North Bay home down payments among highest in nation

Homebuyers in Sonoma County have been coming up with the proportionally largest down payments among the nation’s biggest metropolitan areas, but new owners in surrounding Napa and Marin counties are bringing forward even more sizable shares of cash to buy that new home.

The average down payment in the Santa Rosa metro area (almost $169,200) accounted for 31.5% of the home purchase price, topping 23.5% (nearly $82,000) in North Point, Florida, and 23.2% ($105,500) in Fort Collins, Colorado, according to recent analysis of mortgage data for the 150 largest U.S. metro areas. It ranked only the top large metro per state.

As for the dollar size of the down payment, Santa Rosa ranked fourth among the nation’s big metros, behind Santa Clara County ($235,200), San Francisco-Oakland ($202,600) and Santa Barbara County ($160,800) but ahead of Los Angeles ($152,300).

But down payments were as big or bigger in Marin and Napa counties, according to the data provider for the report. Marin County buyers in the past three months on average put down 38% ($310,100) to buy a home, with an average loan amount of $821,700, said Optimal Blue data provided to the Business Journal.

Coming up with that much cash is quite a feat in Marin, a market that had a median sale price of $1.65 million in September, according to the California Association of Realtors.

In Napa County, the average down payment was almost $205,000, or 29% of the loan amount, according to Optimal Blue. The Plano, Texas-based software company processes interest-rate-lock analyses for about 40% of mortgage originations nationwide.

In Solano County, the $105,800 average down payment put it on par with Fort Collins and Sacramento. The 21% down payment proportion of the Solano purchase price was just above the 20% level that generally exempts the buyer from mandatory mortgage insurance.

County Average loan amount Down payment Down payment as a percentage of sale price
Marin $821,694 $310,107 38%
Napa $718,649 $204,959 29%
Sonoma $537,145 $169,200 31.5%
Solano $501,736 $105,766 21%
North Bay average home mortgage amounts and down payments, August‒October, 2023 (Source: Optimal Blue)

The national average down payment in the third quarter of this year was 13.8%, down from 14.7% a year before,’s analysis found. That’s above the 6% average for 2022, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The minimum down payment for FHA-backed loans is 3.5%.

Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Reach him at or 707-521-4256.

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