For as large as Sonoma County appears to be, it’s really very small. You have to be careful what you say about your neighbor in a restaurant in this county if you know what I mean. That said, there are a lot of real estate agents in this county, somewhere in the area of around 2,500. But only the top 200 or so do anything consistent in the way of sales each year. And of those only the top 20 or so understand upper-end country properties, vineyards and wineries well enough to consult you accurately and professionally. Within the real estate community, the top professional Agents and Brokers representing buyers and sellers of these type properties know each other very well. Many of us are friends and network with each other consistently to promote our buyers needs as well as our listings for sale often marrying the two together and delivering better service to our clients then another agent possibly could and thereby strengthening the country property market segment we specialize in.
If you’re looking to buy a country property of any type described in this chapter you’re well advised to interview the agents you come in contact with before settling on one to help you through the process. It’s not that difficult to find the agents that you should be talking to. If you know someone in the area, ask them who they might refer. Again, it’s a small town. You can do an internet search for ‘Top Sonoma County Agents’ and see who you get as well. But be careful not to fall into the trap of website companies designed to suck you in and sell your lead to an agent or three of their choosing for a 25% referral fee from the accepting agent’s commission. You can also look in the local real estate magazines like ‘Wine Country Homes & Land’ and see whose advertising properties like what you’re thinking to purchase. Regardless of whom you find and how, you should ask them to provide you a list of properties they’ve sold in the recent past so that you can see what segment of real estate they have recent experience with and how consistent they are in practicing real estate.
There are many top agents ranked by dollar volume that have a very low average selling price because they’ve been riding the foreclosure market and therefore have no experience with the type properties I have described here. My personal average selling price over the last 5+ years and throughout the real estate down-turn has stayed consistent at around 1.2 million per transaction. That’s an average of sales I have personally represented priced as low as $112,000 and as high as $10,000,000 over the course of 5 years. I have 75 or more transactions in that timeframe I can provide a client as an example of my business just by pressing the print button on my laptop. Another aspect in choosing a real estate professional to help you is personality. It can be a very emotional and tiring process and you need an agent that you are comfortable communicating with and that you feel you can trust. If you find one that has the proven expertise and track record for the type property you are looking to purchase and you feel good about your communication and trust with that agent then stick with them and stay loyal. This is a hard business for buyer, sellers and especially their agents. You will always be better off staying with an agent that you have cultivated a trusting relationship with. That agent will return that trust and represent you more fully with loyalty and devotion then you will get simply by calling listing agents off their for sale signs after doing drive-bys. The value difference to you can be huge in a very real and literal monetary sense.