Short sale, long journey, |

Short sale, long journey,

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

Is there anything more alluring than a bargain?

It compels us to take a chance, and sign on the dotted line. In theory, a short sale offers more bang for your buck. It may be a chance in a lifetime to own a larger home, perhaps in a more desirable location than we might otherwise afford.

In fact, my radar’s been scanning the field to feature a short sale property for the last year.


Here’s the tale of a “bargain” that came with many challenges. Stay tuned, because the Segals’ story is enlightening and validating – with some good lessons.

Ken and Karin Segal are an interesting couple from Los Angeles. He’s in the film-and-television industry, and Karin, originally from The Netherlands, is a horse trainer and an artist.

One visit to see Nevada County friends, and they were hooked on this area.

“Living in the country appealed to us right away,” Karin recalled. “We liked the idea of being surrounded by forests and nature – and we were ready to let go of our L.A. lifestyle.”

After looking at many properties, the Segals opted for a five-acre horse property in Grass Valley. Built in 1987, its 2,300 square feet., three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom floor plan was workable.

“What we liked most,” Karin admitted, “was the value it represented. Its low, short sale price and its prestigious location were the real draws.”

Ken and Karin decided to purchase the property, and share it with their Icelandic ponies, sheep, goats, chickens, dogs and cats.

“We saw plenty of scope for improvement and we liked it enough to make the commitment,” Karin told me. “However, things did not go according to plan. We spent our first night there with buckets in the great room. The rainstorm revealed extensive roof problems that desperately needed attention. A few days later, we discovered serious pump-and-well problems. Much of the fencing was in dire need of replacement as well. Our ‘great buy’ suddenly became a costly money pit.”

A “guardian angel”

“Our realtor, Laura Berman, doubled as a guardian angel,” Karin explained. “Because disclosures are not part of short sale contracts, she included home warranty insurance as a gift. With so many unpleasant, expensive surprises, having that policy became our lifeline. We’ll also follow her advice and renew it.”

Terry Matlock fixed the roof, and Peters’ Drilling & Pump Service solved the water problems, so they could get back on the road to progress.

Imel Flooring installed bamboo flooring in the sunny, sunken great room, and cork flooring upstairs. Both surfaces are attractive and practical in terms of easy care and long life. Abercrombie & Co. installed a highly efficient wood-burning stove. New paint in shades of gray, tan and dark chocolate gave new life to the walls and the dramatic, vaulted ceilings, thanks to Andrew Sellery. Up went Karin’s boldly colored paintings. Up went Ken’s vintage music posters. Not surprisingly, up went their spirits.

’50s funk ‘n’ fun

The home has some interesting aspects that just needed the freedom to pop.

The dining area has a curved balcony that overlooks the great room. There’s a curved staircase nearby that leads to the two bedrooms and upstairs bath. A semi-circular bar in the great room repeats the curvature theme.

With Danish modern furniture and the plethora of art on display, there’s a funky-’50s feel throughout. Karin’s studio is just off the kitchen, and it’s filled with light and inspiration.

The sundecks overlook pastures filled with pines and happy critters. The scene may be bucolic, yet you’re only minutes from downtown Grass Valley. Just before I closed my notebook, Karin spoke the ideal words to close with.

“This has been one, long journey,” she said. “Although the house remains a work in progress, it does feel like home now.

“More significant, however, is the way we’ve made the change from L.A. to Nevada County. Instead of clubs and parties, we’re enjoying shopping at BriarPatch and our local growers markets. Each day we become more aware of what it takes to reduce our carbon footprints – and what a gratifying experience living here is. We enjoy the creativity, compassion and high levels of expertise. Whether it’s help with emergency repairs or home improvements, veterinary care for our animal family, entertainment, or good advice from a knowledgeable realtor, it’s all here, and it’s all good.”

Courtney Ferguson has written home-and-lifestyle articles for many years, both in Nevada County and in England. Contact her at

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