Sonoma County home sales, prices rise in June

Sonoma County's housing market in June recorded its biggest sales month in nearly seven years.

Buyers purchased 533 single-family homes last month, according to The Press Democrat's monthly housing report compiled by Pacific Union International Vice President Rick Laws.

June sales increased nearly 17 percent from a year earlier and were the highest for any month since September 2005, when 608 homes were purchased. Back then the median-priced home in the county was selling for $615,000.

In contrast, the county median price last month was $348,000. That amounted to an increase of nearly 6 percent from May and almost 9 percent from a year earlier. The median was at its highest point since May 2011, when the price reached $354,200.

For the first half of the year, buyers have purchased 2,630 single-family homes, up 22 percent from 2011 and the most sales since 2,932 homes were purchased in the first six months of 2005.

"The first half of the year has been wild," said Stephen Liebling, manager of Coldwell Banker in Sebastopol. The starter home market has been "off the hook," but sales also have picked up in other segments, including for homes priced above $1 million.

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.

Since hitting that low point, the county's sales have been concentrated on homes priced below $400,000.

But for the first six months of 2012, sales have jumped 33 percent from a year earlier for homes priced between $400,000 and $700,000. For homes priced $1 million or more, sales increased 36 percent.

Inventory fell to 1,047 available homes at the end of June, roughly half the number of a year earlier. It amounted to slightly less than a two-month supply of homes at the current sales pace.

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