Sonoma Housing Bubble

Pulling the cork out of Sonoma's bubbly housing foolishness

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sugar Coating Sonoma County

"Sonoma County home sales hit a five-year low for the month of February while the number of houses on the market reached a nine-year high, the latest evidence the local real estate market is slowing."

"February sales were down 13 percent from a year ago, sinking to the lowest total for the month since 2001, when the economy was heading into a recession."

"Brokers say the market is going through a transition after an unprecedented run of rapid sales and double-digit price gains. "It's way off from last year. This is getting more toward a normal market," said Sandy Geary, broker and owner of Remax North Bay Realty in Rohnert Park."

ummm... a normal market looks like what happens when the economy goes into a recession? If sales are down to the levels that haven't been seen since the economy was circling the bowl... Is it really intelligent to say recession type numbers are representative of a "normal market?"

"The inventory of homes for sale has soared."

"There was a 4.4-month supply of homes on the market in February, more than twice as much as a year ago and the highest since 1997, when it was 4.6 months."

Now take into account that not only is there a 4.4 month supply of homes on the market, but they also are staying on the market longer. 90+ days at last count. So what exactly is selling then?

In fact, days on the market averages 92 days for the County.

Guerneville has the highest with 131 days

Cloverdale comes in 2nd with 104 days

Windsor = 103 days

Sonoma = 99 days

Sebastopol = 96 days

Forestville = 92 days

Santa Rosa = 90 days

Rohnert Park = 85 days

Healdsburg = 86 days

Petaluma = 70 days

"February's median resale price was $556,000. While down significantly from $619,000 in January, the median price has swung up and down over the past six months."

"Experts said light sales volume in February allowed a relatively large number of transactions at the lower end of the market to pull down the median price."

Help me out here. Anyone else see a contradiction here? So what happened? Was there light sales volume or a relatively large number of transactions. Get real now... it can't be both.

"The decline may not reflect broader trends in the market, which will become more visible when sales activity grows this spring."

Or it just may be reflective of a broader need to keep on with the sugar coating. Face it. Interest rates have risen... while they still may be at an historical low compared to 16% interest rates, we are talking about a county where less than 7% of the HOUSEHOLDS can afford to buy a median priced home.

We are talking about a county with a service sector economy, that lost many high paying jobs to the and outsourcing and only replaced them with menial worker positions.

We are talking about a county where 69% of buyers LAST year used some version of Interest Only, No Doc, Negative amortization loans... Remember, they had to use risky products and shoehorn themselves into houses because they could not afford them in the first place?

Remember? So these numbers MAY actually be reflective of a broader trend, because you should be asking yourself... who are your buyers now that you priced out your population?

"The market is moving in fits and starts. It hasn't really settled down and people haven't figured out what to do," said Rick Laws, Santa Rosa manager for Coldwell Banker, which prepares the monthly Press Democrat home sales report.

"Buyers looking for homes around the median price, where demand typically is highest, increasingly are concerned about paying too much. They also face rising interest rates that make monthly mortgage payments more expensive, said agents and brokers."

"Many sellers, on the other hand, remain reluctant to lower expectations of how much their home might sell for despite intensifying competition and more homes languishing on the market."

"A Windsor seller Geary is representing has attempted to sell the home since November. The price was reduced once and Geary said another reduction could be necessary to get it sold."

"Real estate forecasts called for sales to drop across California and prices to rise 10 percent this year. Record high prices and rising interest rates were expected to push out more buyers."

Oh come on now! How many more buyers can be pushed out? Oh... wait... I know the answer to that one. Somewhere around 7%.

But the market should remain strong barring a recession, economists have said. Another factor is the slowdown has taken hold during winter when sales traditionally are at their lowest. Spring and summer is when the market typically picks up, beginning with the March totals, and that should indicate where the market is heading, analysts said.

Ah, praying for the dead cat bounce I see. Y'all just go on ahead and hold your breath waiting for the market to pick up ok?

A little news about Healdsburg

"Healdsburg is a quintessential Wine Country town that draws a steady stream of wealthy home buyers from the Bay Area looking for weekend retreats - many ready to pay cash."

"A small town's monthly median price can fluctuate widely depending on prices and numbers of homes sold. Healdsburg's home sales tracked the region's record run the past three years. The median price has doubled in just five years to $719,000 through the end of last year."

