Bay area home sales, prices show rising trend

AP News
Posted: Dec 18, 2009 8:13 AM

Sales and prices of homes in the San Francisco Bay area appear to be stabilizing, with fewer foreclosures and more activity in pricier areas than a year ago, a tracking firm said Thursday.

San Diego-based MDA DataQuick said the median price for a home in the Bay area last month was $387,000, down slightly from October but up 10.6 percent from $350,000 in November 2008.

Sales also were up. A total of 6,878 new and resale houses and condos closed escrow in the nine-county Bay area last month, up 19.5 percent from 5,756 sales in November 2008.

DataQuick's survey covered Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano and Sonoma counties.

Sales in the higher-cost counties _ Marin, San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Mateo _ represented 42.3 percent of November sales, up from 35 percent a year ago, when sales were concentrated in the lower-cost inland areas steeped in foreclosures, DataQuick said.

"The latest stats show just how much the Bay-area market has changed in a year," said John Walsh, DataQuick's president. "Financial distress is still a problem with many borrowers, but for now, cheap foreclosures have lost their leading role in this housing drama."

Foreclosures accounted for 32.5 percent of all resales, down from 46.8 percent the same time last year. Foreclosure resales peaked at 52 percent of all resales in February this year, according to DataQuick.

But the long-term outlook for home values is still far from clear, according to Walsh.

"A lot of people sense lenders are holding back, and that there's at least one more round of foreclosures lurking around the corner," he said. "Combine that with less government stimulus in 2010, and it would threaten whatever price stability we see now."

Before its 4 percent annual gain in October, the median sales price hadn't risen on a year-over-year basis since November 2007, when it gained 1.5 percent, according to DataQuick. Last month's median was 33.4 percent higher than this year's low point, $290,000 in March.

Figures for Southern California, released by DataQuick on Tuesday, showed sales and prices inching higher last month compared with the same time last year. A total of 19,181 new and resale homes were sold in the six-county southland region, which includes Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties. That was up 14.7 percent from 16,720 for November 2008, DataQuick said.