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Read all of the PD's fire coverage here

County leaders presented a certificate of occupancy Thursday for the first home rebuilt in the fire areas outside the city of Santa Rosa.

If you like the cream-colored, 2,437-square-foot house in the Mark West neighborhood, you can buy it for a listed price of $865,000.

The first rebuilt home in the unincorporated county area sits among a number of houses under construction on burned lots that were sold by survivors of the October wildfires. The lots’ buyer and the builder, Fairfield-based Silvermark Construction Services, said it plans soon to start pouring two foundations a week on behalf of fire survivors and two more for resale on the lots it is purchasing.

“It was a perfect fit for us,” Silvermark owner Greg Owen said of the work and opportunity in the fire zones. His company, he said, has the resources to design homes, obtain building permits and undertake construction with an “even flow” scheduling system that ensures subcontractors have a steady and predicable stream of work.

Thursday’s informal completion ceremony comes as the rebuild now encompasses nearly a fifth of the homes that were burned in Sonoma County during the most destructive wildfires in state history. The October fires claimed 40 lives and destroyed 5,280 homes in the county.

Homeowners have applied for building permits on 1,026 homes in the fire areas, city and county websites reported Thursday. Of those, 641 properties have received such permits.

At the same time, property owners have listed for sale about 480 lots where homes burned to the ground.

Already two homes have been completed in Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park, the neighborhood in the northwest part of the city with the largest concentration of fire-related construction in the county.

In contrast, Silvermark’s newly completed home sits on Willow Green Place in a subdivision of just 43 homes off Old Redwood Highway next to the Burbank Center for the Arts.

There, the company is building 14 homes, or nearly a third of the available properties, Owen said.

To date, he has purchased about two dozen lots in county burn areas, with agreements in hand for another 10.

Silvermark and Coldwell Banker together have produced brochures listing seven homes for sale in the Mark West area. The marketing material notes the Willow Green property, with 10-foot ceilings and 8-foot doors, is a single-story with four bedrooms and three baths.

A longtime builder, Owen previously owned Vacaville-based Blue Mountain Homes. The company made its mark here after the housing crash a decade ago as Sonoma County’s largest buyer and renovator of foreclosed homes, a practice commonly known as flipping. In early 2013, the company’s related Blue Mountain Realty sold at least 149 properties worth $50 million in a 12-month period.

Owen said he sold Blue Mountain in 2016 and opened Silvermark more than a year ago.

Owen and his wife, Linda, had considered building homes in new subdivisions, a move he said would have been more profitable. But they instead chose to focus on rebuilding in the fire zones, where they are “making an OK profit but having a ton of fun.” The company here likely has five years worth of work ahead of it, he said.

As to profit, Owen said Silvermark pays about $250,000 for a fire lot. If construction were to cost $300 a square foot, as many builders quote, the price of the land and house would equal about $980,000, or $115,000 more than the listed sales price for the Willow Green home.

“If you do the math, it doesn’t work,” Owen said.

His daughter, Tiffany, Silvermark’s corporate counsel, agreed with her father that national homebuilding companies would conclude such a rebuild “wouldn’t pencil out” but “it does for us.”

Owen said he would be “delighted” to help without charge any fire survivors wishing to obtain the needed permits to rebuild their homes, even if those homeowners later choose to hire another builder.

Along with the Mark West area, the company is working in parts of Santa Rosa’s Fountaingrove neighborhood. In one area there, Owen said, “we’re going to buy up every lot we can.” He explained “you get the synergy” and better cost efficiencies by having multiple sites near one another.

David Hosking, the company’s chief operating officer, quickly added that Silvermark also would “build every house we can” in that same area for property owners who want to reconstruct their homes.

On Thursday, county Board of Supervisors Chairman James Gore presented Owen with a certificate of occupancy and thanked him for “investing in your community.” He said Solano and Sonoma counties were linked and share important ties, including housing one another’s workers.

“Having a completed home is a ray of hope,” said Gore, who represents the Mark West area.

But he nonetheless volunteered that fire survivors now realize the sale of so many fire lots means for them the loss of longtime neighbors. “It’s going to be a different community,” he said. “And it’s a harsh reality.”

Gore said he looks forward to a recovery that brings back familiar scenes, including “kids playing wiffle ball in the neighborhood.”

“If it doesn’t have that component again,” Gore said, “then to me it’s not successful.”

You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 707-521-5285.

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