Cash is king again in Sonoma County real estate

  • Realtor Cary Bertolone of Bertolone Realty poses for a portrait at a home being purchased with cash because it could not qualify for a mortgage, in Santa Rosa, Calif., on February 14, 2013. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

Cary Bertolone has eight home sales in escrow.

Seven of them are all-cash deals.

Bertolone, a co-owner in his family's Bertolone Realty in Santa Rosa, acknowledged he was a little shocked to look back and realize that more than half the deals he personally closed last year were done solely with cash.

He attributes it largely to more-conservative investors who want a decent return on their cash and who don't want to worry about making mortgage payments in an uncertain economy.

"There's a lot of old money getting into real estate," Bertolone said. "They don't want to take chances."

2012 was a banner year for cash sales in Sonoma County, with 2,122 condos and houses sold without conventional financing, according to real estate information service DataQuick.

Cash sales amounted to one in every three homes sold in the county. It was the largest number of such deals since at least 2000 and possibly the most ever.

The largest group of cash buyers appear to be investors who plan to rent out the properties or fix them up and resell them.

"It is why there are so many more cash transactions now," said Mary Anne Veldkamp, an agent with Coldwell Banker in Santa Rosa.

California last year set a record with 145,797 cash deals, which amounted to 32.4 percent of all home sales, according to DataQuick. It was double the annual average of 15.6 percent going back to 1991.

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