SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) — Sonoma County home sales have plunged last month following a period of big demand after the wine country wildfires, the clearest sign yet of a housing market slowdown.
When last year’s wildfires destroyed some 5,300 homes in the county, it created a firestorm of demand for real estate as victims searched for places to live. Now, it looks like that demand has cooled.
After record home sales during the fire recovery, experts expected a correction – but last month’s numbers were stunning. Sales plunged to the lowest level for September since the housing market crash in 2007.
Last month there were only 357 sales out of all the 55,000 homes in Sonoma County.
The initial demand from fire victims drove prices so high that normal buyers gave up trying, according to Tony Rossi with Keller Williams Real Estate. Now, the market has three times its normal inventory.
“It’s a crazy phenomenon, but that’s where we’re at right now,” said Rossi.
It’s become a standoff. Buyers are waiting because they believe prices will come down and sellers still have high expectations left over from the frenzy 10 months ago.
“We’re waiting for the new normal,” Laura Hall of Terra Firma Global Partners. “So, where is the bottom, what are prices our sellers going to be realistically willing to accept? So there’s an adjustment period.”
Hall says one of her listings for just under a million dollars with all the modern amenities has gotten only one showing in 30 days.
“You’re talking, some people were writing 15, 18, 20 offers sometimes, just to get a house,” said Hall. “And now, which one do you want, you know?”
It’s been a long time since buyers felt they were the ones in the driver’s seat.
It seems like this could last a while, but there is this: most insurance companies only cover two years of rent for fire victims. So a year from now, a whole new round of buying could begin.
Experts says home sales seem to be slowing throughout the Bay Area but Sonoma County’s were exaggerated because of the fires. It’s believed the situation will help bring the market more into balance, which they say is better for everyone.