Bay Area home prices in December soared 32 percent from a year earlier, the biggest such increase in a quarter century.

The median sales price for houses and condominiums in the nine-county region last month reached $442,750, according to according to DataQuick, a real estate information service. A year earlier the Bay Area median had been $335,500.

December’s median rose at the fastest year-over-year rate in all of DataQuick’s statistics, which go back to 1988. The price also was the highest since August 2008, when it had been $447,000.

“Prices are in the midst of bouncing off bottom right now, and nobody really knows what the trajectory of this bounce will be beyond this point,” said John Walsh, DataQuick president. “So far, supply has been a bottleneck, but as prices go up, more homes will be put up for sale.”

He noted that mortgage lenders currently are “swamped,” both by home buyers seeking new loans and by owners who wish to refinance.

“Rising home prices also mean higher appraisals, and tens of thousands of homeowners who couldn’t refinance half a year ago, now can,” Walsh said.

December sales numbered 7,832, a 7 percent increase from a year earlier and the 18th straight month in which sales have climbed year over year.

DataQuick analysts estimated that at least half the December price increase was due to a change in market mix. Sales shifted away from less expensive, distressed homes and toward mid-market and move-up properties.

Last month foreclosure resales and short sales together made up 34 percent of the market, compared to 52 percent a year earlier.

Absentee buyers, who are mostly investors, purchased nearly 26 percent of all Bay Area homes, the highest rate for data going back to January 1999. A year earlier they had purchased nearly 24 percent of the homes sold.

— Robert Digitale

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  1. Tony Martin

    I would be interested in knowing the price rise of SIMILAR homes, not median. How much is it going up per square foot? Give me an apples to apples metric, not a market level one.

    January 16th, 2013 1:01 pm

  2. Bob D.

    Aggregate numbers are mis-leading. Yes, the market bottomed out and upper income buyers coming back, but most market segments are enjoying none or modest appreciation. The reason for the increase in the median price is due mainly to the decline in the number of distress (below market price) sales. Stabilizing demand has resulted in nearly all sales being market sales.

    January 16th, 2013 1:40 pm

  3. Raintait

    Another misleading article written about Robert Digitale about the so-called skyrocketing housing prices.

    I know people in Real Estate/Loans who believe that Robert is paid by the local Real Estate industry to talk about “rising housing prices”. He did this during the housing crash and continues to do this now.

    Every time I read an article in the Press Democrat about housing prices going up, I know that it was written by him. It is always the case.

    January 16th, 2013 2:25 pm

  4. Cris

    That.s just another way to lie and put a bad information on the air with the hope that people will take that for granded. This is how the real estate companies and ” the smart guys” foul you every day. They forget to tell us that we need to bid more and more $$$ if we whant a house!!! The new house bouble market begins!!!!!! Somehow they are doing their job but they hurt me and you just because most of them are not honest. They said same thing just before the 2006 crash. Unfortunately many are trapped and believe them. Please do yourself a favor and do not believe everything that they say. They have a word in their world ” the life is good”. Don.t forget that when they will sell a property to an investor without showing it to you because …life is good.

    January 16th, 2013 4:01 pm

  5. Real.Estate

    What if the median price had dropped 32 percent from a year earlier? Should the newspaper not report that, too? The real estate industry complained mightily about stories when prices began tumbling four years ago, but this paper wrote about the decline anyway. We continued such reporting when the annual median price hit a new low in 2011. That was hardly a tale of skyrocketing prices, and I wrote it just a year ago this month:
    As to the other readers’ points, yes, it would be helpful to receive data on the sale of the same homes over time. At times the paper does run stories about the national Case-Shiller index. But plenty of news organizations think readers also want to learn about the monthly sales and median price reports for their area. It’s one more piece of information for those who want news about the housing market.

    January 16th, 2013 4:04 pm

  6. Cris

    Sorry for my English I just learn to speak your language a few years ago and I am still learning. Thank you.

