Cynthia Larsen - Sonoma County Real Estate Broker


The line of demarcation

Mendocino Coast from Point Arena LighthouseAs a real estate broker, I am constantly traveling back and forth between towns and Cities within Sonoma County. And as well as I think I know my County, I'm quite often surprised when I find that a home isn't in the City I thought it was in.

There is a line of demarcation somewhere, dividing jurisdictions from one City to another, but that line is invisible. And sometimes it moves. This isn't usually a problem, until I find myself needing assistance.

Real Estate, as every agent knows, isn't the safest job in the world. Agents meet with people they have never met in homes they have never been in. Because of this, I store the contact numbers of every police and sheriffs department in my cell phone.

Today is one of those days where I need to find out who I should call in case I find myself in a vulnerable situation. The foreclosed home I am visiting to do an occupancy check is right on the cusp of two Cities. To make my job even harder, the online County recorders office says the home is in one City, the online County Assessor's tax roll says its in another.

One of these Cities has its own police department, the other is under contract with the County Sheriff. After a phone call to the City police, I was told the address is within the County's jurisdiction. Another call had to be placed, of course, to make sure the County Sheriff's dispatcher agreed with that. They did.

Part of me wants to buy a can of spray paint so I can define my own line of demarcation based on my research, but I won't. Like I said ... sometimes those lines move. And it is better to be safe than sorry.


Cynthia Larsen (707-332-2560) is an independent broker and owner of Safe Haven Realty in Sonoma County, California. Visit to view available homes for sale and to learn more about this beautiful wine country destination.

Safe Haven Realty Logo

Comment balloon 30 commentsCynthia Larsen • March 01 2012 10:07AM


Oh the woes of an REO agent!!!  Glad that you are being safe.....we wouldn't want anything to happen to you!!   Be Safe!!!

Posted by Deborah Byron Leffler BzyBee Real Estate Lady! (Keller Williams Realty Boise) over 3 years ago

Cynthia.... you should be more worried about driving so close to the edge of a ledge with no guard rail bordering the road!!!!

Posted by Barbara Todaro, "Franklin MA Homes" (RE/MAX Executive Realty ) over 3 years ago

You can never be too careful these days, that's for sure!  Even though you have a confusing situation over there, sounds like you did your homework and you're prepared.

Posted by Carie Shapiro (North Shore Suburbs & Chicago Real Estate) over 3 years ago

now that's something I never even considered.  In most cases I am in one of three counties.  Two of which the sheriff would respond and in the 3rd... well I carry a gun.

Posted by Tammy Lankford, Your Lake Sinclair Expert (706-485-9668) (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) over 3 years ago

Cynthia, this is when it really comes in handy that my husband is retired. I just have him ride along in these cases. As you said, we can't be too cautious these days.

Posted by Tammie White, Franklin Homes Realty, Franklin TN ((615) 495-0752 or over 3 years ago

Occasionally, even a prelim is incorrect, as it depends on government employee data entry.  Maybe one day Google will fix all that.

Good post, thanks for sharing it.

Posted by Anthony Daniels, SF Bay Area REO Specialist (Coldwell Banker) over 3 years ago

Whether your talking about Windsor, or Sonoma, it's all dispatched by the sheriff's office anyway.  Good thing your thinking about it though

Posted by Jim Cheney, Rincon Valley Realtor (Saint Francis Property Santa Rosa, CA) over 3 years ago

I also work in an area with four different cities and an unincorporated area--so far, I've never needed to make a call to any of the local police departments in an emergency situation and I hope I never do.  Better safe than sorry as the saying goes...

Posted by Norma Toering Broker for Palos Verdes and Beach Cities, Palos Verdes & Beach Cities Homes in L.A. (Charlemagne International Properties) over 3 years ago

HA . . . and we wonder why state and federal agencies can't catch the bad guys!  The line of jurisdictional demarcation in the way.  I'm glad to read you take precautions.

