It took six years to get there, but Sonoma County’s median home price has climbed once more above a half-million dollars.
The median price for a single- family home reached $508,500 in July, up 2.5 percent from June and 6.2 percent from a year earlier, according to The Press Democrat’s monthly housing report compiled by Pacific Union International Vice President Rick Laws.
The monthly median price hasn’t been at or above $500,000 since January 2008.
Cary Bertolone, a co-owner of Bertolone Realty in Santa Rosa, acknowledged being a little shocked at the news.
“It’s a jolt of reality,” he said. The new data suggested to him that the housing market was back to about 80 percent of the record value it attained before the housing crash arrived in late 2007.
The county’s median price topped out at $619,000 in August 2005 before falling to $305,000 in February 2009. During the crash and its aftermath, more than 15,000 county homeowners lost properties in foreclosures or short sales.
In July, buyers purchased 498 single-family homes, an increase of 1.4 percent from a year earlier. To date this year, home sales have decreased 8.6 percent from the same period in 2013.
Real estate agents and brokers said lower sales are due partly to a lack of available homes on the market. July ended with roughly a two-month supply of inventory at the current sales pace. As a result, buyers often are competing for the same properties.
“It’s definitely a seller’s market at the moment,” said Grace Lucero, manager of Vanguard Properties in Healdsburg.
The tight inventory is partly tied to a drop in the listing of foreclosures and short-sale properties, agents said. A short sale is a transaction where the home is sold for less than the amount owed on the mortgage.
During the first half of 2013, nearly 1 in 4 homes sold was a financially distressed property. A year later, such homes made up slightly less than 1 in 10 sales — and only 1 in 20 sales for July.
“It was a slow start to the year,” Laws said. Even so, he maintained the pace of sales has picked up.
For the first five months of 2014, the number of sales contracts signed each month was less than the number a year earlier. But starting in June, that trend reversed.
Also, last year the number of such contracts peaked in May. But this year the contracts signed in June outnumbered those in May, and those in July were the most this year.
Most of the price increase has occurred within the past two years. In July 2012, the median home price was $348,500 — 14 percent above the low point of the crash. The county median went above $400,000 almost a year later in April 2013 and took 16 more months to reach the half-million-dollar mark.
Brokers attribute the rise in the median price partly to rising home values and partly to a shift in the types of homes that are selling today. To date this year, sales of homes priced below $300,000 have declined 67 percent, while sales of homes priced at or above $700,000 have increased 30 percent.
Whatever the causes, Bertolone noted, “there’s not many homes left for $300,000 now.”