Where’s Paradise? California Community to Rebuild or Relocate After Deadly Camp Fire

Jan 9, 2019 by

Just two months ago, nearly 27,000 residents of Paradise in Butte County, Calif., fled the all-consuming flames of the Camp Fire, which broke out on November 8, killing at least 86 people in the region and destroying nearly 14,000 homes—an estimated $ 11-$ 13 billion in residential and commercial losses, according to CoreLogic data.

A substantial number of buildings and structures in the town of Paradise are gone; the spirit of the community, however, lives on with surviving residents and members of the surrounding towns. While concerns and uncertainty linger, nearby real estate markets have already experienced vast fluctuations.

Where Did Paradise Residents Go?

With the fires extinguished, residents of what was once the town of Paradise, now largely a mix of ash and rubble, are having to make significant long-term decisions: stay and rebuild in Paradise, or relocate.

According to Becky Prater, broker/owner of Becky Prater Real Estate in Chico, and Dennis Geare, branch manager for HomeSmart ICARE Realty in Grass Valley, the markets surrounding Paradise are seeing substantial changes in buyer, seller and renter activity, home values and inventory.

First and foremost, those left homeless by the fire had to find short-term housing before making more permanent decisions. While many are still living in shelters or staying with friends and family, the rental markets of the neighboring towns have seen big changes.

“There are basically no rental units left in Butte County; most survivors are living between 45-100 miles away from Paradise,” says Prater, emphasizing that any available vacant rental was gone within 72 hours of the fire. “This is also causing increased traffic, traffic accidents and heighted stress levels of all of our residents.”

A Ripple Effect

An unexpected result of the sudden need for short-term rentals? Chico and surrounding towns are experiencing a spike in seller activity and, therefore, in renter evictions.

“Chico renters are being evicted because their landlords are selling their homes to take advantage of the current market increases. These renters also have nowhere locally to live and are not qualified to get any FEMA disaster funds like those coming from the affected areas,” says Prater.

Geare has also seen a growing interest in relocation, not only from local residents looking to sell and move to other areas that may be deemed “safer,” but from incoming Paradise residents who are looking to purchase elsewhere rather than rebuild.

Prater believes virtually most individuals impacted by the Camp Fire are looking to relocate permanently, as the thought of rebuilding in the fire-prone areas is “scary and not something they can imagine.”

“We are seeing quite a few clients coming up from Paradise who are looking for roofs over their heads, generally in the lower price range of about $ 280,000-$ 350,000,” says Geare. “This is putting timing pressure on buyers in that category. Good houses are snapped up quickly, sometimes in as little as 3-6 days.”

The Markets Shift

There’s been a noticeable change from the pre-fire housing market to today’s demanding real estate environment. Immediately following the fire, Prater saw a sharp decline in inventory.

“We had a relatively tight market pre-fire, with 226 homes on the market in Chico on November 7. In the two weeks after the fire, our inventory shrunk to 41 homes on the market, and the few builders we have in Chico with subdivisions sold out of all available inventory and phases of lots not even finalized yet,” she says.

Now that the urgency has waned, inventory is starting to grow once again, also being spurred on by homeowners who are afraid of being caught in similar circumstances by living in fire-prone areas, or by those who understand there is still a growing need for housing in the area, which could lead to quick and profitable sales.

“As of [press time], we have 107 homes on the market, and even during the holidays homes were coming on the market. Those thinking of selling in the spring or anyone with a vacant home were getting their homes on the market,” says Prater. “This demand has caused an almost immediate increase in value of between 10-20 percent. Most homes in good locations and conditions are selling within days and at prices considerably over the seller’s asking price.”

As homeowner insurance checks are disbursed, more and more Paradise residents are becoming cash buyers in nearby towns, or are using the funds as significant down payments, as well as to purchase essentials such as clothing and home furnishings, says Prater.

While Geare is not located in the immediate vicinity of Paradise—instead about an hour away from the town—he has also felt market changes.

“We have a remarkably stable market here in Western Nevada County. Months of inventory based on closed sales has increased from 2.5 months a year ago to 5.5 months as of November; price-per-square foot is up slightly from $ 218 to $ 234; and days on market is stable at about 53 days,” says Geare.

Real Estate Community and Locals Come Together

Geare and Prater have both witnessed an outpouring of assistance in the aftermath of the destructive fire. From REALTOR® and Association participation to community involvement, the surrounding towns have come together in support of those affected.

“I’m so proud of our local, state and national Associations of REALTORS®. All have stepped up in donations, grants and personal help,” says Prater. “Our local Association, the Sierra North Valley Association, has donated thousands of dollars in cash, gift cards, clothing, furnishings, and more. Our state Association made $ 2,500 in grants available to local REALTORS® and others.”

