I thought I would kick of 2011 by looking back at the Sonoma County home sales data for 2010. I pulled the closed sales data for all residence types in all of Sonoma County for the last 13 months (December 2009 through December 2010.) This includes single family residences, farms and ranches and condominiums.
It is difficult to discern any particular long term trends in the last quarter’s data. There has been a slight decrease in the number of home sales and a slight increase in listings of homes for sale over the last 2 or 3 months. When inventory climbs and sales drop for an extended period we see price declines. You can certainly see that if you look back at the sales figures from 2007 through 2010.
I don’t think that is what we are seeing in this case. What seems to be happening is that “regular” home-sellers removed their unsold homes from the market for the holidays, which is a pretty typical pattern. That left bank-owned homes on the market and indeed they represented a slightly higher percentage of sales in the fourth quarter. I also do think that we had a early winter this year, not just all the rain we had early, but in the sense that the first time homebuyer tax credit expired over the summer and it had caused some buyers to accelerate their buying to earlier in 2010.
Been Down So Long it Looks Like Up to Me?
We have seen a greater increase in the number of non-distressed homes on the market over the last 15 months or so. We have also seen more higher priced homes come on the market, both distressed and non-distressed. The increase in unit sales of the higher priced homes led to a gradual slight increase in the median price. So when the median price has gone up it is NOT because the value of individual homes has increased, but because the mix in prices of homes sold has changed to include more expensive homes. (NOTE: In 2009 the vast majority of sales were for homes price under or at $300,000 dollars.)
What most local Sonoma County agents that I have spoken with seem to feel is that we have achieved stability in prices under $400,000 over the last couple of years. I can’t believe it but it has been two years (!!!) since I first called a bottom in the median Sonoma County home price. Wow, what a tough two years.
What we continue to see however is softness in prices as the value of individual homes increases above $500,000, one million dollars and two million dollars. Buyers are out there at all these price points (in diminishing numbers) and it is interesting to see how they will studiously ignore homes that are overpriced, and how they will pounce (with multiple offers typically) when a listing price hits that magic number that the market perceives as a good value.
Two Different Looks at Last Year’s Home Sales Numbers
Here are the sales figures for 2010. I will post a three year view along with these numbers at my Scribd account. It is interesting to look at the trends over a longer timeframe.
Meanwhile, please call or email me if you have any questions about this data and what it might mean for your particular real estate needs.
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