Archive for the 'Buyers' Category

Months Supply of Sonoma County Entry Level Real Estate Declines Sharply

filed under: Buyers, Market updates posted on November 24th, 2008

One of the most interesting measures of the tension between buyers and sellers in a real estate market is the “Months Supply of Inventory” figure. What this number tells us is the number of months it would take to sell the existing number of homes for sale at the present rate of closed sales.

Buyers Market or Sellers Market?

Generally six months of inventory is considered to be a market balanced between buyers and sellers. Anything less, and sellers are advantaged in negotiations. Anything more, and the trend favors buyers. Two years ago in Sonoma county, there were 6.2 months of entry level inventory for sale.

When the first wave of foreclosed properties began hitting our market in force in 2007, the inventory piled up to a high point that so few properties were selling, as many more were coming on the market. Consequently, MSI (Months Supply of Inventory) ballooned to a 14.8 months supply, a strongly favored buyers market.

Early in 2008, banks began slashing prices and buyers have been increasingly active ever since. (See my posts under market updates beginning in March to track this trend.) The lower priced properties, driven by foreclosures, have steadily been absorbed by first time buyers and investors.

They have been gobbling up REO’s so quickly that now there are only 2.7 months of inventory available at the current rate of new listings and sales, a strongly favored sellers market.

If you are a buyer interested in purchasing an REO home, it is important for buyers to be prepared for the market realities especially for the most solid homes in the best locations.

1. You must have a STRONG pre-approval. In many cases first time buyers will be competing with all cash investors for the same properties.
2. You may need to make multiple offers on a stream of properties before you land the right one.
3. It ALL DEPENDS. Make sure you have a committed working relationship with a realtor who is knowledgeable about the changing market, and who knows how to present and negotiate your offer(s) in the best light.

Just as sellers have learned (in some cases!) to be realistic, it is important for buyers to do the same. Happy hunting!

Sonoma County Real Estate Months Supply of Inventory October 2008

posted by Pam Buda // Comments Off on Months Supply of Sonoma County Entry Level Real Estate Declines Sharply

Sonoma County Real Estate Market Dynamics through October 2008

filed under: Buyers, Market updates posted on November 24th, 2008


At first glance the overall supply and demand trends for Sonoma County real estate from October 2006 through October 2008 show gentle trend lines that belie the turbulence of our market. The number of units for sale (all residential types and all price ranges) is down modestly (3.9%) from 3284 units then to 3155 units now. The peak was 3608 units for sale in August 2007 with some seasonal trending over the 25 months. The number of units sold has increased by a robust 33% however, to 508 units from 381 units in October 2007.

Days on market for properties in contract has declined from 93 days (peak 112 in January 2007) and the number of properties under contract has grown significantly from 372 to 553. The number of pending Sonoma County home sales is the highest in 4 years. Last year at this time, pending sales were hovering between 166 and 286 units per month! Now they are running 450 to 550. The reason for the change? Banks got aggressive and drastically lowered the list prices of bank-owned (REO) properties creating lots of competitive, interested buyers.

The true story behind any particular home investment is driven by intensely local conditions rather than broad average trends: single family home, country property, vineyard property, fixer or condo. It is absolutely a function of price point with the bulk of the activity under $500,000.

The following graph shows the same trend lines as above(active inventory versus sold listings) for all residential Sonoma County sales under $500,000.  Since the median home price was nearly $600,000 at the market peak in 2005-2006, very little was available under $500K. Since then, it has declined county wide on average jut over 30%–there’s that word again, on average.    While the overall number homes for sale has declined slightly since October 2006, under $500,000. it has nearly doubled.  The number of units sold in this price range has increased nearly 200% in the last 25 months.  Bottom line is the banks figured out pretty quickly how to move REO inventory and both investors and first time buyers are competing for the best of these homes.  Result–inventory is declining faster than it is coming on the market and overall sales velocity has increased, all fueled by the REO bargains.


posted by Pam Buda // Comments Off on Sonoma County Real Estate Market Dynamics through October 2008

