San Francisco Bay Area home prices jumped 20.5 percent from January 2004 to January 2005, marking the largest annual gain in four years, according to DataQuick, a real estate information service.

The median price paid for a Bay Area home last month was $534,000, a new record. That was up 0.2 percent from $533,000 in December, and up 20.5 percent from $443,000 for January a year ago, DataQuick reported.

The last time annual price increases were more than 20 percent was in January 2001 when the $375,000 median was up 20.2 percent from $312,000 a year earlier.

A total of 7,509 new and resale houses and condos were sold in the nine-county Bay Area region in January. That was down 32.2 percent from 11,068 in December, and up 5.7 percent from 7,102 for January last year, according to DataQuick Information Systems.

Sales typically decline from December to January. Last month’s sales count was the strongest for any January since 7,646 in 1989.

“As far as identifying trends, January and February numbers are generally shaky because of somewhat atypical mid-winter purchase patterns. Still, last month’s statistics were a continuation of trends we saw toward the end of last year. More surprising than the strong sales counts was the strong appreciation rate,” said Marshall Prentice, DataQuick president.

The typical monthly mortgage payment that Bay Area buyers committed themselves to paying was $2,344 in January, down from $2,350 in December. A year ago it was $1,940. It peaked at $2,450 last June when mortgage interest rates were somewhat higher. In today’s dollars the payment reached $2,406 in April 1990.

Indicators of market distress are still largely absent: Foreclosure rates are low, down payment sizes are stable and there have been no significant shifts in market mix, DataQuick reported.

DataQuick is a subsidiary of Vancouver-based MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to glenn@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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