Buyer’s market spurs deals |

Buyer’s market spurs deals

A year ago when the real estate market still bubbled, Kate Woolley, a single mother of three young children, could not afford a house of her own.

But with prices in Nevada County continuing to fall in a nationwide market decline and motivated sellers offering better-than-ever deals, Woolley will move into her own townhouse next week.

“This would have been impossible a year ago. This is huge for me,” Woolley said Wednesday.

Buyers like Woolley shine on the bright side of news that others might view as bleak.

In May, the median price for a house or condominium sold in Nevada County dropped slightly more than 5 percent to $460,000, down from $484,500 in May 2006, according to figures released by DataQuick Information Systems in San Diego and posted on the Web at

Placer and Sacramento counties also showed year-over-year declines, while El Dorado County rose less than half a percent, DataQuick reported.

Across California, the pace of sales continued to slow to levels not seen in a dozen years. The median price, however, rose 2.5 percent to $484,000, though markets showed wild swings from county to county, according to DataQuick figures collected from county recorder’s offices.

In the nine Bay Area counties, the median price for May rose 3.4 percent from the median a year earlier to $660,00. In Southern California counties, the year-over-year median for May rose 4.9 percent to $505,000, DataQuick reported.

In Nevada County, an older, three-bedroom house that once would have fetched more than $400,000 now sells for well under that bar. With more than three times the number of houses on the market than a year ago (see The Union’s interview with Nevada County Board of Realtors President Chauncey Poston), frustrated sellers are reaching out to buyers like Woolley with new incentives.

Some sellers are paying closing costs and offering to buy down interest rates to sell houses that have been on the market for a year or more. Those who fear foreclosure are slashing their prices.

That’s good news for buyers who can grab the opportunity a downturn offers.

Yet most middle-class buyers still face several hurdles to home ownership, one local Realtor cautioned.

No more treading water

A divorce and bad credit made it difficult for Woolley to get into a home during the hot market, she said.

“I haven’t really been able to keep our heads above water,” said Woolley, who works seven days a week as a real estate agent for Keller Williams in Grass Valley.

But in the cooler market now, Woolley will move her family into a new IronHorse townhouse with the help of no down payment and a lease option to buy the house.

Some sellers of high-end properties have dropped prices by as much as $300,000 after watching them stagnate on the market for more than a year, said Marilyn Seolas of RE/MAX Advantage.

Chuck and Jill Ragan, both in their early 30s, searched for two years and walked through an estimated 100 county houses before finding the right one in Grass Valley to call home, they said.

That patience and diligence paid off, Chuck Ragan said.

“It kind of worked in our favor that we had such bad luck at first. We found ourselves in a buyer’s market,” Ragan said.

Still a way to go

Potential buyers still face monthly payments on prices twice as high as a few years back. Police officers, nurses and teachers who live in the county continue to have trouble purchasing a home, Seolas said.

More barriers could lie ahead.

“Prices are coming down, but interest rates are creeping up,” Seolas added.

Interest rates are hovering at 6.5 percent to 7 percent and are expected to rise, she said. When Seolas entered real estate 26 years ago, rates were as high as 18 percent – but homes cost far less.

Without a foot in the door or someone such as a parent to help out with a down payment, many struggle to get into the housing market while trying to keep up with the high cost of living, Seolas said.

“Somewhere in here, we have to hit a happy medium,” she said.


To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail laurab@ or call 477-4231.

Median real estate prices in Nevada County

May 07 May 06 % change

Nevada County $460,000 $484,500 -5.06

Grass Valley $410,000 $405,000 1.23

Nevada City $450,000 $487,250 -7.64

Penn Valley $405,000 $412,000 -1.7

Truckee $617,750 $600,000 2.96

” Source: DataQuick Information Systems

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