Author: Pam Buda

How's the Market for Country Property in Sonoma County?

When Sonoma County real estate prices were booming in 2004 and 2005, those of us who sell country property noted that appreciation was lower for country properties than it was for "standard" homes on suburban lots. Now we know why--it was the rapid expansion of mortgage lending to first time buyers and investors which really spurred the market for entry level homes. It did ultimately push up the prices for country homes in the county. I thought I would pull the most recent sales data from our MLS (multiple listing service) to see what price trends have been like for country property over the last two years. For the purposes of this post, I pulled homes listed as single family residences or farms and ranches on lots of 2 acres or more. You can get a property that might feel like country with a smaller lot size, but 2 acres seems like a practical dividing line in terms of what most people want. The County of Sonoma uses 2 acres for a dividing line for some of the zoning designations in terms of housing density, allowing second units on some lots of 2 acres or more. (note: don't assume because you are interested in a property on 2 acres that you can build a second unit on it--it is way more complicated than that, contact me for specifics). A 2 year low 12 units of country property sold in March of 2009 and 2009. The highest month's sales total was 33 last October (very interesting due to the financial markets last fall.) The rate of sales seems to be picking up in the second half of this year. It generally bounces around in the teens and twenties, spiking towards 30 occasionally. Not the largest sample size which is why I am including all county sales in these figures as opposed to breaking out Healdsburg or Sebastopol for example. Median price of country property in Sonoma County is down 14% since November 2007 when it was $1,200,000 versus $1,037,500 now. The lowest median price was in February (surprise!) at $620,000, just showing only the least expensive properties were selling last winter, not that individual property values fluctuated so much. Months Supply of Inventory is at a two year low of 6 months at the end of November versus 19 months two years ago--with a high of...

Sonoma County Median Home Price up $50,000 from Last Winter's Low

The median price of a Sonoma County home was $340,000 at the end of November, down slightly from $345,000 the previous month but up for the low hit last February of $290,000. This reflects several trends: shrinking inventory due to increased sales, initially led by the surge of entry-level home sales begun last spring, and followed by a late full increase in the sale of upper-end and mid-range homes. Most agents I talk to are upbeat about the coming market this winter and spring. We also wonder what the impact of the so called shadow market of foreclosures will bring to the Sonoma County housing market. If you were considering selling your home but reluctant due to the tough market conditions of the last couple of years, you might think about putting your home on the market this winter. Even with the holidays, there are a lot of buyers still active in the market. Please contact me if you would like to explore your options! ...

Lunch break

I stepped away from the office to admire the sun streaming through a very large Japanese maple in the back yard. It is brilliant red orange sorrounde by the lemon yellow leaves of two adjacent mulberry trees. This was shot with my iPhone. Posted via email from pambuda's posterous ...

California resale inventory shrinking as median price rises for the 8th month in a row

This story from Inman News was published a day after my previous post about the national real estate market--and reinforces the point I was making about the differences in our market and its phase in the recovery process.California resale inventory shrinking | Real Estate and Technology News for Agents, Brokers and Investors | Inman News Inventories of existing single-family homes in California are dwindling, reaching just four months of supply as the sales pace picked up from September to October, the California Association of Realtors reported. Home sales historically trail off during the fall and winter months, CAR said, but affordable home prices, low mortgage rates, and the extension and expansion of the federal homebuyer tax credit are expected to drive home sales through the end of the year and into early 2010. Existing single-family detached homes sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 562,400 in October, up 5.9 percent from September and 1 percent from a year ago, the group said. The months supply of inventory fell from 4.2 months in September and 6.1 months a year ago. A 6-month supply of inventory is about what analysts consider an even balance between supply and demand. It took a median of 34.1 days on market to sell a home in California in October 2009, compared with 45.5 days for the same period a year ago. At $297,500, median home price was essentially unchanged from September, but down 3.2 percent from a year ago. Although the $890 increase in median price from September to October amounted to 0.3 percent, it was the eighth consecutive monthly gain. CAR Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young cited that trend, along with continued strength in sales, as "signs that California has hit and passed the bottom of this real estate cycle." For the first-time since July 2007, she said, sales of homes priced $1 million or more rose in year-to-year comparisons, and the number of distressed sales as a share of total sales has shown considerable improvement since the beginning of the year. In Sonoma County and much of the Bay Area of Northern California, inventory supply is hovering around 2 to 3 months, reflecting the strong regional differences in the California markets. The Bay area and North Bay are limited geographic areas bounded by mountains, hills, the Bay and Pacific Ocean. In the central valley of California new home construction booms simply expanded communities into flat, seemingly limitless former farmland. ...

