San Francisco Bay Area home prices rose at their fastest rate in nearly three years and sales were at near-record levels last month, the result of continued demand and an accommodating mortgage finance environment, according to DataQuick Information Systems.

The median price paid for a Bay Area home was $457,000 last month, shy of December’s record $458,000. Last month’s median was up 3.2 percent from $443,000 in January and up 13.4 percent from $403,000 for February last year. The year-over-year increase was the highest since March 2001 when the median was $386,000, up 17.3 percent from $329,000 a year earlier.

A total of 7,412 new and resale houses and condos were sold in the nine-county region in February. That was up 4.4 percent from 7,102 the month before and up 10.6 percent from 6,704 for February last year, according to DataQuick.

Last month was the second-strongest February DataQuick has in its records, which go back to 1988. The strongest was February 2000 when sales totaled 7,507.

“This just goes to show that buyers will buy if they can buy, despite sticker shock. Mortgage interest rates haven’t gone up as was predicted a few months ago. And lenders are making loans to households they wouldn’t have five or 10 years ago,” said Marshall Prentice, DataQuick president.

DataQuick, a subsidiary of Vancouver-based MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, monitors real estate activity nationwide and provides information to consumers, educational institutions, public agencies, lending institutions, title companies and industry analysts.

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