October Sonoma County Real Estate Sales Snapshot

filed under: Buyers, Market updates posted on November 9th, 2008

This week I received this quick sales snapshot from Rick Laws, my broker at Coldwell Banker.   It provides a 13 month overview of Sonoma County residential sales activity at all price ranges and in all locations county wide.  Sales activity and area trends vary widely by price and location but this is a quick view based upon MLS data pulled by Brokermetrics. In about a week I will have more detailed information available covering the various price points and separating out condo activity.
Sonoma County Real Estate Market Dynamics October 2008.Sonoma County Real Estate Market Dynamics October 2008
                                Oct 07        Oct 08         # Units Change       % Change

Under contract       227              604                        377                      166%

Sold                       227              488                         261                     115%

New listings            530               551                           28                       5%

The biggest takeaway here is that this is the first time in over two years that the number of newly opened escrows has exceeded the number of new listings.   Despite everything that happened in the financial markets in October, the number of newly opened escrows was up 166% and hit its highest point year over year.  In addition, the number of closed escrows reached a new high for the year.  We all know that not every opened escrow will close-but the number of newly ratified sales continues its upward trend, and bucks the national trend.

The tail wagging the dog in this market continues to be the REO (bank-owned) home at the low end with an increasingly high volume of sales under $500,000 for both single family homes and condos.  Sales through October seem to be driven (this is anecdotal) equally by first time buyers or owner occupants and  real estate investors.

posted by Pam Buda // Comments Off on October Sonoma County Real Estate Sales Snapshot

Healdsburg Menus and Wineries-Handy Web Site Guide

filed under: Buyers, Wine Country Living posted on November 3rd, 2008

When I found out my favorite Healdsburg brunch spot, the tiny Ravenette, is closed for a while, I wanted to find a new Sunday brunch spot to meet some friends (and clients) who just moved to Headsburg full time from San Diego. Google turned me on to a handy website, with menus and links to most of the good dining spots in town. I think Healdsburg has more quality restaurants per capita than any place I know outside Manhattan or Paris. (OK it is a small town but you can’t walk more than a few steps without finding great food and wine.)

The site is called
Some of the wares at Healdsburg’s Downtown Bakery and CreameryI thought we might meet at the Downtown Bakery and Creamery. This spot has been serving up great breads, cakes, cookies and ice cream since 1984 and was one of the first “gourmet down home” spots in Healdsburg. I always made a pit stop here on my way to Mendocino. They have expanded their bakery operation (open since 1984) to include table seating and a nice breakfast menu. Or maybe we’ll head to Bovolo behind the new Copperfield’s Bookstore for some of John Stewart and Duskie Estes (of Zazu fame) robust fare. Or maybe we’ll head to Barndiva for some stylish country food. Hmmmm.

Well we actually had a nice breakfast at the newly and greatly expanded Costeaux French Bakery a block north of the Plaza. The place was packed indoors and out with a crowd of mostly locals and a few tourists. I don’t know how you can spot tourists exactly, but you can. 😉

While we’re at it I’ve got to let you know about my classic Healdsburg bungalow listing at 414 Piper Street, only 4/10ths of a mile from all these yummy spots. Well this is a real estate blog you know. Honestly, with a Walkscore of 83 think how much fine dining you could have and how much gasoline you could save? Good for you and good for the planet!

posted by Pam Buda // 5 Comments »

Are banks still funding home loans in Sonoma County?

filed under: Buyers, Market updates posted on October 21st, 2008

Everyone is unsettled these days and no surprise.  There are a few questions or comments that I am hearing repeatedly from clients and friends.  The first is the question above.

With a cataclysmic world-wide banking crisis occurring over the last few weeks, I guess that is a logical question to ask.  Can I still get a home loan today?

Well, home sales are still occurring, especially at the entry-level as indicated in previous posts.  Jumbo loans are dicier and the larger jumbo loan limits expire at the end of December so we perhaps that is a cause of the flurry of real estate sales activity in our county in the mid-price ranges of $500,000 to $1 million.

While rules have tightened to sometime excruciatingly comical levels (some of the stories I have heard could fill another post or two) the flow of mortgage funds  has continued.  Kenneth Harney, in the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday October 19th, gives a good overview of our current state of home lending.