Posted by Carla Muss-Jacobs, Principal Broker/Owner, Buyer Focused ~ Buyer Results ( | (503) 810-7192 Portland Metro Exclusive Buyers Agent | 100% Buyer Representation ~ 100% of the Time) over 3 years ago

Cynthia: I give you credit for making an occupancy check by yourself. I'm no whoozy, but I like to take a male associate with me in case of a physical confrontation. Had the son of a client once who, throughout the sales process, took the bully stance. My precaution kept me from calling the authorities several times.  And we got the home sold, although the buyer almost had him arrested once. It's a great story for another time.

Posted by Hella Mitschke Rothwell, Hawaii & California Real Estate Broker ((808) 226-1095 or (831) 626-4000) over 3 years ago

Deborah - thanks ... it ended up being a friendly visit for the most part.

Barbara - but doesn't that white fence look sturdy enough?

Carie - I'm more prepared than I used to be, that's for sure!

Tammy - LOL, I can't carry a gun here ... easily, that is.

Tammie #2 - you are lucky to have a ride-a-long, that's great!

Anthony - I didn't even think about the prelim! Oh man, it's going to be 50/50 whether the address on the purchase contract matches the one on the prelim. The underwriter will have fun with this one!

Jim - It's Windsor I'm talking about. Since they don't have a police department I have no choice but to call the Sheriff.

Norma - I haven't had an emergency yet ... but I make sure I obtain the DIRECT line to the dispacher so I don't have to try to navigate a voice menu to 10 minutes to get the right department.

Carla - I've run into some angry former borrowers, so I make sure I can call someone.

Hella - sounds miserable and perfect for a blog post!

Posted by Cynthia Larsen, Independent Broker Serving Sonoma County, CA (Safe Haven Realty) over 3 years ago

I guess we all have those problems. . . we can have the same zip codes, be in different school districts, and different townships.  I feel like a CSI sometimes!

Posted by Joy Daniels (Joy Daniels Real Estate Group, Ltd.) over 3 years ago

Sounds complicated. Glad you're considering your safety, while you're working, though. Best of luck.


Posted by Gretchen & Mel Ahrens ( over 3 years ago

Joy - who knew there was so much research to be done? Being an agent is being a sleuth!

Gretchen - Columbia Gorge? I know exactly where that is ... thanks!

Posted by Cynthia Larsen, Independent Broker Serving Sonoma County, CA (Safe Haven Realty) over 3 years ago

Cynthia - Years ago, I sold a wonderful home on a large parcel of land in an upscale part of Greater Sacramento.  The lot was at the end of a cul-de-sac, with oak trees everywhere, and a creek flowing through at the back.  We noticed a gazebo at water's edge on the otherside of the creek.  We assumed that it belonged to the back neighbor.  However, after close of escrow, my buyer had a survey performed for the purpose of putting up fences on the property lines.  You guessed it, the boundaries were no where near what the seller had told us, nor where they where we suspected they might be.  My buyer gained 9 feet of ground on the left side, which went into the neighbor's vegetable garden.  And that gazebo which was on the otherside of the creek, was actaully on my client's land.  The back neighbor peacefully moved it.  I can only imagine what issues may have risen had their been a deduction of ground, rather than an addition.

Posted by Myrl Jeffcoat, Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent (GreatWest Realty) over 3 years ago

Myrl - oh boy, did you ever luck out! When watching a football game we get to see red and yellow lines on the field where the line of scrimmage and the 1st down measurements are. We need those magic lines to appear on our listings so we can see the boundaries. Wouldn't that make our job much easier?

Posted by Cynthia Larsen, Independent Broker Serving Sonoma County, CA (Safe Haven Realty) over 3 years ago

Ah yes, the joys of working in smaller communities. Every jurisdiction has different by-laws, zoning regulations, tax rates, safety regulations, etc. etc.  Sometimes it does require a bit of detective work to get everything straight Cynthia.

Posted by Malcolm Johnston, Trenton Real Estate (Century 21 Lanthorn Real Estate LTD., Trenton, Ontario) over 3 years ago

Cynthia - you definitely come from "the prepared" side of the world --- deciphering the boundaries of cities and unincorporated areas can be a full time job.   Glad to see you being proactive.  Stay safe and prepared.

Posted by Michael Jacobs, PasadenaCA Real Estate Representation 818.516.4393 (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 3 years ago

Cynthia, it is a difficult task being the agent in the field bring great points to the table for all of us to consider..

