Sedona at Dos Vientos in Thousand Oaks

Real Estate Agent with Movewest Realty, Inc.

Sedona at Dos Vientos Ranch

There is a newer section of Thousand Oaks set within an elevated bowl surrounded by the gorgeous and scenic, Santa Monica Mountains. Located just north of the Pacific Coast and perched at the very western edge of the Conejo Valley Shelf, this area is bordered by Malibu to the Southeast, the much lower Oxnard Plain to the West and Newbury Park to the North East.

Drive down Borchard Road away from the older neighborhoods of Newbury park, up and over the Potrero Ridge line, and back down the other side into the valley bowl that is Dos Vientos Ranch. As you coast down the hill through the rustic, rocky, cactus and yucca lined hillsides, you follow a gentle left curving roadway until you begin to glimpse the sprawling, stucco tribute to expensive tract homes that is Dos Vientos Ranch.

In the far Southwest corner in a little L- shaped bowl of rocks, cactus and coyotes is Sedona, the newest tract. These are roughly 4500 sq ft to 6,000 sq ft homes which are offered in what the developer calls Italianate, Spanish and Tuscan Elevations. Sixty nine homes are currently planned which range in price from roughly $1,446,000 to about $1,600,000.

There are 7 phases planned and they are currently selling the 8 homes of Phase 1. These 8 homes were put on the market Saturday the 16th of May. Today, Monday the 18th, four of the homes have already sold! When my wife and I visited the site on Sunday, there were cars lining both sides of the road, for a block on either side of the model homes. Clearly, our newspapers and tv have failed to convince these people how bad our economy is, and how poorly real estate is faring. Imagine that.

The Phase 1 homes are being offered at a “low introductory price.” Each of these 8 homes is being offered with an additional $25,000 worth of interior options. Buyers can pick their lot, or they can pick the model of home they want, but the builder has already determined which models will be built on which lots.

By the way, the developer has the A- team working to serve prospective buyers. I was very impressed by the professionalism of the Sales Counselors I met. They were friendly and composed even when there were 3 and 4 groups of people actively seeking their help at any given time. They answered all my toughest questions with no dodges or excuses and they were extremely knowledgeable.

Build time is about 9 months with the Phase 1 homes projected to be move-in ready next January 2010. I was told that Phase 2 may be built earlier than originally planned if demand continues, with a possible March 2010 move-in.

Buyers are expected to pre-qualify with either Chase or Bank of America, but they can use any bank for their loan. Bank of America is offering a long term rate lock of up to a year to cover build time on these homes.

There is no Mello-Roos on these homes ( see my blog on Mello-Roos ) but there is a $266/month combined HOA. A Master Association covers the cost of keeping the brush clear around the homes for fire protection, and a few other things like building and maintaining the Park Center. The Sedona Association takes care of the maintenance of the security gates, roads and walkways.

These are big homes, lavishly presented. Myself, I think some of the homes “flow” better than others. The models are not always very representative of what you can make the homes into either. There are numerous layouts available for the two story homes but only one example of each model is presented.

The two story models are the Santa Barbara and the La Jolla (which was my personal favorite). These homes have the option of a 3 car tandem garage with an optional bedroom and bathroom “suite” or what most of us would call a great big granny flat. Depending on the model, you can have a 5 car garage or you can substitute another Den, or you can move the dining room or granny flat location if you choose a 3 car garage.

Pick a design with up to 6 bedrooms, or fewer bedrooms and additional recreation/ family rooms. There are a lot of design opportunities for buyers to review before their specific home design is frozen. I like that the developer is offering a bit of flexibility to his buyers.

The thing I really like about the two story homes is the use of outside space. This is featured prominently in the marketing of these homes as well. Simply put, the designs encourage home owners to adapt the many courtyards, covered porticos, balconies, decks and covered loggias as everyday living space. The built-in barbeques, outside fireplaces, relaxing fountains and beautifully tiled courtyards encourage you to pull up a big comfortable chair and kick back with friends or family while everyone enjoys the open air and sunshine.

The covered loggia/balcony off of the master bedroom in the Santa Barbara model is particularly inviting, with gorgeous views and cool breezes and yet, a bit more privacy than most balcony designs. It has outdoor drapes which can be pulled across each side to enclose the room around a gas log fireplace. Very romantic.

The Montecito Plan is essentially a 1-story home with a second story recreation room. It is a 4 bedroom home with a 3 car tandem garage. Featuring a central courtyard, it tends to be a bit smaller than the 2-story homes having just under 5,000 sq ft. of living space. Three different walls of the courtyard have doors leading into the home, and an outside staircase leads up from the courtyard wall to the second story recreation room . This is just a little weird for me. Like the movie “Labyrinth”, you have to wonder what happens if you choose the wrong door.

The rest of the interior is like walking around a squarish mall. A narrow hallway runs in front of each of the bedrooms and widens out in front of the Den and Living Room. Like an echo of the nearby courtyard, an open dining room occupies a smaller framed area within a central atrium. The hallway skirts the dining room on two sides and runs past the Family Room entry on the left and Dining Room to the right. It narrows back down as it passes by the powder room on the right and on to the Master Bedroom entry on the left. I swear I passed some joggers along the way.

