Come See the Amazing Salinas River

Come See the Amazing Salinas River

The Salinas River is an amazing resource in North SLO County that many of us who live here do not fully appreciate. The beauty within its banks can be seen year round and the

Mid Summer Beauty

Mid Summer Beauty

benefits are always available. The ‘upside down’ river that flows out of the Los Padres National Forest near Pozo flows from south to north, and is most often flowing underground. However, most of the year the Salinas River can be seen near the Templeton/Vineyard Bridge where the water table is highest. There are also portions South of the 41 Bridge where it can be seen because there are so many beaver dams holding it back.

I have been hiking and riding in the Salinas riverbed for over 14 years now and have seen many changes and much beauty. When the water is really flowing after heavy rains, the channels and trails will redirect each year. And new life will spring up wherever the water runs. The fish and frogs, the willows and flowers: it changes throughout the year as the water subsides and the heat beats down.

Here is a perfect place to see just how much water we had in the river this year!  Take a look!

River Ride to Remember

The Salinas River is home to many coyote, cottontails, jack rabbits, road runners, fox, bobcat, turkey vultures and hawks, snowy egrets, killdeer, and green backed herons. And the plants and flowers are fantastic year round.

You can hike, ride your horse, run your dog and hunt for arrowheads and special rocks as I have seen so many people do. The smells of sage and sun, and the restful shade under a towering oak or sycamore are pleasures that are too often missed by so many in our busy lives.

Pack a lunch and some water. Drive to the parking lot behind Home Depot on Ferrocarril and take a hike. There are plenty of river trails to explore as well as trails installed by the Atascadero Mutual Water Co. to access the wells that the Water Company owns. They welcome you to use their trails respectfully.

Just please don’t leave any trash. Many of us who regularly walk the river pick up the trash that others leave, and the riverbed is so much cleaner now than it was 14 years ago. If you see any trash, just help us out and pick it up. It will make it so much nicer for the next hiker or rider.

River RideIt may be called the ‘upside down’ river, but it’s always the ‘right side up’ river to visit!

And Always Expect the BEST!


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2016 Real Estate Review and 2017 Real Estate Forecast

2016 Review and 2017 Real Estate Forecast

This real estate report looks back at 2016 North San Luis Obispo County and projects market activity and a 2017 real estate forecast. While the past certainly does not equal the future, we try to provide insights to help you make good decisions regarding real estate.

Residential home sales stayed on par with about 1600 homes sold for 2016 which is similar in number to 2015. The average price of in-town homes reached $396,000 small housereflecting a 6% increase over 2015. Pending sales going into the New Year are higher than 2015 which I believe reflects a change to a more confident consumer. The inventory for single family homes for sale is up 30% which reverses a trend over the past few years and points toward a more balanced market between buyers and sellers

Going forward, it appears that home sale price increases will stay modest in the 5% range or less. Slow appreciation is healthy. Rising interest rates are expected and will impact sales in a modest way. Sellers are starting to reduce asking prices if their property is sitting. These reductions are happening State-wide. Sellers always get ahead of the market asking prices. These reductions do not mean a drop in value, but reflect pricing more consistent with the market.

For the first time in years, lots and land sales increased 30% year to year. There is more building and asking prices have dropped to a level where buyers see value and opportunity. We think that pricing for land will be strong in 2017. A note of caution still exists for land parcels within the groundwater ordinance overlay.

High-end existing homes, vineyards and wineries all experienced a bump in activity over 2015. Million dollar homes are reasonably priced and certainly appear to be good deals when compared to the strong residential prices. Agricultural buyers are going after already planted vineyards. The water restrictions make existing properties more valuable. More existing wineries will sell in 2017 because building from scratch is difficult for many reasons.

IMG_5367This 2017 Real Estate Forecast is based in part on the booming North County tourism. Our wineries are selling wine at a decent pace. Commercial activity continues to move forward at a steady pace. Atascadero has lagged behind the commercial pace as compared to Paso Robles. Industrial activity is good based on user demand. Home rents are very strong.

North County is an inbound destination for tourists and urban refugees looking to relocate on a permanent or part-time basis. Urban and baby boomer refugees could create a sustained demand for the North County lifestyle we love so much.   Some people are leaving the State but we see buyers walk through our doors at RE/MAX all the time. We are a great value. Maybe better than ever.

Always Expect the Best!!  smsignature copy

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Current Real Estate Review

2016 Third Quarter North County Real Estate Review 


This is a Real Estate Review for our North San Luis Obispo County real estate. All real estate is local. We hear lots of news in the media, but it’s what happens here that affects your decision making. It’s what really matters to you.

Residential single family home sales were even in volume with 2015 and prices rose 5% to an average sale price of $396,000. Homes on acreage were also even in volume with 2015 and the average sale price of $653,000 reflected a similar 5% increase over the comparable 2015 period. The number of homes for sale dropped 7% as inventory is down to about 3 months.

Where are the Sellers? They continue to sit on the sidelines and watch the game. Many still cannot sell for what they believe their home is worth. It may be quite some time before we see 2006 pricing again. We also have fewer “move up” buyers as our large Baby Boomer population is aging and choosing smaller homes. Downsizing has become very popular.

Million dollar home sales increased a bit over 2015 and average sale pricing actually young-grapes1increased 4% year over year.   Million dollar homes for sale increased 24% in 2016 over 2015. This market has been selective and less robust throughout the recovery. Demand has been consistent but supply is way ahead of absorption.

