Bay Area Home Sales Rise Again; Median Price Up Slightly Over March

May 28, 2009


La Jolla, CA ----Bay Area home sales posted a year-over-year gain for the eighth consecutive month in April, with robust sales in lower-cost inland areas once again compensating for anemic sales on the coast. The median price paid, which is down 41.3 percent from a year ago, edged slightly above the prior month for the first time since fall 2007, a real estate information service reported.

A total of 7,139 new and resale houses and condos closed escrow in the nine-county Bay Area last month. That was up 12.9 percent from 6,325 in March and up 13.1 percent from 6,310 in April 2008, according to MDA DataQuick of San Diego.

Last month’s sales were the second-lowest for an April since 1995 and were 23.2 percent below the average April sales total back to 1988, when DataQuick’s statistics begin.

Foreclosure resales – homes sold in April that had been foreclosed on in the prior 12 months – accounted for 47.4 percent of Bay Area resales. That was down from 50.2 percent in March and 52.0 percent in February. Last month’s figure was the lowest since foreclosure resales were 46.8 percent of existing home sales last November.

A lower concentration of discounted foreclosure resales in the statistics is one reason the median sale price has recently begun to more or less flatten, or at least erode more slowly, in many markets.

The median price paid for all new and resale Bay Area houses and condos combined was $304,000 last month. That was up 4.8 percent from $290,000 in March but down 41.3 percent from $518,000 a year ago. The median stood 54.3 percent below the peak median of $665,000 reached in June and July of 2007.

The last time the median sale price rose from one month to the next was in October 2007, when it increased 1 percent from the prior month. The median slipped 1.7 percent from the prior month in both February and March, compared with an average month-to-month decline of almost 5 percent in the 12 months ending in January this year.

“For the past few months we’ve seen faint but growing signs that would normally suggest many markets are nearing price stabilization. But we’ll need to see those vital signs continue to strengthen into the fall. Job losses and historically high foreclosure levels continue to pose serious threats to housing stability,” said John Walsh, MDA DataQuick president. “In much of the Bay Area there’s the added problem of ‘jumbo’ loan financing still being relatively expensive and, for many, hard to get,” he continued. “A solution to that problem will no doubt be part of the kindling that eventually re-ignites the Bay Area’s high-end sales.”

Mortgages for more than $417,000 were used to finance 22 percent of the Bay Area’s home sales last month, compared with more than 60 percent before the credit crunch hit in late summer 2007. Home sales in many high-end areas, especially on the coast, remain at record or near-record-low levels.

In lower-cost communities, first-time buyers have turned to government-insured FHA mortgages, which represented a record 26 percent of all Bay Area home purchase loans in April, up from 3.2 percent a year ago. The combination of FHA financing, steep home price declines and low mortgage rates have fueled record or near-record-high sales this spring in many of the Bay Area’s most affordable, foreclosure-heavy communities.

San Diego-based MDA DataQuick is a division of MDA Lending Solutions, a subsidiary of Vancouver-based MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates. MDA DataQuick monitors real estate activity nationwide and provides information to consumers, educational institutions, public agencies, lending institutions, title companies and industry analysts.

Because of late data availability, sales and medians were estimated in Alameda and San Mateo counties.

The typical monthly mortgage payment that Bay Area buyers committed themselves to paying was $1,277 last month, up from $1,245 the previous month, but down from $2,463 a year ago. The payment assumes 20 percent down and a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. Adjusted for inflation, current payments are near an all-time low. They are 50.8 percent below typical payments in the spring of 1989, the peak of the prior real estate cycle. They are 63.6 percent below the current cycle's peak in July 2007.

The dramatic decline over the past year in the typical monthly mortgage payment, as well as in the region’s median sale price, can be misleading. In many cases it overstates the extent to which the typical home has lost value. Home price depreciation isn’t the only culprit driving down the median sale price, which is the basis for the typical monthly mortgage payment calculation. Another major factor tugging down the median price, hence the typical payment, is the unusually low level of high-end home sales, which are now under-represented in the Bay Area statistics. The median is the point where half of the homes sold for more and half for less.

Indicators of market distress continue to move in different directions. Foreclosure activity remains at historically high levels, while financing with adjustable-rate mortgages is at an all-time low, as is financing with multiple mortgages. Down payment sizes and flipping rates are stable, and non-owner occupied buying activity is above-average in some markets, MDA DataQuick reported.

Sales Volume Median Price
All homes Apr-08 Apr-09 %Chng Apr-08 Apr-09 %Chng
Alameda         1,240 1,457 17.5% $473,750 $289,197 -39.0%
Contra Costa    1,265 1,699 34.3% $395,000 $225,000 -43.0%
Marin           216 174 -19.4% $800,000 $585,000 -26.9%
Napa            100 99 -1.0% $499,000 $315,000 -36.9%
Santa Clara     1,440 1,606 11.5% $615,000 $405,000 -34.1%
San Francisco   605 402 -33.6% $750,000 $628,500 -16.2%
San Mateo       573 444 -22.5% $672,500 $520,000 -22.7%
Solano          429 717 67.1% $319,500 $180,000 -43.7%
Sonoma          442 541 22.4% $414,250 $290,000 -30.0%
Bay Area        6,310 7,139 13.1% $518,000 $304,000 -41.3%

Source: MDA DataQuick Information Systems,

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