Monday, July 28, 2014

The view is somewhere between the trees and weeds

From page C3 | September 14, 2012 |

How much is a view worth? Are lake and river views more valuable than views of the Sierras? What is the difference in value between homes with views from interior rooms and homes with views from exterior decks?

While property owners with views generally have an inflated opinion of its value, appraisers and homebuyers are placing more emphasis on square footage, design and the condition of the home. Views will not sell a home if it isn’t already competitively priced. The topography of view property is usually uphill, often reducing the use of the balance of the property. The importance of owning a home with a view is subjective. There are view people and non view people. I am a view person.

My wife Vicki and I purchased our home on acreage during the last housing recession. We were naïve Southern California transplants making all the typical mistakes that city slickers do when they move to the country.

The first mistake I made was falling in love with a view that didn’t exist. I remember standing on the back deck with the seller as he pointed out an imaginary view of the Sierras through a forest of over-hanging trees.

“There’s the beautiful Sierra Mountains,” he said waving his arms in an easterly direction. “All you need to do is clear a few oak trees and you’ll have one of the best views in the county.” Then he turned to another forest covering the north portion of the deck and waving his arms again said “And there’s where the Auburn Dam is going to be built. You’ll have a beautiful lake view and a mountain view.”

My views in Southern California had been limited to the 15 and 91 Freeways so I was naturally impressed with the potential of having a mountain and lake view. All I would need to do was clear a few oak trees. How difficult could that be? Buy a chain saw and presto, I would be sitting on the back deck enjoying one of the best views in the county. Obviously, the seller had not considered the true value of this potential view when he priced his home. As an experienced sophisticated real estate broker from the city, I wondered if it would be taking advantage of this “country bumpkin” if I were to quickly make him a full-price offer.

After 15 years of hard field labor and burning up three chain saws, I finally have a mountain view. That Auburn Lake view still eludes me. I was soon to learn that cutting down the necessary trees in pursuit of that illusionary view was only a small part of the process. Trees require cutting up into 18 inch length logs for splitting and field dried for winter burning. Tree branches must be disposed by either burning or chipping. The view became less important with each passing year of lugging logs and branches up and down our hill to be split, and stacked in 100 degree temperature while trying to avoid poison oak and rattlesnakes.

“What’s a brush-hog?” I asked.

My neighbor Carl shook his head in disbelief as he explained, “It will cut all that tall grass and weeds you have growing all over your property. Keeps the rattlesnakes away from the house. You don’t want to be looking at all those weeds do you?”

Mowing acres of grass and weeds was another thing I had failed to think about before moving to the country. In Southern California I would mow and edge our lawn once a week. It took me maybe two hours. Now I was faced with buying something called a brush-hog and towing it behind a tractor for a week in order to maintain my view. I had never driven a tractor before but I did have some time in an Army 1966 Willys Jeep. What could be so difficult?

The Ford 8N tractor was older than me. The seller told me the brakes stopped working about 50 years ago but all I would need to do was steer it uphill when I wanted to stop and turn off the key. That advice worked until the steering wheel came off while I was bumping along downhill in the direction of my neighbor’s barn. While frantically trying to re-attach the steering wheel to the column, a tree intercepted me and the tractor. Another time, while mowing, a back wheel separated from the rear axle and occasionally while mowing downhill the gears will mysteriously jump from first to neutral. Without any gear constraints and unable to shift into a different gear unless stopped, the tractor will quickly pick up downhill speed while being chased by a brush-hog.

Tractors and their field implements (attachments) are helpful in maintaining rural acreage. A box scraper might fill in the pot holes on the gravel road or driveway, spread gravel or scrape a fire safety barrier around the house. Mowers/brush-hogs clear unwanted grass and weeds. Trailers haul firewood and front buckets can move soil and rocks that always seem to be where they shouldn’t. When field equipment isn’t in operation it’s being repaired or in storage waiting for the next seasonal use.

Parking and protective shelter for all that unsightly equipment required building a barn. That was something else I had not planned for. In Southern California I had once put together a 10-foot by 8 foot metal storage building so didn’t foresee any problem with something a little larger. That was before I talked to the county Building Department. So today I have a beautify view of the Sierra Mountains, an old Ford Tractor and a brush-hog.

Ken Calhoon is a real estate broker in El Dorado County. He can be reached through his website at





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