Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Update on Sonoma County from a Reader

I have been asked on numerous occasions to cover Sonoma and Napa counties. If I had a lot more free time and if I knew those counties well enough then I would. But as it is, I cannot.

One gracious reader from Sonoma, who goes by the moniker "Athena", asked me whether I would post her observations on the Sonoma real estate market. I agreed (but please be advised that I am not going to make a habit of posting other people's stuff). Here it is with only minor editing for a few spelling mistakes and grammatical snafus. I find her observations near the end of this post to be insightful:

I am curious about the insulation of Sonoma from not only not accepting the unreality of their real estate bubble, but from not having a bright spotlight shining directly on it. There are various statistics out there about the amount of speculation buying that has been done in the last several years, and there are also staggering stats regarding the number of Interest Only ARM loans that have been used to purchase properties. It seems there is no neat and clean way to gather data on the real state of real estate in Sonoma but here is what I have found.

Just doing some snooping on foreclosure.com (saw on another blog) and checked my area - Sonoma (95476)
247 properties listed
2 in full foreclosure
46 in preforeclosure
26 in bankruptcy
2 FSBO
171 tax lien

On the GMAC real estate site it shows 200+ properties listed for sale, and wonders of all wonders - many of these properties correspond to the listings for sale. Hmmm…. given that Sonoma (95476) has an Average Household Income of a whopping $46,149 and median value of homes in 95476 according to zillow is: $686,585 I wonder how many of these are folks who jumped into the deep end of the Housing McDebt Party Pool?

Of 174 single family homes listed on the GMAC MLS there are 45 price reductions:

