakefront homes, is statistically unchanged from 201/2012 to 2012/2013.  The six-month periods examined are traditionally the “slow season” sales periods (fall and winter).  It will be interesting to compare the “fast season” periods (sping and summer) later on in 2013.  Based on last year’s flurry of investor purchases of lower-end homes, I predict that the “fast season” data will show a modest year-on-year improvement.

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How to Change Your Propane Gas Supplier

said on February 8th, 2013 filed under: Localism, Real Estate Nuts and Bolts, Water Wells, Septic Systems, Sewers, Electric Power

After you shop the local Propane providers for the best prices and the best “new customer” deals, make two phone calls.

(1) Call the old supplier and tell them to come get their tank.  They have no motivation whatsoever to be cooperative and speedy, so they will show up when they want to, probably after you nag them with several follow-up phone calls.

(2) Call the lucky new provider and tell them to bring you a new tank and some gas.  They will arrive quickly, remove the competitor’s old tank, and, happily, set it somewhere.

They will install your new tank.

Then a tanker will arrive and fill your tank.  Most residential tanks in California have a 250 gallon capacity.  They will fill it the first time at about 85% or 200 gallons.

The technician(s) will open the valves and hang around for a few minutes while the propane fills the empty pipes in your system.  This is called “charging” your system of pipes.

Then they will test your system for leaks with a water manometer that they will attach at the regulator.

If the manometer holds steady everybody shouts “Hoorah!”  You are leak-less.  But if the liquid column in the manometer drops, then you have a leak.  Somewhere.

Where is the leak?  Finding that leak can be quite a project if you have a lot of propane appliances in your home:

  • furnace
  • hot water heater
  • gas fireplace
  • cooktop
  • oven
  • barbecue
  • clothes dryer

If you do have a leak, as indicated by falling pressure in the manometer, the technician(s) will get out an old fashioned squirt bottle or an electronic sniffer or both and start tracking it down.  Sometimes, after they locate the leak, if it is a simple tighening of a loose fitting, they will fix it for you, but they may stop, turn off the system entirely and tell you to call the plumber or heating-and-air guy or other tradesman.  The propane guys will return only after repairs are made.

So, lets hope they don’t find any leaks in the first place.

Or, if you do have a leak, let’s hope they DO find it!

By the way, you should be asking this question:  just how, exactly, do they remove the old 250 gallon tank and replace it with a new 250 gallon tank?  These tanks weigh hundreds of pounds.

If the tank is sitting on a pad conveniently near a street or driveway, or the ground is firm and relatively flat, they drive the truck up next to the pad and lift the old tank off with a hoist, put it aside, then lower the new tank into place with the hoist.

But, the pad is almost never next to a driveway or street.  The tank is usually up a hill behind the big tree where it can’t even be seen from the street.  What then?

They drag it.

Yep, uphill.  Across the lawn, through the weeds, 3 or 4 guys drag the new tank up to the pad.

How do they move the old tank down hill?  They slide it.  Wheeeeeeee!

Now you know a lot more about propane tank switching than you did a minute ago.

Aren’t you happy?


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Lake of the Pines, Ca Market Report

said on February 6th, 2013 filed under: Lake of the Pines, Localism, Market Trends, Real Estate Nuts and Bolts

There are about 2,000 homes at Lake of the Pines.  I bet you would like to know how the real estate market in this community is performing this year.  You will be pleased and surprised to learn that continue reading…

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