"Healdsburg, median resale house price was $1.1 million in January - the first time a Sonoma County city topped the million-dollar mark."

"Everything's over a million in Healdsburg, except for the bungalows that are selling for $700,000 or $800,000," said Fred Ehman, owner of Windermere Wine Country Properties, based in Santa Rosa.

Note... "everything" is over a million except for the ones that aren't over a million.

For the love of Pete! If everything is over a million, that means by definition nothing is under a million. Sheesh. Oh right, was this a real estate agent talking? Well, then in that case carry on, of course both statements must be true, they came from a real estate expert. Shhh... no questions.

Eyes front. Eyes front.

"The county's other high-priced cities are Sebastopol, with a $740,000 median, and Sonoma, with a $690,000 median. Petaluma's west side is in the same neighborhood, with a $685,000 median."

"The county's housing market has slowed in recent months from a combination of high prices and rising interest rates, which make mortgages more expensive."

"But the small towns remain a strong draw and the million-dollar market so far appears to be weathering the slowdown, said Rick Laws, Santa Rosa manager for Coldwell Banker. "It shouldn't be too shocking. There's more people that want to be here than there are available properties," he said."

Don't forget, they aren't making any more land you know. Good grief. The operative word in his quote is "appears" as in optical illusion. Maybe he doesn't actually look at the numbers of sales and the rising inventory?

The rest of the article was uninteresting. I use the word article loosely as it really is just the Press Democrat's version of the Infomercial for local Real Estate Agents pimping their properties that aren't selling.

So hey... great idea... do a little piece on the latest and greatest "millionaire haven" in Healdsburg and drum up some of those Jones' and tell them they aren't making any more land... better hurry.

Just for kicks lets take a look at the real sales for Healdsburg.

January 2006 (5 weeks of sales)

Homes sold = 24

Home prices:

300k; 338.5k; 255k; 525k; 430k; 1,300,00; 602k; 265k; 425k; 660k; 725k; 1 million; 1,025,000; 400k; 729.5k; 610k; 495k; 555k; 590k; 638.5k; 775k; 500k; 720k; 1,025,000

Where this claim of million dollar median price is coming from I have no clue... sure doesn't look that way from these numbers. Also... you can see that everything is not over a million dollars in Healdsburg.

February 2006

Homes sold = 10

Median Price: $532k (according to county data) but according to actual sales data it should be $735k

Actual prices: 364k; 532k; 550k; 570k; 700k; 735k; $1,000,000; $1,500,000 $2,295,000; $2,625,000;

ah.. this must be where they got the "everything is a million dollars" from- since there were 4 properties sold in February that were a million or more.


At 3/23/2006 01:09:00 AM , Blogger moonvalley said...

My husband just read me this blog entry while I was searching up what those million buck palaces are renting for in Healdsburg...Surpise surprise....
1700 bucks gets one a sun splashed house in Healdsburg..a Queen Anne Cottage no less!! just call up Craigslist and go to Northbay..type in would have to have woodpeckers drilling parts in their hair to buy there right now

At 3/23/2006 01:40:00 PM , Blogger Athena said...

No kidding! The Press Democrat has a habit of filling their real estate "news" section with Informercials for local Real Estate office owners.

healdsburg is very pretty and all... but let's look at the data.

For the month of February Healdsburg sold 7 properties.

ummm... read that again. 7 properties for the month of February.

wooflippinghoo! 7 whole properties sold... why that is almost 2 a week... yay team.

The average days on the market for those 7 homes were 86 days.

boy they are just running in and scooping those babies up aren't they?

oh and median price is $532,000

average price is $566,071

so wait... I don't want to call anyone a liar or anything... but it doesn't really look like everything is over a million dollars now does it?

Sales price to list price was 96.60%

now... without checking I can't see if any of those list prices were reduced... or (gasp) even reduced more than once.

Sales were down from 02/05 -12.50%

the median price was down 1.4% and the average price was up 6.3%

looking at those numbers the Press Democrat Real Estate Infomercial doesn't really jive now does it?

At 3/23/2006 02:46:00 PM , Blogger Athena said...

ok... we have some discrepancies in the data. According to the figures released for February... the county record sales data there were 7 houses sold for Healdsburg in February.

However, I looked up the SFGATE real estate section's record of houses sold and there were 10


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