Credit squeeze, credit freeze, credit system seizures: Everybody knows how severe and painful the global financial breakdown has been – with banks unwilling to lend even to other banks.

But what about mortgages and real estate? Can you still get a home loan with less than a 20 or 30 percent down payment? Or with a credit score below 720?

Absolutely. It would be a big stretch to label housing the sunny side of the market at the moment, but there’s a lot more light there than in most other financial sectors. Consider these facts:

— There is no shortage of money available for home mortgages, no freezing of credit to purchase or refinance a house. Why? Because the American mortgage market effectively has been federalized – at least for the time being.

More than 90 percent of new loans now are being made through the Federal Housing Administration insurance program, plus Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. FHA is owned by the federal government, and Fannie and Freddie are operating under federal conservator-ship.

All three have unfettered access to global capital markets at rock-bottom costs because their borrowings are fully guaranteed by the Treasury.

Ginnie Mae, which is FHA’s pipeline to the bond market, recorded an all-time high of $29 billion in new mortgage-backed securities issued in August.

— Loan terms and credit underwriting standards have been toughened up, but you can still put down 3 percent (3.5 percent after Jan. 1) on an FHA-insured mortgage and 5 percent on certain Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loan programs with private mortgage insurance.

FHA’s credit standards are generous and forgiving – the agency exists to help people with less-than-spotless credit histories. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have raised their credit score requirements over the past year, but buyers and refinancers with scores in the upper 600s can still qualify for loans carrying reasonable rates and fees.

— Despite the global financial system’s quakes, mortgage rates remain low by historical standards. Mortgage giant Freddie Mac reported Thursday that 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.46 percent, and 15-year mortgages are at 6.14 percent.

— Maximum loans through FHA, Fannie and Freddie in high-cost local markets on the West and East coasts continue to be $729,750 through December. In January, the high-cost maximum is projected to dip to approximately $625,000.

— Home prices – pushed by foreclosures and short sales – have rolled back to 2003 and 2004 levels or lower in many of the former boom markets. As a result, growing numbers of buyers are coming off the sidelines, making offers and writing contracts. The pending home sales index jumped by 7.4 percent based on purchase contracts signed in August, according to the National Association of Realtors. The heaviest increases – pointing to higher closed sales in the coming two to three months – were in California, Florida, Nevada and the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

Housing and mortgage leaders say consumer worries about the stock market have obscured positive developments under way in real estate, where pricing pain and downsizing have been facts of the life for the past two and a half years.

posted by Pam Buda // 2 Comments »

SNAPSHOT view of Sonoma County Real Estate Sales in a Wild Week

filed under: Buyers, Market updates posted on October 9th, 2008

Just opened up our weekly office sales update and was curious to see how sales activity was affected last week given the horrendous economic news.  Had all business activity ground to a halt?  Yes some folks are deciding to sit on the sidelines for a month or two or six.  But what did I find for our office as a whole?  I  found a very normal to high level of activity for the week.  (I should mention that Coldwell Banker Santa Rosa has over 100 active agents and our sales totals are generally about double of the second ranked Sonoma County real estate office. )

30 New Listings  (19 are bank-owned or REO properties-only 4 are priced over $500K)

29 New Sales (open escrows)  29 Brave souls who dared to put pen to paper last week and not run for the hills.  On the sub-500 price range, about half appeared to be first time buyers and the rest investors.    We normally run somewhere between 20 and 30 sales per week so this is a typical number.  19 of these are bank-owned properties.

22 Closed Sales of the closed sales, 14 were bank-owned properties.

The biggest trend difference we see is not the numbers of transactions but the price points and this is a consistent phenomenon since early 2008.

Of the new listings, only 4 were priced over $500,000.  Of the closed sales, only 3 were priced over $500,000 and two of those 3 were priced over $1,000,000.   By far the lion’s share of our business right now is the entry level priced bank-owned properties.  I should mention that our office is home to James Madison, who has approximately 50% market share for REO properties in Sonoma County and some inventory in some of the surrounding counties as well.


posted by Pam Buda // 2 Comments »

Do you know what your home's Walkscore is?

filed under: Buyers, Real Estate 2.0, Wine Country Living posted on September 5th, 2008

One of the most appealing things about living in Sonoma County is the tremendous range of fantastic amenities for such a rural community.  People come here for the scenic beauty and they stay, moving from large cities in the San Francisco Bay Area or Southern California because there is so much to do, from great dining and wine tasting (of course!) to a thriving small theatre and music scene to a large arts community.  Granted, it’s not Manhattan, where the world is at your doorstep, but we pack a surprising amount into a scenic package.