Price Reduced: 02/10/06 — $2,275,000 to $1,975,000
Days on Market: 24
193 GUADALUPE DR, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 02/07/06 — $629,000 to $619,000
Days on Market: 36
435 JACEY ST, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 01/26/06 — $599,950 to $589,950
Days on Market: 38
111 W MACARTHUR ST, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 01/18/06 — $450,000 to $430,000
Price Reduced: 02/13/06 — $430,000 to $410,000
Days on Market: 40
18817 RAILROAD AVE, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 01/19/06 — $649,000 to $644,500
Price Reduced: 02/01/06 — $644,500 to $639,500
731 5TH ST E, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 01/03/06 — $875,000 to $849,950
Price Reduced: 01/09/06 — $849,950 to $849,444
Price Reduced: 02/01/06 — $849,444 to $799,444
Days on Market: 49
Days on Market: 41
609 ROSS CT, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 01/06/06 — $849,950 to $829,950
Price Reduced: 01/17/06 — $829,950 to $799,950
Days on Market: 62
17660 17662 MIDDLEFIELD RD, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 02/02/06 — $1,140,000 to $1,095,000
Days on Market: 62
304 DECHENE AVE, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 01/26/06 — $659,000 to $639,000
Days on Market: 69
18585 MANZANITA RD, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 12/20/05 — $740,000 to $729,000
Price Reduced: 02/07/06 — $729,000 to $699,000
18677 MELODY LN, Sonoma, CA 95476**
Price Reduced: 02/06/06 — $649,000 to $629,000
1385 BAINBRIDGE LN, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 12/13/05 — $710,000 to $675,000
Price Reduced: 01/03/06 — $675,000 to $670,000
Price Reduced: 02/09/06 — $670,000 to $669,000
Days on Market: 84
1343 E NAPA ST, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 01/17/06 — $1,368,000 to $1,295,000
Price Reduced: 02/13/06 — $1,295,000 to $1,268,000
Days on Market: 87
18015 HARVARD CT, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Days on Market: 75
Price Reduced: 02/04/06 — $775,000 to $750,000
Days on Market: 88
970 GLENWOOD DR, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 01/10/06 — $679,000 to $665,000
Days on Market: 89
Days on Market: 72
535 MITCHELL WAY, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 01/16/06 — $799,000 to $775,000
Price Reduced: 01/26/06 — $775,000 to $750,000
Days on Market: 89
919 1ST ST W, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 02/01/06 — $415,000 to $405,000
Days on Market: 93
910 ARGUELLO CT, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 01/06/06 — $649,500 to $629,500
Days on Market: 96
920 5TH ST #M, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 11/16/05 — $425,000 to $389,000
Price Reduced: 01/16/06 — $389,000 to $373,000
Days on Market: 104
215 DEPOT RD, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 01/10/06 — $565,000 to $525,000
Days on Market: 105
16880 ESTRELLA DR, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 02/02/06 — $997,000 to $950,000
Days on Market: 110
17930 SPRING ST, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 12/08/05 — $499,000 to $484,000
Days on Market: 117
16737 SONOMA, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 11/29/05 — $635,000 to $599,000
Days on Market: 117
832 2ND ST W, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 11/15/05 — $545,000 to $525,000
Price Reduced: 01/13/06 — $525,000 to $510,000
Days on Market: 117
600 OMAN SPRINGS CIR, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 11/08/05 — $669,000 to $654,000
Price Reduced: 11/16/05 — $654,000 to $639,000
Price Reduced: 01/09/06 — $639,000 to $619,000
Days on Market: 119
846 848 3RD ST, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 11/18/05 — $897,000 to $875,000
Price Reduced: 01/17/06 — $875,000 to $850,000
Days on Market: 119
19177 ARNOLD DR, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 12/05/05 — $625,000 to $599,999
Days on Market: 121
17313 PARK AVE, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 01/31/06 — $599,999 to $589,999
Days on Market: 124
162 W AGUA CALIENTE RD, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 01/09/06 — $368,000 to $364,900
Days on Market: 129
842 W 2ND ST, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 12/06/05 — $549,000 to $539,000
Days on Market: 132
49 S TEMELEC CIR, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 01/19/06 — $589,000 to $569,000
Price Reduced: 02/08/06 — $569,000 to $549,000
Days on Market: 138
399 DAHLIA DR, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 01/31/06 — $545,000 to $539,000
Days on Market: 139
17178 SONOMA HWY, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 12/02/05 — $385,000 to $375,000
Price Reduced: 01/06/06 — $375,000 to $329,000
Days on Market: 147
980 RACHAEL RD, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 11/22/05 — $2,495,000 to $2,375,000
Price Reduced: 01/16/06 — $2,375,000 to $2,345,000
Days on Market: 152
140 ENCINAS LN, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 11/30/05 — $510,000 to $500,000
Price Reduced: 01/30/06 — $500,000 to $495,000
Days on Market: 153
511 BAINES AVE, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 11/11/05 — $535,000 to $510,000
Price Reduced: 11/30/05 — $510,000 to $495,000
Price Reduced: 01/12/06 — $495,000 to $479,500
Days on Market: 156
17023 SUMMER MEADOW LN, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 11/14/05 — $1,249,000 to $1,149,000
Days on Market: 158
12 WOODWORTH LN, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 02/10/06 — $399,000 to $379,000
Days on Market: 159
107 PINE AVE, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 02/06/06 — $479,000 to $469,000
Days on Market: 181
715 BOYES BLVD, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 11/14/05 — $879,000 to $849,000
Price Reduced: 02/08/06 — $849,000 to $799,000
Days on Market: 181
18395 BARRETT AVE, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 01/30/06 — $579,000 to $569,900
Days on Market: 190
17135 SONOMA HWY, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 01/05/06 — $629,000 to $600,000
Days on Market: 201
290 SERRES DR, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 01/03/06 — $1,650,000 to $1,595,000
Days on Market: 257
1901 FREMONT DR, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 02/02/06 — $2,950,000 to $2,650,000
Days on Market: 264
16743 SONOMA HWY, Sonoma, CA 95476**

Price Reduced: 11/29/05 — $635,000 to $599,000
Days on Market: 482


Other interesting facts:
Homes sold first 7 weeks of 2006 = 56
Homes sold first 7 weeks of 2005 =67

According to zillow.com home prices in the 95476 zip code have gone up:
2% in the last 30 days
43% in the last year
138% in the last 5 years
275% in the last 10 years


County facts:
According to Dataquick- Sonoma has the lowest affordability of all Bay Area counties - 7%

PRESS DEMOCRAT: Bank regulators describe a boom area as one where home prices rise more than 30 percent after inflation for three years. In Sonoma County, inflation-adjusted prices in the past three years are up 55 percent. Regulators claim far more U.S. regions are booming simultaneously today than at any time in the past 30 years. What’s the potential downside of the housing boom?

There seems to be some roundabout denial there in Sonoma. I was having a conversation with my finance major fireman friend about the denial - where the person who owns a sh**box in Boyes Springs 800sq ft. of nothingness with virtually no space between the walkway and the fence thinks it is worth half a million dollars!!! LOL… he said that Sonoma is the new Sausalito. I did laugh out loud there. Gave him a comparison of the demographics and he still didn't believe me. It seems many in Sonoma really aren't going to notice the tide is changing until it sweeps them out to sea.

Sonoma is a small town. The GMAC MLS with condos, SFH, land and MFH shows 200+ listings for sale, SFH alone there are 174. 45 price reductions…. sounds like some are catching on - but those only taking their prices down by 10k just are never going to get it.

