Home sales in the San Francisco Bay Area fell 24.9 percent in August compared to August 2006, real estate research company DataQuick Information Systems reported today, and median prices dropped in three counties compared to year-ago levels.

A total of 9,128 new and resale houses and condos were sold in the nine-county Bay Area region last month, which was up 14.9 percent since July 2006.

It was the slowest August since 1997 when 9,080 homes were sold, DataQuick announced. DataQuick’s statistics date back to 1988, and the slowest August since then was in August 1992 with 6,326 sales, while 2003 was the strongest August on record with 12,488 sales. The average August sales count since 1988 is 9,530.

“Many homes are being offered for sale at unrealistically high prices as sellers try to game the peak of the market. Buyers appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach as sellers get real with their asking prices. The market seems to be going into a lull until this all shakes out. It does appear that the strong appreciation of the recent past is leveling off,” said Marshall Prentice, DataQuick president.

The median price paid for a Bay Area home was $620,000 last month. That was down 1.1 percent from $627,000 in July, and up 0.2 percent from $619,000 for August a year ago. Last month’s year-over-year increase was the lowest since March 2002 when the $381,000 median fell 1.3 percent, according to the announcement.

The typical monthly mortgage payment that Bay Area buyers committed themselves to paying was $2,966 in August. That was down from $3,106 in July and up from $2,761 for August 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. Indicators of market distress are still largely absent and the use of adjustable-rate mortgages has decreased in the past six months, DataQuick reported. Foreclosures are below normal levels and down payment sizes are reportedly stable.

Median prices dropped 6.7 percent in San Mateo County, 2.3 percent in Marin County and 1.5 percent in Alameda County in August while flattening in Contra Costa County and rising in other Bay Area counties from August 2005 to August 2006.

Sales plummeted 47.3 percent in Napa County, 34.3 percent in Solano County, 28.6 percent in Sonoma County and 28.2 percent in Alameda County from August 2005 to August 2006.

San Francisco had the lowest year-over-year drop in sales from August 2005 to August 2006, at 7.4 percent. And for the entire Bay Area, prices increased 0.2 percent from August 2005 to August 2006.

Source: DataQuick Information Systems, www.dqnews.com

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