Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Real Estate: Schuil and Associates celebrates 30 years

(Submitted photo. Mike, Marc and Rick Schuil of Schuil and Associates Real Estate in Visalia.)

Visalia real estate company, Schuil and Associates, is celebrating 30 years in business this month.

The company, run by three brothers, started in Dinuba in 1983 and over the years opened three other offices in Kingsburg, Reedley and Visalia. Back then, the business handled residential, commercial and agricultural property sales. Each brother — twins Mike and Marc and younger brother Rick — managed an office.

Then in 2007, the brothers decided it was time to consolidate locations. The company built a nearly 4,000-square-foot building on Mineral King Avenue and Akers Street in Visalia six years ago where the brothers and all employees reunited under the same roof.

What’s it like to work with family all these years?

“Obviously family businesses always offer challenges,” Rick Schuil said. “The fact that we consolidated rather than moving farther away (from each other) is a testament that we get along pretty darn well.”

The company made its name specializing in agricultural and dairy sales. It shed the residential portion of the business just before the economic downturn to concentrate on agricultural and commercial property.

“The economic downturn really affected residential sales,” Rick Schuil said. “We were proactive before that happened.”

While the residential market suffered, farmland prospered allowing the Schuils to remain stable in recent years.

“Agricultural sales and values have dramatically increased in the last five years so our timing was very good.”

Real Estate: Building permit requests up in Visalia

Single-family homebuilding may be on its way up in Visalia.

Homebuilders pulled more permits to build new houses in October than the month before, according to a city report released Friday.

Last month, builders pulled 57 permits compared to 26 in September. A year ago, only 17 permits were issued for the construction of new homes.

Fresno building permit numbers for October have not been released yet, but the September report shows 66 new home permits were issued that month. In August, builders pulled 111 permits.

Real Estate: First-time homebuyer workshop in Visalia

Community Services Employment Training will hold a free First-time Homebuyer workshop in Visalia on Nov. 2.

The daylong event will provide buyers with information about the homeownership process and downpayment assistance.

Low-income buyers who are interested in purchasing a home within the city should also attend to learn if they qualify for the city’s gap financing program, or second mortgage, which can be used as part of a downpayment on a home.

The workshop will be held from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the CSET office, 312 N.W. 3rd Ave. To reserve a seat or for more information, call (559) 741-4641.

Rim fire footprint would encompass Valley’s 5 largest cities

The Rim fire is winding down, now 92% contained at a cost of more than $125 million. But it’s the physical size of the fire that continues to capture the imagination — what does 257,135 acres look like?

Mono Lake, on the east side of the Sierra, has a footprint of 45,000 acres. Lake Tahoe is about 122,000 acres. That’s not a bad comparison if you’ve seen those lakes.

Fellow reporters have resorted to all kinds of comparisons. I recently heard a network news anchor refer to it as a third the size of Rhode Island. Others compare it to the area of Los Angeles or San Francisco.

So this is my attempt at putting the San Joaquin Valley into this picture. I wondered if the fire footprint was big enough to encompass the Valley’s major cities, including Fresno, Bakersfield, Stockton, Modesto and Visalia.

Yes, they would all fit within that footprint.

Bakersfield had the largest physical footprint I found. It is 146.6 square miles, according to the U.S. Census. Fresno, which has a bigger population than Bakersfield, is only 112.3 square miles.

The Rim fire is 402 square miles. And any way you look at it, this is the third largest fire on record in California.

Real Estate: Valley cities could get shut out of USDA rural housing programs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is changing the way it defines rural communities, a move that could shut out residents in 923 California cities — including seven in Fresno County — from accessing its rural housing programs.

On Oct. 1, the USDA will start using population statistics from the 2010 Census to determine if a city or community is rural. Those areas with a population of 10,000 people or less, or fewer than 20,000 people if located in a metropolitan statistical area, will be considered rural, the USDA said.

The department has been using 1990 population statistics, under a grandfather clause, to determine eligibility. That clause, which set the rural population at 25,000, will expire this year unless Congress extends it or takes some sort of action, the USDA said.

Under the new rule, Fresno cities like Coalinga, Kerman, Kingsburg, Mendota, Parlier, Reedley and Selma would no longer be eligible for the program. Another eight cities in Kings, Madera and Tulare counties would also lose the federal help.

Last fiscal year, the USDA distributed more than $53 million in home loans and home repair programs to moderate- and low-income Fresno County homebuyers and homeowners.

“For a lot of families these programs are the only options they have for purchasing a home,” said Sarah Marquart, public affairs specialist for the USDA. “It’s unfortunate to see a lot of these communities not be eligible any longer.”

For nonprofit housing agencies like Self-Help Enterprises of Visalia, the rule change could have a devastating effect.

Over the last 10 years, Self-Help has built more than 80% of its homes in the Valley cities that are slated to become ineligible. And most of the agency’s homeowners use the USDA direct loan program.

Under the new rule, “the families that participate in our program would not have access to the best direct mortgage available,” said Tom Collishaw, vice president of Self-Help. “And Self-Help would not be able to use the grant it received from the USDA to help people. Suddenly we wouldn’t be able to help people in those areas.”

Real Estate: The south Valley has a new home builder

(Submitted photo. Jim Robinson (left), Joe Leal and Randy Merrill are the principals of San Joaquin Valley Homes.)

Home buyers in the south Valley have a new builder to consider when looking to buy or build their new home.

San Joaquin Valley Homes has joined the new home market.

The Visalia-based company is led by Joe Leal, who oversaw the growth of national builder McMillin Homes in the Central Valley for five years and two former McMillin colleagues – Jim Robinson and Randy Merrill.  The trio has also teamed up with Don Faye of Presidio Residential, a real estate construction lending company.

