Sonoma County homes sales slowed in typical fashion in January, but the number of deals made last month jumped to the third-highest level in more than two years.
Buyer and sellers signed 464 purchase contracts for single-family homes last month, according to The Press Democrat’s monthly housing report compiled by Coldwell Banker manager Rick Laws.
Seventy-percent of those contracts involved foreclosures or short-sales, the highest rate in two years. Short sales involve transactions where the price is less than the amount owed on the mortgage.
Typically not all those contracts will result in actual sales in future months. But real estate agents and brokers consider them a useful barometer for market activity.
The number of contracts was “remarkable for a January,” Laws told a standing-room-only audience Tuesday morning at a local North Bay Association of Realtors chapter meeting in Santa Rosa. “And I think that bodes well for us.”

The county recorded the sale of 262 homes in January, often based on agreements made in December or prior months. That was down 29 percent from December but essentially unchanged from a year ago.The median sales price was $328,750, unchanged from December and down 7 percent from a year ago.

The county’s median home price peaked at $619,000 in August 2005 before plunging more than 50 percent to $305,000 in February 2009.
The 262 sales recorded last month aren’t unusual for this time of year, Laws said. In five of the past 10 Januaries, sales didn’t exceed 273 homes.
“That would be a typical seasonal slowdown,” he said of the month’s sales.
Laws told the real estate agents Tuesday morning that roughly 70 percent of short sales that went under contract eventually were sold last year.
“That’s a whole lot better than it was,” he said. He added that short sales still remain unpredictable and the final sale may not be with the same buyer who signed the first contract.
Other agents have said it’s not unusual for owners of short sale properties to sign multiple contracts over time with different buyers. As such, it often takes months to finalize a sale.
— Robert Digitale