I have been working with Blu Homes clients to find lots and land to build on in Sonoma County this year. Hiking new property is one of my favorite pastimes, so this has been an enjoyable chore. The hardest part of the job is explaining how a raw piece of land can end up costing so much money once the infrastructure is figured into the cost. That's even before getting into the cost of permits.
The other difficult discussion is the impact of "location, location, location" on the value of the property. The small towns in the wine country of Sonoma County weren't created equal and they have certainly taken different paths. Healdsburg with its intimate plaza has become the charming "foodie" town that gets enormous favorable press from the national media. Sonoma continues to be the historical heart of the Bear Flag Rebellion and features a grand town square surrounded by historic buildings and shops. Sebastopol is at the heart of the local sustainable movement and attracts new businesses and residents who are looking for community.
What these towns share is higher priced property that makes it much harder for newcomers to find an affordable place to live. Fifteen minutes drive from any of these towns will drop the price of raw land by more than half. The question for buyers to ponder is whether close proximity to the place they want to live is worth the additional cost. Here's a pricing guide with links to a land search for Sonoma County.
It's rare to see the market dynamics play out so clearly, but there is a reason "location, location, location" has been such an enduring term in the industry. Location is still the bedrock upon which value is created.
For language lovers, I refer you to this New York Times article which tracks the earliest known attribution of "location, location, location" to an ad in the Chicago Times from 1926.