Sonoma County home sales bump up, prices remain near record levels
Sonoma County home sales last month rose to their highest level in nearly two years, but buyers still must contend with high prices and low inventory.
The median single-family price in June hit $627,000, according to The Press Democrat’s monthly housing report, compiled by Pacific Union International senior vice president Rick Laws. The median price increased nearly 5 percent from a year earlier and remains close to its March record peak of $635,000.
Meanwhile, the Bay Area’s median home price last month hit a record $908,700, according to the California Association of Realtors.
The organization said Tuesday that roughly one in four families in the nine-county region could afford such a home.
The high prices already have caused residents to leave California for states with lower home prices, said Leslie Appleton-Young, the association’s chief economist.
“We’re seeing an acceleration of outmigration because of housing,” she said.
County home buyers purchased 501 single-family houses in June, the largest number for any month since July 2015. However, the results appear to analysts to be a brief correction from a slow winter and spring rather than a sign of a housing market on the upswing.
Sales may have taken a bounce last month, but it still amounts to “bouncing on the bottom,” said Mike Kelly, an agent with Keller Williams Realty in Santa Rosa. Home sales have fallen for three of the past four years.
The county’s housing market continues to be characterized by rising prices, declining sales and tight inventory.
Home prices here have climbed for more than five years.
The increases occurred after median prices plummeted in the midst of a national housing crisis and Great Recession, hitting a low here of $305,000 in February 2009.
Prices began to rise in 2012. The county in March surpassed its previous record median price — not adjusted for inflation — of $619,000 set in August 2005.
Purchasing a home in the region today requires considerable savings and income.
The buyer of a median-priced home in the Bay Area would need to put down roughly $105,000 for a 10 percent down payment and closing costs, said Scott Sheldon, branch manager at New American Funding in Santa Rosa. With a 30-year fixed loan at 4.375 percent, the mortgage would require monthly payments, including taxes and insurance, of $5,435, and the buyer would need a household income of $152,000 a year.
The real estate association estimated Tuesday that only 25 percent of county households and only 21 percent of Bay Area households could afford the respectively median-priced homes in June.
For the county’s median-price property, a buyer with 20 percent down would need a minimum income of $123,527 in order to afford monthly payments of $3,088, the association calculated. June ended with fewer than 830 single-family homes available for sale in the county, or less than two months of inventory at the current pace of sales.
For the first six months of the year, the number of newly listed properties for sale declined 5 percent from the same period in 2016 and amounted to the lowest total in at least eight years.
With such a limited supply of homes, buyers must be ready to make their best offer when a new property becomes available, agents and brokers said.