Strong May home sales in Sonoma County remained almost identical in number to a year ago, but a closer look shows how much the market has changed in 12 months.
Financially distressed properties have markedly declined in number, regular "equity" sales have increased, prices have jumped and inventory has fallen to its lowest level in 13 years.
"There's a slew of buyers, and there's nothing for them out there," said Mike Kelly, an agent with Keller Williams in Santa Rosa.
Buyers purchased 505 single-family homes last month, according to The Press Democrat's monthly housing report compiled by Pacific Union International Vice President Rick Laws. The total was just one more than the number of homes sold in May 2012 and amounted to the biggest number for the month since 2005, when 558 homes were sold.
The median price last month declined 2.4 percent from April to $425,000. Despite the dip, the median remained 29 percent higher than a year earlier, when it was $329,500.
Today's housing market includes plenty of uncertainty about the current and future value of properties, said Eileen Morelli, the operating principal and broker for Keller Williams' three offices in Sonoma County.
"The buyers feel like they're paying too much. And the sellers feel like it's not the best time to sell," said Morelli.
Even though prices have risen considerably in the last year, many potential sellers question whether they might earn more by waiting to put their homes on the market, she said.
While the sales result is similar to last year, a drop in the number of distressed properties is having a marked effect on the median price and inventory.
A year ago, two out of every five homes sold were foreclosure resales or short sales, the latter a transaction where the price is less than the amount owed on the mortgage. By last month that rate had fallen to one in five.