April home sales fell to their lowest mark for Sonoma County in three years.
Sales dropped 9 percent from last year to 349 single-family homes, according to The Press Democrat’s monthly housing report compiled by Coldwell Banker manager Rick Laws.
The county’s median home price rose almost 5 percent to $329,460.
Virtually the entire drop in April sales was due to a decline in foreclosure properties and short sales, which are homes sold for less than the amount owed on the mortgage. These distressed properties made up half of the sales completed last month, down from 56 percent in March.
For the year’s first four months, 1,325 homes have been sold. That amounts to 20 more than last year.
The sales decline may have been caused by delays by banks in putting foreclosed homes back on the market or in approving short sales, said Laws. But the current pace of sales is somewhat expected given that the county still has large numbers of distressed properties and that there has been little change in the economy.
“I don’t think any of us expected any earthshaking, humongous change,” Laws said. “We’ve got a long, slow climb in front of us.”
The county posted a sharper decline in April than was reported Monday for the Bay Area and California by two other groups that take different measurements of housing sales.
The Bay area saw a decline of 3 percent from last year for all new and existing single-family and condominium sales, according to San Diego-based DataQuick. The 6,789 units sold amounted to the lowest results for April in three years.
The California Association of Realtors on Monday projected a 5-percent statewide gain in April sales from a year earlier. The group measures existing single-family homes sales, but the results then are “seasonally adjusted.” Without the seasonal adjustment, the association reported a sales decline of nearly 8 percent for the Los Angeles region and a 5-percent drop for the Inland Empire region that includes Riverside County.
John Walsh, DataQuick president, said the drop in Bay Area sales is partly due to a relatively high number of short sales, which “can take much longer to close escrow.”
“What’s clear now is that 2011 is off to a slow start, but it’s a little soon to write off the rest of the year,” Walsh said.
— Robert Digitale