SF Bay area home sales fall by 36 percent in October | SierraSun.com

SF Bay area home sales fall by 36 percent in October

LOS ANGELES (AP) ” Reluctant buyers and tightened mortgage lending combined to drag down home sales in a nine-county region around San Francisco Bay last month to the lowest level in more than 20 years, a real estate research firm said Thursday.

A total of 5,486 homes were sold in the region last month, down 35.7 percent from 8,532 in October 2006, according to DataQuick Information Systems.

Sales increased 9.4 percent from September.

It was the slowest October since DataQuick began keeping records in 1988. The previous low came in October 1990, when 6,443 homes were sold.

The October sales average is 8,930 homes.

“Much of today’s slow sales pace in the Bay Area is due to turmoil in the jumbo mortgage market,” Marshall Prentice, DataQuick president, said in a statement.

Many lenders have tightened underwriting guidelines in recent months amid rising home loan defaults and foreclosures, which rocked the secondary market for mortgage-backed securities.

Lenders have cut back on so-called jumbo loans exceeding $417,000 ” the current limit on the amount that government-backed mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will buy from lenders.

That’s a problem for many buyers in states like California, where homes often are valued in excess of $417,000.

Home sales financed by jumbo loans declined in October by half in the San Francisco Bay area, compared to July, DataQuick said.

Despite the decline in sales, the region’s median home price for the month climbed to $631,000, up 1 percent from September and a modest 2.4 percent from October 2006.

The median home price for the region peaked this summer at $665,000, the firm said.

Median home values were flat or declined in October compared to the year-ago period in Alameda, Contra Costa, Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties. They were up in Marin, Santa Clara, San Francisco and San Mateo counties.

Solano County posted the sharpest drop, declining 15.6 percent to $391,750, while Marin County saw the biggest percentage jump, an increase of 5.5 percent to $875,000.

The figures echo similar housing doldrums in a six-county swath of Southern California.

In all, 12,999 new and resale homes were sold last month in Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, down 45.3 percent from 23,745 in the year-ago month. Sales rose by 4.4 percent from September.

The region’s median home price last month fell to $444,000, down 3.9 percent from September and 8 percent from October 2006, DataQuick said.

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