Cloverdale, Russian River and Sonoma Coast dominate Sonoma County home sales

Cloverdale, the Russian River and the Sonoma Coast — three areas unscathed by October’s devastating wildfires — together saw a jump in home purchases this year that nearly equals all sales in 2018 for Sonoma County’s residential real estate market.

The three regions each saw home sales increase by 40 percent or more in 2018 compared to a year earlier, according to The Press Democrat’s monthly housing report compiled by Pacific Union International senior vice president Rick Laws. Property owners in those communities together sold 59 more homes during the first four months of the year than in the same period of 2017.

In comparison, sales for the entire county grew by 61 homes during that period, an increase of 5 percent from a year earlier.

Several reasons are given for the increased sales in those areas. Some buyers may be looking farther afield after last fall’s deadly wildfires, which destroyed nearly 5,300 homes in and around Santa Rosa and the Sonoma Valley. Some owners apparently decided that record prices make for a good time to sell, even if it means leaving the county. And out-of-area buyers continue to seek second homes at the coast, the river area and Wine Country.

“We have several folks who were fire victims who decided to buy out here,” said Steve Hecht, a broker associate at Artisan Sotheby’s International Realty in Bodega Bay.

Most coastal sales still involve those purchasing second homes, he said, but the fire survivors “certainly had an impact” of the increased sales.

The county’s real estate market has recorded six years of rising prices in the aftermath of a national housing crash that began in 2007. During that tumult, the county’s median price hit a low of $305,000 in February 2009.

The median price ended April at $685,000, less than 1 percent below the record high of $689,000 set two months earlier in February. The price increased nearly 11 percent from a year earlier.

April ended with fewer than 680 homes for sale, an increase of nearly 2 percent from a year earlier. That total amounts to less than two months’ worth of inventory at the current sales pace, which is generally considered a sign of a seller’s market.

On a countywide basis, the market data look similar to last year, agents and brokers said. But the picture changes when the focus turns to individual communities within the county.

Laws called it significant that so many more homes have been sold this year in Cloverdale and along the Russian River.

“I think buyers are going out to wherever they can find affordable housing,” he said.

Ron Pavelka and his wife, Jane, are Pacific Union agents in Cloverdale, and he said many homeowners there have decided this year is the right time to place their properties on the market.

“We do have a fair number of people who are putting their homes up for sale and moving out of the county,” he said.

Susan Packer, an agent with Zephyr Real Estate Russian River in Guerneville, said most properties listed along the river are getting multiple offers this year. The buyers include fire survivors, retirees and commuters to the county’s Highway 101 corridor.