A significant number of Sonoma County home sellers ended the summer by putting their properties on the market, contributing to the largest number of signed sales agreements in September in at least six years.
New listings increased 22 percent last month from a year earlier to 537 single-family homes, 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 new listings rose on a year-over-year basis.
The jump in listings didn’t result in an increase in completed sales last month. Buyers purchased 396 single-family homes in September, a decline of 12 percent from a year earlier.
But the added listings did help boost the number of signed sales agreements in September by nearly 18 percent, compared to a year ago, Laws said. Buyers and sellers signed 468 sales contracts, the most for the month since he began collecting such data in 2009.
Some of those “under contract” deals inevitably will fall through, while others will be completed this month or later this autumn. To Laws, the combined jump in listings and signed agreements suggested that a significant number of buyers have been bypassing homes that have been sitting on the market for weeks but are keeping an eye out for new offerings that better suit their needs.
“They’re waiting for the right property with the right price,” he said.
Such buyers are no longer feeling pushed by worries over rising prices, brokers said.
The median sales price in September was $541,500, essentially unchanged from a revised August median of $541,000. The median price has been within 1 percent of that amount, either higher or lower, since April.
For the buyers, “there’s no sense of urgency,” said Vicki Roberts, a broker associate with Bertolone Realty in Santa Rosa. Many sellers, meanwhile, have had homes sitting on the market for months, but “I don’t see a lot of price reductions.”
The market, she said, is “transitioning, and who knows to what.”
Many buyers and sellers today seem uninterested in compromising much over prices, said Tom Kemper, manager of the Coldwell Banker office on Bicentennial Avenue in Santa Rosa. Each group seems to be thinking, “Maybe it turns my direction if I just wait a month.”
“The market right now to me has no definitive direction to it,” Kemper said.
The median price has risen significantly for more than three years, a recovery that followed a historic housing crash and four years of upheaval. County home prices peaked at $619,000 in August 2005, but two years later began a slide that hit bottom at $305,000 in February 2009.
Between 2007 and 2013, more than 15,000 county homeowners lost their properties to foreclosures and short sales, the latter being a sale for less than the amount of the home’s mortgage.
September’s median price remains 9 percent higher than a year earlier. To date this year, the number of homes sold has increased 1 percent from the same period in 2014.
Inventory has marginally increased but remains tight, with slightly more than a two-month supply of homes on the market at the current sales pace.
Even with the slight rise in inventory, the number of days on market for the average property has substantially declined from about 70 days in September 2014 to about 45 days last month, Laws said. This could be happening because buyers snapped up new listings in September, which would reduce the days on market figure, he said.