Sonoma County home sale prices slid for a third straight month in February as distressed properties continued to dominate the market.
The median sales price for single-family homes last month fell to $325,000, down 7 percent from February 2010, according to The Press Democrat’s monthly housing report compiled by Coldwell Banker manager Rick Laws.

In November, the median price was $350,000. For the past five months, county home prices have been down when compared on a year-over-year basis.
The median price for condominiums also fell and now stands at its lowest level since housing prices peaked more than five years ago. The median sales price of $128,250 is almost 20 percent lower than it was a year earlier.
Laws said prices are lower partly because of the boost the market received last year from the federal housing tax credit. Buyers seeking the credit had to sign a contract by April 30 to purchase a home.
“I think demand slacked off in the second half of the year, and prices suffered,” Laws said.
As well, he said, house prices fell this winter because of the seasonal trend of sellers to wait until spring to put homes on the market.  Homes sold in February were mainly distressed properties, including foreclosures and short sales, where the home is offered for less than the amount of the mortgage.
Last month nearly 58 percent of the homes sold were distressed properties. In January the rate was 59 percent. Those rates are the highest since April 2009.

The county’s median sales price for single-family homes peaked at $619,000 in August 2005 before plunging more than 50 percent to $305,000 in February 2009.
Condo sale prices peaked with a median of $390,000 in October 2005. By February the price had fallen 67 percent.

Sales last month totaled 296 single-family homes and 67 condominiums.

Buyers in February signed contracts to purchase 477 houses, the highest level since April and a second straight month of relatively strong numbers. Six in 10 contracts last month involved distressed properties.

Not all those contracts will result in a completed sale, but for the last two years sales did rise in the months after the number of such contracts had increased.
Given the past trends, Laws said it’s unlikely that prices are going to fall much further.
“I’m looking at a very high level of demand,” he said.
— Robert Digitale