Northern California's Housing Market Remains Frozen
The waiting game between northern California's Bay Area buyers, sellers and lending institutions continued last month as sales dipped below 4,000 for the second month in a row, a real estate information service reported Thursday. A total of 3,989 new and resale houses and condos sold in the nine-county Bay Area in February. That was up 11.2 percent from 3,586 in January, and down 36.7 percent from 6,305 for February 2007, DataQuick Information Systems said. January and February are the two slowest months in DataQuick's statistics, which go back to 1988. They are the only months with sales below 4,000. "The lending system has been in lockdown mode the last half year, especially when it comes to so-called jumbo mortgages which have traditionally been the majority of Bay Area loans," said Marshall Prentice, president at DataQuick. "With the Federal Reserve trying to pour Draino into the lending system, it will be interesting to see how things play out if jumbo financing does come back online. Theoretically, there could be enough pent up demand, enough catch-up activity at the high end, to result in a statistically bizarre record median home price," he said. The median price paid for a Bay Area home was $548,000 last month, down 0.4 percent from $550,000 in January, and down 11.6 percent from $620,000 in February last year. Last month's median was 17.6 percent lower than the peak median of $665,000 reached last June and July. Last month's median price would have been closer to $600,000 if the availability of jumbo home loans had remained stable, DataQuick said. A year ago, jumbos accounted for 59.8 percent of all Bay Area home loans; last month they represented just 28.9 percent. For more information, visit http://www.dataquick.com.