Q and A with Wine Country realtor Latife Hayson

Why should Bay Area people visit the Napa Valley during the holidays?
Downtown Napa is so beautiful during the holidays: it is completely transformed into a Christmas wonderland. The town’s 30-foot Christmas tree, located at Veterans Park, is adorned with more than 2,500 lights and 1,000 ornaments. Gorgeous decorations and more than 35,000 lights sparkle throughout the entire downtown Napa area, making it a welcoming, family-friendly haven for the entire holiday season. Napa’s only outdoor skating rink, Napa on Ice, is back though January 10th. The rink is open every day, including holidays.

Tell me about the buyers of luxury real estate in Napa. Can you give me a composite sketch of your clientele?
Eighty percent of my clientele are second homeowners and overseas investors (eg, San Francisco, the Bay Area, the east coast and Asia), and twenty percent are vintners and locals. They range in age from late 30s to 90s, and have all been very successful in finance, advertising, consulting, real estate, the wine industry, and of course technology.

They all share a love of food, wine, and the extraordinary lifestyle that Napa Valley's $13B wine industry is renowned for internationally. Take a look at my favorite annual events list to see what speaks to people who need to own a piece of Napa Valley.

My clients from San Francisco and the Bay Area tend to spend most weekends and summers up here, while owners from other parts of the country and Asia tend to come in for a week or two at a time. Or they come in for a big block of time, like the spring or summer.

Clients from other U.S. states have to keep an eye on their calendars to make sure they spend less than 183 days here annually so the IRS doesn't deem California to be the state where they are domiciled, which can have major tax ramifications.

Luxury real estate in Napa vs Sonoma. What's the difference?
Many of my clients started out wanting to buy in Sonoma because of its proximity to San Francisco and less traffic congestion, but nine times out of ten they end up buying in Napa Valley.

Sonoma for sure is a better value in terms of lot size and price per square foot for improvements. What people are surprised to learn however, is that Sonoma has enjoyed higher residential sale prices than Napa due to the exceptionally large parcel sizes in Sonoma. For example, the highest residential sale in the history of Napa Valley is a property I sold for $15,000,000, and the second highest sale, which I was also blessed to sell was $13,950,000. Sonoma, on the other hand, has had off market sales of $25,000,000 and $35,000,000.

The Napa Valley is a very narrow valley, so it's hard to get away from road noise and it's rare that large parcels with usable land come on the market in the high end. In Sonoma, many luxury estates are situated on large parcels with rolling hills as far as the eye can see. For sure there is no difference in the valleys when it comes to design, quality and luxury. I see properties in both valleys on a regular basis that will take your breath away.

My observation is that people who buy luxury properties in Sonoma Valley tend to be more private and are happy to entertain at home and not be concerned about having an abundance of renowned restaurants and events nearby. People who buy in Napa Valley tend to gravitate towards a more social outgoing lifestyle and have more of a passion for food and wine.