Probably one reason they are capable of cognitive dissonance and can ignore the for sale signs all over the place, not to mention the for rent signs literally parked on lawns and propped on sidewalks is that they have a sense of entitlement now…. these things are not a sign of a weakening market… these things are reassurance that those entitled to their profits are seeking them… hence the sale signs. ;-) Good luck to them. Part of their insulation I think is that there is no media spotlight shining on them - and few of them are seeing these numbers in real time… the Index Tribune certainly isn't going to be printing these things…. hmmm…. maybe it is time for a Sonoma housing Bubble blog?

I think right now they are still drinking their kool-aid; the real estate folks and the wannabes alike are still saying: “get in now before you are priced out forever. Properties are only going up. Look at the whole east side, nothing below 800k, better get into this rat hole in the alleyways of Boyes Springs at 500-700k before they go up too…”

My friend bought one of the only tolerable places in the alleyways for $379k a year and a half ago - and now is proud that it has been appraised at $511k (as he found out when he refinanced for improvements). To his credit he did do some nice improvements, however, lets think this over now… what do you have to make to qualify for a traditional loan? Put down 20% so put down 100k and then have a mortgage for 30 years? You would still need a six figure income… and if you have a six figure income do you WANT to live in the rat hole alleyways of Boyes Springs?

Oh right… nobody bothers with those pesky traditional loans anymore… it is all about I/O ARMs…. LOL… ok so according to some of the statistics I have seen that since 2001 anywhere from 61%-82% of the properties bought in Sonoma are these exotic loans… meaning likely that these properties were bought by people who couldn't afford the price of the home any other way.

Originally, in the late 90’s to early 2002 with the telecom/tech companies moving into the area folks were selling peninsula, SF and Silicon Valley homes and finding the housing prices too “affordable” meaning they made too much money on their greater Bay Area house and couldn't buy enough house in Sonoma. (What a nice problem to have) ;-) Anyway, this was not an uncommon problem which lead to a bit of speculation - estimates I have heard but not validated is that since 2001 30% of properties were speculator/investor purchases… which lead to the price increases and the social psychology of those service industry workers and blue collars to fear never owning their own home, so selling their souls to the mortgage industry and voila… a bubble was born.

For the last couple years what I have noticed is owners who bought and sold in a year or two and moved their family to a bigger home and felt that the equity they “earned” was worth it - so there were a lot of trade ups. The tech industry hit bottom in 2002 in the Sonoma area - and there were fewer and fewer people moving there as there are few jobs not service industry, retail, mortgage, construction industry related. There are not a plethora of six figure jobs available in the area. It is not an easy commute from there to anywhere, not even in the same county. The prices in Sonoma are now fairly comparable to all other greater Bay Area locations, so no longer is there a middle class who can sell their house and not find enough house to buy in Sonoma.

The people who have sold their soul to the I/O should start showing themselves soon and when they can't afford the payments on their houses will likely start flooding the market with their listings. I suspect by the number of for rent signs all over the place the speculators are trying to stop bleeding cash…. rents are not really that high in the area. You can rent a 3br. 2ba house for under 2000. Though there is one house for rent that they are asking $2500 (LOL) - good luck trying to get a nice bottling line production worker to pick up that tab. :-)

With the restrictions in lending that I see coming, fewer and fewer people will be able to act on their urge to follow the herd… I think it will be a while yet until the sellers catch on that their house ISN’T really worth what they are asking for it - and they don't really have a viable and predictable market for their homes. I think they have used up most of the demand and it will take having their houses sit and sit before they realize something is wrong.

But then again… Like I said - for some reason even though Sonoma is the least affordable place with only 7% able to afford to buy a house - it is not being talked about, and the talk of the town is still buy buy buy before you are priced out….

I think a little exposure to the numbers will dry up their kool-aid supply. ;-)

12 Comments:

Blogger moonvalley said...