    January 16th, 2013 4:04 pm

  7. Bob D.

    To say that prices have risen 32% just defies any common sense observation of the real estate market. As an appraiser I daily survey prices for the properties I appraise. The current residential appraisal report also requires a statistical analysis page which reports price trends for the properties similar to the property being appraised.

    Entry level housing prices have been rising for the past 2 years and getting an offer accepted for anything priced below about $350,000 is becoming difficult. As a result, there are almost no below market distress sales driving down aggregate stats any longer. Short sales are being listed are current market rates instead of ‘quick-sale’ prices.
    Also driving the increase is the fact that people who have not lost everything financially have been sitting on their hands for years. As the overall economy seems to have bottomed out, more of these folks are accepting our ‘new normal’ starting to enter the market and buy homes again.

    There is no radical appreciation yet.

    January 16th, 2013 5:38 pm

  8. Adam D.


    Obviously you or someone you know has been effected with bad information. I am sorry about that. Rather then take statistics from an article in the paper, try reaching out to a local Realtor like myself, who can provide you with actual data from the public tax records & the local Multiple Listing Service and show you what homes are selling for in different areas, the average selling price per SQ. FT. and so on. I’d love the chance to turn your thoughts of real estate professionals around. Take care.

    January 16th, 2013 6:21 pm

  9. Max

    All I know is that I got my JC neighborhood house appraised in Nov. 2011 for $265K and then again last month for $295K, an annual increase of about 10%. I’ve been watching the sales in the JC and people are spending big bucks on small houses -like over $300K for houses that are under 1000 SQFT. Something changed big time in the last year.

    January 18th, 2013 12:10 pm

  10. Allison Norman

    Max, your example and personal insight hit the nail on the head. In the lower (under $400,000 especially) price points, we are seeing multiple offers and overbidding. It’s really tough out there for first time buyers. There is no doubt that, in the lower price points especially, there is appreciation. The key word in this article is “median” home prices. This is not 32% equity growth….although we are experiencing equity growth. Max is a perfect example of that…and his is not the only one. The 32% this article is referring to is an increase in the median home price. As for the negative comments above, We are all entitled to our own opinions. Here’s mine. As a local Realtor, I have seen Robert Digitale immerse himself in local real estate news over the last few years, as any good reporter should be involved and educated in the subject they chose to report about. He often attends the local Realtor meetings and makes calls to Realtors …he really makes an effort to get it right, whether the news is good or bad….and, yes, we usually cringe when its bad. Raintait’s suggestion above that Mr Digitale is “paid by the real estate industry” is a ridiculous comment. This bitter dis-trust of the industry is an unfortunate side effect of the real estate/financial crisis. And rightly so in some cases. But, you cannot judge an entire industry on the actions of some. In general, Realtors and lenders do good things, and we genuinely care about our clients. With that out of the way…., Why such a jump in the median price? The median price is the middle, not an average, but the middle point between prices of recorded home sales. Half are higher, half are lower. In large part, this jump in the median is because the lower priced home inventory has dried up. There are much fewer foreclosed homes (REOs) on the market…the foreclosure market has been driving the low end of the market the last few years, and keeping the median price down. More homes selling in the lower end means a lower median price. Conversely, more homes selling in higher price points means a higher median price. So, what’s fueling the increased median? In a good market, first time buyers become move up buyers, strengthening the mid- range market. When the real estate market crashed, this element of the equation all but disappeared.. Move up buyers are now coming back into the market….and a surge in relocating and/or retiring buyers and second home buyers are coming into town as well. Sonoma county, a ” destination county”, hasn’t been so affordable, or so desirable, in years. We are also seeing an influx of higher paid professionals ( Sutter, Medtronics, tech industry, etc.) which are all bouying the upper end. What Max’s example shows is how the scarcity of product and increase in regular, “equity” , or non-distressed, sellers (who tend to hold out for higher prices) in a particular price point are driving home prices up. It’s classic “supply and demand”. We are definitely getting closer to a more ” normal ” market….which is good for everyone.

    January 19th, 2013 1:13 pm

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