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Inventory of homes on market in Sonoma County drops to 12-year low

It's getting harder to find a home for sale in Sonoma County.

The number of single-family homes on the market fell to its lowest level in 12 years last month as buyers vied for a dwindling supply of properties.

"We have seen an inventory crush for quite some time, but especially this year. It's gotten to the point of being drastic," said Rick Laws, vice president of Pacific Union International, which compiles The Press Democrat's monthly housing report.

There were just 679 single-family homes for sale in Sonoma County in November, down 22 percent from October and a 60 percent drop from a year ago.

The last time there were so few homes for sale in November was in 2000, when 597 homes were on the market. By comparison, buyers had 2,597 homes to choose from in late 2007.

"Everybody is out there and scrounging and bidding against each other to get these properties," Laws said, noting that multiple offers are now the norm on appropriately priced homes.

Low interest rates, which have fueled demand, and fewer distressed homes coming onto the market, which has constrained supply, are two reasons for the slim pickings, Laws said.

Most real estate analysts consider the market healthy when there is a four- to six-month supply of homes for sale. Today there is just over a six-week supply.

"It's uncanny how little inventory there is and how huge the demand is right now," said Stephen Liebling, manager of Coldwell Banker in Sebastopol.

People who were priced out of the market during the housing bubble and those afraid of buying as prices plummeted now don't want to miss the rebound, he said.

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