Sonoma Sun #7: A California Classic

On my last marker birthday I muddled over penning my obituary, my epitaph, or my own real estate ad. Writing my own obituary was too weird. My epitaph was a no-brainer…

 Catherine Clemens Sevenau
1948 – TBD
“How Did I Get Here?”

 And since I’ve been in real estate in Sonoma forever (actually it’s now 35 years, which is about the same as forever) my ad copy was a piece of cake:

Celebrate a Contemporary Mid-Century Classic
This small-town charmer shines with character and a colorful history. Endowed with good bones and on a solid concrete foundation, she is structurally sound in conjunction with notable internal integrity. Built in 1948, this gem is a prime example of definitive California architecture, and other than the well-maintained roof, is in original condition. Despite an outstanding location with gracious curb appeal, her interior is somewhat dated and shows a bit of wear and tear. No major complaint or disclosure issues, no plumbing leaks or wiring problems, no illegal permit or zoning headaches, but does bear some slight quirks: two partially fogged windows, various rusted hinges, a few loose screws, and several stiff, creaking doors. There are minor holes in the ceiling (allowing hot air to escape), along with dinky wall dents here and there. No termites or beetles, but possibly squirrels in the attic. Well-tended and generally low maintenance though can be temperamental depending on the weather. Recently smudged for ghosts. For a quick turnaround, an authentic plastic St. Joseph statue is buried upside down in the front yard, or is it supposed to be buried in the back yard? Comes fully insured with newly minted historical designation. Well-documented archival background information on request.

Has real estate changed since I got my license in 1982? That it has. A contract was one page. Interest rates were 18 percent. Buyers did not have properties inspected. Inventory was not pulled up on computers, it was delivered in 900-page books that covered the whole county. I wore nylons, shoulder pads, and a head of big blonde hair.

There was only one house in the valley worth over a million dollars. In August, 1982, the least expensive home in Sonoma was a fixer on Bonita Way for $49,500. The most expensive was the Gaige House on Arnold Drive for $760,000. A 3bd/2ba on Victoria Court was going for $159,950. A 4bd/3ba on France was $145,000. Homes on the bike path were in the low $100,000s. There were 72 vacant lots or land parcels on the market. All of the real estate companies were privately run and owned, with a Century 21 office the only franchise. There were 15 main companies, all now gone by the wayside except three, which have transformed into present day offices. Today, there are 10 main companies, and three times the number of agents than there were back then.

When I started at 33, I was one of the youngest in the business. There are several of us from that era still practicing real estate; now we are the senior agents. We aren’t as tough as some of the elder agents we worked with when we started, but they were trailblazers, especially the women, and they taught us a lot. We have duly passed their knowledge and wisdom forward.

Sonoma Valley is a unique place to sell real estate. There is a camaraderie, trust, and interdependence among those in the business here that you don’t often find in other places, and I’m happy to be part of that. Of all the careers to choose from, this one has suited me perfectly. In these 35 years I’ve opened many doors for people, helped hundreds of sellers move on with their lives, and held hands with hundreds more to find their dream homes… even without possessing a sense of direction. In those days I used a map. Today I have Siri.

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  1. Jim Chatfield says:

    This goes into my save mail. You are a blessing for an old man, you make me smile, you bring back memories from days past, and you always make a person feel like he is right there in your stories. Don’t ever stop writing.

  2. Susan Davidson Dalberg says:

    I loved this depiction of you. What a great way to tell your story! Anxious to get back trading emails! Not healthy yet, but getting there and I know more laughter from you always helps! Hugs.

  3. Love the real estate ad. Or…wait!… is it possibly a personal assessment? I don’t know; it has that feel. Cagey you are…

    • It’s a personal assessment… somehow people missed that. I guess I was too esoteric.

      • I kept reading it as if it was a personal assessment and it was way more fun reading it that way :-). Which made me suspicious. I particularly enjoyed the well-maintained roof and the squirrels in the attic. Hmmm; I’m showing my bias for your head although you definitely have gracious curb appeal.

  4. I really love your writing. So fun, keep it up

  5. One of my favorites.

  6. Jean E. McQuady says:

    Alway a joy to read your column, remembering the days of old when I was your assistance. Some funny memories.

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