Biz Buzz: Economy caused owners to sell homes

Lingering uncertainty about the economy and financial distress were key reasons why Californians sold their homes last year, according to a recent California Association of Realtors’ survey that examined why homeowners put their houses on the market in 2009.

Sixty-seven percent of sellers sold their homes because they had trouble making their mortgage payments.

The majority of sellers had adjustable-rate mortgages that were due to reset at the same time that home prices were falling, leaving homeowners with no equity and much difficulty in refinancing their loans, according to the association.

Most were influenced by the fact that their income was not keeping up with expenses. That was followed by their mortgages being too expensive and fear of job loss.

For the first time in the history of the survey, established in 2002, the percentage of townhomes and condominiums sold (55 percent) surpassed the number of single-family homes sold.

The percentage of primary residences sold also declined, from 79 percent in 2008 to 72 percent in 2009, while the percentage of investment properties sold increased from 17 percent in 2008, to 22 percent last year.

The percentage of those selling for the first time also grew to nearly half of all sellers (44 percent), a 33 percent increase from 2008 when they constituted only one-third (33 percent) of the total.

That’s also nearly three times the percentage from 2007, when they made up just 15 percent of the total.

The reasons for selling have changed considerably since 2006 and 2007, the survey said.

Then, sellers put their homes on the market because prices were appreciating, allowing people to trade up. Moreover, low interest rates were cited as a help in buying a larger home, and sellers were concerned that interest rates would increase.

— Julie Lynem

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A custom crush facility in Paso Robles, Zoller Wine Styling, recently medaled for 15 of its 15 entries at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, which judged more than 4,900 entries in January. Winemaker Signe Zoller, founder of Zoller Wine Styling, entered custom wines made for Twin Coyotes, Cuatro Dias, Barr Estate Winery, Cocavin, Leprino La Panza Ranch and Johansing Vineyards labels, as well as her own labels: Zoller Wine Styling and Gr8Ass. Zoller earned Best of Class for Twin Coyotes 2009 Vermentino and Zoller Wine Styling 2008 Primitivo, a Gold medal for Leprino La Panza Ranch 2007 Petite Sirah, and six silver and six bronze medals for 12 other wines.

— Julia Hickey