One of the most Walkable Homes in Sonoma County For Sale in HealdsburgOne of the things I enjoy most about working with Sonoma County real estate buyers, is sharing with them the personal discoveries I have made and my favorite haunts in communities from Sebastopol to Sonoma, Glen Ellen to Healdsburg, Santa Rosa to Windsor, Occidental, Graton, Kenwood, etc.  One of my goals with this blog over time is to collect some links and tools that will serve as my personal guide to Sonoma County.  Over the coming months, you will see more community pages with my personal recommendations and links to handy resources for Sonoma County residents and would-be residents of the Wine Country.

In the meantime, I have found a great tool to help you get started learning about any home you might consider buying:   It provides a Walkability score for any given address.  What is that?  From the Walkscore Home Page:

Walkable Neighborhoods

Picture a walkable neighborhood. You lose weight each time you walk to the grocery store. You stumble home from last call without waiting for a cab. You spend less money on your car—or you don’t own a car. When you shop, you support your local economy. You talk to your neighbors.

What makes a neighborhood walkable?

  • A center: Walkable neighborhoods have a discernable center, whether it’s a shopping district, a main street, or a public space.
  • Density: The neighborhood is compact enough for local businesses to flourish and for public transportation to run frequently.
  • Mixed income, mixed use: Housing is provided for everyone who works in the neighborhood: young and old, singles and families, rich and poor. Businesses and residences are located near each other.
  • Parks and public space: There are plenty of public places to gather and play.
  • Pedestrian-centric design: Buildings are placed close to the street to cater to foot traffic, with parking lots relegated to the back.
  • Nearby schools and workplaces: Schools and workplaces are close enough that most residents can walk from their homes.

One of the most walkable homes in Sonoma County that I know just happens to be my charming listing at 414 Piper Street in Healdsburg.   From there you can walk to world class restaurant Cyrus, to dozens of wineries, to several great taquerias, grocery shopping, drug andhardware stores–you name it!  Take a look at what a Walkscore of 83 out of 100 will get you.

posted by Pam Buda // 1 Comment »

A Knight in Shining Armor and his Steeds Search for a Country Home in the Wine Country

filed under: Buyers, Horses and Wine Country, Wine Country Living posted on August 18th, 2008

We ended our tale last week of the prince and princess returning to their San Francisco Bay Area commutes, living separate lives from their two chargers, Seamus (an Irish sporthorse with a 3-day eventing habit, and Rohan, his 2,000 lb Percheron Percheron Horsesidekick whose horsely habit we shall hear about a-nonce.)

The prince and princess dreamed someday of being re-united with their steeds on a home in the country that would fit all of them someday–but when would someday ever come? Would they have to wait years until retirement, with Seamus and Rohan growing greyer than they already were? Could they ever have it all, and sooner than later? After all, the prince had an opportunity for a new job up towards the area where the lovely vineyards, valleys and horse properties were–could they find a place to live now and continue to work but keep the horses at home? Should they try to find a castle further away that they could retire to someday, and maybe all visit together for summer vacations and holidays?Horse and Rider looking for a home Sonoma County They didn’t know what to do or think, they just knew they wanted to someday all live happily ever after on a farm with their animals, teaching their subjects (more about that later).

The princess knew she could stand a long commute 2 or 3 days a week, and she could spend much of her time tele-commuting. They owned their own home on the peninsula of the San Francisco Bay–it was worth a pretty penny. Surely there was a new home with room for the prince, princess and the steeds for what they could afford.

