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Rebuilding Sonoma County: Christopherson Homes finds new role after 2017 wildfires

Special coverage

This story is part of a monthly series in 2019 chronicling the rebuilding efforts in Sonoma County's four fire zones: Coffey Park, Fountaingrove, the greater Mark West area and Sonoma Valley. Read all of the Rebuild North Bay coverage

here.

Brenda and Keith Christopherson have been building homes in Northern California for 40 years.

For several years before the financial crisis 10 years ago, the husband-and-wife team was Sonoma County’s largest residential builder. They’ve built more than 6,500 homes in Northern California, including close to 5,000 in the North Bay.

After the financial crisis, they closed their business and focused on running their real estate brokerage and building or remodeling individual homes. Then came the fires, and their telephone started ringing. People who’d lost a Christopherson home wanted the same team to do the rebuild.

After less than a week of fire calls and meetings, “we looked at each other and said, ‘We need to do this,’” said Keith Christopherson, 71.

“We have all those years of experience. We know what works. We needed to do what was right. They relied on us,” said Brenda Christopherson, 69.

Former employees started calling, some left jobs, some relocated from out of town.

“They really wanted to be part of the rebuild effort, to bring our team back,” Brenda Christopherson said.

Today, Christopherson Builders has 24 employees and about 75 clients in various stages of rebuild, with around 30 houses under construction and another 25 ready to start building soon, they said. They have 30 home designs that have been pre-approved and are ready to build, to speed the permitting process. They have 18 ready-to-build lots they’ll soon put on the market, featuring their home designs.

They said they’re building in upper and lower Fountaingrove, upper Hidden Valley, Coffey Park, Mark West Estates and the Riebli Road area.

The Christophersons help people build homes, buy lots, sell lots or houses, whatever it takes.

“Our specialty is to figure out creative ways to make things happen, so they get what they really want,” Brenda Christopherson said. “It’s all about thinking outside the box.”

And working hard, Keith Christopherson said. “You have to work hard every single day.”

Earlier this month, a typical day for Brenda Christopherson started with an 8 a.m. meeting; then at 9 a.m. a client dropped off plans and stayed for an hour; then a couple who were not fire victims walked in looking to find a lot they could buy, stayed seven hours, bought a lot and chose a home design; then a Coffey Park resident dropped by to say that it had been months since he’d heard from the builder he paid to develop his plans, and he left with a sample Christopherson contract to show his wife; and all day clients were in and out for updates and to make changes.

This is very different from their earlier business of building subdivisions, and although tragic, it’s rewarding, the Christophersons said.

“We had a big company, two locations and $300 million in annual revenue for several years. We had a real machine. But I was an administrator. I had lost one-on-one touch with clients. In this environment, clients are so appreciative. It’s so gratifying to solve problems for them. The reward is powerful,” Keith Christopherson said.

Special coverage

This story is part of a monthly series in 2019 chronicling the rebuilding efforts in Sonoma County's four fire zones: Coffey Park, Fountaingrove, the greater Mark West area and Sonoma Valley. Read all of the Rebuild North Bay coverage

here.

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