The year-over-year rate of home-price gains in the San Francisco Bay Area dropped below 10 percent for the first time in more than two years, according to the latest report by DataQuick Information Systems, a real estate research and information company.

The cost of median-priced homes in the nine-county area around San Francisco was up 9.5 percent from March 2005 to March 2006, the company reported.

Meanwhile, the number of Bay Area homes sold in March dropped 13.8 percent compared to March 2005 sales but was up 57 percent from 6,206 sales in February 2006.

The year-over-year decline in monthly sales was the 12th in a row, though DataQuick noted that the March 2006 total was above average, with March sales ranging from 5,496 in 1995 to 11,442 in 1989 since the company started tracking these statistics in 1988.

“March numbers are pretty good at predicting upcoming activity. We figure that sales will be good but not spectacular on into the summer and that price increases will stay below 10 percent. We’ll probably have a couple of months with new price peaks, but those new records will be reached at a slower rate of appreciation,” said Marshall Prentice, DataQuick president, in a statement.

The median price paid for a Bay Area home was $622,000 in March. That was up 1 percent from February’s $616,000, and up 9.5 percent from $568,000 for March 2005. The median peaked at $625,000 last November. The slowdown in home-price gains was the most pronounced since January 2004, when Bay Area median home prices increased 9.7 percent compared to January 2003.

Median prices were up 18.6 percent in Solano County, 14.7 percent in Napa County, 12.1 percent in Contra Costa County, 10.4 percent in Alameda County, 9.6 percent in San Francisco, 8.9 percent in Santa Clara County, 7.9 percent in Sonoma County, 2.2 percent in San Mateo County, and 0.6 percent in Marin County from March 2005 to March 2006.

Sales were down 22.7 in Napa County, 22.5 percent in Solano County, 18.7 percent in San Mateo County, 17.5 percent in Marin County, 15 percent in San Francisco, 14.9 percent in Alameda, 12.2 percent in Sonoma County, 11.7 percent in Contra Costa County, and 8.9 percent in Santa Clara County.

The typical monthly mortgage payment that Bay Area buyers committed themselves to paying was $2,958 in March, DataQuick also reported. That was up from $2,889 in February and $2,636 for March 2005. Adjusted for inflation, mortgage payments are 18 percent higher than they were at the peak of the prior cycle 16 years ago, the company announced.

“Indicators of market distress are still largely absent. The use of adjustable-rate mortgages has decreased the last three months. Foreclosure rates are coming up from last year’s low point, but are still below normal levels. Down-payment sizes are stable and there have been no significant shifts in market mix,” DataQuick reported.


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