An already low inventory and a strong demand for housing – including from those displaced by the October fires — continue to drive home sales in Napa Valley.
Napa County home prices reached a 10-year high in 2017, according to a new report compiled by Bay Area Real Estate Information Services, Inc.
The median price for a county home rose 7.7 percent – from $580,000 to $625,000 – in 2017, said BAREIS.
The median price means half of the homes sold were above $625,000 and half were below.
The last time the median topped $600,000 was in 2007 when it reached $630,000.
It took almost the same amount of time to sell a house in 2017 compared to 2016, said the report. The average number of “days on market” was 80 in 2017 and 79 in 2016.
A total of 1,461 homes were sold in 2017, compared to 1,566 in 2016.
“Demand is still very, very strong” for Napa County homes, said Stefan Jezycki, board member of the North Bay Association of Realtors (NorBAR).
However, because of rising interest rates, tax reform and the lack of property tax portability, “We expect units sold to stay about the same or decrease” in 2018, Jezycki said.
By property tax portability, Jezycki means that some buyers are afraid to move because they don’t want to lose their base-year value property tax assessments. Under Proposition 60 sellers over age 55 can transfer the base-year value of their existing home to another house within the same county, but this doesn’t benefit all sellers.
And with prices remaining at 10-year highs, “It’s going to be very, very difficult for first-time homebuyers to break into this market,” said Jezycki of Pacific Union International.
Desi Capaz, chair of the Napa chapter of NorBAR, said 2017 was a good year for Napa County real estate, but not quite as strong as 2016 because of the lack of inventory.
Buyers continue to face the same problem this year, he said.
“There is not enough for buyers to purchase out there,” said Capaz, who is with Heritage Sotheby’s International Realty. “So sellers have the advantage over buyers.”
However, with increases in interest rates and a shortage of inventory, some sellers “are going to be reluctant to put their houses on the market,” he said.
With some new home developments underway, such as townhouses at the old Napa Valley Register property on Third Street, “hopefully we’ll slowly get some more inventory to relieve this problem,” said Capaz.
The October wildfires impacted the real estate market, said Jezycki.
“I think it had a slight effect on values,” he said, “more of a bump.” After the fires, “All of a sudden we had a wave of buyers” looking to buy.
“It did help cycle out some of that dated [or] ‘stale’ inventory,” he said.
At the same time, of those who lost their homes in Napa County, some had the financial wherewithal to wait to buy a new home instead of competing in a low inventory market. Those potential buyers may wait months or even longer before they get back into the real estate market, said Capaz.
It’s been a long time coming, but Fire Station No. 5 is finally opening in Browns Valley.
This past week, firefighters began moving into the new building located at 3001 Browns Valley Rd. The station is expected to officially open at 9 a.m. Monday.
“I’m extremely excited about,” Capt. Joey Oliva said Thursday. Oliva, who lives in Browns Valley and raised his children in Browns Valley, said that he, like many residents, has been anxiously waiting for the station to open. As a young firefighter, he said, his goal was to promote to captain and eventually run the new station.
The city purchased the land at Browns Valley Road and Laurel Street for the fire station a decade ago. Part of the delay was due to the discovery of contaminated soil on the construction site when design development was just beginning in 2014. It took two years to resolve the soil issues and, in Oct. 2016, the city finally broke ground.
Fire Station No. 5 was expected to be completed by the end of 2017.
Even with all the delays in construction, Oliva said that the “stars aligned.”
“It’s going to open and I’m going to be there,” he said with genuine excitement in his voice.
Until now, he said, the Browns Valley area has basically been divided in half when it comes to service – firefighters from Station 1 on Seminary Street responding to one half and firefighters from Station 3 on Trower responding to the other half. Historically, the area has seen the worst response times in the city.
It took firefighters and paramedics at least two minutes longer to respond to a call in Browns Valley than in other parts of Napa. And, depending on where in Browns Valley the call came from, it could take even longer – up to five minutes longer.
“Those couple minutes really make a huge difference,” Oliva said. Within those few minutes, he said, a house fire could double in size. And, when it comes to medical calls, the two minute difference could be the difference between life and death.
“The brain dies in like five minutes if you have no oxygen,” he said. Paramedics need to get there before then, and, he said, someone should have already begun performing CPR.
The Westwood Hills area will also see quicker response times and, in general, the city will have faster, more complete coverage, especially when fire personnel are called to multiple calls at the same time.
“I think the most exciting thing about having a station in Browns Valley is that our response time for the west side of Napa – for all incidents – is going to be cut in half,” Matt Gonsalves, a firefighter/paramedic who will be working at Station No. 5, said Friday.
Station No. 5 will be staffed 24/7, usually with a captain and two firefighter/paramedics.
The firefighter/paramedics that will be working in the new 5,145-square-foot building all say they’re excited.
