Sonoma County’s housing market wrapped up the first half of the year by once more posting a drop in sales and a double-digit jump in prices.

Buyers in June purchased 472 single-family homes, according to The Press Democrat’s monthly housing report compiled by Pacific Union International Vice President Rick Laws.

Home sales declined only 1 percent from June 2013. But for the first half of the year, they fell 10.9 percent from a year earlier and were the lowest in three years.

“We’re not selling that many houses,” said Mike Kelly, an agent with Keller Williams in Santa Rosa.

Part of the reason is there are fewer homes available for sale. And after nearly two years of rising prices, fewer potential buyers can still afford a house here.

Even so, demand still remains healthy enough to push prices higher, agents and brokers said.

The median single-family home price rose in June to $498,500, a level last reached in January 2008. The median increased 14.6 percent from a year earlier.

“We are definitely still seeing strong appreciation,” Laws said.

It may be small comfort to buyers, but in June 2013 the median price was rising at even a faster pace, climbing 25 percent from a year earlier to $435,000. Of note, the rate of appreciation in the first half of both years matched the June results.

At the dawn of the new century, county home prices soared, reaching a record high of $619,000 in August 2005. But prices tumbled during a historic housing crash, hitting a low of $305,000 in February 2009.

In the last seven years, more than 15,000 county homeowners lost their properties in foreclosures or short sales, the latter a transaction where the price is less than the amount owed on the mortgage. In early 2009, roughly three out of every four single-family home sales involved such economically distressed properties.

That rate has dropped substantially during the last 18 months. In June, only 6 percent of sales involved foreclosures and short sale.

June ended with 920 homes on the market, equal to roughly a two-month’s supply of properties at the current sales pace. Such a low inventory is generally regarded as a sign of a seller’s market.


— Robert Digitale