Sonoma County homebuyers signed contracts to purchase low-priced short sales and more expensive houses last month at a level reminiscent of the days before the housing bubble deflated five years ago.
Buyers signed contracts to purchase 583 single-family homes in February, up 62 percent from a year ago, according to The Press Democrat's monthly housing report compiled by Pacific Union International Vice President Rick Laws.
That was the most contracts signed for any month in at least three years and likely was the best February since 2005, Laws said.
"What you're seeing now are the signs of an improving market," said John Duran, president of the Santa Rosa chapter of the North Bay Association of Realtors.
At Tuesday's weekly chapter meeting, agents spoke of the difficulty they have in finding homes available for sale.
"They have buyers looking but nobody has listings," Duran said.
Not all the signed contracts will result in completed sales. Even so, agents and brokers are taking comfort that more deals were signed in the price segment between $400,000 and $900,000, where sales have been sluggish for at least three years.
To date this year, buyers have signed contracts for 277 houses in that price range, up 56 percent over the same period a year ago.
"This activity level has permeated nearly every price range," Laws said. It's a contrast from recent years when "people were just not coming to the party."
In February, buyers completed purchases of 352 single-family homes, up nearly 15 percent from a year earlier.