Subscribe

North Bay real estate market improves in May as remote workers shop the suburbs

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Subscribe

Median sold price on single-family homes

Median sold price on single-family homes

Marin County: $1.36 million in April 2020

$1.37 million in March 2020

$1.35 million in April 2019

Napa County:

$750,000 in April 2020

$764,000 in March 2020

$705,000 in April 2019

Sonoma County:

$657,000 in April 2020

$694,000 in March 2020

$645,000 in April 2019

Solano County:

$482,500 in April 2020

$457,950 in March 2020

$435,000 in April 2019

Lake County:

$272,000 in April 2020

$275,500 in March 2020

$262,400 in April 2019

Mendocino County:

$395,000 in April 2020

$382,810 in March 2020

$418,500 in April 2019

Source: California Association of Realtors

Despite state and local shelter-in-place orders slamming the door on April home sales by at least 30% across California, North Bay real estate in the first part of May is experiencing a window of opportunity in number of sales and median prices.

The metrics released by the Compass real estate brokerage firm in the Wine Country indicates a dramatic turn upward from the end of April to May 17 for Marin and Sonoma counties. The Napa market was about the same.

Sonoma County has picked up at least 50 more listings on which offers have been made since April 27. Marin has almost doubled its number of homes listed, while Napa represents more of a seesaw recovery. Agents were allowed to first show vacant homes and now may bring prospective buyers into occupied ones.

Median sales prices have also stayed strong in the North Bay. Marin, Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties show a slight dip last April compared to March, the California Association of Realtors reported Monday. The only exception was Solano County, where listings have consistently gone up from year to year in April to $657,000 in April, the latest figures reveal.

According to the association, which represents 200,000 agents and brokers, the statewide median this April was $606,410 — down by about $12,000 from the month before, but up about $3,000 from the prior year.

“As expected, California home sales experienced the worst month-to-month sales decline in more than four decades as the coronavirus pandemic prompted stay-at-home orders, which kept both buyers and sellers on the sidelines,” association President Jeanne Radsick said in a statement.

The Bakersfield-area agent, who works in a city outperforming the rest of the state in affordability, warned the housing market could remain sluggish up and down the state.

However, the San Francisco Bay Area represents its own microcosm of the real estate world. Although its decline in home sales was lower than the state, the median price stayed high at $980,000 in April.

“We came into the year looking very strong,” said Compass agent and broker Carol Lexa, president of the North Bay Association of Realtors. Lexa provides the multiple listing service (MLS) data through the Bay Area Real Estate Information Services (BAREIS).

While January traditionally represents a slow month for real estate sales, 2020 ushered in a more favorable February than last year because of Mother Nature. In 2019, a deluge of winter storms kept people from listing or looking.

“People don’t want to put their houses on the market in the pouring rain,” Lexa said.

With the pandemic, “the whole world came to a stop,” she said. At first, real estate was not deemed an essential business. It later made the category in early April. But the various counties imposed different rules, leading to widespread confusion.

“We went through a baffling five weeks,” she said.

Consequently, the San Francisco Bay Area saw a 37.4% decline in home sales — the biggest drop in over a decade from March to April 2020 of 2020.

Since then, the housing market has been gradually progressing, according to Lexa.

“Buyers had to feel confident to come back,” Lexa said.

Lexa remains optimistic given certain trends that have emerged during the crisis.

For example, she said, many tech workers have discovered they can live anywhere, getting a taste of working from home during the pandemic. Some would relish the opportunity to live in more of a natural environment like the one the North Bay has to offer, Lexa noted. Since the pandemic began, Lexa has received interest from prospective buyers on the East Coast.

Median sold price on single-family homes

Median sold price on single-family homes

Marin County: $1.36 million in April 2020

$1.37 million in March 2020

$1.35 million in April 2019

Napa County:

$750,000 in April 2020

$764,000 in March 2020

$705,000 in April 2019

Sonoma County:

$657,000 in April 2020

$694,000 in March 2020

$645,000 in April 2019

Solano County:

$482,500 in April 2020

$457,950 in March 2020

$435,000 in April 2019

Lake County:

$272,000 in April 2020

$275,500 in March 2020

$262,400 in April 2019

Mendocino County:

$395,000 in April 2020

$382,810 in March 2020

$418,500 in April 2019

Source: California Association of Realtors

If you build the inventory, will they come and buy?

"It’s all really totally dependent on what the virus does. If we can keep the virus at bay and keep the (cases) down and people live by the protocols, then I think we look pretty good,” she said.

As the market picks up steam in late spring and early summer, Lexa anticipates the absence of the traditional slowdown of activity in July and August since people won’t be vacationing as usual.

“It’s possible we won’t have any quiet months,” she said of the summer season.

Other factors that help spur activity include plummeting interest rates to 3.23% for a 30-year fixed loan as of April 30. By contrast, rates averaged about twice that in 2007.

“This makes a huge difference, but they won’t stay that way,” Lexa insisted.

The coronavirus outbreak has both closed and opened doors for the North Bay housing market.

“People are leaving San Francisco and Silicon Valley and moving away. What the virus has done has thrown everyone into a ‘change’ mode. Real estate is one thing you change,” she said, equating change to surroundings.

Location, location, location

As for geographic considerations, Marin County has begun performing exceptionally well in the last few weeks since homes were being shown — especially in the luxury home market. Although the median dipped from March to April during the shelter-in-place orders, May’s prices have rebounded to $1.4 million.

“Even before the COVID-19 crisis happening, the pure fact that tech companies were opening more in San Francisco made Marin a much more viable place to purchase,” Greenbrae agent Thomas Henthorne told the Business Journal.

Marin County is joined by the cities of Napa and Petaluma with strong sales and prices because of the cities’ proximity to San Francisco.

“A majority of people are looking to move from the city,” Henthorne said. “People want to get out of the city and have space.”

The agent said he has been showing a number of homes with views and large lots to Bay Area tech workers wanting to move to the North Bay.

On the flip side, some are even leaving the state to find wide open landscapes while they cash out amid diminishing job prospects.

Rhonda Walls has put her Napa dream home up on the market for $1.8 million last Thursday to live in the rural West. She and her husband plan to check out Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

The international hospitality consultant saw her industry come to a screeching halt and thought it would be best “to set up for a successful retirement.”

Hence, the nature of selling a Bay Area home may quickly launch its occupants into retirement as they move into less expensive locales. The rural nature of western states outside California delivers a bonus to the move.

“I see myself in big open spaces,” she said.

Still, she admitted it wasn’t the easiest decision, when she considers all the tender loving care put into the home the couple bought two years ago. The couple’s flight from San Francisco occurred because she was able to work remotely and loved the views from her Lowrey Court home in Browns Valley.

“I like to think I’m a trend setter,” she quipped.

Her message to probable buyers seeking permanent remote work is simple.

“They’d be happy in my home,” she said.

Please read our commenting policy
  • No profanity, abuse, racism, hate speech or personal attacks on others.
  • No spam or off-topic posts. Keep the conversation to the theme of the article.
  • No disinformation about current events. Claims of "Fake News" will be delayed for moderation
  • No name calling. "Orange Menace", "Libtards", etc. are not respectful.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Emerald Report
Spirited Magazine