Home/Mortgages/Investors Help Push Bay Area Sales Higher, Prices Lower

January 20, 2012 (Jeff Alan)

Just like their brethren to the south, monthly sales of new and existing homes in the Bay area surged in December, fueled by a record percentage of sales to investors according to real estate information provider DataQuick, but the lower prices they paid for their purchases helped push overall prices down.

A total of 7,494 new and resale homes were sold in December 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 18.6 percent higher than the 6,317 home sales in November and 4.4 percent higher than the 7,178 sales posted in December of 2010.

Home sales typically increase 9.9 percent from November to December in the Bay area with sales varying from a low of 5,065 in 2007 to a high of 12,349 in 2003 with a monthly average of 8,643 sales.

John Walsh, president of DataQuick, stated, “We’ll remember 2011 as much for what didn’t happen as for what did. People put discretionary buying and selling on hold, except at the very top of the market. The spectacular gains in affordability, based on the combination of lower prices and ultra-low interest rates, was largely theoretical for many people because it was so hard to get a mortgage. That, combined with negative equity and economic uncertainty, kept people away.”

The median sales price for new and resale homes and condos in December fell 3.5 percent to $351,500, down from $363,500 in November. The median price was 6.3 percent lower than in December of 2010, when the median price stood at $375,000. It was the 15th 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.

Distressed home sales accounted for 49.6 percent of the Bay Area’s re-sale market last month, up from 45.9 percent in November. Foreclosure re-sales accounted for 28.6 percent of all existing home sales in December, up from 26.5 percent in November, while short sales made up about 21.0 percent of the Bay Area’s existing homes sales last month, down from 21.3 percent in November.

Foreclosure re-sales peaked at 52.0 percent in February 2009 while the rate of foreclosure re-sales has been about ten percent over the last 15 years.

Cash buyers accounted for 27.4 percent of the homes sold for the month, up from 27.1 percent in November, paying a median price of $215,000 for their purchases.

Absentee buyers, usually investors and vacation home buyers, accounted for a record 23.8 percent of all sales, up from 21.7 percent in November, paying a median price of $225,000 for the homes they purchased which was down from $250,000 in November. Sales of homes priced under $300,000, the primary market for investors, were 15.2 percent higher than they were a year ago.

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