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INITIAL UPDATE: A full report will be posted later at pressdemocrat.com

Buyers in 2012 purchased $2.5 billion worth of Sonoma County houses and condominiums, the most money spent in six years.

Spending increased 25 percent from a year earlier, according to The Press Democrat’s monthly housing report compiled by Pacific Union International Vice President Rick Laws. Total sales of condos and houses increased 13 percent, but spending rose even higher due to a jump in sales of more-expensive homes.

Brian Connell, broker/manager at Frank Howard Allen in Santa Rosa, called 2012 “a good comeback year” after the county’s annual median price bottomed in 2011.

“We’re seeing some normalcy creep back into the market,” Connell said. “Which is nice, because it’s been a while.”

County buyers last year purchased 5,381 single-family homes. The median price for those sales equaled $350,000, an increase of nearly 8 percent from a year earlier.

Single-family sales increased 16 percent from 2011 and amounted to the largest total since 5,919 houses were purchased in 2005.

That year the median single-family price soared to $595,000. It was the height of an unprecedented real estate boom, with total sales of houses and condos reaching a record $4.4 billion.

But during the next six years the median price plummeted, hitting a new annual low in 2011 of $325,000.

Part of that price decline was due to a sharp drop in sales for the market segments above $500,000, even as investors and first-time buyers snapped up more starter homes. But last year those trends reversed.

Sales dipped 5 percent from 2011 on properties priced under $300,000. But above $300,000, sales rose 30 percent.

And home sales above $1 million increased 43 percent.

The nation’s housing market also showed signs of improvement.

“For the first time in almost six years, most U.S. markets experienced sustained increases in home prices in 2012,” Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic, said in a statement Tuesday. “We still have a long way to go to return to 2005-2006 levels, but all signals currently point to a progressive stabilization of the housing market and the positive trend in home price appreciation to continue into 2013.”

– Robert Digitale

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