Home sales in West Petaluma, heart of the city’s turn-of-the-century Victorians, witnessed a significant jump during the first three months of the year.
Buyers purchased 58 homes in west Petaluma in the first quarter of the year, up 71 percent from the same period a year ago, according to The Press Democrat monthly housing report prepared by Rick Laws of Coldwell Banker.
The total value of the homes sold nearly doubled to $30 million.
According to Laws’ data, west Petaluma’s median home price in March was $509,000, up from $462,500 in March 2009.
Real estate brokers say the increase in sales volume may be related to more sellers cutting prices and to more buyers wanting to purchase before interest rates rise.
“We’re getting sellers that are much more realistic” about the value of their homes, said Steve Crook, a broker associate in Petaluma with Pacific Union International.
The east side of Petaluma also reported stronger sales in March, one reason the California Association of Realtors rated it as one of the state’s top-dozen for median price increases.The median home price there was $450,275, compared with $338,000 a year ago.
A similar trend emerged in other move-up and higher-end Sonoma County markets, including Sonoma and northeast Santa Rosa.
In Sonoma and vicinity, sales volume jumped $16 million, or 51 percent, in the first quarter to $48 million. The number of sales increase only 5 percent to 79.
In northeast Santa Rosa, home sales totaled 129, up 28 percent for the quarter compared with a year ago. Sales volume jumped 42 percent, to $65 million.
For the entire county, the number of houses sold for $700,000 or more jumped 61 percent to 95 properties in the first quarter compared with a year ago. The county median price for all single-family homes sold in March was $349,000, compared with $320,000 a year ago.
Coralee Barkela, a broker owner of Pacific Union International offices in Santa Rosaand Petaluma, said the prospect of higher interest rates has persuaded some buyers that it’s “time to start getting serious.”
Even so, she said, sellers of homes priced between $500,000 and $1 million are hampered by the lack of loans for potential buyers, she said.
“There just isn’t any financing to speak of out there for self-employed people,” Barkela said.
Todd Mendoza, manager of the Coldwell Banker office in Petaluma, said the increase in sales is due partly to buyers who desire west Petaluma’s older homes and close proximity to downtown.
“A lot of people are looking at those vintage-type homes,” Mendoza said.
Not everyone has seen much increase in sales of homes priced above $500,000.
“A majority of our business is still in the median-price range” of about $400,000 and lower, said Rich Johnson, broker owner with CPS Golden Lane Realty in Petaluma.
Laws of Coldwell Banker in Santa Rosa said more sellers in the county appear to be lowering initial asking prices after concluding that they won’t see a big bounce in home values. He suggested some had hoped for a larger rebound after median home prices fell more than 40 percent during the past five years.
Waiting for prices to come back to 2006 levels “could take the rest of your life,” Laws said.
— Robert Digitale