“Jim, Randy and I worked together for 15 years at The Allen Group and then at McMillin Homes and we have learned a great deal over the years,” Leal said. “We understand that home buyers want a quality home that offers value.”

Robinson, an engineer, manages land acquisition, land development and entitlement for the new company.

“We were fortunate to be able to make some good decisions and the time is right,” Robinson said. “The economy has picked up and there is now a shortage of available homes. We are excited about the future and pleased to be building homes again.”

The company will begin building two developments in the fall. The first will be Hartley Grove near 12th Avenue, south of Highway 198 which is expected to open for sale in late September. The second will be Savannah in Tulare, at Cross Avenue and West Street which is slated for a late October opening.

Both developments will have five floor plans with one and two story designs that range in size from 1,390 to 2,322 square feet.

The company expects to open up to eight neighborhoods in Tulare, Kings and Kern counties by next summer.

In Shape building new club in Visalia

In Shape Health Clubs is getting ready to open a fourth gym in Visalia.

The new club will be at Caldwell Avenue and Mooney Boulevard behind  Sears and Hobby Lobby in a 19,000-square-foot building that was formerly a gym.

The target date for opening In Shape “Fit” is June 1, said company spokeswoman Michelle Clark in Stockton.

The new gym is for the budget conscious. There’s no pool, kid’s area or live instructors, but lots of gear and self-service kiosks where individuals or groups can chose an activity — yoga, kickboxing, etc — and follow along on a screen. The best part is the price: $10 a month.

Visalia is one of the company’s most successful markets, Clark said. Other sites are Mooney Boulevard at Tulare Avenue, Demaree Street just south of Goshen Avenue, and the Winco Shopping Center on West Caldwell Avenue.

Visalia seeks voter extension of 48-cent fee

Visalia property owners are being asked to continue paying 48 cents a month for flood control. They’re currently paying the fee in their water bills.

They’ll get to vote on keeping the per-parcel fee when mail-in balloting starts Jan. 31 and ends in mid-March.

Since 1997, the money has been used to pay Visalia’s share of enlarging Lake Kaweah. But the city’s share is now paid for, so officials are proposing that the funds be used to help maintain of the city’s storm drain system.

Under the proposal, 43 cents would go to increased storm drain maintenance and the other five cents to upkeep of Terminus Dam.

Under Proposition 218, voters must approve parcel fees like this one. To date, no organized opposition has emerged.

The city will hold community information meetings Feb. 7 at Fairview Elementary School on and Feb. 21 at Visalia Unified School District. Information:

Kaweah hospital steps up security in emergency room

Patients at Kaweah Delta Medical Center emergency room in Visalia will be checked for weapons before being taken back for treatment.

A security guard does the checking using a metal detection wand.

There’s an exception: Anyone with a serious medical emergency who needs immediate attention will be allowed to bypass security and be screened later.

The new policy also applies to family members accompanying the patient, said Dan Allain, director of emergency and critical care.

The purpose of the policy, which started Monday, is to make the emergency department safer for staff and patients.

Allain said that no violent incidents have occurred at the emergency room, but the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut and other high profile incidents nationally prompted the hospital to evaluate security.

Anyone found with guns, knives or other weapons will be asked to take them out of the hospital. That includes those who have a concealed weapons permit.

About 90,000 patients come into the emergency department yearly.

Haven’t paid your state taxes? You could lose your license!

Photo via

More than a dozen Valley business owners have the unfortunate distinction of being on the latest quarterly edition of debtors who owe the most in past-due sales and use taxes to the state Board of Equalization.

Of 500 debtors on the list released Friday, 14 are from Fresno, Madera, and Tulare counties. Their debts range from about $454,000 to more than $3.1 million, and the oldest dates back nearly 20 years.

To put additional bite into the list, state law requires the Board of Equalization to provide the Top 500 list to other state agencies. Taxpayers on the list can be subject to penalties that affect any state licenses they may have, including driver’s licenses, occupational or professional licenses, and they may be barred from entering into contracts with state agencies.

Here’s the list for the fourth quarter of 2012, along with the amounts owed and the first lien date reported by the state:

  • Central Valley Food Services Inc., dba Jack in the Box, Fresno — $3,110,382 (2008)
  • Kings Drywall Inc., dba Kings Drywall Supply, Selma — $2,569,114 (2011)
  • Up-Right Inc., Madera — $1,598,993 (2011)
  • Partnership of Linda R. Wade and Mark William Wade, dba Grandma’s Kitchen, Fresno — $1,091,693 (1993)
  • Curt’s Auto Repair Inc., dba Oakhurst Shell Oil Co., Oakhurst — $939,894 (2001)
  • Bob Silva Ford, Fresno — $654,095 (2010)
  • Plasencia Incorporated, dba Mario’s Auto Sales, Cutler — $624,643 (2008)
  • Mario Plasencia, Dinuba — $620,768 (2010)
  • Partnership of Gregory D. Gonzales and Roger Paul Toschi, dba Vernon’s Chevron Service, Madera — $619,934 (2008)
  • Savino Navarro Lara, Firebaugh — $596,100 (2002)
  • Jack Dubeau Champ Chevrolet Buick Inc., dba Champion Chevrolet Buick, Firebaugh — $553,369 (2005)
  • John Bernard Dubeau, Fresno — $550,784 (2008)
  • Roger Rose, Tulare — $457,773 (2012)
  • Ameriwest Inc., Visalia — $454,305 (2010)

Something new this quarter from the Board of Equalization is an interactive map that shows the location of each debtor among the Top 500.

The Board of Equalization issues the Top 500 list every quarter. Businesses on the list are notified 30 days in advance, giving them a chance to settle their debt or set up an installment program. Amounts that are paid through installments, or are in the midst of bankruptcy, litigation or appeals, are not included on the list.