The Salinas River and El Nino 2016

The Salinas River and El Nino in 2016

Salinas River February 2016

Salinas River February 2016

This is a typically dry section of the Salinas River between Templeton and the Hwy 41 bridge in Atascadero.  The water only appears here when the water table below is full and this is essentially the overflow of a full basin.  Even in an El Nino year when the rain we expected has not appeared in full force, a few good rains can reveal this abundant resource in our area.

The Salinas River is an amazing resource.  Any city or town which is privileged to have a river flowing through it, is blessed indeed.  This riverbed houses a wealth of wildlife, from frogs to bobcat.  I have seen deer, coyotes, fox, kit fox, red tailed hawks and a myriad of birds here including snowy egrets and green backed herons.

Flowers of the SalinasIt is amazing each year to watch how this resource bounces back to life so quickly and continues to produce plant life for the critters, and wildflowers for our viewing pleasure.

We need to remember what a special resource this is and care for in every way we can.  It’s a wonderful place year round to walk your dog, ride your horse, mountain bike or simply find a quiet place to reflect.

Please remember to carry out anything you take in.  Many volunteers help to clean up the riverbed and each year a community clean up day is organized by the Atascadero Mutual Water Company.  Anything you can do to help is appreciated!  Now go enjoy this amazing resource!

And “Always Expect the Best!”Flowers of the Salinas

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How to Price A Home for Sale

How to Price A Home for Sale

AG Westside House

AG Westside House

I’ve been through it so many times! A seller wants me to do a current market analysis on their home to estimate how to price a home for sale in todays marketplace.

  • I determine the price
  • The seller wants to add “wiggle room” or “negotiating room” or “more because they don’t want to give it away”
  • I explain that my price is the absolute top price for which the house will sell
  • I explain that if they push the price too high, it will discourage buyers from looking and from writing an offer because they don’t wish to insult the seller
  • I lose the listing to an agent who prices the house where the seller wants
  • The house does not sell
  • It stays on the market too long and becomes a “tired” listing
  • The house sells for less than what I recommended because now the market has become leery of it and knows it is overpriced, so offers come in low and the sellers need to take a low offer in order to move
Deer Park Estates in Paso Robles

Deer Park Estates in Paso Robles

My advice. Choose a Realtor®  you trust and listen to their advice. They have your interests at heart. We want to sell your home at the highest price possible in the least amount of time. And by the way, if your home sells in under 30 days, it was priced RIGHT!

smsignature copyAnd “Always Expect the Best!”


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2015 3rd Quarter Real Estate Review

Creston Vineyard             2015 3rd Quarter North County Real Estate Review 

Sales of residential single family properties increased year over year by 30%.  The average price of sold homes bumped up 3.6% to $375,000, on a year to year basis.  But the supply of homes for sale continues to trend downward.  Reasons for this are the lack of viable replacement properties for the sellers, still not enough equity to allow a seller to move on or upgrade, and the current worry over our inconsistent economy.

Homes for sale in South Atascadero are in strong demand.  South Atascadero is providing a quality, lower cost opportunity for San Luis Obispo employees.  Demand for homes in Paso Robles is steady up to $500,000.  An important component in the demand for Paso Robles homes, especially on the Westside, is investor appetite for vacation rentals.  Most of these investors are from the Bay Area.  And Templeton demand is strong up to $600,000, that demand being fueled largely by families seeking the Templeton School District.

Having said that, both the Paso Robles and Atascadero School Districts are making many changes to win back the trust and admiration of the parents of school age children.  They are leaping forward in very positive ways with improved programs, training, and accelerated programs.  Competition is good fort he marketplace just as it is proving to be for our school districts.

Quality is the common denominator driving demand for San Luis Obispo properties.

Million dollar higher end homes are lagging behind in sales as compared to 2014.  Supply of big dollar homes is also dropping as sellers wait to see more market activity.  Most of these homes are selling below replacement cost.  We are now beginning to see investors looking at trophy properties for vacation rentals.

The drought and the uncertainty of the yet to be renewed water ordinance has muddied the picture for agricultural properties.  There is so much talk about the water situation that people, buyers and sellers, are tentative.  Grape prices are still strong for most varietals and this years’s crop only highlighted that pricing situation.

No one knows the future, but here is one likely scenario.  Whatever ordinance and/or district is ultimately enacted, it will restrict all new irrigated plantings.  Existing planted vineyards will be more valuable versus replacement cost.  If we have big rain and a defined ordinance, the agricultural situation will improve.  Right now it takes 6-9 months to get a well drilled on raw land.  Obsiously that time frame has curtailed demand for raw land parcels.  Certainly there will be new building and planting restrictions and costs that will further complicate the raw land situation.

