Home sales in the greater Phoenix area rose 7.3% in March compared to the year prior, driven by a record number of absentee buyers. Research firm DataQuick reported 10,352 new and resale home and condo sales during March, up 44.3% from February. An increase in sales is normal between the second and third months of the year, DataQuick said, but Phoenix witnessed a bigger jump than normal this year. "On average, Phoenix-area sales have risen about 30% between those two months since 1994, when DataQuick’s complete Phoenix region statistics begin," the firm said in its report. "March’s sales were the highest for that month since 10,712 homes sold in March 2007." Home sales less than $100,000 represented 41.2% of all transactions during the month, which hurt home prices over all. The median sale price declined for the ninth consecutive month to $119,000. Absentee buyers accounted for almost half (47.1%) of all home sales in the Phoenix metro area in March, "the highest level for any month in more than a decade," DataQuick said. That is up from 46.1% in February and 39.8% in March 2010. Absentee buyers paid a median $99,220 per home. Distressed property sales heavily outweighed other property sales, with foreclosure resales representing 53.1% of sales and short sales representing 12.5% of sales. The median sale price of a new home in Phoenix hit $180,505 in March, down 6% from one year prior. Resale condos priced at a median $78,000, down 17% from March 2010 according to DataQuick. Approximately 1,300 condos were sold in March. Write to Christine Ricciardi. Follow her on Twitter @HWnewbieCR.