May 11, 2012 (Shirley Allen)

Monthly sales of new and resale homes in the Seattle area followed seasonal spring trends in March, jumping over 33 percent from the previous month, while home prices continued to lag behind last year’s levels according to real estate information provider DataQuick.

A total of 3,909 new and resale homes and condos closed escrow in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro area in March. Sales were 33.2 percent higher than the 2,934 homes sold in February, and were 6.7 percent higher than the 3,663 homes sold in March of 2011.

Home sales in the region typically increase 37.6 percent between February and March but were still 24.0 percent lower than the historical average in the area for the month.

Cash buyers accounted for 22.3 percent of all purchases in March, which was down from 22.7 percent in February but up from 21.2 percent a year earlier. The median price that cash buyers paid for their purchases increased to $172,000, up 3.9 percent from February but 17.9 percent lower than in March of 2011.

Absentee buyers, usually investors and vacation home buyer’s, accounted for 20.6 percent of the homes sold in March, down from 21.1 percent in February. The median price they paid for their purchases fell to $165,000, down 0.6 percent from February and 17.9 percent lower than in March of last year.

The overall median price paid for new and resale homes and condos in March was $257,877, which was up 3.5 percent from February and down 3.1 percent from March of last year. It was the 20th consecutive month that year-over-year home prices have declined.

The current median price is 29.4 percent below the peak median price of $365,200 in June 2007.

Distressed sales accounted for 45.5 percent of the resale market in March with foreclosures accounting for 26.8 percent of the re-sales, down from 30.6 percent in February, while short sales accounted for 18.7 percent of the area’s re-sales, which was unchanged from February.

Foreclosure activity continued to improve in March with lenders foreclosing on 422 single-family homes and condos, down 17.4 percent from February and 65.5 percent from March of 2011.

Tags: DataQuick, existing home sales, Seattle, distressed properties, resale homes, condos, cash buyers, investors, median price