Sonoma County home values have hit a new low, down almost 10 percent in March from a year earlier, according to estimates released Monday by real estate website
The median value of all the county’s homes declined 1 percent in March to $330,000, Zillow reported.
The latest county estimate is down 43 percent from $582,000 in June 2006, which the website marked as the peak of the U.S. housing market. During that same period, U.S. home values fell almost 30 percent. In comparison, home values fell 36 percent in Los Angeles and 33 percent for San Francisco, Marin and the East Bay Area.
The pace of first quarter declines in national home values — the steepest drop since late 2008 — prompted Zillow analysts to say that the housing market won’t hit bottom until at least 2012.
“Home value declines are currently equal to those we experienced during the darkest days of the housing recession,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Stan Humphries. “With accelerating declines during the first quarter, it is unreasonable to expect home values to return to stability by the end of 2011.”
Local real estate agents expressed strong skepticism about Zillow’s estimates, which are based on a proprietary formula and not simply a report of the median price of homes sold.
Coldwell Banker manager Rick Laws in Santa Rosa acknowledged that many clients now turn to Zillow for estimates on the values of particular homes. However, he said, the estimates suffer because the website doesn’t have the manpower to physically view the homes or the neighborhood where the properties sit.
“Often times it’s just a terrible joke because they don’t have the ability to lay boots on the carpet,” Laws said.
Moreover, agents maintained that Sonoma County trends may not mirror those of the entire nation.
A record 38 percent of homes purchased nationally in March were sold for a loss, according to Zillow. That rate has steadily increased since June 2010.
Twenty-eight percent of U.S. homeowners with mortgages were underwater in March, meaning they owed more than their homes were worth.
– Robert Digitale