Geare’s office also accepted donations for new items of clothing, gift cards and various other essential items that were delivered to Chico to be distributed to those in need.

“Other broker offices collected donations, as well,” says Geare. “Our five Rotary clubs made donations and ran crowdfunding campaigns—fundraising was everywhere. One local jewelry store ran a watch battery campaign, donating the proceeds to assistance efforts. The community outpouring is just too extensive to recapitulate.”

An Unescapable Truth

The fires may be out, but this devastating event will have long-lasting effects on not only those directly affected, but on residents of nearby towns who are helping to rebuild a fragmented community.

“This horrific event has forever changed the way that our local communities will live,” says Prater. “Our immediate goal is finding housing for as many possible. The long-term goals are rebuilding a community with better housing protections for fire safety and a community that will be able to sustain itself.

“The financial and emotional impact on all of us is still hard to quantify even today, almost two months after that date that will forever be etched in our minds for those who escaped with their lives and for those of who lived in black smoke for days and witnessed the fire,” adds Prater.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at

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ICYMI: California Leads Way Toward Environmentally-Conscious Homes

May 27, 2018 by

Energy efficiency is the name of the game in new construction. Being environmentally conscious is trending in resale homes, as well. Although many green homes exist, with energy-efficient appliances such as programmable thermostats, low-water usage washing machines and dishwashers, and low-energy lightbulbs, a powerful exterior addition is about to become a permanent solution in California’s new construction market: renewable energy in the form of solar panels.

California is the first state to order the installation of solar panels on nearly all new homes built after Jan. 1, 2020, as part of the 2019 Building Efficiency Standards set by the California Energy Commission.

“Under these new standards, buildings will perform better than ever at the same time they contribute to a reliable grid,” said California Energy Commissioner Andrew McAllister in a statement. “The buildings that Californians buy and live in will operate very efficiently while generating their own clean energy. They will cost less to operate, have healthy indoor air and provide a platform for ‘smart’ technologies that will propel the state even further down the road to a low emissions future.”

The solar industry has been growing, with U.S. installations surging to 15,000 in 2016, compared to 7,000 in 2015, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association® (SEIA). In addition, solar has provided increasing job opportunities. Close to 250,000 Americans work in solar—a number that has nearly doubled since 2012. With California’s mandate, more jobs in solar will become available.

Nevertheless, critics are worried that California’s crumbling housing infrastructure will not be able to support the influx of jobs and the impact of the mandate. While a boon to investors of renewable energy and solar panel businesses, California is already one of the most expensive housing markets in the country, facing a challenging housing crisis stemming from inflated prices and an inventory shortage.

What will this mandate do to current home prices? Experts say consumers will have to pay more for these homes, even though homeownership is already out of reach for many Californians. The Commission estimates that this mandate and other energy-efficiency requirements would add $ 9,500, on average, to the cost of building a home in California. Although an average of $ 40 would be added on to homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments, the commission estimates they would save $ 80 per month on heating, cooling and lighting bills.

As more homes install solar, prices for installation and services may drop, helping to ease inflation. In fact, history shows solar power is becoming more affordable. According to the SEIA, the cost to install solar has decreased by over 70 percent since 2010—even with a slight uptick in the second half of 2017 to $ 1.50 blended average per watt, solar has become much more accessible to the masses since it first began to gain ground in 2009 at $ 7.50.

The question is: Will this get the ball rolling for other states to follow suit? If California can reach its goal—reducing greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to taking 115,000 fossil fuels cars of the road—the state may be paving the way toward a national, and perhaps eventually global, environmentally-conscious housing industry. Critics will be watching closely, as any challenges could have a severe impact on California’s market, and would make other states wary of adopting similar eco-strategies.

“With this adoption, the California Energy Commission has struck a fair balance between reducing greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously limiting increased construction costs,” said California Building Industry Association CEO and President Dan Dunmoyer. “We thank the Commissioners and their staff for working with the building industry during the past 18 months and adopting a set of cost-effective standards that ensures homebuyers will recoup their money over the life of the dwelling.”

Dominguez_Liz_60x60_4cLiz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark

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Sela Ward’s California Home on Market for Almost $40 Million

Sep 29, 2015 by

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Courtesy of Hilton & Hyland via ZillowOne of the 13 baths on the property has soaring glass windows and doors that open to a furnished outdoor patio.

