March home sales in California’s Bay Area reached their highest level for the month in five years, the result of lower prices, low interest rates and an improving economy.
About 7,700 new and resale houses and condos sold in the nine-county Bay Area in March, up 34.9% from 5,702 in February, and up 9.1% from 7,051 a year earlier, according to San Diego-based DataQuick.
The February to March sales jump is normal for the season, but the latter’s sales count was the highest for the month since 8,317 homes were sold in 2007. Since 1988, March sales have ranged from 4,898 in 2008 to 12,645 in 2004, with an average of 8,812.
“This is the time of year when buying patterns usually start to normalize,” said DataQuick President John Walsh. “And while the changes we’re seeing are incremental, they’re incremental in a positive direction. That said, there’s a long way to go.”
The median price paid for all new and resale houses and condos sold in the Bay Area in March totaled $358,000, a 10.2% increase from $325,000 in February, but down 0.6% from $360,000 in March 2011.
To put these figures in perspective, the low point of the current real estate cycle fell to $290,000 in March 2009, while the peak rose to $665,000 in June/July 2007.
Statewide median home prices posted their first year-over-year increase in 16 months. The California Association of Realtors members said tight inventory (4.1 months) throughout the state and particularly robust sales in the San Francisco Bay area helped fuel the price increase.
“Two of the big issues to watch closely are how fast distressed properties are being put on the market, and the availability of, or lack of availability of, mortgage financing,” DataQuick's Walsh said.
Distressed property sales, according to the firm, made up 44.3% of the resale market, down from 48.8% in February and 48.2% a year earlier.
Foreclosure resales accounted for 24.9% of resales in March, falling from 26.4% in February, and down from 31.5% in the year-ago period. Foreclosure resales averaged about 10% over the past 17 years.
Short sales made up 19.4% of Bay Area resales in the month, down from 22.4% in the previous month and up from 16.7% a year earlier.
Click on the image below for individual county home data.