Sonoma County started 2012 with the largest number of home sales in seven years, though strong demand isn’t yet translating into higher median prices.
The county recorded 1,146 single-family home sales in the first quarter, according to The Press Democrat’s monthly housing report compiled by Pacific Union International Vice President Rick Laws. That includes 458 homes sold in March.
The quarterly total is up 17 percent from last year and amounts to the best results since 1,204 homes were sold during the first three months of 2005.
“The trend is pretty clear that demand is very high,” Laws said.
The county’s median price for single-family homes for March was $319,750, up less than 2 percent from both February and from a year earlier.
County home values peaked in 2005 with an annual median price of $595,000. Prices began a steep slide in 2007 and hit a low last year of $325,000, a level last seen in 2000.
Brokers and agents suggested prices are unlikely to rise much in 2012.
“I don’t really expect much movement in pricing this year,” said Stephen Liebling, manager of Coldwell Banker in Sebastopol. “This is what the current reality is.”
In the first quarter, foreclosures and short sales comprised 53 percent of the market, compared to 57 percent a year earlier.
March ended with 1,010 single-family homes for sale, the lowest inventory for any month in nearly seven years. In the past six years, March inventory hasn’t fallen below 1,400 homes.
In contrast to single-family homes, condominium sales have declined. Buyers purchased only 150 condos in the county in the first quarter, down 23 percent from a year earlier. The median condo price in March was $142,000, down almost 5 percent from a year earlier.
— Robert Digitale.