Sonoma County home prices and sales rose slightly in August, and real estate brokers expressed relief at those results amid more gloomy reports on the national scene.
Single-family home sales, which dipped sharply in July after the federal tax credit ended, were up 10 percent in August. The month’s 396 sales were up almost 4 percent from a year earlier, according to The Press Democrat’s monthly housing report prepared by Rick Laws, manager of Coldwell Banker in Santa Rosa.
The median home price rose almost 4 percent from July to $372,500. The median, meaning half the sale prices were above that amount and half were below, also was up about about 4 percent from August 2009.
Laws called the results “good compared to what I keep reading” about the nation’s real estate market. National reports include talk of a stalled economy, high unemployment and the possibility of a “double dip” in home prices.
To date this year, county sale numbers are 7 percent below the same period for 2009, which itself was slightly below average for the past decade. Laws predicted “this is going to be the new normal for the foreseeable future.”
He suggested the county won’t see annual sales of 6,000 homes as in the early years of the decade “because that runaway demand was fueled by funny money.”
Industry members got a similar view Tuesday at a breakfast presentation by Sonoma County’s Chief Deputy Assessor Bill Rousseau. Asked for his outlook on future home values, Rousseau quipped, “Flat is the new up.”
The number of county houses available for sale in August remained essentially unchanged from a year ago, and amounted to nearly five months worth of inventory.
The number of homes going under contract in August was up slightly over the previous month and up 10 percent over August 2009. While not all of those homes will result in a sale, they do indicate a continued demand from potential buyers, Laws said.
Glen Hurley, manager at Platinum Realty in Santa Rosa and president of the local chapter of the North Bay Association of Realtors, said historically low interest rates have yet to bring as many buyers this summer as he had anticipated.
“I actually expected a little more of a rally than we have going on right now,” he said. Still, “our market I don’t think has been hurt as bad as the national market.”
— Robert Digitale