By Melissa Allison

Just two years out of “CSI: NY,” Sela Ward has a hankering to live in the Big Apple — and that means putting her 14,000-square-foot gated estate in the swanky Bel-Air neighborhood of Los Angeles on the market. For $ 39.995 million.

2014 NYFF -
Evan Agostini/Invision/APSela Ward

Ward, who recently landed the role of the U.S. president in next year’s “Independence Day: Resurgence,” bought the sprawling mansion on eight acres in 2003 with her husband, Howard Sherman, so their children could spend more time in nature, she told the Wall Street Journal.

The couple revamped the seven-bedroom, 13-bath estate and intended to flip it, until Ward “greeted me at the door one day and said, ‘Let’s live here!'” Sherman told Traditional Home.

Gracious Southern and French style mix in the five-bedroom main home, where century-old heart pine floors complement reclaimed wood beams from Louisiana and Ward’s native Mississippi, plus antique doors and limestone counters from France.

The home includes a 30-seat theater, a library enveloped in cypress wood, and a small greenhouse off the indoor kitchen that Ward calls “l’orangerie.”

A wall of doors in the living room opens onto a terrace that overlooks a stream lined with rose bushes and Mexican lime trees.

The property encompasses an art studio and guesthouse as well as a vineyard, a covered footbridge and a 100-seat amphitheater.

Residents and guests have two choices for swimming: an infinity pool and a man-made pond with a sandy beach lit by tiki torches.

Listing agents are Branden Williams and Rayni Romito of Williams & Williams at Hilton & Hyland, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate, and Jade Mills of Coldwell Banker Previews International.


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Whoopi Goldberg Is Selling Her Northern California Victorian

Jun 23, 2015 by

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ZillowTraditional on the outside, the 1890 home retains period details inside but has been updated for modern life.

By Natalie Wise

Whoopi Goldberg has eclectic real estate taste. She sold her Vermont estate in 2011, and before that, her Soho loft. Now it’s a Northern California home in Berkeley that’s up for grabs, as first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

Actress, comedian and “The View” co-host Goldberg is listing the 1890 Victorian for $ 1.275 million. Though the double lot is still small at only one-third of an acre, the property includes the main house, a detached barn/cottage, five garages and plenty of beautiful outdoor living space.

The main house features an updated but subdued family friendly space with three bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms. Comfortable but not overstated, the space retains many period details, including woodwork, hardware, a rolling library ladder and plenty of bookshelves.

The barn/cottage is a wide-open wooden space full of vintage charm. There are two fireplaces to keep things cozy in the winter, and skylights for ample natural light.

The outdoor areas really shine, and are perfectly suited to enjoying the Berkeley climate. The porch is well-shaded by mature landscaping, and a curving brick patio invites dining alfresco. There are also open grass spaces for pets and children to enjoy.

Real estate records show the house was last on the market in 1985 and purchased for a mere $ 335,000, right at the height of Goldberg’s career. “The Color Purple” came out the same year, followed in 1992 by “Sister Act.”

Colleen Larkin of Thornwall Properties holds the listing.


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Bill Gates Buys Jenny Craig’s California Horse Ranch

Oct 14, 2014 by

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aerial of ranch stables
Courtesy of PreviewFirstThe ranch that Bill Gates bought from Jenny Craig includes four 30-stall barns.
2014 US Open Celebrity Sightings - Day 15
Getty ImagesBill Gates and his daughter, Jennifer Gates

Bill Gates, who made personal computers accessible to the masses, has bought a California horse farm from Jenny Craig, who made weight loss achievable by the massive.

U-T San Diego reports that Gates paid $ 18 million for Rancho Paseana, a 229-acre horse farm in Rancho Santa Fe, in San Diego County. Gates’ teenage daughter, Jennifer, jumps horses competitively, and Gates reportedly plans to turn the ranch into a grand prix circuit for hunters and jumpers. The Microsoft co-founder and one of the country’s richest men, also owns a property nearby in the Del Mar County Club.

“The family has enjoyed visiting the San Diego area with friends and family for many years …,” U-T San Diego quoted a spokeswoman for the Gates family as saying. Craig reportedly said, “I was happy that the buyer is someone who can afford to turn it into the showplace it was meant to be.”

The property includes:

  • a three-quarter-mile dirt training track.
  • four 30-stall barns.
  • rehab equipment for injured horses.
  • two apartments.

This isn’t the first time that Gates, reportedly worth $ 81 billion, has indulged his daughter’s love for horses. The Huffington Post reported that he paid $ 8.7 million for a Palm Beach County, Florida, house near Wellington’s Equestrian Festival, where Jennifer is a show jumper.

(Photos courtesy of PreviewFirst)


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