Foreclosures Fuel Bay Area Home Sales

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Fueled by foreclosures, home sales in the Bay Area in January rose  above sales in January 2008 and the median price of all new and resale homes  and condos fell to $300,000, the MDA DataQuick real estate information  services company reported today.

Fifty-four percent of Bay Area homes that resold last month were  foreclosed properties, DataQuick said.

Home buying remained slow in pricier coastal markets but was  robust in many inland areas where steep price declines boosted affordability  and drove some sales of existing houses to record levels, DataQuick said.

Re-sales of single-family detached houses hit record levels in  January in San Pablo, Richmond, Pittsburg, Antioch, Oakley and Fairfield,  where bargain hunters took advantage of large price drops and abundant  foreclosed properties, according to DataQuick.

The sales of foreclosed properties made it difficult for builders  to compete with resale prices. The sale of newly built homes fell last month  to the lowest point for a January since at least 1988 when DataQuick began  keeping statistics.

The $300,000 median price of a Bay Area home was down 9.1 percent  from $330,000 in December and down a record 45.5 percent from $550,000 in  January 2008.

The median sales price is the point where half the homes sold for  more and half for less. The median sales price peaked at $665,000 in June and  July 2007.

Real estate pundits have been asking when the housing market will  improve, said John Walsh, DataQuick's president.

"The question comes from the perspective of sellers, the industry,  and those concerned about the downturn's impact on the economy," Walsh said.

"But from the perspective of a lot of first-time buyers and  investors, it's clear things have only been getting better for months," Walsh  said.

In the Bay Area, foreclosure re-sales ranged from 16.4 percent in  San Francisco to 75.2 percent in Solano County. Foreclosure re-sales  percentages were as follows elsewhere: Alameda, 51.9 percent; Contra Costa  County, 64.4 percent; Marin, 26.2 percent; Napa, 48.1 percent; Santa Clara,  45.6 percent; San Mateo, 43.1 percent and Sonoma 55.6 percent.

The typical monthly mortgage payment Bay Area buyers committed  themselves to was $1,297 last month, down from $1,471 the previous month and  from $2,571 a year ago.

The $1,297 monthly payment is 63.4 percent less than the monthly  payment during the housing cycle's peak in June 2006, the San Diego real  estate information services company said.

Financing with adjustable-rate mortgages and multiple mortgages is  at an all-time low, DataQuick reported.

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