Sonoma County home sales hit 7-year high

Sonoma County homebuyers last month continued to snap up properties at the fastest pace in nearly seven years.

Buyers purchased 500 single-family homes last month, up 21 percent from a year ago, according to The Press Democrat's monthly housing report compiled by Pacific Union International Vice President Rick Laws.

It was the third straight month where county sales reached or exceeded 500. From May through July, buyers purchased 1,541 homes, the most for any three-month period since 1,600 homes were sold between August and October of 2005.

"This is what recovery looks like," Laws said this week when sharing similar data at the Santa Rosa breakfast meeting of the North Bay Association of Realtors.

July's median price remained essentially flat from June at $348,500. The price increased 7 percent from July 2011.

In what became a historic housing bubble, the county's median price hit a record high of $619,000 in August 2005, before tumbling to $305,000 in February 2009.

At the bottom of the market, three out of every four home sales involved foreclosures or short sales, where the price is less than the amount owed on the mortgage.

But last month 62 percent of the completed transactions involved sellers with equity. Of the remaining sales, 25 percent were short sales and 13 percent involved foreclosures.

Laws maintained that the increase in equity sales is good news for the housing market because it means "people actually have money to buy something after the sale."

To date this year, county home sales have increased 22 percent from the same period in 2011. Sales have risen in most price ranges.

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