The Bay Area last month recorded the lowest number of homes sales for May in three years.
Buyers last month purchased 6,988 houses and condominiums in the nine-county region, according to data released Wednesday by San Diego-based DataQuick.
That was the lowest number for the month since May 2008, and the third-lowest on record behind 2008 and May 1995. DataQuick’s records began in 1988.
Sales were up 3 percent from April.
The median price rose 3 percent from April to $372,000. But it was down 9 percent from the May 2010 median of $410,000.
DataQuick President John Walsh said last year’s housing market got a big shot in the arm from federal tax credits, but this spring’s sales are 20 to 30 percent below average. Many potential buyers are unemployed, unable to qualify for a loan or they owe more than their current homes are worth.
“History suggests that, after a sharp downturn, the market could be stuck in that rut for quite a while, perhaps years,” Walsh said.
The median price has fallen on a year-over-year basis for eight consecutive months, following 12 months of annual gains.
The median peaked at $665,000 in June and July 2007 and then dropped to a low of $290,000 in March 2009. About half of that decline was due to falling home values, analysts said. The other half resulted in a shift in the sales mix toward lower-cost homes, especially foreclosures.
Distressed home sales made up about 45 percent of the Bay Area’s resale market last month. About 27 percent were foreclosure resales and 18 percent were short sales, where the owner sells the home for less than the amount owed on the mortgage.

Here is a link to a story on The Press Democrat’s monthly housing report for May.

— Robert Digitale