The credit crunch which began in late September has hammered our sales by 50% over the past 4 months. December Sales were the weakest in years accounting for only 183 transactionc closed. Couple this with the recent unsettled financial markets and we've got prime-time fence sitters!! The refinance market is kicking up a gear but we'll see how many applications pass the acid test of EQUITY. Many homeowners who purchase production housing in the newer housing communities on Santa Rosa's west side and all about the county, have seen prices slide dramatcially. Most of our short-sales and REO (real estate owned) activity are cratered in the NW,SW areas of Santa Rosa and in the newer communities of Windsor, Rohnert Park/Cotati and Petaluma.
Our current "Active" listing in Sonoma County is hovering around 2750 listings. We were at 1800 just 6 months ago and had some "marketing fatique" setting in with folks taking their homes OFF the market. But the foreclosures/short-sales/REO's all started to cycle through and our inventory reflects this as it has skyrocketed. It's interesting to note we have almost a 1/3 of these listings as being "vacant" and/or tenant occupied. We've got folks in the median and below price points who are suffering. Our median by the way has fallen under $500,000 to $460,000. First time in years for this number also. Those folks in a heap of trouble seem to be in this price point give or take a $100,000 grand.
Foreclosures are on the way up. 1996 seems to be the bench mark year for comparison for the media. At that time we had come off the wild and crazy market which cratered in 1990. It took a while to have effect. This last market has fallen not so gracefully. Now we happen to have 32,000 more folks living here in Sonoma County so the numbers must be factored in context to a larger population and bigger housing stock but you still can't get over the numbers of folks who are selling "short" of their loan amounts and the numbers of REO's now hitting the market.
Our existing housing stock is in the 8 month supply. CAR's (California Assoc. of Realtors) record was 26 months inventory back in the dreary 90's. Silver lining? How about affordability!? My last three escrows had price points as follows: $360,000, $300,000 and $230,000! These are prices which are totally alien to me!! We have not seen activity in these price points since the late 90's. Does this mean our prices have slipped to that level. NO!! As we all know, real estate is local and in this market its almost by Neighborhood! Two weeks ago while I'm working on those last three examples I'm showing homes in the 2-3Million price point!! Go figure!
Remember, here in Sonoma County we are a "destination" area. I was in Paris two years ago taking my CIPS courses (Certified International Property Specialist) and my fellow classmates, most from the continent, knew our County very well as our wine appelations and location to the Napa Valley are world reknown. Throw in our proximity to San Francisco (hour north), our stunning and rugged Coast and mediterraneans climate and you've got an area visited by international travelers and business folks. Throw in "Urban Growth Limits" which won't allow urban sprawl and a solidly "green" majority intent on preserving open space and you've got much to appreciate and a second home heaven.