In The News

Rick Laws Weighs in On Sonoma Home Sales

Wet weather stalls county home sales

When Sonoma County real es­tate brokers talk about the damp­ening effect on January homes sales, they mean it literally.

Existing single-family home  sales here declined 10 percent from a year earlier, according to The Press Democrat’s monthly housing report, compiled by Pacific Union International senior vice president Rick Laws. Mean­ while, home sales rose for both the state and the nation.

Asked about the difference, Laws offered one explanation, and a soggy one at that.

“The only thing that I hear consistently,” he said, “is rain, rain, rain, rain, rain.”

Of note, this winter’s down­ pours don’t seem to have kept large numbers of buyers from attending open houses, Laws said. Instead, the greater ef­ fect appears to be on those who choose not to list their homes for sale.

“Sellers don’t want to bring their property out in drenching rain,” he said.

The 233 single-family homes sold in the county in January was the record­ lowest total for the month in nine years.

In contrast, single-fam­ily home sales increased 4 percent in January from a year ago for the state, ac­cording to the California Association of Realtors. And sales of houses and condominiums last month climbed nationally near­ly 4 percent, the fastest pace in almost a decade, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Real estate agents said county home sales have slowed this winter be­ cause of well above-aver­age amounts of rainfall. That includes roughly 52 inches of precipitation Santa Rosa has received since Oct. 1. The rain has led to localized flooding, downed trees and mud­ slides.

“There are a lot of peo­ ple waiting for the weath­ er to improve, especially for country property,” said Lisa Thomas, an agent with Pacific Union in Santa Rosa.

Despite the reluctance of sellers, Thomas said she encourages them to list now rather than wait until spring. Her reason­ ing is the market today has a higher ratio of buy­ers compared to available homes.

“Right now sellers have so little competition,” she said.

The county’s medi­an home sale price last month was $580,000, an in­ crease of 4 percent from a year earlier.

Median home prices here have climbed steadi­ ly for five years. The rise came after prices hit a record $619,000 in August 2005, then slid during a national housing crash to $305,000 in February 2009.

But while home prices have risen each year since 2012, home sales have de­clined for three of the past four years.

A major reason is that the quantity of homes on the market has fallen dra­matically. The number of available homes for sale at the end of January 2012 amounted to nearly 1,100. Last month that number was fewer than 500.

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