Posted by Ginny Gorman, Homes for Sale in North Kingstown RI and beyond (Phillips Post Road Realty ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate) over 3 years ago

Cynthia, if a house isn't vacant, or if I don't know, I make Frank go with me. You are very brave to go by yourself :) And demarcation lines that move? Are the city and county constantly annexing and de-annexing each other?


Posted by Sharon Alters, Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL (Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308) over 3 years ago

Cynthia, I am glad that you take such care in regard to your safety.  We have had issues in Dallas over the last few months.

Posted by Sharon Parisi, Dallas Homes (Keller Williams Dallas Premier Realty) over 3 years ago

Cynthia, Good work on taking precautions, even if it gets complicated.

In this area a home can be in one city, but the mailing address will be a different city.  So a home with a Saratoga mailing address, for example, may be in the city of San Jose.  Lots of weird cases like that because our once small cities grew together into a metropolis and blurred demarcation lines.  Sometimes one end of a residential block will be in one city, and the other end of the same block will be in a different city.  The demarcation line is between two neighboring homes.  Pretty weird.

Posted by Lloyd Binen, Silicon Valley Realtor since 1976; 408-373-4411 (Certified Realty Services) over 3 years ago

I think I'd be getting out that can of spray paint if it were me Cynthia..................

Posted by Roger D. Mucci, Lets shake things up at your home today! (Shaken...with a Twist 216.633.2092) over 3 years ago

It never hurts to be prepared and careful - sounds as though you have a system in place to ensure you're as safe as possible. Keep it up, and don't ever be tempted to cut safety corners.

Posted by Charlie Dresen, Steamboat Springs, CO e-Pro (Steamboat Sotheby's International Realty) over 3 years ago


How did we come to this? I'm often frightened by occupancy checks, especially out in the remote ares of the county. I try to take a friend with me when possible, just in case. Stay safe and BE CAREFUL!

Posted by Richard Weisser, Richard Weisser Coweta Newnan Homes for Sale (Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Metro Brokers) over 3 years ago

We can see how this would be an issue Cynthia. Its unfortunate that we have to protect ourselves like this, but we do! You are smart to check into and carry the police numbers.

Posted by Al & Peggy Cunningham Brokers, Brampton Ontario Homes For Sale 905-450-5500 (RE/MAX Realty Services Inc.) over 3 years ago

Good to hear you are trying to be prepared for whatever you find when you go to do an occupancy check.  A fellow agent asked me this week if I could spare a little time to go with her on an occupancy check.  Fortunately the property was vacant and she felt better having someone along for the ride.

Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) over 3 years ago

Malcolm - it seems real estate requires more and more detective work every day.

Michael - I've had to call the police more than once. And it only took once to figure out I needed access to good contact numbers.

Ginny - ever since the foreclosures started ... it's gotten pretty strange out there.

Frank & Sharon - unincorporated areas being annexed into a City. It happened near me recently where a place called Canon manor was taken in by Rohnert Park.

Sharon - you never know when a squatter might be hanging out in a vacant house.

Lloyd - I lived in San Jose for awhile, I can only imagine how it has grown so.

Roger - LOL, your demarcation line would be beautiful!

Charlie - research, research, research. It really pays off.

Richard - good question ... how did it come to this? I never thought I would be doing occupancy checks when I started real estate.

Al & Peggy - who knew real estate would be a dangerous job? I sure didn't.

Cindy - how nice of you to ride along. It sure makes a difference to have somebody with you!

Posted by Cynthia Larsen, Independent Broker Serving Sonoma County, CA (Safe Haven Realty) over 3 years ago

Great idea to have phone numbers for the different police departments.  Im gonna put this to use right away.  Call 911 from a cell phone you never know who youll get.

Posted by Greg Freeman (The Michael Group) over 3 years ago

Cynthia , When these types of circumstances arise, I always let at least two people know the address's of where I'm going and turn on my GPS tracker on my phone... 

Posted by Paul S. Henderson, Realtor, Tacoma Washington, Tacoma Washington Agent/Broker & area authority! (RE/MAX Professionals.) over 3 years ago

This blog does not allow anonymous comments