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Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me

The title of my last blog post was so upbeat I was a tad embarrassed on reflection.  Was I just drinking the real estate Koolaid?  If you read the body of the post last week, you'd realize that my comments were a little more nuanced, but there was good reason for my optimism. I was in the midst of a multiple offer competition on a property in Healdsburg (my buyers are now in escrow and very happy), there were many properties going into escrow in the last couple of weeks in Sonoma County, and not just in the bottom end of the REO pool. Some really special country properties in Sebastopol and Graton that interested a number of my clients sold within a week of coming on the market before people could even get up here from out of town to see them. Open houses were packed all over the county. My transaction coordinator, Alise Posman, had 10 newly opened escrow files on her desk Monday morning and she is only one of several TC's at our office. It seems that there is a lot of pent up demand, and people with cash are deciding to invest in real estate here rather than stuff it under a mattress. Some are buying rentals, some are buying homes for the first time. Some are buying weekend homes, or rentals that will eventually become their wine country retirement homes. Some are searching for horse properties and there are some great deals at a variety of price points. That said, I felt a little sheepish about the headline, given the brutal reality of current conditions in our country. The old title of Richard Farina's 1966 book came to mind: "Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me". I guess we are taking these signs of life as encouragement where we can this spring. No one has any illusions that happy days are here again but there are little glimmers of hope, kind of like the first bulbs coming up in the spring. It will be interesting to see how this year unfolds. But don't believe if you are a buyer that you will be without competition for the best properties, well-priced and in good condition this spring. If you are a seller take heed, and do what it takes to be perceived as a deal right out of the chute. You might be pleasantly surprised....

Sonoma County Real Estate Market sizzling hot up to $1 Million

But not over a million.  That part of our market is very slow.  But signs are very encouraging for a more balanced market in 2009 at all price points under a million.  The experience of most Sonoma County realtors I know is that buyers are out if force for January, following a very busy holiday season.  The big difference is that we are finally seeing sales movement at prices between $400,000 and $1 million, as buyers in those price ranges seem to be stepping off the fence. Both single family homes and condos are selling at a rapid clip. More details to come but here is a quick snapshot for single family dwellings in all price ranges through January 30, 2009. ...

Wine Country and Ducks Redux, or just how early is spring this year?

The mustard is about a foot high with brilliant yellow flowers, the daffodils have just begun to bloom after pushing up since early December, and it was 74 degrees the other day. We have had two weeks of unbroken glorious weather which is lovely but we are finally getting some severely need rain. Grapegrowers are worried about early bud break, because we still have frost at night and will for some time. Today my thoughts turned to the pair of mallard ducks who spend their spring break by my pool, bordering some old vine zinfandel that belongs to a neighbor. Generally the last few years, they seem to miraculously show up right around the same time they spring into my mind. Perhaps they are not the only ones tuned into the lengthening days and warming weather? One of the things I love about living in the country, and being out and about early every morning to feed the horses at more or less the same time each day, is that I feel tuned in to nature in a way that I didn't quite get living "in town". Maybe I should set up a duck cam so I can capture their arrival this year? Last year they showed up on February 25th. I'll keep you posted when they return, meanwhile, here they are in 2008.   I guess I have intermittent spring fever....

Sonoma County Home Sales Surge 24.5% As Prices Roll Back to 2002 Levels

Many times I have shared the latest Sonoma County real estate sales statistics for residential  properties.  These are compiled on a monthly basis by my broker at Coldwell Banker, Rick Laws, based on actual sales data for the entire county as reported on the Bay Area Real Estate Information Services, our multiple listings service.  The reporting software is Brokermetrics, from Terradatum.   Fellow agent, Craig Curreri, has taken it upon himself to go back to 1990 and summarize this data so that we have a nineteen year perspective on our bit of Northern California wine country real estate values.   Thanks to Craig for the headline above.  There is no doubt that this is a very difficult time in real estate for many people.  It helps to put events of the last couple of years into perspective.  Thanks Craig and Rick!...

