Bay Area Prices Looking Up!

Bay Area home prices up, sales still slow

April 12, 2007

La Jolla, CA.----The median price paid for a Bay Area home moved up in March, regaining much of the decline since last summer even as sales remained at the lowest level in 11 years, a real estate information service reported.
The median price paid for a home in the nine-county Bay Area was $639,000 last month, up 3.1 percent from $620,000 for February, and up 2.1 percent from $626,000 for March last year, according to DataQuick Information Systems.

Last month’s median was the highest since July last year when it was also $639,000. The peak was reached last June at $648,000. It went down to $601,000 in January. Much of last month’s increase was seasonal, homes tend to sell for less during winter months.

“Prices seem to have held up surprisingly well, probably because of a relatively strong economy. Additionally, it’s starting to look like much of the current sales lull may be due to the strong sales in 2004 and 2005. Some of today’s demand probably got pulled into that period because of low mortgage interest rates and the availability of exotic mortgages,” said Marshall Prentice, DataQuick president.

A total of 8,317 new and resale houses and condos were sold in the Bay Area last month. That was up 31.9 percent from 6,305 in February, and down 19.6 percent from 10,343 for March last year.

An increase from February to March is normal for the season. Sales last month were the lowest for any March since 1996 when 7,724 homes were sold. The strongest March was in 2004 when 12,645 were sold. The average March since 1988 has had 9,367 sales.

DataQuick, a subsidiary of Vancouver-based MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, monitors real estate activity nationwide and provides information to consumers, educational institutions, public agencies, lending institutions, title companies and industry analysts. Due to late data availability, the March statistics for Alameda are extrapolated from the first three weeks of the month.

The typical monthly mortgage payment that Bay Area buyers committed themselves to paying was $2,944 last month, up from $2,884 the previous month and down from $2,977 a year ago. Adjusted for inflation, current payments are 16.0 percent above typical payments in the spring of 1989, the peak of the prior real estate cycle. They are 8.6 percent below the current cycle’s peak last June. Indicators of market distress are moving in different directions. Financing with adjustable-rate mortgages is declining significantly.

Foreclosure activity is rising but is still in the normal range. Down payment sizes are stable and flipping rates and non-owner occupied buying activity is down, DataQuick reported.