She needed to find a wizard or a good witch to advise them how to find their way to their true home. She consulted the Oracle of Google and found a good witch of wine country horse property, sealed her wishes in an email and sent them out to the universe. What happened next was very magical…The prince and princess try to find a path to the wine country horse property

(To be continued..)

posted by Pam Buda // Comments Off on A Knight in Shining Armor and his Steeds Search for a Country Home in the Wine Country

Knights in Shining Armor: A fairy tale for the most unique horse property I have sold

filed under: Buyers, Horses and Wine Country, Wine Country Living posted on August 6th, 2008

Prince and Princess on HorsebackOnce upon a time there were a prince and princess living on the peninsula of the San Francisco Bay area, commuting their separate ways to high powered jobs, spending many many dollars each month to board their horses, who lived in yet another direction from the high powered jobs. The horses, Rohan and Seamus, were lonely. whitehorseinstall1.jpgThey had each other but they only saw the prince and princess on nights and weekends. Even though the prince and princess brought carrots and lots of treats, they missed them the rest of the time. And because of barn politicsEnough Barn politics–time to keep our horses at home! or zoning issues, or whatever fancies, Seamus and Rohan always seemed to have to move to a new barn. They missed really being able to settle in somewhere. The prince and princess were frustrated–they would spend weekends at events with their horses and then miss them during the week. Since they lived in a small house with a small yard, Seamus, Rohan and the neighbors would not be happy if they brought them home to Belmont!

One weekend the prince and princess drove their son to his first year of college at Humboldt State University. On the way home, they drove through many beautiful valleys and over Sonoma County Wine Countrybeautiful hills and mountains, passing vineyards, forests and meadows. This was Sonoma County, only a short drive from the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco. They thought “Wouldn’t this be a beautiful place to live happily ever after some day with Seamus and Rohan?.. I guess we will have to wait till we retire. Sigh…..” And they returned home to commuting.jpgsuburbia and their high-powered jobs.

The prince and princess wondered how they could live happily ever after with Seamus and Rohan all on the same property and keep their high powered jobs? Maybe they didn’t need to wait until someday?


posted by Pam Buda // 2 Comments »

Open August 24 1-4 pm: An ideal West County Country Property on 2.83 acres

filed under: Buyers, Country Property, Horses and Wine Country, Sebastopol, Wine Country Living posted on July 27th, 2008

Please come join me today at 5850 Gilmore Avenue in Cotati, my latest listing and a fantastic country property that is well-thought out, secluded yet convenient and very up to date. img_1057.JPGYou and your family and critters could just move right in. When I looked for my img_1009.JPGcurrent country property home I wanted a property like this–lots of usable land, nice house, really cute second unit and most importantly I wanted scenic beauty and a really peaceful location away from traffic so my cats and dogs would be safe, not to mention humans as well.

I also wanted to be convenient to town and services, and to commute to the Bay Area. Don’t be mislead by the Cotati address on this cool property–it is actually on the west side of 101, north of 116 on the way to Sebastopol. Don’t get me wrong, Cotati is a neat town with lots of fun shops and restaurants, but this location on Gilmore would just as easily appeal to someone wanting Sebastopol, Santa Rosa, Penngrove or Petaluma. This little country pocket in Cotati is peaceful, has lots of horse propertiesimg_1039.JPG and small farms as well as vineyards surrounding it, and many of the neighbors have been here for years. My clients have owned the property since 1977 and their meticulous care and updating shows. Yet this home is about5 minutes to 101 so it is a great commute location that feels miles away.

It is my experience that people looking for Sonoma County country property don’t first think of places such as Rohnert Park/Cotati or Windsor, but you can uncover some gems by searching and thinking a little outside the box. Come see for yourself today. This property could accommodate horses (and does with a 2 acre pasture (+-), stalls and tack room. It also is home to roller pigeons and has two coops and a small aviary. There is a img_1059.JPGshop for painting autos with air compressor and 220 power plus another shop (called the “man” building) for hanging out. Plus a cute 2002 small modular with kitchen, den, bedroom and bath, all in its own fenced in,img_1044.JPG redwood lined yard at one corner of the property for privacy. There is only one home past this property on a sleepy lane, and many bigger parcels surround it, with viewsimg_1054.JPG of the hills, vineyards and trees. See you soon!

posted by Pam Buda // 2 Comments »