Marineite,
thanks soooo much for posting Athenas' comnts. I have been one of those wishing for a Sonoma RE blog.
I find what Athena says to be painfully true. Every time I open my mouth about what I see and believe regarding what's going on with housing prices, all of my friends, and I do mean all of them,say.."oh, but not here. Never here.This is Sonoma"
I cannot tell you how my husband and I have been urged, badgered pushed by our friends to jump into this crazy market with both feet. They can't understand why we're waiting. They want us to buy like yesterday.
My family has lived inSonma for 20+ years, I'm a 5th generation San Franciscan. My entire family is blue collar, firemen etc. I happen to work in the movie business, I'm a writer. I can work from home and after renting a place up here in Sonoma and going back and forth for a number of years, we dumped the LA place and are renting here waiting to buy. Yes, we could most likely get something right now, but why? I know the true value of most of these houses. I know that what's selling for 700 or 800k or even a million was worth barely 200k just a few short years ago. The town is lousy with speculators and flippers, using the "infill" rules to jam oversized houses into former agricultural plots. Most of these people, haven't the slightest idea of what they're doing. Their greed has forced other people to stretch beyond their means to try and get into a house. Many of those people will lose those houses in a few short years. Ultimately, Sonoma is the ultimate loser.
I don't know when the people here will wake up to the inevitable and realize that this is not a "special" place immune from the ups and downs of the market. Whenever I hear their protestations I always think that they must be so overextended fromusing the house as an ATM that it's mere whistling past the graveyard.

Feb 15, 2006, 8:49:00 PM  
Blogger Marinite said...

Their greed has forced other people to stretch beyond their means to try and get into a house.

Therein is a big part of the problem. And recently, people even feel entitled to a profit.

I don't know when the people here will wake up to the inevitable and realize that this is not a "special" place immune from the ups and downs of the market.

Pretty much all the articles that I have read where local residents of some town are asked about the housing market, they all say the same thing "we are special and immune because of X, Y, Z; every one wants to live here" -- the bubble is always somewhere else; someone else's problem. Pathetic.

Patience will be rewarded in the end I think and the difficulties caused by other people's greed on a massive scale will be reversed.

Feb 15, 2006, 9:06:00 PM  
Blogger fishtaco said...

I think Athena's thoughts could apply to one of any small to medium sized cities in CA. Davis, Monterrey, Santa Cruz, etc. The middle class are (or have been) being squezed out. Where will they go?

When I moved to Davis (Yolo county) we looked at a two nice houses. The new landlord (4th grade teacher) had sold in Berkeley and bought two houses in Davis. I mentioned that her rent was a bit high and we found a better house down the street for 300 less. They said that they would be in the red every month at their price and therefore couldn't go lower. These two houses are two less houses available to families who want to live in a great family town. And so it goes until this thing go boom. All the while I feel blessed and somewhat perplexed to rent a nice house in a simple community with a great school district at 37% of what the housing payment would be.

Feb 15, 2006, 10:05:00 PM  
Blogger marin_explorer said...

I know that what's selling for 700 or 800k or even a million was worth barely 200k just a few short years ago.

Those numbers suggest a lot of money was attracted to Sonoma for the short term. It's one of the few towns I've seen people drive around in Daimler Maybachs. Sonoma's a nice town and all, but personally I don't get it: what's driving all that inherent worth? For the record, I could say the same about many Marin towns, particularly the "prime" areas. Even "nice" can be overvalued.

The people who kept calm and didn't buy into this madness will be ahead when everything comes crashing down.

Feb 15, 2006, 11:40:00 PM  
Blogger moonvalley said...

It's one of the few towns I've seen people drive around in Daimler Maybachs.
I just Googled Daimler Maybach having never heard of one before...yes, I've seen that car around town...I thought it was some kind of Ford or Jaguar made by Ford. Hmm, guess I should be impressed.
I really want to thank Athena for posting all the information on Sonoma, and I hope that she'll add a bear friendly blog on our town .
My husband and I were invited to a film event in Sonoma a couple of months ago, where we found ourselves surrounded by flippers, lots of paper fortunes. One man said to me, "well, there are two types of people in this town the people who were here before 1990 and us" I guess he didn't realize to whom he was speaking, as I remarked that all my friends and my husband and myself were those "other people". I will be so glad when this whole house of cards comes down.

Feb 16, 2006, 12:55:00 AM  
Blogger Athena said...

Thanks you all. It is definitely a pet peeve of mine to see the insulation around the bubble heads in sonoma. I am 4th generation Sonoma and it is definitely personal to me to see streets full of empty houses, overvalued chitboxes, and people who ordinarily would be smart cookies running around touting this real estate utopia line like it is in the water or something.

I have started a Sonoma blog- I am less interested in county information and more interested in Sonoma in particular, but will try to have a blend of both. I would welcome all participation.

http://www.sonomahousingbubble.blogspot.com

it is an infant and hopefully I will have time to add more this weekend.

Thanks Marinite for the spotlight. I wouldn't have even known to do this without your support and advice.

Feb 16, 2006, 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Marinite said...

Athena -

I have published a link to your new blog over in the right hand column of this blog.

My only other piece of advice is "don't let the turkeys get you down".