Our hotels and restaurants continue to do well in a competitive environment.  I think the success of the Golden Hill/46 Intersection is a great example of how far we have come as a community.  Take time to stop by the newest hotel on Buena Vista just south of Cuesta College.  It’s a top class facility.  Our local leadership and citizens have gone a long way to create and prepare for a continued bright future.

Quality never goes out of style.  Our community has worked with our wine and Ag community to create a destination location for outsiders to enjoy and the locals to prosper.  People come to visit, spend money, and then leave.  As long as we remain a quality product, this community will move forward.

“Always Expect the Best!”






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Trucks Hauling Hay

Trucks Hauling Hay

I like seeing trucks hauling hay around town.truck with hay  I like driving 101 with plenty of room around me.  I like recognizing the gal helping me at the post office or the checker at the grocery store.  I like running into people I know.  I like seeing the neat dirt rows that tractors make.  I like to hear the rooster next door in the morning even if it’s 4 AM.

It’s nice to walk down the block to the local coffee shop.  It’s good to see people holding hands on the sidewalk outside my office.  There are so many nice people around here I have yet to meet! Paso Robles Park Gazebo It’s nice to see people enjoying the downtown park with the big oak trees.  I like to go to a restaurant where all the produce was grown just a mile away.

I like to see the old Victorians on Vine St still loved andVictorian on Vine used, painted a rainbow pallet of colors, or just white!  I like to see trucks hauling hay all over town. It means there are goats, pigs, sheep and horses nearby.  I like to see the horse trailers at the fairgrounds. Something fun is up.

Small town life, trucks hauling hay, open space, short lines and

Lots of fresh air. Paso Robles!

And Always Expect the Best!trucks hauling boys

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2015 Real Estate Review

2015 First Quarter North County Real Estate Review 

IMG_5367This is a snapshot of the North County real estate market for the first quarter of 2015. All real estate activity is local. North County remains an inbound market for urban refugees. Therefore, we do evaluate economic activity in our prime feeder markets of the Bay Area and LA to predict the activity that will take place here 3 to 6 months ahead.  This real estate review is designed to help you with your future decisions in our area.

Residential single family home sales are almost identical in number to this sameFront.JPG in 2013 and 2014. The average market price actually dropped a bit to $362,000 this quarter, so the Spring surge that we would begin to see especially Front Doorbeginning in March is not here. In Paso Robles the market is brisk up to $400,000 and much quieter above $600,000. Templeton properties are strong up to $500,000 and Atascadero is pretty active up to $600,000. Lack of inventory is not a factor in our market but may become so as we are seeing many more homes go pending vs. new listings in the past month.

Higher end homes in the million dollar range are active, but a large overhang of inventory is keeping a lid on any upward price push. We see a number of high dollar buyers in our office and they are very selective with regard to location and quality. Price is also a factor at this upper end.

Small business has struggled in the past 6 years and empty office, retail and industrial spaces attest to the weakness. Vacancies are certainly less than they were 4 years ago, but commercial demand remains weaker than expected. Commercial rents have stabilized.

Despite the persistent drought, agriculture has held on nicely. Grape prices look to be solid for this year. Cattle prices are off the charts. The top tier wineries, in quality and production, are doing well.   The wine growers here are thinking outside the box and are creating a genre of wines that are specifically Paso Robles and are wonderful. Paso Robles is known world wide for its wines. That is great for our wine industry, tourism, and the future of this area.

In our market today, the interest rates are less than 4%. Most properties are selling below replacement costs. A majority of sellers have seen their equity return to the degree that they can sell and move on with some cash in their pockets. But many sellers may be choosing to stay put because of an inability to “move up” to more house or a better location. That, as well as higher building and government costs for new construction, may keep an adequate supply of new listings from coming on line this year.

I am often asked about how the drought has affected property values.   Certainly, owners

Salinas Riverbed

Salinas Riverbed

of large undeveloped acreage within the Water Moratorium designation have seen their land values drop. As properties are no longer viable for planting, they have become residential in nature and only useful for dry land farming or cattle as was the common use decades ago. But for residential single family homes, the value seems more to be about jobs and the economy in general than any concern about the drought. After all, a drought, no matter how long, is only temporary. I believe that we all understand that the rain here will return and solve a multitude of issues.

Today in California, despite the need for rain, it’s hard to point to a community and say their future is brighter than ours.   Our best days are well ahead of us.

And “Always Expect the Best”Joanie Williams


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The Paso Robles Real Estate Market Today

IMG_5367The Paso Robles Real Estate Market is on track again!  We are seeing inventory getting eaten up this Spring while the sellers are reluctant to list what they own.  With more sales than listings, more demand than supply, the result is that we will see prices increase this season.

