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Rick Laws Talks Trends to the Press Democrat

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Declining sales and a recent drop in new listings suggest that Sonoma County’s housing market is downshifting toward a new normal, a panel of real estate veterans said Tuesday.

“The pie is smaller,” Pacific Union International senior vice president Rick Laws told agents and brokers at the weekly meeting of the North Bay Association of Realtors in Santa Rosa. Successful agents need to find a way to “get a bigger slice of the pie.”

Agents, buyers and sellers need to realize the market appears to be turning from the boom, bust and rebound of the past 15 years, speakers said.

 Since 2000, “all you’ve seen is up and down,” said Mike Kelly, an agent with Keller Williams in Santa Rosa. For example, selling a home took more time before the millennium, often about two months, said John Duran, a broker associate with Coldwell Banker’s Mission Boulevard office in Santa Rosa.

“Right now, if you don’t get any offers in two weeks, what’s wrong with the house?” Duran joked.

The county’s median single-family home price was $264,000 in January 2000 but it soared to a record $619,000 in August 2005. Amid a national housing crash, the median sank to a low of $305,000 in February 2009. It began its rebound in 2012 and by last month had climbed to $590,000. But Bay Area home sales are in their third year of decline, Laws said. And new listings fell nearly 16 percent from a year earlier in July and August.

In order to sell homes, agents will need to expand lending options, including bridge loans and hard money, lenders said. Forest Tardibuono, co-owner at Sun Pacific Mortgage & Real Estate in Santa Rosa, said such financing can help baby boomers downsize.

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