Feb 16, 2006, 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger sf jack said...

Yeah, that 7% affordability is a killer. That's going to bite some people in the ass someday. And I thought that was the worst number in California, not just the Bay Area.

In any case, a neighbor of mine in SF is a Sonoma native. This guy is worldly and smart and all that (of course, as we all know, everyone in the Bay Area possesses above average intelligence, is attractive, wealthy and sophisticated) and he and I have discussed the bubble, its macroeconomic implications and such, on occasion over the past year.

He thinks Sonoma-ites are at least as likely, and probably more so, than any other Bay Area locals to be what I have called "financially self-delusional" (this affliction appears to have an especially acute strain around here). The idea that they are capable of turning a blind eye toward the realities of their personal financial situation, and for whatever reason(s), end up taking a flyer on buying a home or what have you. "In way over their heads", that kind of thing...

Of course, there's no fact or statistic or anything to explain what he says or what I see.

But perhaps, I think, that affordability number has some aspect of "financial delusion" just "baked" right into it.

I suppose time will tell.

Feb 16, 2006, 5:15:00 PM  
Blogger Marinite said...

Like our 10% is any better.

Feb 16, 2006, 5:47:00 PM  
Blogger marin_explorer said...

He thinks Sonoma-ites are at least as likely, and probably more so, than any other Bay Area locals to be what I have called "financially self-delusional" (this affliction appears to have an especially acute strain around here). The idea that they are capable of turning a blind eye toward the realities of their personal financial situation...

It's an endemic neurosis of the SF Bay, probably contracted from an influx of yuppity professionals to that county. Anyone who has observed Silicon Valley for the past few decades will recognize their cycles of "get-rich" entrepreneur mania and post-peak gloom. If the past is any indication, we'll see real estate become as unpopular as dot-com sock puppet stocks.

Feb 17, 2006, 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Athena said...

SF Jack the 7% WAS the worst on California, yet the tiny little hamlet just ducked its head and pretended it was never heard!

That is unreal to me. I think the bay area in general thinks it is special, but in Sonoma in particular I think their fingers are stuck in their ears, and they tell themselves the FOR RENT signs on the SIDEWALKS are just confirmation of how desirable it is to live there- and the FOR SALE signs popping up like dandelions are "proof" in their delusional minds that SOMEONE has to sell their house because EVERYONE wants to live there.

I think I said it before- I am 4th generation Sonoma, but work in the south bay. I have had at least two conversations a day with people I work with, or friends down in SillyValley and this is their favorite topic.

At dinner last night in Burlingame my friend and I were laughing at the number of Hummers that went by and each one that passed we tried to guess the balance of their mortgage. :-D

Nobody owns anything anymore and that is a favorite topic of many people I see on a daily basis. Um... er... until I get home to Sonoma.

I feel like I enter the twilight zone as I cross the county line, and once again back to the land of Oz, and pay no attention to the realtor behind the bubble. Real Estate always goes up, buy property, take real estate licensing courses, get rich and get ready to retire.

Oh pishaw!!! "don't quit your day job" is all I have to say to them.

grrrr....

Feb 17, 2006, 9:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice blogsite,

I have lived in Santa Rosa during the late 80's early 90's before moving to New England. It was kind of funny, me and my brother drove by the old house around the year 1997 and commented how small and dingy the house was.

Funny thing, I went to zillow.com recently and was shocked that same house got valued at $550 K. This house was bought new by my parents at 120K in 1986. I remember Sonoma County as being an agricultural area, can't imagine how in the world anyone can afford to live there. Here in MA we are also dealing with a price bubble. I bought a house here for a reasonable 350K, 0.25 acre lot in nice area, but have to deal with age of the home, and harsh winters, plus being a bit far from Boston (outrageous cost of living).

It's amazing to see how the press handled the issue of real estate. They always report of growing equity, easy financing and the such. They don't report the human cost of the rise in real estate prices. In my case I was a first time homebuyer (barely got into a trad mortgage, thank god). I considered moving back west to places like Sonoma, Las Vegas. However, the job prospect in Sonoma didn't look so hot. In Vegas, the real estate price shot through the roof in 2 years (400K for a cookiecutter stucco ShBox, no thanks). Ended up staying in MA for family reasons, guess I'll take the winters for now. I have had friends that moved out of the state to find cheaper areas. I'm not sure if the same thing is happening in Sonoma County.

I guess I wonder how the press will handle the human factor of people's equity being wiped out with any correction in home prices. Maybe they'll say, "It'll pick up soon, housing prices always goes up!"

Mar 10, 2006, 5:18:00 PM  

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