Lake Oroville Poised for a Wet Winter… We Hope.

lake oroville visitor centerShowing lake property without a lake has been an escalating problem for a few years now.

The Lake Oroville area has some amazing sights and tons of recreational activities. Unfortunately, a large portion of them have to do with accessing the lake which is kind of hard these days. With the lake levels at an historic low, the lake has been in the news more than at any other time in history. It seems that every time I pick up an article or magazine that is talking about the drought, there is a picture of Lake Oroville in its depleted state. We have become the “poster child” for California’s near crisis drought conditions.

The effect on the Lake Oroville Real Estate market is debatable. The spring/summer has been great so far with plenty of buyers still looking for that vacation or retirement home by the lake. The interest rates are still low and the home prices while going up a bit, remain stable in the area and the prospect of a wetter than average winter is making everyone I talk to positively giddy. People seem to be optimistic that the lake will fill up again SOMEDAY!  Sellers are still selling and buyers are still buying, so from my perspective, things look pretty good.

According to MSN news, the ocean waters are warming up and we are in a position to experience an “El Nino” event that could rival the winter of 1997/1998. If you lived in the area at that time, you will remember the unbelievable amounts of rain that came down that year. My mom worked for the propane company in downtown Oroville at the time and recalls the huge propane tanks floating down the street on the flood waters. The engineers at the Lake Oroville Dam were very worried at one point that the dam would not hold all the water and that it would breach the dam. Scary stuff indeed.

I personally hope for a lot of rain spread out appropriately enough to fill the lake, but not to cause widespread flooding, but mother nature will do what she wants and we will deal with it. Hopefully, next spring I will be showing homes and showing off the beauty of our area that includes a FULL lake.


lake oroville visitor center    If you have been paying attention at all, you are aware of the rising prices of existing residential Real Estate here in the LAKE OROVILLE AREA, but a recent article in the Chico Enterprise record indicates that there is another sign that the Real Estate market is improving. Permit prices have now dropped to pre-recession levels making it more affordable to build new homes.

This is a significant savings for the commercial or residential developers, but it could also mean MORE $$$ IN YOUR POCKET if you own a piece of bare land and are thinking about or have begun the process of development. Even if you are not prepared to do the actual construction yet, you may want to consider taking out the necessary permits now if the project is not too far in the future. Most permits are good for a year or two and can be renewed for a nominal fee, so get those remodeling projects going or get busy on building that dream home because the LAKE OROVILLE REAL ESTATE MARKET IS MOVIN ON UP!

Is there a housing crisis in rural America?

  In this Feb. 8 article by the National Journal, the plight of rural homeowners is highlighted.  The Lake Oroville Real Estate community is aware of the growing need for an organization whose mission is to help homeowners and the community save their properties and property values.  I invite you to share your thoughts on this or suggest other topics for discussion.

Conversations about affordable housing are often dominated with the question of how to get lower-income residents in expensive cities—like New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco (and their surrounding areas20150117_134241)—safe, affordable places to live. That makes sense: Often urban hubs are a good bet for jobs and economic vitality, but they’re also prohibitively expensive for many—creating well-known housing problems. But cities aren’t the only places that are lacking when it comes to adequate housing at affordable prices. In rural America, it’s both prices and the terrible condition of existing homes that are problematic.

Few people think about rural communities—not only when it comes to housing issues, but at all. It’s mostly a numbers game. According to data from the Housing Assistance Council (HAC), in 2012 only about 21 percent of Americans lived in rural areas, which means that not many people outside those areas—or about 80 percent of Americans—probably feel much association with rural issues. And that can make it difficult to shed light on the problems that happen there. Making the case to divert funds and attention to parts of the country that house a mere 20 percent of the total population can be an uphill battle, especially in difficult economic times. 

It can be hard to understand how finding affordable housing could be an issue in areas where housing is substantially cheaper than it would be in the nearest city or suburb. But the fact of the matter is, despite lower costs of living, income for many in rural areas is also significantly lower thanks to limited economic opportunities and struggling industries, like coal.

“When we are looking at areas that are most challenged economically we’re also finding some of the most challenging housing conditions,” says David Dangler, the director of Rural Initiatives at NeighborWorks America, an organization that advocates for affordable housing and acts as a network for nonprofit housing groups. Poverty is high in rural areas, with about 17.2 percent of rural residents living below the poverty line in 2012 versus 14.9 percent nationwide, according to 2012 data from the HAC. “Much of the affordable-housing stock in rural housing areas is old and in need of repair. Many of the people who live there don’t have the resources that they need in order to keep the houses in good repair,” says Sheila Crowley, president of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition.

