Spring selling season arrives in Sonoma County to lift single-family home sales

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Home Sales By The Numbers

Home sales in April began to pick up, the sign of a late start to the spring selling season. Prices also rose slightly, but still lag April 2018.

$645,000: April median price of a single-family home

$682,500: April 2018 median price

352: Homes sold in April

367: Homes sold in April 2018

Source: Compass real estate brokerage, Santa Rosa

For about a year, Justin and Lianna Shannon have been thinking about reducing their monthly expenses and putting more money in the bank, a move partly motivated by the desire to start financial planning for their 2-year-old son Pax.

A first step is getting the best price for their charming, fully remodeled bungalow in Santa Rosa’s West End neighborhood.

The Shannons bought the 1,450-square foot, 2-bed, 2-bath house about nine months before the horrific October 2017 wildfires. In only two years, the couple can conceivably make a $100,000 profit, if their home sells for the $650,000 asking price. After selling the house, they plan to rent for the foreseeable future.

“We want to put ourselves in a situation where we can save more money than we are now, for our child,” Lianna Shannon said. “It’s a smart, long-term financial move.”

The incineration of more than 5,600 houses and structures in the North Bay subsequently triggered a spike in home prices during the first half of 2018, peaking at an all-time record $700,000 median sale price last June.

Since then, single-family home prices steadily have declined for about nine months. Even though the spring selling season got a slow start, local real estate experts say county home prices have stabilized so now is the time for sellers to start putting their houses on the market.

In April, 352 homes were sold in Sonoma County, compared with 280 in March, according to The Press Democrat’s latest monthly housing report compiled by Rick Laws of Compass real estate brokerage in Santa Rosa. That’s a monthly sales increase of almost 26%, but a 4% drop from sales a year ago.

On the other hand, the median home price in the county remained relatively stable, bumping up from $636,000 in March to $645,000 in April, a 1.4% increase.

The median home price in April was 6.4% less than it was a year ago, when home prices were overheated by the strong demand after the fires.

Jess Young, a Coldwell Banker real estate agent who is helping the Shannons sell their house, said while this year’s heavy winter rains delayed the start of the spring selling season, sellers are starting to put homes on the market.

“There’s a lot of buyers out right now and sometimes things slow down as we get toward the summer,” Young said.

Since the Shannons bought their home for about $550,000 two years ago, they’ve put a new roof on the main house and on one of the two separate garages on the property. Justin Shannon said the house was built in 1938 in what was then an Italian enclave.

“The homes have half basements where residents used to make wine in,” he said.

Young said the home easily would have fetched as much as $700,000 in the months immediately after the fires.

Now, the house is likely to get multiple offers priced at about $650,000, the agent said.

Laws, of Compass real estate brokerage, said home inventory — and more importantly new house listings — is growing. In April 2018, there were 578 new single-family home listings in Sonoma County, while last month there were 656.

In another strong indicator the county housing market is regaining momentum, last month 445 homes went under contract, compared with April 2018 when 403 homes went under contract.

“New inventory and properties going under contact are a very important, more immediate measure of activity that will close in the following month,” Laws said.

Juan Nieto, another Coldwell Banker real estate agent, agreed that the spring selling season, though delayed, is lurching forward.

Some sellers of residential properties are fielding multiple offers, though nothing like the surge early in 2018.

When there are multiple offers for a house, several might exceed the asking price by a few thousand rather than tens of thousands of dollars as was the case during the first half of last year, Nieto said. “There are still multiple offers right now, but the house has to be priced according to today vs. trying to price it six months ago — buyers are very savvy,” he said.

Overall, many sellers are done waiting for home values to increase further, realizing “that prices are not going to go up more, (so) why wait the time to sell is now,” Nieto said.

Young, the agent representing the Shannons, said his clients are in a lucky position because they have one of the nicest remodeled houses in the city’s West End neighborhood.

“For homes that are very desirable, there’s always a good market for them,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @pressreno.

Home Sales By The Numbers

Home sales in April began to pick up, the sign of a late start to the spring selling season. Prices also rose slightly, but still lag April 2018.

$645,000: April median price of a single-family home

$682,500: April 2018 median price

352: Homes sold in April

367: Homes sold in April 2018

Source: Compass real estate brokerage, Santa Rosa

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