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Home sales slow, but year still strong

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Sonoma County home sales slowed markedly in November, but the housing market remains on track for its best showing in seven years.

Buyers purchased 349 single-family homes last month, according to The Press Democrat's monthly housing report compiled by Pacific Union International Vice President Rick Laws. Sales fell 16.9 percent from a year earlier.

The median price declined less than 1 percent from October to $453,000. The median increased 21 percent from a year earlier and has risen 42 percent from November 2011, when it was $318,000.

Home sales historically decline after Labor Day, but activity this autumn seemed slower than normal, said Gerrett Snedaker, a senior vice president in Sonoma for Wine Country Group by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate.

“We just didn't have our typical fall flurry,” Snedaker said.

To date this year, county sales have exceeded $2.6 billion, the highest dollar volume for both houses and condominiums since 2006.

The market's rebound follows a historic housing bubble, a dramatic plunge in prices and an unprecedented number of distressed homeowners who lost their properties.

The county's median price soared to a record $619,000 in August 2005, before falling to a low of $305,000 in February 2009.

In the past seven years, more than 11,000 county homes were lost to foreclosure.

In November, sales actually increased 16 percent from a year earlier for those properties with equity. However, sales of foreclosures and short-sale properties fell by 76 percent. Last month such homes comprised just 11 percent of total sales.

“Equity sales have replaced the distressed market,” Laws said.

That's good news for the real estate industry, he said, because more sellers today are able to go out and purchase another home. That doesn't happen when owners surrender homes through foreclosure or short sale.

A short sale refers to a property that is sold for less than the amount owed on the mortgage.

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