Vineyards and homes with vineyards are finally seeing some consistent action. The water ordinance has stopped all Eastside planting. Slowly growers and investors are realizing that the only way to be in the Grape Business is to by existing vineyards. Most grape varietals are firm in pricing which is an added bonus. Buyers of vineyards today are protected from an increase in supply by the ordinance.

Commercial properties are in the best position since 2008. Vacancies still exist but there is a lot more actual user activity at this time. Tourism is super strong and growing. Apartments are in demand by tenants and investors. Financing is still a challenge across the board.

Home prices may be entering a plateau phase. There is an inverse relationship between interest rates and asset prices such as homes. It seems that interest rates have found a bottom and in fact expectations seem to be in minor rate increases. Residential rates seem to have stabilized

Spanish Lakes HomeNorth County has risen to the challenge of competing in a no growth economy. Our city government works. The wine industry has created an environment that attracts high quality consistent tourism dollars. Every weekend it seems we are celebrating life! Perhaps our greatest asset is the community spirit inherent in our citizens. We have a healthy respect for our past and generous attention to our future. Who has it better than we do? Nobody!

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Real Estate Facts Please!

The Real Estate Facts Today

Real estate facts and the real estate market are constantly changing.  Here is some very current national and local information to help guide you on your way.

I recently heard Jonathan Smoke, the Chief Economist for speak about the market today and provide current real estate facts.  The market we are in right now.  This is always valuable information to me because as an agent, I can be in the middle of helping people buy and sell homes and not really have time to poke my head up from my escrows and see what is happening all around me.  And it’s always good to get the perspective of an economist!

Jonathan Smoke spoke on a national level, but everything he said can be applied to real estate right here in San Luis Obispo County.  Today, we have great demand and not enough supply.  Lots of people wanting to buy and not enough houses.  We have a supply of 4 months of product, meaning, if no new homes are listed today, all of the homes currently on the market will sell in just 4 months.  That’s considered low inventory.  Average, and a balanced market is about 6 months of inventory.

We are just now starting to see new construction popping up around us.  That new construction is great, but far behind filling the need for housing all around us.  House FramingIt does show that prices have risen to enough of a high that builders can again build and make a profit and that’s a great real estate fact.

While credit is beginning to loosen a bit, it’s actually the buyers who are helping themselves more than the banks.  They have been frugal, paid off debt, and are coming in with equity from the homes they are selling, good credit scores, job security and are finding the banks are willing participants.

The foreclosure crisis book can be closed.  Foreclosures today make up only 1% of the market.  And homes that are in serious deliquency are at the lowest number in 8 years.

AG Westside House

AG Westside House

With low inventory nationwide, there is only one category of home that is still in a weak position.  The luxury home market, which was greatly influenced by foreign buyers, is still struggling.  And our foreign buyer market has declined because of the struggling world economy.

The good news for homeowners is that demographically speaking, the next 10 to 15 years will see a rise in home buying.  The boomer generation continues to move up, move out and move on.  At the same time their children are coming into their prime buying years.

While our median sale price of 2006 ($521,000) has not yet returned, and may not return for a number of years, there is solid growth in the market, solid interest and prices this SpringGreen up arrow are on the rise.  Our median sales price today is approximately $449,000.  A far cry from a low of $281,000 in 2011.

The new is good.  The market is good.  We’ve had some great rainfall this year.  And Spring has Sprung!  So call me if you or someone you know needs help with a move.  I’m ready!

And “Always Expect the Best!”smsignature copy






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So You Want to Buy a House?!

So you want to buy a house?

It’s always an adventure to jump into a big pool of water, but wisdom dictates that you check out a few things first: like the depth of the pool, the temperature, and whether or not you can swim before you should buy a house!taking the plunge1

So, when you are ready to buy your first home, here are a few pointers which may help you along the way…

  • Do take a longterm approach to what it is you want to buy. This is a serious purchase and is not like buying and selling stocks. Real Estate is not a liquid asset. It’s conversion back into hard dollars can take months and months and if you did not plan well, you may not be able to sell it quickly or convert it back to any cash at all.
  • Do always think RESALE!  If there is something of concern to you today, that issue could be 10 X’s worse in 10 years when you want to sell. Think ahead.
  • small houseDon’t buy a house because you love the furniture and decorating inside. It will be going away soon. On the contrary, don’t pass on a house because your Grandma’s dining set doesn’t fit into the dining room. Furniture can easily be changed. The location, amenities and floor plan are tough to change.
  • Do visit the neighborhood a number to times. Morning, evening and weekends. Consider the street parking, children, bikes, parties, dog barking,  noise levels….
  • Do set a realistic budget with a lender, and obtain a pre-approval before even putting your toe in the water. And don’t go overboard! You may qualify for a $750,000 house, but look at what that payment means to your monthly budget. Perhaps you can find what you want in the $650,000 range and still have money left over each month in your entertainment budget.
  • Do obtain a professional home inspection. It is the wisest advice I can give you, and well worth the price for how much you can learn about this very large, important purchase. You might even change your mind and find a different pond to jump into!

taking the plunge2This is just a partial list of things to think about before you buy a house. Having worked with buyers for over 27 years, and bought and sold many properties, I know that the experience of a professional will help you avoid the pools too shallow, the currents too strong, and show you how to be properly dressed for your first plunge!


And “Always Expect the Best!”smsignature copy


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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

smsignature copy







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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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