John's Blog

Monthly Savings Add Up

April 15th, 2014

When was the last time you evaluated your investment and savings strategy? Have you ever considered investing/saving the same amount each month? In other words pay yourself just like you would pay your rent or mortgage. You will be surprised how quickly these monthly savings can add up. Don’t leave your investments unattended, annually review them and their performances and make any adjustments if needed.

I have several CPA friends who sure are glad that April 15th is here and soon to be gone. Did you know that if you make over $200,000 a year that you are three times as likely to be audited? Also you are likely to be audited if you claim excessive donations, home office deductions and rental losses. Keep very good records to minimize any of these issues.

This weekend in Sonoma County there will be several Easter Egg Hunts for the kids. To name a few: Howarth Park and Windsor at the High School will be hosting their egg hunts on Saturday at 10 AM; also the Oakmont Golf Club will also be hosting an egg hunt on Sunday at 9 AM. Enjoy the weekend and be safe with whatever you do.

Competitive Challenge Inspires

April 2nd, 2014

With the beginning of baseball season, it made me think about competition-the pros & cons of a competitive spirit. I believe that competition is good, both in sports & in business. Competition can challenge you to continue to do better, try harder, offer a unique product, such as a private money loan. The principles of our company (my wife & I) have been originating business purpose loans secured by real estate for over 25 years.

A recent report by the Sonoma County Economic Development Board indicates that Sonoma County is a competitive place to do business with the reason being: an attractive business climate and a high quality of life. The Sonoma County region is one of the most beautiful places to live offering a wide diversity of business opportunities, agriculture and recreation.

The 17th annual “Sonoma International Film Festival” is being held this Saturday and Sunday April 5th-6th in Sonoma. This event features over 90 hand-selected films, along with world class food and wine on the Sonoma Plaza. For additional information call (415) 221-2875

Good to Know

March 26th, 2014

Last week the Federal Reserve released results of its annual “stress test” of the nation’s largest banks and almost all of them came out with a clean bill of health. The Fed also had its turn on the examination table in the form of a paper from three economists at the San Francisco Fed and they had determined that the Fed is just fine. Good to know as the Fed’s portfolio is now over $4 trillion.

Some government officials are encouraging residential mortgage lenders to make more loans and expand their lending/credit criteria, so some residential mortgage lenders are lowering their minimum credit scores down to 550 allowing more borrowers to qualify for loans. If too many lenders start making loosely-underwritten loans and are trying to outdo each other to compete underwriting can become stretched too far. I understand wanting to help the consumer, but I hope these lenders are careful not to abuse the underwriting.

If you have not had a chance to see a play at the 6th Street Playhouse here in Santa Rosa, your sure missing out on an experience. This Saturday 3/29 at 2 PM & 8 PM they will be performing Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, call (707) 523-4185 for additional information.

Influential Actions

March 19th, 2014

During lunch the other day with a friend we had witnessed an event at a nearby table which left us saying: “really?” Just think about the impression a persons behavior would have on you and the negative connotation attached to it. This event has confirmed for me, how one conducts themselves whether at work or in public, influences what others think of you; even perhaps to the point of them doing or not doing business with you. Even in today’s high tech world your professional conduct also extends to online behavior. Good manners cost nothing, however the value comes with increased credibility, confidence, and hopefully your bottom line.

Baseball spring training is in high gear with opening day games starting in just a few weeks. Hopefully the players and fans will exhibit good manners. You may not always agree with your opponents or even your friends, but doesn’t having a difference in opinion make life challenging? I know it can certainly make for interesting conversations.

Try something different this weekend, this Friday March 21st there will be a Repo Show and Silent Auction with art made from recycled materials by local artists being held in Sonoma. For additional information call (707) 996-3115

Focus on Fundamentals, Try Something New

March 12th, 2014

After a fairly relaxing week of skiing with my friend I am back at work; in fact we have already booked our lodging for next year.

I’ve been catching up with reading my mail and I had looked at Warren Buffett’s annual letter which is always interesting. His mantra has always been that “ordinary investing doesn’t need to be complicated”. In fact, if it is not simple, you may want to rethink your investment strategy. Focus on fundamentals of what the investment will produce, not on the fluctuating value.

It’s that time of year again where gasoline prices are increasing and it always makes me consider looking at a hybrid or an all electric vehicle to increase my gas mileage, especially when I’m driving around town.

Restaurant Week in Sonoma County continues through this Sunday March 16th. If you haven’t participated, it is a good time to go and experience a new restaurant. We’ve now made this an annual event with our friends; in fact we are heading to a restaurant in Sebastopol tonight.

Moving Forward

February 28th, 2014

Well it’s time for my annual ski trip with my buddy; this will be our 43rd year. It is so great to keep this tradition on going.  I checked the weather forecast this morning and Heavenly Valley in South Lake Tahoe, just recently received 14 inches of new snow.  The rain is definitely a welcome sight here in Sonoma County as every bit helps to alleviate the water shortage our agriculture will most likely experience.

