The nine houses aren't yet ready for sale, but they offer a glimpse at a growing segment of the Sonoma County housing market: flipped homes.
The homes, featured last week in an email blast, were bought at foreclosure auctions and probate sales. Builders are now renovating them and will put some back on the market in the next two weeks.
Homes spruced up by flippers, like these, are moving quickly and frequently draw a barrage of offers, agents said.
"We have multiple offers for almost every property," said Paul Heck, an agent with RE/MAX Central who sent out the email ad.
Real estate entrepreneurs have long engaged in flipping homes, the often-risky business of buying a property, fixing it up and quickly reselling it.
A decade ago, flipping drew attention as a way to make quick money off soaring home values. Some of the get-rich glamor faded when the housing market crashed and homes lost value faster than they could be flipped.
Today builders, investors and real estate companies have teamed up to flip homes into a market where prices are rising — the median was up 22 percent in February from last year — and inventories are at the lowest level since 2005.
The local companies include W Real Estate, Praxis Capital, Sun Pacific Mortgage and Christopherson Homes. The county's biggest player remains Vacaville-based Blue Mountain Realty, which sold at least 149 county properties worth $50 million in the past 12 months.
Builders have turned to flipping as a way to stay in business during a sharp downturn in construction. New home projects remain rare because homebuyers usually can purchase existing houses for far less than the cost of building new ones.
"A house flipper is your home builder of the current decade," said Brian Burke, a managing director of Praxis Capital in Santa Rosa.
Some rough measures suggest that flipping increased last year.
In the first half of 2012, Americans flipped 100,000 homes, a 25 percent increase over a year earlier, according to RealtyTrac.
In Sonoma County, public records show that last year 252 homes sold twice within six months, a common definition of flipping, according to DataQuest. That was 33 percent higher than 2011.
However, both those counts don't include homes bought at foreclosure auctions and private sales. Many observers said the number of such flips is far higher than those found solely in public records.
Several estimated that flipping could constitute roughly 15 to 25 percent of the county's traditional housing market. That would exclude bank foreclosures and short sales.
For the past 12 months, three of the county's top 15 agents by dollar sales were engaged primary in flipping: Randy Waller of W Real Estate,<NO1><NO> J Barreto of RE/MAX Central and Greg Owen of Blue Mountain Realty.
Flippers debate the role their work is playing in the recent uptick in home prices.
Some, like Burke, dismissed the idea that flipping has contributed to the rising prices.
With a home, he explained, "there's a price bracket when it's trashed and there's a price bracket when it's fixed up." The improved homes command a bigger price, but buyers are the ones who determine how high that price will rise.
As a counterpoint, Waller said most of the recent rise in prices is due to tight inventory and low interest rates. Even so, he maintained that home prices would be lower if it weren't for all the flipped properties.