March home sales remain low 

Bay Area home sales remained at their lowest in 11 years in March but prices continued to climb back up from the low reached in January, according to data released Thursday.

A total of 8,317 homes were sold in the nine-county Bay Area in March, up 31.9 percent from February but down nearly 20 percent from last March. Sales were the lowest for any March since 1996, according to Dataquick Information Systems.

The number of homes sold declined in every Bay Area county except San Francisco, where it rose 1.4 percent.

Prices rose in four Bay Area counties, including San Mateo County, which saw a .7 percent increase, and dropped in five.

"Prices seem to have held up surprisingly well, probably because of a relatively strong economy," said Marshall Prentice, DataQuick president. Prentice attributed some of the current lull to strong home sales in previous years.

The median home price paid in the nine-county Bay Area reached $639,000 in March, a 3.1 percent increase from February and a 2.1 percent increase from March last year. Median prices peaked in the Bay Area last June at $648,000 and dropped to $601,000 in January. March’s median was the highest seen since July last year.

The National Association of Realtors this week said it expects the national median price for existing homes to drop this year for the first time since the 1960s, when the group began keeping records. The group is also predicting drops in both new and existing home sales.

In Southern California, the number of homes sold also declined in the six counties DataQuick tracks, and prices rose at least slightly in all but San Diego and Ventura Counties.

The typical monthly mortgage committed to by Bay Area buyers last month was $2,944, an increase from $2,844 the previous month but a drop from $2,877 a year ago, according to DataQuick. Financing with adjustable-rate morgages is declining significantly, while foreclosure activity is rising but still in what is considered the normal range.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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