Bay Area home sales jumped sharply last month, producing the best March results in four years.
The median sales price for houses and condominiums in the nine county region rose in March to $360,000, according to San Diego-based DataQuick. That was up nearly 7 percent from $337,250 in February but down 5 percent from $380,000 a year earlier.
The Bay Area median price remains 24 percent above its lowest point in the current market cycle of $290,000, which occurred in February 2009.
In contrast, the March median price for Sonoma County single-family homes fell slightly to $315,000, according to The Press Democrat monthly housing report. That median price is within 3 percent of the February 2009 low of $305,000.
DataQuick President John Walsh said the Bay Area results demonstrate that “the housing market has certainly moved well back from the abyss of two years ago, but there is quite a ways to go before it’s even remotely normal.”
“The Bay Area has much less of a foreclosure problem than the rest of the state,” Walsh said, “but by its own standards it’s still a sizable problem that acts as a drag on prices. The big issue continues to be mortgage financing, which is still problematic for many potential borrowers.”
The region reported the sale of 7,051 houses and condos last month. Sales rose 41 percent from 4,991 in February and also were up less than 1 percent from 7,040 in March 2010.
It was the best March since 8,317 homes were sold in 2007.
The Bay Area median price peaked at $665,000 in June and July 2007. The steep drop that followed was due to both a decline in home values and a shift in sales toward lower-cost homes, especially foreclosures.
Foreclosure resales – homes that were foreclosed on in the last 12 months – rose slightly in March to nearly 32 percent, about 1 percent higher than February. Such resales peaked at 52 percent in February 2009.
Analysts estimated that short sales, where the sales price was less than the amount owed on the mortgage, made up nearly 18 percent of resales last month. That was down from an estimated 20 in February and 18 percent a year earlier, but up from almost 12 percent two years ago.
Last month absentee buyers – mostly investors – purchased 22 percent of all Bay Area homes sold.
Nearly 28 percent of all sales were done with cash only. The record rate was nearly 31 percent in February.

— Robert Digitale