Home Sales And Median Price Improving In Bay Area

Better sales in the Bay Area’s mid to high end homes pushed the median above $400,000, with a particularly sharp jump in sales of homes above $500,000 suggesting …

Better sales in the Bay Area’s mid to high end homes pushed the median above $400,000, with a particularly sharp jump in sales of homes above $500,000 suggesting a possible easing in high-end financing. The latest figures from May show other patterns too, such as a continued decline in foreclosure resales, an above average level of investor activity and a slowing of house flipping. See the following article from DQNews for more on this.

Sales rose across the Bay Area last month in many mid- to high-end neighborhoods, helping to push the median sale price over $400,000 for the first time in 21 months. But as tax credits, low mortgage rates and an ample supply of homes for sale fueled the $500,000-plus market, sales fell in many affordable inland areas where investors and first-time buyers faced a dwindling inventory of low-cost foreclosures, a real estate information service reported.

Last month a total of 8,264 homes closed escrows in the nine-county Bay Area, up 18.0 percent from 7,003 in April and up 11.0 percent from 7,447 in May 2009, according to MDA DataQuick of San Diego.

On average, Bay Area sales have risen 6.9 percent between April and May since 1988, when DataQuick’s statistics begin. Last month’s sales tally was the highest for a May since 9,935 homes sold in May 2006, but it was 16.0 percent below the May average of 9,842 sales since 1988.

Last month sales over $500,000 rose 33.8 percent from May 2009, when the high-end was just starting to emerge from a deep slump. Conversely, May sales of homes priced below $300,000 fell nearly 22.7 percent below the year-ago level. Last spring, sub-$300,000 sales were unusually high thanks to robust sales of low-cost inland foreclosures.

“For now, at least, we’re seeing a more normal mix of sales across the region and across price categories, thanks in large part to the state and federal tax credits coupled with incredibly low mortgage rates. It also appears that high-end financing is gradually loosening up,” said John Walsh, MDA DataQuick president.

“In the second half of the year, there’s obviously going to be less wind in the market’s sails, given the fading tax credits,” he said. “A healthier job market and low mortgage rates will be key to driving demand. Price stability would be threatened if lenders suddenly pushed much larger numbers of distressed properties onto the market.”

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Foreclosure resales – homes that had been foreclosed on in the prior 12 months – fell to 27.3 percent of the Bay Area’s resale market last month. That was the lowest since April 2008 and was down from 29.5 percent in April and 40.5 percent in May 2009. Foreclosure resales peaked at 52.0 percent in February 2009.

The continued decline in sales of low-cost inland foreclosures helps explain how the Bay Area’s median sale price could rise more than 20 percent in a year. Last month the median paid for all new and resale houses and condos combined jumped to $410,000, up 10.8 percent from $370,000 in April and up 20.1 percent from $341,500 in May 2009.

The median has risen on a year-over-year basis for eight straight months, though in May it was still 38.3 percent below the $665,000 peak in June/July 2007.

The May median’s 20.1 percent annual gain reflects several factors, including the decline in foreclosure resales, price stability and modest price pressure in some areas, and the shift toward more high-end sales. Activity has picked up in the higher-cost areas in part because distress has increased over the last year and sellers have become more motivated and realistic.

Last month 40.7 percent of the homes sold in the Bay Area were priced $500,000 or above, up from 36.9 percent in April and up from 31.3 percent a year ago. The May figure was the highest since $500,000-plus transactions were 44.7 percent of all sales in August 2008.

Viewed another way, zip codes in the top one-third of the Bay Area market, based on their historical prices, accounted for 35.3 percent of existing single-family house sales last month – the highest in two years. Last month’s level was up from 31.6 percent in April and 27.2 percent a year ago. Over the past decade, the top third of the market averaged 32.1 percent of total regional sales, while the low point was 17.9 percent of sales in January 2009 and the high point was 43.5 percent in June 2007, just before the credit crisis began.

Today’s high-end sales could be stronger if jumbo and adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) were easier to obtain.

Jumbo loans, mortgages above the old conforming limit of $417,000, accounted for 35.1 percent of last month’s purchase lending, up from 31.5 percent in April and 25.8 percent in May 2009. Last month’s figure was the highest since it was 38.7 percent in December 2007. However, before the August 2007 credit crunch hit, jumbos accounted for nearly 60 percent of the market.

In May, 13.1 percent of all home purchase loans were ARMs, up from 11.1 percent in April and up from 3.5 percent a year ago. May’s ARM level was the highest since September 2008, but was still well below the monthly average ARM rate of nearly 50 percent over the last decade.

Meantime, federally-insured FHA loans continue to drive many first-time buyer purchases and some move-up activity. The low-down-payment loans made up 24.6 percent of Bay Area purchase lending last month, down from 25.4 percent in April but up from 23.9 percent a year ago and 8.1 percent two years ago.

Last month absentee buyers – mostly investors – purchased 14.6 percent of all Bay Area homes sold, paying a median $270,000. That’s down from 18.2 percent in April and 17.6 percent a year ago, when the median paid was $220,000. Buyers who appeared to have paid all cash – meaning there was no corresponding purchase loan found in the public record – accounted for 21.2 percent of sales in May, paying a median $275,000, which is up from a median $210,000 a year ago. The cash rate was 23.5 percent of sales in April this year and 26.2 percent in May 2009.

Home flipping has trended higher over the last year but eased in May. Last month 2.1 percent of the homes that sold on the open market had been flipped, meaning bought and re-sold within a six-month period. That was down from a Bay Area flipping rate of 2.6 percent in April and up from 1.1 percent a year earlier. Last month’s flipping rates varied from 1.2 percent in San Francisco to 2.9 percent in Solano County.

San Diego-based MDA DataQuick is a division of MDA Lending Solutions, a subsidiary of Vancouver-based MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates. MDA DataQuick monitors real estate activity nationwide and provides information to consumers, educational institutions, public agencies, lending institutions, title companies and industry analysts. Because of late data availability, sales were estimated in Alameda and San Mateo counties.

The typical monthly mortgage payment that Bay Area buyers committed themselves to paying was $1,739 last month, up from $1,607 the previous month, and up from $1,443 a year ago. Adjusted for inflation, last month’s payment was 34.7 percent below the typical payment in the spring of 1989, the peak of the prior real estate cycle. It was 51.7 percent below the current cycle’s peak in July 2007.

Indicators of market distress continue to move in different directions. Foreclosure activity remains high by historical standards but below peak levels reached over the last two years. Financing with multiple mortgages is low, down payment sizes are stable, and non-owner occupied buying remains slightly above average, MDA DataQuick reported.

This article has been republished from DQNews. You can also view this article at
DQNews, a real estate research and news site.

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