Another factor which is helping our market move forward is low interest rates.  However, with these rates down in the low 3% range, what will naturally occur is that home prices will rise.  When money is cheap, more buyers can enter the market and there is more competition for the same properties.  What is interesting is that we had a similar trend in the Spring of 2014 that petered out by Summer.  I believe the difference this year is that our economy is stronger and people are more secure in their jobs today.  I predict that we will see a strong Summer market as well.Spanish Lakes Home

Prices today have increased to a point that is much harder for investors to buy properties that they can buy and flip.  There is simply not enough room to make a profit.  That is good news for first time home buyers who cannot compete with investors paying all cash.

My advice today is “get out of your rental and go buy a house/condo/PUD or any kind of single family residence you can”.  These interest rates won’t last into next year and the price you see today may be higher by Summer.

Atascadero LakeThe Paso Robles Real Estate Market is doing well, despite the drought.  Despite what the politicians are doing about our water situation, we all know it will rain again someday soon.  And when the rain comes back, we will see lots of it!


And “Always Expect the Best”Joanie Williams



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Peanut the Donkey Training Continued

Donkey training all the time!

My donkey, my friend!

Donkey training is not as easy as I thought it would be.  So be forewarned!  I know these critters look pretty simpleminded, but they are really very smart indeed.

“Peanut” is progressing fairly well however, at least in so far as carrying a load of noisy cans and bottles.  But the riding part needs is a bit of a bronc buster!  Although we started out with a good ride the first time, Peanut has not taken well to being ridden since then.  And really the hardest part is the steering.

The Salinas River is an amazing natural resource, not only because our drinking water in this area comes from it, but because it is a wonderful place to hike, walk dogs, ride horses, and as many know but don’t share, ATV’s come in on the weekends and have a great time.  But with all the “traffic” people always seem to leave trash behind.  Not sure why.  My goal is to pick up everything I can out there and hope that people see this place as clean and beautiful again so they won’t continue to leave trash behind.

Donkeys really like to eat much more than they should.  So if you decide to get a donkey, and start donkey training, you’ll need a dry pasture area and not mind much if your trees should disappear over time. They eat everything!

Besides all that, they have lots of personality and they like to let you know what they’re thinking!  Generally they sound like they just lost their best friend, but usually when they talk it means “Come pay attention to me and don’t forget to bring the snacks”!

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2014 Year End Real Estate Review and 2015 Forecast

2014 North County Real Estate Review and 2015 Forecast

NorthEast views in Paso

NorthEast views in Paso

Over the past few decades, North County has transitioned from a sleepy rural farming and ranching town to a dynamic economy, fueled by a number of positive economic factors. We see growth from agriculture, tourism and wineries as well as economic growth from the influx of urban refugees. This report takes a look back at 2014 North County Real Estate and the prospects for 2015.

There was a traditional spring surge in residential home sales, but an increase in pricing that did not reflect the true market. Buyers grew wary of these higher price tags, and as the year played out, sellers adjusted their pricing and buyers became more active.

The average price of a North County home increased over 3% to $346,000 and market sale numbers topped 1000 units. Homes on acreage topped 370 units with an average sale price of $591,000. We sold a total of 1400 homes, the same amount as in 2013, but with a higher average sale price.

The inventory of homes for sale today is about 12% more than this time last year, with a median list price that is about 2% higher. If no more properties come on the market, this inventory could potentially be gone in 3 ½ months. We are close to a very balanced market between buyers and sellers.

For Sale

North County is very dependent on small businesses and they have been struggling here over the past 6 years. The struggling economy has kept a lid on any real growth for them. Commercial real estate investors are seeking income producing properties with good tenants, and others have a greater interest in multi-family properties as this market continues to be strong in income.

Our wine industry is very solid today. We have wineries with international distribution and high quality boutique wineries with solid reputations in the wine world. The water situation and ordinance will restrict planting grapes in the future, so existing vineyards and wineries are more valuable today because of this.

Lower gas prices should really help our tourism industry. New hotels are continuing to be built in anticipation of continued growth in this area. And our “feeder markets” of the Bay Area, the LA Basin and Orange and San Diego counties are showing continued good economic news. This good news will translate over time into more real estate transactions in our area.

There is a cloud of uncertainty that can be felt in our economy, and that unspoken wariness about the future does keep people from making decisions. The stock market is booming because there is nowhere else to put ones money. Therefore, although the future is brightening, it is plodding ahead slowly and cautiously. Real estate is slowly returning to its proper place as a good investment, and the hope is that this trend continues.

Specifically, it’s remarkable that in 2014 North County Real Estate has fared so well. We have always had a business community that is invested in our area’s future and government leaders who do the same. We see only positive growth in many ways this coming year. We are fortunate indeed.