For example, take Lynne Bouknight, who moved back to her childhood home in Elk Creek, Virginia, after her mother moved away for a job. When she was younger, Bouknight says that her father was able to take care of the upkeep of the place—a two-story, grey brick house—tinkering with things and fixing them as they broke. But by the time she was living in it, the house—built in 1949 by her grandfather—began to show its age. “The water went first,” Bouknight remembers. At first it wasn’t so bad she says, she was in good health then, and she could haul water inside after the pump broke, and pick up kindling and timber from her property to make fires on her wood-burning stove. “I could build a fire in about a minute. The colder it is the faster I could build one,” she said chuckling. She had a friend who’d swing by to help her with small maintenance issues and she could visit neighbors and friends for showers and laundry. But then things took a turn for the worse.

The wind began to tear away at the roof, and rip tin off the house. And some of the windows started to give way, too. Her friend, who would help her out with household maintenance, was killed in a hate crime she said. And Bouknight had a stroke. “As the house came apart, my health deteriorated with the house,” she said tearfully. With the extensive damage, it was easy for the elements to take even more of a toll on the property. Bouknight found herself relegated to a small section of her home—living upstairs in her childhood bedroom—the one place where it was dry and where the roof remained in tact.

She tried to get help from the USDA, the group that is largely responsible for administering housing aid to rural communities, but they said they couldn’t do anything to help her rehab her property, she said. Then help came from somewhere else. A woman who worked for a human-service organization called HOPE Inc., agreed to take a look at her situation to see if they might be able to assist. “One day she came out to the house, I wasn’t at home. She looked around and I suppose her heart was touched. She couldn’t believe someone could live in those conditions,” Bouknight said.

With the help of HOPE Inc., which provides housing aid and support for those living in rural areas, Bouknight’s home was salvaged and she received access to what many might consider basic necessities, like running water. The help came just in time, too. Bouknight says with her depleted health, there’s no way she could have carried on with the house in the state it was prior to the intervention.

Bouknight’s hardships might sound extreme, but dangerous or unhealthy housing conditions aren’t an anomaly in many rural areas. Residents who aren’t able to save their homes, or find new homes that they can afford are often forced to double up with family members, or they become homeless, says Crowley. “It’s not visible because people aren’t on the streets: They’re living in cars and they’re living in campgrounds.” According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, on average there are 14 homeless individuals per every 10,000 people in rural areas versus 29 homeless people per every 10,000 in urban areas.

When it comes to creating new homes, interest is often thin and those that do opt in, face many unique hurdles. “Developers can’t count on any kind of municipal infrastructure to help them,” says Dangler. When it comes to building, things that are often taken for granted in more urban areas, like water, sewers, and even access to quality roads, aren’t guaranteed, which can make building a quality house much more challenging.”

Aid is somewhat sparse too, for both building and rehabilitating properties. “There’s a handful of programs that serve people in rural communities. They tend to be much smaller in scale in terms of the amount of money than the HUD programs. They also tend to be lost in the bureaucracy,” says Crowley. That’s particularly problematic because “rural areas have been traditionally more dependent upon public subsidies and publicly-funded programs than their urban counterparts,” according to Dangler. “There can be a disproportionate pain in rural areas as we attempt to right our financial books by cutting back on federal-housing programs.”

And in fact, funds for rural housing provided by the USDA via the 502 Direct Loan program—one of the government-aid programs for purchasing or rehabilitating homes in rural areas, cited by several people as a resource for very-low-income residents—have decreased over the past few years, dropping from about $2.1 billion in 2010 to around $828 million in 2013.* Some still say that there isn’t enough money, and some even point to the current administration specifically. Jim King, the president of Fahe, a nonprofit housing organization that serves Appalachia, says that the problem is more indicative of the lower prioritization of rural issues overall than it is about one administration in particular. “In light of all the other issues, this is just one that lays further down for almost everybody,” says King. And finding funds from other agencies for rural projects can be difficult and highly competitive, he says, leaving rural residents in a tough spot. 

That may be why many rural communities are taking the task of rural revitalization into their own hands with the help of rural-focused nonprofits that help provide everything from advocacy to actual loans. More work done by these groups is cropping up all over the country: In Appalachia Knox Housing Partners built an affordable senior-housing complex. And NeighborWorks of West Vermont successfully helped rehab hundreds of homes for increased energy efficiency, a cause that’s particularly important for low-income, rural residents. Some nonprofits are also leveraging what they call sweat-equity, which calls for community members to actively participate in the manual labor of creating and repairing not only their own homes, but the homes of those who live around them as well—decreasing the financial burden of building while, hopefully, forging strong community ties.

