Sonoma County’s housing market got off to an uncharacteristically strong start in January with a jump in signed contracts and completed sales.
Buyers began the year by purchasing 318 single-family homes, up 20 percent from January 2010, according to The Press Democrat’s monthly housing report compiled by Pacific Union International Vice President Rick Laws.
Buyers and sellers also signed contracts for the sale of 504 homes in January. That was the biggest number of new contracts for any month in more than three years.
Not all those contracts typically result in a final sale. But what remains noteworthy is that the contracts involved homes in a wide variety of prices ranges, not just the starter home segment where sales have been concentrated for the past three years.
That has some brokers thinking that more buyers with home equity and assets are entering the market after months of watching from the sidelines.
“For whatever reason there’s a lot of buyers who have put their doubts on the shelf,” said Laws. He suggested one reason is that “people are beginning to believe more and more that we have hit bottom.”
The county’s median price in January was $322,500, up 2 percent from December and down 1 percent from a year earlier.
County home prices soared in the past decade, peaking in August 2005 at $619,000. Values then tumbled and the median sank to a new monthly low for the cycle at $305,000 in February 2009.
Prices have remained sluggish, and in 2011 the annual median price declined to $325,000, the lowest level since 2000.
Agents and brokers have said that part of that decline was due to an atypical concentration of sales in the starter home segment of the market. In contrast, in the last three years relatively fewer homes were purchased for more than $400,000.
— Robert Digitale