The Family Room is the largest room in the house and is open to the huge kitchen. I liked this combination layout. Each of these rooms has a nice outside view and backyard access. The kitchen has a large island with tall low-backed chairs for snacking. It adjoins a breakfast nook which is large enough for a smaller table. Unfortunately, you need to hire a guide to get from the kitchen through the family room and over to the main dining room.

The next largest room appears to be the Master Bedroom. The bedroom opens through double glass doors to the rear, outdoor patio. On the other side of the bedroom, a tall, rather narrow arched doorway leads to the Master Bath. There are two recessed reading lights in the ceiling above the headboard of the bed, but they are so high up in the 12’ coffered ceiling that they are useless for reading. There is a thin screen tv on the distant wall opposite the bed, but you need binoculars to see what’s on.

The Master Bath is quite large with separate tub and shower enclosures. The shower is nicely tiled and big enough for about a dozen of your closest friends. Strangely enough, the jetted jacuzzi tub is a mere 6’, two person bucket by comparison. I also think the tub surround should be made of a material that wouldn’t be slippery when wet. Maybe a small hand rail would be useful as well.

The walk-in “his closet” reminds me of my college dorm room and across the hallway, something about 3 times larger is obviously the “her closet”. Most of the models I saw have rather sparsely furnished walk-ins. Maybe a shelf, but not much in the way of quality wall organizers or center room fixtures. Lighting in these walk-in closets was similar to my garage and is a missed opportunity for the developer to please women with lots of needs.

The Monterey Plan is the other single story floor plan and does not have a model. The floor plan appears to be identical to the Montecito Plan but without the second story recreation room.

I have one major concern with each of these homes. The downstairs view for most of them is not much more than a brick wall or embankment. The best views were usually upstairs views from the front or rear of the homes. Being a tract home, each home has minimal set back from its’ neighbor, with homes in higher elevations enjoying greater privacy. This is a disappointment for homes in this price range.

My wife was a bit put off by the rather imposing kitchens. They are appropriately huge with ovens that look more like stereos - sprouting buttons, gauges and switches. The refrigerator in one model had 2 doors that were each about 3 feet wide and heavy as a safe. Once opened, the refrigerator shelving was only about a foot deep. Forget about walking by an open refrigerator door, it’s like crossing the border. You have to wait for the door to close.

The central island stands about chest high on me and a bit higher for my wife. The cabinets were fabulous but again a bit high. My wife could not see inside the microwave mounted on the overhead cabinets. If you are an NBA basketball player, you’ll love these kitchens.

Some of the family rooms were centered on fireplaces with the entertainment center off to one side. Other family rooms were centered on the entertainment center with the fireplace off to one side. Personally, I am more of a tired tv person in the evening than a romantic fireplace person. I’ve been married a long time.

A word about presentation. I expect to see all the most expensive upgrades on new home models. Designer nick-nacks and leather furniture do well in these homes. However, please don’t try to sell me a 6,000 sq ft home by employing undersized furniture and beds in the bedrooms! It’s a bit tawdry and silly in these huge homes.

If you want me to see the genius of design in your outside living areas, then impress me. Don’t stick a mid-priced home depot barbeque in the middle of a huge stucco wrap around. Show me some barbeque tech and a built-in refrigerator at least. Also, explain to your interior designer that outside design means not putting candle decorations in the sun. They melt all over the furniture!

From a strictly safety point of view, I was glad to see home sprinkler systems standard in these homes. I was a bit concerned that none of the second floor homes had a second way downstairs other than the main staircase. That might be an issue in a home fire.

Speaking of technology, I didn’t see much. Lots of extra bedrooms/dens, but I didn’t see a single home theater. I saw no integrated solar panels powering these huge homes even though we live in an area of the world that just screams for them. Many local residences and businesses have already adapted them as eco-friendly and economic windfalls. There is no voice activated lighting or music. No adjustable polarizing windows on the sun side of the home or even personalized door locks. I guess that is just too much to ask for.

I did see 3 air-conditioning units lined up just outside the window of a ground floor bedroom in a 1.5 million dollar model home. Yuuch!

We all know a large part of our population is rapidly aging, but I saw none of the new elevator designs which are now available to two story residences. These new elevators are concealed behind what looks like closet doors, yet are wide enough for wheelchairs. They open up a whole new market for two story structures and enable long term home owners to maintain the full utilization of their homes, even if their owners develop physical limitations.

The lots themselves speak for the way our culture seems to have changed in the last few decades. The tract is locked away behind some really pretty wrought iron gates.

Presumably this is for enhanced security and privacy. It just doesn’t work. People just follow each other through the opened gates.

If you are serious about security, you can employ an additional entry arm to separate individual vehicles as they pass through the gate or you hire real, live gate security. I’ve seen many less expensive neighborhoods with better security than this – (see Victoria Estates in Oxnard).

The individual lots remind me of pictures of aircraft parking revetments in a war zone. Stone walls atop earthen embankments surround each lot on the sides and back. It looks for all the world like someone hooked a tow bar to the front of each home and shoved it into its own parking spot. Whatever happened to neighborhoods with lot lines made of flowering hedges and property lines of fragrant evergreens? Sorry, I’m showing my age.

Considering what people seem to want in a new home these days, I give these homes a solid B. Although the design of the exterior spaces on some of the two story models is intriguing, I didn’t see much real innovation or serious new technology. These are just nice, big, expensive tract homes like they have been building for the last 10 years.

Just the way I see it.

Mark Thorngren

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