The Bay Area last month recorded its second-lowest total of home sales for a February in 15 years.
The nine-county region last month logged the sale of 4,987 houses and condos, according to MDA DataQuick of San Diego. Since 1995, the only February with a lower sales total occurred in 2008, which saw a record-low 3,989 homes sold.
Since 1988, February sales for the region have averaged 6,413 homes. A year ago MDA reported 5,032 homes sold. The figures include both new homes and those that were sold again.
February’s median sales price rose 1.1 percent from January to $354,000. That was up 20 percent from $295,000 a year earlier.
“The sales and price data remain choppy, with more ups and downs and inconsistencies than we’d typically see,” said John Walsh, MDA DataQuick president.
“It’s partly the season – January and February are often atypical and don’t serve as good barometers,” Walsh said. “But it’s more than that. The market remains fundamentally off kilter. There’s still relatively little lending going on in the upper price ranges, and little adjustable-rate financing, which had been vital to the Bay Area. Investor and cash-only deals remain well above normal, as does the level of sales involving distressed property.”
Walsh called the housing market’s outlook “murky.” He said what happens next to prices will depend largely on three factors: “The market’s response as the government reduces its housing stimulus, the economy’s ability to gain traction, and the decisions that lenders and borrowers will make in countless distress cases. The key question is how much more distressed inventory is coming, and when.”
Other February highlights:
– Foreclosure sales made up nearly 37 percent of all homes resold, up from the 32 percent last fall but well below the peak of 52 percent a year ago.
– Home sales above $500,000 made up nearly 32 percent of all transactions, compared to nearly 24 percent a year ago.
– Adjustable-rate mortgages make up slightly less than 8 percent of purchase loans. The 22-year monthly average is 47 percent.
– Mortgages above $417,000 — formerly defined as jumbo loans — made up 26 percent of all purchase loans. That compares with 60 percent of loans before August 2007.

— Robert Digitale