“Oh, it’s a beauty,” said acting Capt. Dan Koch, who will also be at Station No. 5. “It’s going to be really nice to work out of.” Koch said he likes the nice, large kitchen and the fact that everything is new and clean.
“I’m super impressed with signage and the finish work,” Oliva said. Although admittedly biased, Oliva said that even if he weren’t going to be working at Station No. 5, he’s really happy about how it turned out.
The community seems excited about it, too, Oliva said. The other day when firefighters were moving in, he said, people waved at them and one vehicle honked as it drove by.
“The Station 4 opening didn’t have the feel that this station does,” he said. “It just seems like there’s a general excitement by the people.”
The station was designed to fit into the community – it is a Craftsman-style design with a very residential feel. It has exposed brick features combined with traditional siding and pops of red at the front door and the bay entrance/exit. There are plants along the fence and planted all around the fire station.
“It feels like a house,” Oliva said.
Inside, in addition to the basics, there is already a television as well as a few reclining chairs. There’s even a patio area outside with a built-in grill.
There are still some things that need to be done – a punch list, Oliva said, but the basics are there. He said he can’t wait to customize it by adding relevant artwork and photos. He’s already put a “thank you” poster up that came from second-graders at St. John the Baptist Catholic School.
Conditions at California’s oldest and largest haven for retired members of the military are falling behind federal requirements, according to a group of residents at the Veterans Home in Yountville seeking increases in living space at the state-owned facility.
Cramped quarters at the Yountville home’s residence halls provide less room per resident than required by federal law and may imperil funding the state receives from the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, members of The Veterans Group, a cluster of Veterans Home members, told the Napa Valley Register.
Group leaders said their claims have led VA investigators to visit the home as well as inspiring a petition drive calling for improved conditions and a funding bill introduced by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, whose district includes Napa County.
The dispute stems from the size of rooms at the Yountville Veterans Home, which opened in 1884 and houses 838 service members and their spouses. According to Veterans Group chairman James Peifer, bedroom floor space in Yountville falls below the minimum of 150 square feet for single rooms, and 245 for double-occupancy rooms, required for state-run veterans homes receiving federal funding.
Four Veterans Group members told the Register that VA agents interviewed them Jan. 23 in Oakland about living conditions at the home, then visited the campus Feb. 2 to take photographs and measurements of a bedroom.
Peifer also alleged discrepancies in the actual dimensions of Veterans Home bedrooms and the dimensions CalVet filed with the VA to keep up its federal funding. “When you multiply by this by a couple hundred rooms, for decades, this adds up to a lot of money,” he said in a February interview with the Register.
Calls to the VA in Washington, D.C. to confirm the inquiry were not returned as of Friday afternoon.
“The claims are not valid. We’ve received no complaints related to these allegations,” CalVet spokesperson June Iljana said Thursday. “We encourage veterans who have concerns to follow our complaint process so we can look into it and deal with any problems.”
In an earlier statement, Iljana said living quarters at the Yountville home “meet all federal requirements for certification despite the age of the campus.”
Peifer and his allies took their complaints public in the spring of 2017, starting with letters to the Little Hoover Commission. Testifying to the state oversight agency that June, he urged California not to take in new residents at the Yountville facility until CalVet improves safety and infrastructure on the grounds – and provided single rooms to all unmarried residents desiring them.
“The majority of residents living at Yountville are dealing with physical and/or mental health issues that can be exacerbated by the stress of crowding,” Peifer told the commission. “The veterans, who average 80 years of age, are not young college students aspiring to live a dormitory lifestyle. They are only asking for dignity, peace of mind and their own living space.”
A petition addressed to Aguiar-Curry, a Winters Democrat representing the 4th Assembly District, and repeated in printed bulletins at the Veterans Home call on CalVet to reopen the McKinley Building’s 51 rooms to residential use by married couples. That residence hall closed in 2010 due to state budget cuts.
Although the McKinley requires fire and safety upgrades, its reuse would help to relieve crowding in other dormitories where single residents currently are roomed in pairs with insufficient space, Peifer wrote in letters to Aguiar-Curry, state Sen. Bill Dodd and U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson.
A state budget proposal for the 2018-19 fiscal year, released Jan. 10 by Gov. Jerry Brown, would fund the conversion of dual-occupancy living spaces at the Yountville home to single occupancy, as well as a new skilled nursing center.
Meanwhile, Aguiar-Curry on Feb. 15 introduced Assembly Bill 2737, which would reserve revenue from employee housing at the Yountville home specifically for maintenance uses rather than CalVet’s general fund.
“This is the very tip of the iceberg, but I needed to start somewhere,” she said Wednesday, describing faulty water and heating systems she observed while visiting the Veterans Home during her 2016 election campaign. “We know this is not end of it; there’s a lot of other things that need to be done out there. The residents need to have that support, the community needs support on this, and we intend to do that.”