And “Always Expect the Best!”

Joanie Williams



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Reverse Mortgages May Not Be for Everyone

Vintage Home Paso RoblesRemember, you are spending your childrens’ inheritance when you take out a Reverse Mortgage.  And you just might be creating problems for your children after you are gone, beyond what you had expected.

I recently closed a transaction, wherein both parents had passed away.  A few years ago, they had taken out a Reverse Mortgage on their property.  When it came time to sell, we discovered that after paying closing costs, the family was left with no equity in the house.  And beyond that, the house had to sell as a Short Sale.  The kids had to pay utilities, legal fees, upkeep on the house during the listing AND remove all the personal property from the residence, which in the case of this sale, was a sizable job!

So although the extra cash for Mom and Pop was helpful, I am certain that they believed their children would still inherit the “estate”.  Instead, they inherited a big problem.  Living out of the area, numerous trips for clean up, estate sales, yard sales and trips to the Goodwill.  It added up to a huge task for this family..

The better route might have been careful financial planning on the part of the parents, or even better, selling the house they could no longer afford and purchasing a smaller, less expensive property.  They could have budgeted their cash and left their children a nice little inheritance.  At least they could have left them time to grieve the loss of their parents, rather than having to plunge into a huge additional problem.

The Reverse Mortgage can be a true help for some people, but much family planning should accompany this decision.  Also, beginning in 2015, the lending  requirements for taking out this type of loan has been increased to more stringent financial requirements.  My guess is that too many of these loans are being paid back “short”.  Our residences simply can’t be expected to solve our financial problems in the future.

“Always Expect the Best”Joanie Williams

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2014 3rd Quarter North County Real Estate Review

2014 3rd Quarter North County Real Estate

This report is a look back at North County Real Estate to date. We will review both pricing and sales activity with comparisons on a year to year basis. North County is a dynamic community with a number of factors that influence real estate trends.

Perhaps the most significant statistic for the residential single family home sector is that there are 20% more houses for sale today versus 2013. Early in 2014 Sellers were bullish on pricing and listed properties hit the market based on this optimistic price outlook. By mid-summer it became apparent that the Buyers had a more restrained opinion on pricing.

Morro Road Home

Morro Road House, Atascadero

Actual unit single family home sales remained on par with 2013 and prices did rise almost 8% on a year to year basis. The average North County single family home is now selling at $362,000. After a couple years of double digit percentage price increase the Buyers have decided to take a break. There is no sense of urgency amongst Buyers today, especially with continual low interest rates and a good choice of options when house shopping.

The number of million dollar home sales increased significantly in 2014 but the average sale price did not change on a year to year basis. The number of million dollar property listings dropped a bit on a year to year basis. One could surmise this category is somewhat balanced on these numbers. Buyers are very selective in these purchases and there remains plenty of supply in the pipeline.

40 X 20 shop

40 X 20 Shop, Jardine Road

Commerical properties have steadily recovered over the past few years. Retail and industrial rents are stable and vacancies are slowly being absorbed. This market is not robust but the trend line is positive. Well located properties get all the action while the secondary locations are much less in demand. There are a number of new hotel rooms coming on line in 2014. Multi-family properties have strong rents and investor demand at market prices.

Templeton Ranch

Vineyard on Indian Valley Road, San Miguel

Tourissm and agriculture are the twin towers of our North County economy. The foundation of these two industries is our wine and grape growing business. Despite the drought and world-wide competition for wine sales. North County has held its own and then some. We seem to be like the “Little Engine That Could.” These industries are popular with people that are creative, competitive and above all resilient. There are plenty of places to grow grapes and make wine in the world. It’s the local people in our industry that make this particular place so special.

Real estate investors and farmers are looking to acquire large existing vineyards. Within the industry the participants understand that the drought has created a whole new set of costs and restrictions in regard to planting new vineyards. Investors are also buying existing wineries. These aforementioned Buiyers are well financed and have longer term perspectives.

Salinas Riverbed

Trail riding in the Salinas Riverbed

Has the drought had an impact on real estate in North County? This is a difficult question to answer but I believe the impact of the drought will be more long lasting because of local and state governments are gaining control of the water resource that was previously unrestricted. Government restrictions will have the most adverse financial impact on new development. Existing built and planted properties are better values based on new restrictions and costs that will inevitable be imposed on new development.

Today Buyers lack a sense of urgency which has stalled the nationwide housing recovery. We see the same thing happening in North County. Interest rates are low. Gas is getting cheaper which helps destination locations like North County. When we get a big rainfall this year the party will be on! 2014 shows just how strong North County can in the face of adversity.


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