I am pleased to report that we have sold another commercial property in which we had to foreclose upon last year. We are currently receiving offers on several of our REO properties, both land and commercial. This is great news as it leads me to believe that our real estate economy at least in Northern California is moving forward.

If you are interested in investing in to our BaySierra Capital Fund, which is a mutual fund of first deeds of trusts secured by real estate earning an average of 6% interest, please give us a call. We would be happy to send you a portfolio Fact Sheet of its characteristics.

Stay safe this weekend as I understand there is more rain & wind on its way. If you do venture out, the 36th Annual Barrel Tasting-Wine Road is happening in Alexander Valley, Dry Creek & Russian River Valley in the Healdsburg area starting on Friday with over 100 wineries participating.  For additional information call (707) 433-4335

Income & Inequality

February 20th, 2014

Income inequality and wealth (the gap between high & low income earners) seems to be in the news a lot lately. Yes, raising the minimum wage makes sense but this probably won’t slow down or make much difference to the inequality of income. When there is an accumulation of wealth amongst the very fortunate few, things begin to happen in the political process which allows those at the top to accumulate more wealth. Maybe if we removed special perks and abused loopholes in the tax code we could make progress. Perhaps the ultimate real solution is tax reform.

Just a reminder if you don’t already have a Revocable Living Trust you may want to think about establishing one. If you do already have one, when was the last time you reviewed or updated it?  If it is has been more than 10 years, make for sure that you wouldn’t change anything.

This Saturday February 22nd at Jack London State Park in Glen Ellen, from 2 PM to 4:30 PM you can hear the Piano Club’s first concert of piano recitals. For additional information call (707) 938-5216

Good News

February 12th, 2014

Lots of good news! The rainfall levels are currently much more than a few drops and the 2013 North Coast grape crops have set records in its size and value with an estimated increase in value of 2.2% and crush total of 4.23 million tons up from 4.01 million tons in 2012. Oh, happy day! Let’s just hope that growers who have been put on notice that water for irrigation and frost protection might be in a short supply this year won’t have to experience too many hardships. The life of a farmer regardless of the crop is very dependent on Mother Nature.

According to Beacon Economics, California’s merchandise export trade for 2013 was 4% higher than the figures from 2012. California has even started to add back some manufacturing jobs. It’s trends like these which leads us to be very hopeful  that 2014 will be a very good year.

Looking for something to do? The annual Citrus Fair in Cloverdale starts this Friday February 14th through to Monday February 17th. Or you may want to experience The VinOlivo Ticket to Sonoma Valley weekend from this Saturday February 15th to Monday February 17th where you can receive special offers at participating Sonoma Valley Wineries.  For more information visit:

Just remember you might need an umbrella for either event.

Water Conservation

February 5th, 2014

All though we received a little rain on Sunday a water shortage is still on a lot of peoples minds. I am a little concerned that even though there is no “mandatory” conservation, as of yet and we are being asked to conserve. So, when it is mandatory you need to cut your water usage back by 20%; when does your 20% usage mark start?  Probably not when you did start to conserve and are not penalized if you don’t reduce usage by 20%. When we conserved last time we were penalized and punished with higher rates because we did such a good job. I am actually on a well & septic and not hooked into any one else’s water system, therefore I am always concerned with our water usage. However, a lot of my friends are not happy with the talk of penalties for not conserving which they are already doing.

Effective February 1st Janet Yellen became the Federal Reserve’s new Chairwoman. Ms. Yellen seems to be willing to allow a measure of inflation to achieve economic growth. Time will only tell how the economy fares under her guidance.

The Super Bowl this year was a little boring, but the commercial with the young puppy and the Clydesdale Horse was outstanding!

Do you have a retirement account? We do.

January 24th, 2014

If you have a retirement account, is it a self-directed IRA account? If not, you may want to consider transferring it to a custodian such as IRA Services Trust Co. or Pensco Trust Services which handles self-directed accounts.  Self-directed means that you can invest your retirement funds in a wider variation of investments including real estate and deeds of trust.  Some of our recently funded loans have been “netting” to the lenders rates of 8.0% to 10.5%.  When the payments are received into your retirement account, the balance of your account increases nicely— better than earning less than 1.0% on bank interest.

Another investment you might want to consider is our own BaySierra Capital Fund, LLC which is a mutual fund of first deeds of trust mortgages.  If interested, please call our office and ask for Bobby Ritter for additional information. It is always smart to have diversity in your savings, asset portfolio and even in retirement accounts.

I’ll probably still be watching the Super Bowl on Feb. 2nd, and hoping that the Denver Broncos will win.  My wife will be watching for the commercials which I must admit are some of the best.