Mid-Price Range Real Estate Trends in Sonoma County for 2008

My last post this week detailed real estate supply, demand and price trends for Sonoma County real estate.  The story of last year was bargain basement pricing by the banks looking to clear their inventory of foreclosed homes.  County-wide the median price dropped 30% year over year through December 2008.  The bulk of the sales action was in the sub-$500,000 price range and really lower than that. It is possible to find single family homes under $300,000 and even under $200,000 in some cases.  With conforming loan rates ducking under 5% for thirty year fixed rate loans, first time buyers and investors are snatching up properties at a record pace.  Condominium sales are just as hot. Meanwhile, let's take a look at homes in the mid-range tier of pricing, between $500,000 and $1 million dollars.  In this range currently you will start to see larger homes, possibly with acreage in communities all over Sonoma County such as Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Glen Ellen, Healdsburg, Sebastopol and Petaluma.    The bulk of the lower priced properties are concentrated along the 101 corridor in Santa Rosa (primarily west of 101) , east Petaluma, Rohnert Park/Cotati and Windsor.  It is not safe to over generalize about communities if you are looking for property however as we have a wide variation of homes and locales. Here is a view of supply and demand for Sonoma County homes priced between $500,000 and $1 million dollars.  The first chart shows the change, or lack of change, in median price over the course of 2008.  Median price rose a modest 2.5% in this price range.The reason prices did not drop drastically in this price range was that the supply of new homes dwindled at the same rate as the number of sales, as sellers who did not need to sell retreated. The rate of sales and new listings were cut in half year over year. There was also a recalibration of pricing above a million and below $500K as properties sought new levels. Clearly there has been a less dramatic softening in prices but the median was left essentially unchanged.  There was a slight increase in sales at the end of the year and a leveling of new listings coming on the market.  What do you think this information means for the spring market?...

2008 Sonoma County Real Estate: Three Quick Sales Trends

These three graphs tell the quick story of pricing, supply and demand trends for housing in Sonoma County from December 2007 through 2008.  But the real story for your home depends on the price range for your house and the part of the county in which you live, or seek to live.  You cannot automatically say that every home in the country dropped 30%.  The price dropped most steeply in those communities with high rates of distressed housing:  West Santa Rosa, East Petaluma, Windsor and Rohnert Park/Cotati. But, on average, and in summary: The median price dropped 30% year over year. The number of newly ratified sales contracts grew steadily all year and lead to a 184% increase year over year. Months supply of inventory dropped dramatically (73%) and steadily all year, exceeding the drop in prices.  From a very strong buyers market in December '07, with over 14 months supply of homes at last December's sales rate, this December saw only 3.7 months supply.  Six months is considered a balanced market.  Anything under is a seller's market--in this case the banks who own nearly half the properties sold. ...

Sonoma County Real Estate Pending Sales up 96% versus December 2006

There was no seasonal dip in newly opened escrows this December as brave (or desperate) buyers and investors sought a home for their cash, literally. Despite the horrendous news in the financial markets, the rate of sales actually increased and the number of new listings continued to decline over the most recent months. Maybe the 2 point drop in interest rates over the last three months has continued to spur buyer activity, and not just at the low end of the market (under $500K--or really under $350K). I just got my hands on all sorts of juicy data and four major price points so you will hear more from me as I analyze the results. The steadily increasing sales continues a trend lead by low-priced REO properties we first noted in February and March of 2008. Meanwhile, here is the quick overview. (Thanks to my broker, Rick Laws, of Coldwell Banker, who is a data geek. He pulls Sonoma County real estate sales data from the local multiple listings service (BAREIS) via the Brokermetrics service.) Since December 2006: Pending Sales are up 96% Closed Sales up 7% New Listings up 48% Take a look at the trend lines over two years, because that tells a partial story of our market in Sonoma County real estate. More to come. Stay tuned. ...

Maps and Craigslist: an interesting Real Estate Mash-up

Mashup is one of those great Web 2.0 terms which sounds intriguing, and is derived from the music industry. It means a hybridized application which includes data of different types from different sources.  I sometimes use it to apply to my improvisational cooking techniques but that is another topic! Today’s real estate professional can take a service from one Web site and pair it with the data from another site, creating a hybrid Web application whose value surpasses the original components. Web designers call this form of content publishing a "mashup," borrowing a music industry term referring to songs containing parts of other songs. Today’s real estate mashups often include maps, listings, and community news. Realtor Magazine One of my new year's resolutions is to overhaul this blog and to add some new functionality. The rainy winter months should provide some time for me to take a look at my technology tools as I go into my third year of blogging. A recent article in Realtor Magazine drew my attention to a neat mashup of Google Maps (one of the most popularly mashed applications) with Craigslist. It is called HousingMaps.com and it offers a map based interface for searching Craigslist ads. I am currently evaluating map-based tools so that I can offer my clients the ability to use the map interface to search the MLS, but this is a handy tool for getting started and would be really useful for rentals. Let me know what you think! and Happy New Year! ...

Wine Country and Snow (and Horses)

Good friend and photographer Robbin Satterlee was able to capture a range of photos from the Sonoma County Wine and Horse country outside Santa Rosa, with dramatic views of snow covered Mt. Saint Helena in Napa and towards the mountainous Geysers of Lake County to the north. Vineyards, horses and snow covered mountains. Not bad. The snow has melted now as warmer rains have come in but enjoy. We have these snowstorms at the higher elevations (1500 to 2000 feet) a couple of times each winter.Snow on hilltops...

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