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Sonoma County’s median home price dipped 8 percent in August as agents reported fewer buyers bidding on the same homes, possibly due to higher interest rates.
The median sales price for a single-family home declined to $440,000 from $478,375 in July, according to The Press Democrat’s monthly housing report compiled by Pacific Union International Vice President Rick Laws. The new median remains 14 percent higher than August 2012.
Buyers purchased 498 homes last month. While a decline of 6 percent from a year earlier, sales remained above August’s 10-year average of 456 homes.
Median sales prices traditionally dip in August from July in the Bay Area, according to analysts for San Diego-based real estate information service Data Quick. And agents said it’s too early to know how much rising interest rates will affect the housing market.
Even so, with the rise in interest rates, “sellers finally got a little bit of a reality check,” said Trish McCall, a long-time agent who this month moved her business to Keller Williams in Santa Rosa. During much of the year, home prices rose as sellers typically took in multiple offers for their properties and often selected those willing to pay all cash.
But as competition declined in recent weeks, several of her buyers were able to purchase homes, McCall said. Sellers even have started accepting offers from buyers who must sell their own house before they can complete the deal — a willingness “we haven’t seen in a long time.”
The average rate for a 30-year fixed loan is 4.57 percent, according to Freddie Mac. That compares to 3.35 percent in early May before the Federal Reserve signaled that it may pull back on its stimulus efforts.
August ended with less than 900 county homes on the market, less than a two-month’s supply at the current pace of sales.
“We have a huge demand and nothing to sell them,” said Ann Harris, an agent with Coldwell Banker in Sebastopol.
Even so, she said, in the lower-priced segments of the market, “there’s not the multiple offers there were before.”
For the entire Bay Area, DataQuick reported buyers purchased 8,616 houses and condominiums in August, a decrease of less than 1 percent from a year earlier.
The median price declined 3.9 percent from July to $540,000.
The median remained 31.7 percent higher than a year earlier. DataQuick estimated that roughly three-fourths of the year-over-year increase “reflects an actual increase in home values.”
— Robert Digitale

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