You would expect a county with a strong agricultural base and rapid residential development to have robust land sales. In fact, since July of 2005 there have been 171 Sonoma County land transactions valued over one million dollars, almost three transactions per month if you averaged them out evenly.
Life is never as simple as averages, however, and the timing of the sales shows the strong impact of the real estate bubble. 2006 was clearly the peak year for luxury land sales with almost 50 transactions valued at more than $100,000,000. By contrast, the sales volume for 2009, the lowest full year of the last five years, was for 16 transactions worth just under $30,000,000. 2010 is on track to match 2009 with 8 transactions valued at $22,000,000 so far.
The numbers only tell part of the story. If you’re a land shopper in the market for a high quality vineyard or wine country estate site, the distribution of luxury-level land sales can tell you where other savvy property investors are choosing to place their money. The geographic distribution of the sale tells you a lot about Sonoma County luxury real estate.
The chart (please click to enlarge) has a lot of insights buried in the columns. The first result to stand out for me is the strength of Healdsburg land sales. Healdsburg is called the gateway to the wine country with three major appellations beginning in Healdsburg (Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley, and Dry Creek Valley), but it’s a small town, comparable to Sonoma and Sebastopol in size. In spite of the small population Healdsburg luxury land sales lead all other cities in Sonoma County.
The second factor worth noting is the relative stability of the year to year luxury property sales in Healdsburg. There is no “down year” with drastically reduced sales or no sales at all. By contrast, Santa Rosa almost disappears from the chart for 2008 and 2009. Likewise, many of the smaller cities around the county may have had one or two sales in this luxury land price category in past years, but there is little pattern or consistency that would demonstrate a market for high value land.
I’m already at risk of boring readers who don’t like numbers and charts in this post, so I’ll stop while I’m ahead. The most important fact to remember from this data is that Healdsburg is a consistent home for real estate investors looking for high value land.