Pacaso takes Sonoma home off its website

Neighbors say the Old Winery Court vacation home was rarely used, but Pacaso says it will relist.|

Sonoma City Council on Fractional Homeownership

The Sonoma City Council on Jan. 19 placed a ban on timeshares and fractional-interest home uses in the City of Sonoma. The urgency ordinance was passed in response to inroads the Pacaso real-estate company has recently attempted in Sonoma Valley, marketing a fractional-interest model for groups of six to eight co-owners to purchase shared ownership and shared time allowed in multi-million-dollar homes.

As an urgency ordinance, which goes into effect immediately, the five-member council needed four votes for the ordinance to pass. The urgency ordinance was approved 5-0. City staff will prepare a regular ordinance prohibiting timeshares and fractional-interest use for the council to consider in the coming months.

The City of Sonoma currently doesn’t cite timeshares as an identified “use” in its city code, so the time-share model is already, in effect, banned, according to city Planning Director David Storer. But city officials wanted to specifically codify timeshares and fractional-interest as a prohibited use in the city, in order to preempt any confusion over their allowed use.

Pacaso’s one Sonoma property, on Old Winery Court, sits just outside city limits. -- Jason Walsh

It’s all quiet on the eastern front of the war between the real estate company Pacaso and the neighbors on Old Winery Court; even more so now that the Sonoma home is no longer listed on the Pacaso website.

Pacaso spokesperson Martha Thomas said that the home was taken off the website as part of a “common practice” in real estate, yet neighbors of the property believe it is a sign their hard-fought campaign is forcing Pacaso to shift its business strategy.

“I think they found that they made a huge mistake trying to buy a middle of the road residence in neighborhoods like this,” said Carl Sherrill, one of the residents of Old Winery Court who has organized against Pacaso. “I think they’re just very arrogant that they think they could just pull this off.”

As part of the neighborhood group StopPacasoNow, they have monitored the property for nearly a year and developed a website to garner support for their cause: getting Pacaso and its “vacation home” business model out of their neighborhood. Regular monitoring of Pacaso’s website uncovered the removal of the Sonoma home from its listings.

Nancy Gardner, Sherrill’s partner, said Pacaso’s listings look “pretty glum” as properties have sat on the available listings page of the website for months, including the property on Old Winery Court.

“Stuff isn’t moving,” Gardner said.

Pacaso purchased the home for $4 million in May 2021 -- a rate 133% of the approximately $3 million estimated price, according to Zillow -- and has sought to bring in “co-owners” who will use the property as a second home, staying anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. Pacaso’s business model touts making second homes more affordable with fractional homeownership, where up to eight buyers share a property and pay Pacaso fees to manage it.

Yet since August, when the first co-owner named Alfred Miller visited the house for a few days; rarely has anyone stayed at the property overnight, and never more than a couple of days, Gardner and Sherrill said. Mostly the visitors have been pest control or maintenance workers, they said.

“The rodents are going to move in if nobody is there,” Sherrill said. “There was some activity early on. But since early summer, we really haven’t seen anyone.”

In response to those allegations, Thomas said Pacaso does not disclose details about co-owners, but it “retains some ownership in the property,” although she did not provide ownership details.

“We will offer the remaining ownership stakes for sale at some point in the future,” Thomas wrote in an email but declined to provide specifics on when that would be.

But to learn more about the “common practice” of taking a property off the market in real estate, the Index-Tribune contacted local real estate expert, Realtor Jeannette Fung, who has more than 40 years of experience in real estate.

“Sometimes, it's easier or more prudent to remove it from the market because then it doesn't look like they've been trying to sell this thing for x number of months. And it's not moving, so something must be wrong with it,” Fung said.

By reintroducing the property later on, a parcel that was struggling to sell can get top billing and “look fresh,” attracting new buyers, Fung said. However, Fung said Pacaso’s issues selling the property at Old Winery Court likely won’t be resolved as simply as relisting the property.

“What they're signaling, I think, by taking it off the website is that this may be a county where there's too much pushback,” Fung said. “It's just not worth it. I mean, here we are with big signs all around this property, so if anybody goes through to look at the property, who the heck wants to take that on as their vacation property?”

A recent episode of the Bravo reality series “Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles: Josh and Josh” provides insight into the Pacaso business model, and its evolution, in the way CFO Andreas Madsen describes the requirements for a Pacaso home to the show’s stars.

“We know what the buyers want. When you look at Napa,” buyers are looking for more space and privacy, Madsen said during the show.

His statement is at odds with marketing from Pacaso that emphasizes co-owners will join a neighborhood in a community where they partially own their vacation home. During the show, Pacaso purchased two homes in Napa County, including a property that was 30 acres where “you don’t see another home anywhere” Madsen said.

“Maybe they're reexamining that part of their their business plan and thinking, ‘You know, if we have a secluded property where no one cares, that’s better,’” Fung said.

But on Old Winery Court, the residents make sure any potential co-owners of the Pacaso home see their distaste left, right and center with a chorus of signs shouting: “Pacaso timeshares not welcome here.” And though some of the signs have worn with recent rains, Gardner proposed getting the neighborhood together for a poster party to spruce up their activism.

The stars of “Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles,” brothers Josh and Matt Altman, have long ties to Pacaso, according to a Pacaso press release.

“Josh and Matt (Altman) worked with Zillow for years and had gotten to know Pacaso co-founder and former Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff,” the press releases said. “They had also met Pacaso co-founder and CEO Austin Allison, and the brothers knew Rascoff and Allison were real estate innovators.”

But innovation might not be enough to overcome the fierce public opposition facing Pacaso on Old Winery Court. Still, Pacaso has maintained its intent to sell the other stakes in the property, with multiple owners sharing one Sonoma house.

“We intend to sell these remaining ownership interests to more families over time,” Thomas wrote in an email. “We know it will continue to be an incredible second home for its current and future co-owners as they build their own roots and relationships in Sonoma.”

Pacaso has deep pockets, but Fung believes their money would be better spent somewhere else. Sonoma and other municipalities are drawing lines in the sand against housing models like Pacaso’s.

“If they're smart, they'll either just sell it as a market-rate property and reimburse the person, or offer them other opportunities in other areas,” Fung said. “From a cash flow standpoint, it’s not good for them to have that amount of money tied up for that long with no money coming in.”

Contact Chase Hunter at and follow @Chase_HunterB on Twitter.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the asking price for the Pacaso home on Old Winery Court as the Zillow estimated price. According to Zillow, the home had an estimated price of $2,889,300.

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