Dreaming ends when your wallet has to open.
The best time for real estate tough love is at the beginning of the planning process. If your spare time is consumed with thoughts of building your dream home, it’s best to be realistic about costs and availability. That means looking at the range of available properties in the areas you want to live in and evaluating both the raw land price and the costs to develop the infrastructure (water, roads, power, septic, etc). This post will discuss land prices in Sonoma County, but there are links to searches for Marin and Napa as well as for the more affordable and distant (from the Bay Area) property in Mendocino and Lake Counties.
Sonoma Land over 1/3 acre is priced as low as $24,000, but that’s for a steep hillside that isn’t buildable. The first pages of listings are filled with hilly sites, heavily forested sites, and typically long travel times to get to an urban center.
At the time of writing, there is a one acre lot near Cotati for $50,000 that looks like it might be a good value. There is no water or perc test for septic, though, so it may be unbuildable. There are also no trees and no views to speak of. For someone looking for flat land for gardening, easy construction, 4-H or other kid projects, this might be great.
Land in Healdsburg or the city of Sonoma starts low for unbuildable lots, but is quickly over $400,000 by the end of the first ten listings and nearly $800,000 by the end of the second page of listings. Demand drives price and scarcity keeps sellers optimistic they will get their price. If you absolutely, positively have to be in Healdsburg or Sonoma, realize from the beginning that affordable land is going to be hard to find.
There are hundreds of land listings in Sonoma County. If you are serious about buying land to build, it’s worth looking at each and every Sonoma lot for sale online. Nothing will help you calibrate your wants and needs more than a look at the total market. You can stop when you are only a few hundred thousand dollars over your limit…