Fast Food/Slow Food and the Pursuit of Happiness

I enjoyed this photo essay by Maira Kalman in the New York Times today. Sonoma County is home to many adherents of local, sustainably produced food. Worth a browse to see her photos of a journey to Northern California and back to New York-from fast to Slow Food, with tales of locally, sustainably produced food and the Edible Schoolyard movement. Worth a look--enjoy! and Happy Thanksgiving! ...

Happy Thanksgiving, and Thank you!!

[caption id="attachment_533" align="alignnone" width="387" caption="A thanksgiving turkey in all his glory"][/caption] As I head off to Thanksgiving dinner in Sebastopol, I want to say how much I appreciate all of you who visit this blog, and of course I want to thank all my clients for entrusting me with the important business of selling or buying your homes, as well as your referrals to your friends and family. I am privileged to work with some wondeful people--thank you so much!...

An Upturn in the Housing Market May Be Reversing – NYTimes.com

But what about Sonoma County and Northern California? If you read this article in the business section of today's New York Times, An Upturn in the Housing Market May Be Reversing - NYTimes.com you'd find very justifiable skepticism about the increase in real estate sales volume nationally that we've experienced this summer and fall. As some friends and I discussed at dinner in Healdsburg Monday night, no one is convinced that the economy is on firmly recovering footing, Wall Street enthusiasm aside. So are we up for a "W" recovery--meaning another downturn in housing prices? From the article, which discussed the latest Case Shiller Housing Index Report:The two housing price reports lag, by a month, the figures on the volume of home resales, which were issued Monday for October. Home resales jumped 10.1 percent to the highest level in two years, better than analysts had expected. Much of the increase was attributed to the $8,000 first-time buyer’s tax credit, which had been set to expire Nov. 30 but has been renewed through spring. Buyers who have already owned a home are now eligible for a $6,500 credit. While brisk sales volume should, in theory, push up prices, Maureen Maitland, the vice president for index services at S.& P., said the oversupply of inventory was acting as a brake. “You can look down the street and have 10 houses to choose from,” she said. About 3.57 million used homes are for sale, a number that has been declining but is still higher than the historic average. It represents seven months of inventory at the current sales rate. Ms. Maitland speculated that the housing market might follow a “W” pattern, as the price lows plumbed last spring are tested again this winter. It's all well and good to look at national statistics, but (and this is a cliche so forgive me)--looking at the national housing market to try to determine what is happening with home values in your neighborhood is like trying to know what the weather will be like by knowing what the average temperature in the US is at any given time. Just look at the paragraph above--7 months available inventory nationwide. In Sonoma County we have less than three months of inventory available county wide, and less than two months at the lower price ranges. Even at the upper price ranges we have about 10 months of inventory...

Selling your Home? Make Sure you Know How it Looks in the "Cloud"

A Photo of a Google Tricycle scanning a neighborhood for Google Street View And I am not talking about the weather. Increasingly, information about US homes lives in the cloud, served up over high speed internet connections. For example, the National Association of Realtors is rolling out its own real estate database (directory) called Residential Property Resource--its goal is to provide comprehensive data on 150 million homes in the United States. (For a description and first take to the recent announcement, click here.) Google has been moving in this direction for several years. I recently wrote about Google Map's 3D Modeling Tool, Sketchup, and the ability to search real estate listings in Google Maps. Also, Google Street View in Google Maps simulates a 2D drive-by of many properties. Google Maps gives satellite views of most properties and their goal is to have a place page for individual structures. So even before your home is on the market--there is already a lot of data about it on-line. As a practical matter, if you are selling your home, make sure your agent knows how to take advantage of these tools and at the very least, is aware of how your property presents online already and that it is accurate. I have used Google Maps to look at aerial views of country property for example, and sometimes the pin indicating the property address is literally a mile or more away from the actual location and put it in the middle of a flat vineyard rather than a scenic hillside. I know that but a potential buyer may not. Or on one country property listing I had, the pin gave a very misleading view of the house's location in relation to the neighbors. I was able to relocate the map pin to the home site, which gave a more accurate view of the home in relation to the acreage surrounding it. Google Street View adds a whole other dimension, literally, to the cloud view of your home. Google actually sends people out in cars (lots of hybrids supposedly) and on tricycles to photograph neighborhoods, as in the photo above. Kind of creepy actually. Unfortunately, sometimes the photos on Google Street View are not very current, as a I discovered on one of my listings earlier this year. The home had be re-roofed and painted a year earlier but the Google Street view...

X