Napa County home sales fall dramatically in May

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Napa County home sales sank like a rock this May, dropping 54% compared to one year ago, the California Association of Realtors reported.

It's another sign of the continuing economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, said the association.

Only 158 locals listed their home for sale this May, compared to 260 in May 2019, reported Bay Area Real Estate Information Services, Inc.

Of those 158 homes listed this May, 72 were sold, compared to the 153 sold in May 2019.

The median sold price of a Napa County home also declined in May, but not as much as the number of homes sold. It cost an estimated $672,500 to buy a median-priced home in Napa County this May, compared to $725,000 one year ago, according to the California Association of Realtors.

"The sharp sales drop in May was the steepest we've seen in some time, but there are encouraging signs that show the market is recovering and should continue to improve over the next few months," said 2020 CAR President Jeanne Radsick.

"Buyer demand is on the upswing amid record-low rates that are making monthly mortgage payments $300 less than a year ago."

That's particularly true in Napa, said local real estate experts, especially for homes less than $1.1 million and in good condition.

"If it's priced reasonably and in good shape," most such homes are going into contract in seven to 10 days, said Ted Stumpf, a Realtor with Windermere Real Estate and current chairperson of the Napa Valley chapter of the North Bay Association of Realtors.

Those kinds of homes "are getting an inordinate amount of attention right now," said Stumpf.

Even facing COVID-19, the Napa County real estate market is healthy, said, Chris Wunderlich, a Realtor with Terra Firma Global Partners and past chairperson of the Napa Valley chapter of the North Bay Association of Realtors.

"We're seeing a lot of houses go into contract and our inventory is great," said Wunderlich.

Both Wunderlich and Stumpf are currently involved with one such Napa house. Located at 870 Paul Ave., the two-bedroom, one-bath house has been remodeled and is ready to be moved into. Listed by Wunderlich for $455,000 on Friday June 26, within three days the house was shown 16 times and received four offers.

"It's just a super cute little house," said Wunderlich. "Most of the entry-level houses you see need a lot of work. This was turnkey."

One offer came from a client of Stumpf's. A Napa woman looking to buy her first home temporarily stopped her search during the pandemic and has since resumed the process.

Stumpf said he hopes to know shortly if his client's offer had been accepted.

Located north of Lincoln Avenue near Yajome Street, the Paul Avenue house "truly fits the bill of 'in great shape and well-priced,'" he said.

His would-be buyer, who works in the wine industry, likes the charm and character of the older home, but also that it has modern amenities. She's also looking to take advantage of low interest rates, he said.

Stumpf said that normally spring is the busiest season for the real estate industry in Napa Valley.

"It's no different this year except we got cut off in the middle of that" by the shelter-in-home order and temporary ban on showing homes. Now that homes can be shown again, coupled with low interest rates, pent up demand is fueling the local market, he said.

"I think June results will show much differently; year-over-year we're not going to be down 54%. I think people are back on track."

For those thinking the pandemic means deals can be had, think again.

"There's not any coronavirus discounting going on," said Stumpf. "Maybe early on there was" for homes that had been listed pre-virus, or for those that had to sell, but not now.

Stumpf noted other factors he's seeing in the local market.

First, new listings are typically in great shape because many homeowners had time to make improvements during the shelter-at-home order.

Second, the increased amount of people now working from home means that there's been an influx of buyers coming into Napa from outside the area. These buyers may have jobs in the Bay Area but are realizing they don't need to live close to work.

Stumpf also said that today's buyers are more committed. They're serious, he said, "not real estate dabblers."

"The lookie-loos that love to look at homes for the sake of looking at homes are not out and about right now," said Stumpf. "They don't feel it's worth the risk. And we aren't able to hold open houses."

According to the CAR, California home sales fell to the lowest level since the Great Recession as the housing market suffered the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic in May and remained below 300,000 for the second straight month.

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 238,740 units in May, according to information collected by CAR from more than 90 local Realtor associations and multiple listing services statewide.

May's sales total was down 13.9% from 277,440 in April and down 41.4% from a year ago, when 407,330 homes were sold on an annualized basis. It was the second consecutive month that home sales dropped to less than 300,000 units.

Additionally, the year-to-year drop was the largest since November 2007, contributing to a year-to-date sales drop of 12.9%.

As housing demand fell in May, home prices dropped further, sending the statewide median home price below last year's price for the first time since February 2012 and breaking the state's 98-month year-over-year price gain streak.

The May statewide median price of $588,070 for existing single-family homes in the state was down 3% from April and down 3.7% from May 2019, when the median price was a revised $610,940.

"As we predicted, May home sales took the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic as much of the state remained in lockdown during the past few months and caused three straight months of double-digit sales declines, which we haven't experienced since the Association began reporting monthly home sales in 1979," said CAR Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young.

"While we expect sales activity to remain below pre-COVID-19 levels, closed sales will improve markedly as the phased reopening of the economy continues and consumers feel more confident returning to the market."

Reflecting the dramatic change in market conditions, a monthly Google poll conducted by CAR in early June found 40% of consumers said it is a good time to sell, up from 29% a month ago, but down from 51% a year ago.

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