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Napa Valley/Sonoma Real Estate Preview: First Quarter 2012

Emma Crawford is a creative writer from Murray State University.  As an aspiring writer she specializes in writing about travel destinations and tourism.

Last year presented a mixed bag for Wine Country real estate. At the close of 2011, the economy in Napa County was considered to be “in recovery,” while parts of Sonoma County, especially Santa Rosa, have economies that are listed at risk, according to Moody’s Analytics.

Because the state of the economy dictates what happens in the housing industry, until folks get back to work and money begins flowing, the real estate markets will be steadier than they are striving. As mentioned earlier, Napa County, overall, did better last year than Sonoma County. In September of 2010, there were 600 short sales and foreclosures on the market. In September of last year, that number was 300.

Another figure that could drive potential buyers back into the market is rent rates going up throughout the area. Not only have Sonoma and Napa Valley rates gone up, but so have the average rates for San Francisco and Sacramento apartments as well. Napa Valley rental rates are up about four percent on average. Combined with the fact that mortgage rates are hitting record lows lately, this is a market driver to look out for in 2012.

Even more good news comes from the California Association of Realtors: more short sales are actually selling, instead of falling out of contract. There are a number of reasons for this but most agree that, because the short sale process is a bit more streamlined than in the past, more buyers are willing to take a chance on the process.

Banks are beginning to get smart and allowing more short sales. This could be because they’ve learned that foreclosed houses don’t sell for as much as short sale houses. In fact, in Sonoma County, the average foreclosed house sold for $36,000 less than the average short sale.

If you’re planning on listing your Sonoma County home for sale you may be interested in knowing that those listed under $300,000 are selling quicker than those listed for more. In fact, sales at this price, and below, are up 41 percent from last year. 

If you are looking to purchase Wine Country real estate, now could be the perfect time. The California Association of Realtors reports that, as of December, the median value of a Sonoma County home was $325,260, and in Napa County the average value is $344,830. 

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