Bay Area home sales in April reached their second-lowest level in the past 15 years, according to a report released Thursday.
Last month 7,003 homes were sold in the Bay Area, according to MDA DataQuick of San Diego. That was down slightly from March and from April 2009, but nearly 25 percent lower than the historic average of 9,278 sales for April.
The Bay Area median price for both new and resold houses and condominiums was $370,000, compared to $380,000 in March and $304,000 in April 2009. The median price has risen for seven straight months on a year-over-year basis. But April’s median was still 44 percent below the $665,000 peak price of June and July 2007.
Some buyers may have delayed closing escrow in April in order to take advantage of new state tax credits that became effective May 1, DataQuick reported. The state credits are for first-time buyers and those purchasing a new home.
The federal tax credit, meanwhile, required buyers to enter into a sales contract by April 30 and to close escrow by June 30.
“It’s not clear how many April sales might have been pushed into May or June by tax credits,” said John Walsh, MDA DataQuick president.
“The bigger picture is that the housing market will gradually be decoupled from government stimulus and be on its own again. For months we’ve seen growing signs of a recovery taking hold.
“But plenty of challenges remain, like high unemployment, the possibility of many more distressed properties hitting the market in a rising interest rate environment, and a dysfunctional jumbo loan market, which is a big deal in the Bay Area.”
The jump in median price was largely a reflection of changes in regional buying patterns, DataQuick reported. A year ago, more sales involved foreclosure homes in inland areas. Meanwhile, sales in many high-end communities were extremely sluggish.
This spring, sales of foreclosures decreased. However, sales in “high-end” areas grew stronger, in part because prices there have come down somewhat. Also, DataQuick said buyers appeared more successful in obtaining loans for the more expensive homes.
For example, condo and single-family home sales in Sonoma County were down 13 percent in April compared to a year ago, according to the DataQuick numbers. The Press Democrat’s own monthly sales report, prepared by Rick Laws of Coldwell Banker in Santa Rosa, put single-family sales down 15 percent over the same period.
Foreclosure resales – homes that had been foreclosed on in the prior 12 months – made up nearly 30 percent of the Bay Area’s resale market last month. That was the lowest since May 2008. Foreclosure resales peaked at 52 percent in February 2009.
Last month 35 percent of the region’s home sales were priced at $500,000 or above. That compares with 27 percent from a year ago but 46 percent for the average sales for April.
Last month, absentee buyers – mostly investors – purchased 18 percent of all Bay Area homes sold, paying a median $249,500. That compares with 17 percent a year ago and with a monthly average of 13 percent.
— Robert Digitale