April 24, 2012 (Jeff Alan)

Monthly sales of existing single-family homes and condominiums in the San Francisco Bay area surged in March while a ten percent increase in home prices still wasn’t quite enough to surpass last year’s levels according to real estate information provider DataQuick.

A total of 7,694 new and resale homes were sold in March in the nine county Bay Area, which includes Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano and Sonoma Counties. That was 34.9 percent higher than the 5,702 home sales in February and 9.1 percent higher than the 7,051 sales posted in March of 2011. Year-over-year home sales have improved for nine consecutive months.

Home sales typically increase from February to March in the Bay area with last month’s sales still 12.7 percent below the historical average of 8,812 sales, but it was still productive enough to be the highest amount of sales for a March in five years.

Cash buyers accounted for 29.4 percent of the homes purchased for the month, down from a revised record of 31.5 percent in February and they paid a median price of $240,000 for their purchases, down from $242,000 the previous month.

Absentee buyers, usually investors and vacation home buyers, accounted for 24.2 percent of all sales, down from a revised 25.6 percent in February, paying a median price of $246,500 for the homes they purchased.

The median sales price for new and resale homes and condos in March increased 10.2 percent to $358,000, up from $325,000 in February. The median price was still 0.6 percent lower than in March of 2011, when the median price stood at $360,000. It was the 18th consecutive month that home prices have declined year-over-year.

By comparison, the lowest median price posted during the current real estate cycle was $290,000 in March 2009, while the peak median price was $665,000 in June/July 2007.

John Walsh, president of DataQuick, stated, “This is the time of year when buying patterns usually start to normalize. 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. 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.”

Distressed home sales accounted for 44.3 percent of the Bay Area’s re-sale market last month, down from a revised 48.8 percent in February. Foreclosure re-sales accounted for 24.9 percent of all existing home sales in March, down from a revised 26.4 percent in February, while short sales made up about 19.4 percent of the Bay Area’s existing homes sales last month, down from a revised 22.4 percent in February.

Tags: Bay Area, DataQuick, home sales, home prices, spring selling season, median sales price, new homes, re-sale homes