Bay Area February home sales at five-year high

(Excerpts from Press Releases)
Last month’s Bay Area home sales bounced up a bit more off bottom, fueled in large part by investors with cash who were buying discounted properties in the lower half of the price spectrum. The median price paid for a home dropped year-over-year for the 17th month in row, a real estate information service reported.

A total of 5,702 new and resale houses and condos sold in the nine-county Bay Area in February. That was up 4.1 percent from 5,479 in January, and up 14.2 percent from 4,991 in February 2011. The year-over-year sales increase was the eighth in a row, according to San Diego-based DataQuick.

A January-to-February sales increase is normal for the season. Last month’s sales count, which got a lift from an extra business day thanks to the leap year, was the highest for a February since 6,305 were sold in 2007. It was 9.0 percent below the February average of 6,268 sales going back to 1988. The sales pace for most months last year was 25 percent to 38 percent below average.

“The market is still strange, just a little less strange than it was. We also need to keep in mind that, when it comes to statistical trends, February is the least typical month of the year. Over the winter you’re left with a higher concentration of investors and people who must buy or sell because of a major life event. In the spring, when many traditional buyers return, we’ll get a much better read on the market. Meanwhile, many potential buyers are still waiting for the lending spigot to open more. Drum-tight credit conditions continue to undermine housing, along with negative equity and the various uncertainties plaguing would-be buyers,” said John Walsh, DataQuick president.

The median price paid for all new and resale houses and condos sold in the Bay Area last month was $325,500. That was down 0.3 percent from $326,000 in January, and down 3.6 percent from $337,250 in February 2011. The median has declined on a year over year basis every month since October 2010.

The low point of the current real estate cycle was $290,000 in March 2009. The peak was $665,000 in June/July 2007. Around half of the median’s peak-to-trough drop was the result of a decline in home values, while the other half reflected a shift in the sales mix.

Last month distressed property sales – the combination of foreclosure resales and “short sales” – made up about half of the Bay Area’s resale market.

Foreclosure resales – homes that had been foreclosed on in the prior 12 months – accounted for 27.4 percent of resales in February. That was up from a revised 27.2 percent in January, and down from 32.6 percent a year ago. Foreclosure resales peaked in the current cycle at 52.0 percent in February 2009. The monthly average for foreclosure resales over the past 15 years is about 9 percent.


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