Rural housing advocates are also urging residents to consider a type of middle ground between homeownership and renting—manufactured housing. These, prefabricated homes, commonly referred to as trailer homes, are smaller than traditional homes, but offer most of the amenities of a house at a lower price. Rural areas typically have a higher rate of homeownership than the national average, about 72 percent versus 66 percent in 2012, according to HAC. And the desire to own, rather than rent is a hard one to shake, especially when few rental properties exist in these communities. “Because there’s such a lack of rental housing, manufactured housing in some aspects fills that void. That is a foot in both worlds,” says Lance George, director of research at HAC. That is, if people can manage to get over the stigma once associated with these properties.

Many housing experts agreed that often the case for investing in rural housing on a large scale feels like a difficult one to make. In a way, it seems counterintuitive: funneling money into communities where population numbers are stagnant, if not declining, as more young residents head to cities and suburbs in search of jobs. And some wonder: Why don’t others just leave, too? But some residents don’t have the means, and others feel tied to their homes, communities, and lifestyles. Many are also older. The population of rural America is aging more rapidly than the nation as a whole, thanks in part to the exodus of young people. That means rural residents are less likely to pick up and move, but they will also require updated homes, facilities, and new infrastructure that can allow them to live safely and access services, like hospitals, which they will probably use more frequently as they age.

Rural housing advocates admit that the task of revitalizing rural communities isn’t a small or simple one. But that doesn’t mean that organizations should shy away, give up, or turn a blind eye says King. “The stakes are very high in rural places if we don’t figure some stuff out. People and places shouldn’t be disposable.”



Am I a secret agent?


In the last 6 months I have been informed of several Real Estate transactions here in the Lake Oroville area that I think I should have been involved in or at least been given an opportunity to interview for. I was shocked and dismayed to hear the phrase “I didn’t know you were in Real Estate”.

How can that be? I asked myself. I have been doing this for over 10 years now! Haven’t I done everything possible to make sure that everyone knows that I am in the Real Estate business and that I love everything about it, that I am a great agent with tons of happy clients? Apparently not.

This has lead me to the realization that I am a “secret agent”. That is fine if you work for the CIA, but not so great if your success depends somewhat on people knowing your profession.  Even though I wear my name tag everywhere I go, carry business cards with me and hand them out like Halloween candy and talk Real Estate and Mortgage rates with everyone I meet, obviously I am still not getting the message out.

So to remedy this situation, I have decided to go on a media “blitz”.  I am going to write Real Estate related blogs and talk about the business every waking hour until everyone who even knows me a little bit will automatically associate my name with the Real Estate profession. Maybe even people who don’t know me yet will think of me when buying or selling Real Estate.   This might get just a bit tedious for those of you that already know me and my love of this business, but you can help too by telling all of YOUR friends and family how awesome I am!  If you do, I will do my best to make you proud.  The company I work for: Realty World-Best Realty provides me and the other agents the very best tools and training available in the industry and I am ready, willing and able to provide top of the line service and technology to my clients.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and I hope to become a former “secret agent” soon.

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A Beautiful Sight

lake oroville visitor center A recent field trip to the LAKE OROVILLE Visitor Center served as a reminder that we live in an area that has amazing history and natural beauty.

I find myself taking the surroundings for granted when going about my daily duties. I drive over the Green Bridge to show property, see the coast range across the valley every day on my way down the hill and brake often for the wild turkeys, deer and other critters that roam our area in abundance without thinking much about it. Today I saw it all as if for the first time again from the tower at the Lake Oroville Visitor Center.

Lake Oroville is a magnificent body of water and the dam is an amazing feat of engineering. The view stretches for 100 miles on a clear morning like today and the coast range is starkly visible as are the Forebay and Afterbay and the endless rice farms in the flat lands. A truly inspiring view that makes me so proud and happy to be living here. The phrase “stop and smell the roses” comes to mind and I decide it is vital to take some time once in a while to look around and be inspired all over again.

It is too easy to get caught up in the struggles of day to day living and forget where you are and why. I love the Lake Oroville area and I love, love, love the work I do in Real Estate. I am truly blessed to be where I am and doing what I love. I hope you all reading this are able to feel the same way about your place in this world.

Whether you are a buyer, a seller or just a happy resident or our special community.  You are fortunate to be surrounded by the natural beauty of Lake Oroville, California.

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