Bay area foreclosed property sales rose for the fifth consecutive month in December to the highest point since March of last year, indicating consumers in Northern California are looking for a bargain when they shop for homes. According to San Diego-based information firm DataQuick, 30.8% of total resales in the Bay area were attributable to foreclosure inventory, up from 28.6% in November. Compared to the same month in 2009, however, foreclosed resales were down from 32% of all sales. This type of home sale peaked in February 2009 at 52% of all sales that month. Overall, the number of new and resale houses and condos increased month-over-month in December, up 17.5% from November, but down 8.3% from a year earlier. A total of 7,178 homes were sold last month, according to DataQuick. The firm said it's the historic norm for sales to rise between November and December in the Bay area. "Every period of market activity has its own set of characteristics, especially in the Bay Area," said John Walsh, president of DataQuick. "Right now, most of what we’re seeing are distress sales and bargain hunting, with a smattering of discretionary buying." DataQuick reported the median home price in the area was $375,000 in December, down 1.3% from both November and the year earlier when the price was $380,000. The rate of sales exceeding $500,000 hit their lowest point since last February at 33.2% of all sales down from 36.3% in November. The median sale price in San Francisco was $617,000 (down 5.1% compared to a year ago), while the median home price in Santa Clara was $460,000 (down 3.2%). Homes in Napa sold for an average of $310,000, down 12.9% from 2009. Of all mortgage loans originated in the Bay area during the month, 9.1% were adjustable-rate mortgages, 31.3% were jumbo nonconforming loans, and 23.7% were government-insured loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration. Walsh said the market is likely to remain stagnant until lenders loosen their underwriting standards. "There’s a lot of pent-up supply and demand out there, which will start to meet when the lenders re-open their spigots a turn or two," he said. Write to Christine Ricciardi. Follow her on Twitter @HWnewbieCR.