Home sales in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area declined on a year-over-year basis for the ninth month in a row in December as prices eased from a November peak, according to DataQuick Information Systems, a real estate information service.

A total of 9,347 new and resale houses and condos were sold in the region last month, down 3.8 percent from 9,717 for November and down 15.5 percent from 11,068 for December last year, DataQuick reported.

The month-to-month decline is unusual – sales normally increase from November to December, the company reported. Last month’s sales count was the lowest for any December since 8,987 were sold in December 2002. The 15.5 percent year-over-year decline was the steepest since sales fell 27.2 percent in November 2001.

“Demand still seems to be there, but the sense of urgency seems to be a thing of the past. We don’t expect the market to tumble, but we do expect price increases to level off between now and spring,” said Marshall Prentice, DataQuick president, in a statement.

The median price paid for a Bay Area home was $609,000 last month. That was down 2.6 percent from November’s record high of $625,000, and up 14.3 percent from $533,000 for December a year ago.

The annual price increase was the lowest since prices rose 13.1 percent to $474,000 in March 2004.

The typical monthly mortgage payment that Bay Area buyers committed themselves to paying was $2,867 in December. That was down from $2,921 in November, and up from $2,350 for December a year ago.

Adjusted for inflation, mortgage payments are 16 percent higher than they were at the peak of the prior cycle 16 years ago.

Foreclosure rates are low, but are expected to rise this year. Down payment sizes are stable and there have been no significant shifts in market mix, DataQuick reported.

Sales dropped 30.4 percent in Napa County, 28.4 percent in Marin County, 26.6 percent in Solano County, 18.3 percent in Sonoma County, 16.9 percent in Alameda County, 13.1 percent in Contra Costa County, 12.4 percent in Santa Clara County, 7.9 percent in San Mateo County, and 5.3 percent in San Francisco County from December 2004 to December 2005.

Meanwhile, prices increased 19.4 percent in Contra Costa County, 17.1 percent in Solano County, 15.7 percent in Alameda County, 15.3 percent in Sonoma County, 12.8 percent in Santa Clara County, 10.6 percent in San Mateo County, 6.4 percent in San Francisco County, 5.3 percent in Marin County, and 4 percent in Napa County from December 2004 to December 2005.

A subsidiary of Vancouver-based MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, DataQuick 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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