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No drought for local home sales

Spring market heats up despite scarce water supplies

With the spring home-selling season off to a robust start, California's drought appears to be having little impact on buyers and sellers who continue to close pricey deals with multiple offers.

Realtors report that while the state's water shortage is on everyone's mind, this fourth year of scarce supplies has not slowed down sales. Swimming pools, other water features and backyard gardens may not have the special appeal buyers sought a year or two ago, but neither have they stymied sales.

Sellers are still advised to spruce up their front yards with a bit of added water to make their homes more presentable on drive-bys and appraisals, even if it means exceeding the mandated 25% water use cutback that is measured against 2013 water bills.

"We have thousands-more of new people living in Alameda County than we had last year and they want to get into home ownership," said Jennifer Hosterman, a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway Drysdale Properties and former mayor of Pleasanton. "Quite frankly, people are so interested in a home they like that the drought is not a major concern."

Winter ended with an increased number of homes for sale in Pleasanton, although there are still less than a month's supply to meet buyer demand, which has also increased this spring.

According to Doug Buenz, a Realtor at the 680 Group at Venture/Sotheby's International Realty, 60 homes were available for sale in Pleasanton at the end of March, up 17 homes, or 40%, from 43 at the end of February.

A total of 76 sales went to contract in March, a 49% increase over February's 51 and a third higher than a year ago. March's median sales price was $923,000, 7% higher than a year ago.

"Even though it's a hot market, I still tell buyers to be prepared for quite possibly having to let their lawns go brown and even to consider changing out their grass to drought resistant yards," Hosterman said.

The drought and how to cope are the major topics of neighborhood conversations, Hosterman added. Her daughter who lives in Colorado told her that California's drought is the talk of her social circles.

And while Pleasanton and Tri-Valley residents can take bows for exceeding local and state mandated cutback requirements, many are irritated by those in other parts of the state that haven't "faced the music," according to Hosterman.

She hears loud complaints from those who have been in Sacramento recently where there's no shortage of well-watered green lawns.

"But Sacramento doesn't meter," Hosterman said. "People don't even know how much water they're using. Mayor Kevin Johnson is saying it would cost more like $50,000 or $75,000 per household, and the city doesn't have that money in its General Fund."

But she also noted that the city of Fresno faced the same situation and just installed metering for all its homes for roughly $5,000 a household, and Sacramento could do the same.

"We're all in this together," she added. "Water is a shared resource. We all have to do what we can to conserve."

In Pleasanton, purple pipes are being installed to carry recycled water from the Dublin San Ramon Services District to Ken Mercer Sports Park, Hacienda and adjacent parks and street medians for irrigation starting later this fall.

Recycled water already is being used to irrigate Val Vista Community Park and parkland and open space around the Stoneridge Creek Retirement Community. Callippe Preserve Golf Course is being irrigated by recycled water delivered by trucks from the DSRSD.

Pleasanton conservation rules also regulate upgrades businesses and residents must follow.

George Thomas, the city's chief building official, said new or remodeled bathrooms now require 1.6-gallon flush toilets and low-volume shower heads. Swimming pools must also be covered during summer months.

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