Northern Calif. Sees Home Prices Drop 10.5 Percent, But Sales Surge

While sales in Northern California soared last month, it was sales in some of the area’s more distressed markets hard-hit with foreclosures that drove the jump in transactions. Bay Area home sales posted the largest gain in over six years during September, while the median sale price did the opposite, diving to $400,000 — 40 percent below its summer 2007 peak — as more sales shifted to lower-cost inland markets laden with foreclosures. A total of 7,271 new and resale houses and condos closed escrow in the nine-county Bay Area in September. That was up 0.5 percent from 7,232 in August, and up 45 percent from 5,014 in September 2007, according to San Diego-based MDA DataQuick, a real estate information service. Last month’s 45 percent year-over-year sales gain was the highest for any month since April 2002, when sales shot up 49 percent. That said, beating the year-ago totals isn’t exactly anything to crow about: Sept. 2007 was the worst September on record, according to DataQuick, as the credit crisis moved into jumbo mortgages. Although sales rose in some coastal communities in September, it was the region’s less expensive inland markets that pushed sales up so sharply. Contra Costa, Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties — all inland — combined accounted for nearly 62 percent of Bay Area sales, compared with 52 percent a year ago. Solano County sales doubled from last year, while sales nearly doubled in Contra Costa and Napa counties. “Inland markets have spoken: Sales take off when prices drop 30 percent or more from the peak. Closer to the coast, prices in some areas continue to hold up much better, but sales aren’t shooting up by as much, if at all,” said John Walsh, MDA DataQuick president. “One reason is fewer foreclosures on the coast mean fewer motivated sellers willing to drop prices. Meantime, mortgage money remains tight for pricier homes, and inland buyers looking to move up now have less equity to do so” “For the inland markets, September’s relatively strong sales provide more evidence that a recovery got well under way this summer,” he argued. “Now it’s just a question of whether it will stay on track and provide stable prices and fading foreclosures in 2009, or will it get derailed by an economic crisis.” While sales volumes picked up, prices did not. DataQuick found that last month, the median price paid for all new and resale houses and condos sold in the Bay Area was $400,000, down sharply from 10.5 percent from $447,000 in August, and down a record 36.0 percent from $625,000 in Sept. 2007. Nearly 42 percent of all existing homes sold across the Bay Area last month had been foreclosed on at some point in the prior 12 months, up from 36.1 percent in August and 6.9 percent a year ago. At the county level, foreclosure resales ranged from 9.5 percent of resales in San Francisco to 67.9 percent in Solano County. In the Bay Area’s other seven counties, September foreclosure resales were as follows: Alameda, 37.9 percent; Contra Costa, 58.7 percent; Marin, 14.9 percent; Napa, 48.9 percent; Santa Clara, 30.5 percent; San Mateo, 23.8 percent; Sonoma, 48.7 percent. For more information, visit

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