Sales of homes priced above $2.5 million in a seven-county region in Northern California increased from 210 homes in third-quarter 2005 to 214 homes in third-quarter 2006, according to a report by the Alain Pinel Realtors brokerage company.

Based on a search of multiple listing service information for San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Contra Costa and Alameda counties, sales volume declined from $715.2 million in third-quarter 2005 to $679.3 million this year — a 5 percent decrease.

Similarly, 216 homes above $2.5 million sold in the seven counties, and the overall volume dropped 5.5 percent compared with second-quarter 2005.

At the price range between $1.5 million to $2.5 million level, 645 homes sold in the seven counties in the third quarter, down 23 percent compared with 840 homes sold in that price range in third-quarter 2005, according to the “Distinctive Homes and Estates” report. Sales volume fell from $1.5 billion to $1.2 billion for homes in this price range, which was also a 23 percent decline.

In the second quarter, 955 homes sold at that price range in the seven-county area, down 11.5 percent from sales in second-quarter 2005. Sales volume fell from $2.4 billion in second-quarter 2005 to $2.2 billion in second-quarter 2006 — an 8.8 percent drop.

Alain Pinel defines the “high-end market” as homes priced between $1.5 million and $2.5 million, while homes priced at or above $2.5 million are considered the “luxury market.”

“The high-end market was bifurcated this quarter and it appears the market correction has affected the bottom portion of the high-end but not necessarily the upper reaches of property sales and inventory, which is steady and apparently less vulnerable to current market dynamics,” said Ginny Cain-McMurtrie, Alain Pinel’s vice president of marketing, in a statement.

“For a long time we have suspected that the sale of homes in the $1.5 million to $2 million are more likely to mirror the performance of the median home sales market, and this data tends to reinforce that notion,” she also stated. “However, I would caution that one quarter does not constitute a long-term trend.”

Inventory of homes for sale above $2.5 million climbed from 740 at the close of the third quarter 2005 to 851 homes on Sept. 30 this year, a 15.2 percent increase. Inventory also increased in the seven counties overall for homes listed for sale between $1.5 million to $2.5 million — rising from 1,029 a year ago to 1,156 at the close of the third quarter 2006, or 12 percent.

Inventory rose 3.8 percent in the second quarter this year compared to second-quarter 2005 for homes listed above $1.5 million. And inventory declined 2.2 percent compared with the same period a year ago for homes listed at greater than $2.5 million.

In Santa Clara County, the same number of homes sold in third-quarter 2006 and third-quarter 2006, and the median price held at $3 million for homes priced at $2.5 million or more. Inventory in the county increased 5.37 percent from the end of third-quarter 2005 to the end of third-quarter 2006. The inventory for homes priced between $1.5 million to $2.5 million grew 12 percent while sales fell 21 percent compared to third-quarter 2005. The highest-priced home sold was $6.5 million, in Palo Alto.

In San Mateo County, the inventory of homes listed for sale at $2.5 million or higher jumped 24.6 percent from third-quarter 2005 to third-quarter 2006 and sales fell 13.6 percent in that period. For homes priced between $1.5 million to $2.5 million, inventory climbed about 13 percent while sales slid 21.5 percent in third-quarter 2006 compared to third-quarter 2005. The highest-priced home in the third quarter sold for $7.4 million in Atherton.

In Alameda County, sales of homes priced at $2.5 million or more dropped 25 percent in the third quarter compared to third-quarter 2005, and there was a 21.8 percent drop in the number of homes sold in price range between $1.5 million and $2.5 million in that period. Inventory increased 7.1 percent in the $2.5 million-and-higher range and 6 percent for homes priced between $1.5 million and $2.5 million. The highest-priced home in the county that quarter sold for $6.45 million in Fremont.

In Contra Costa County, the inventory of homes priced between $1.5 million and $2.5 million grew 46.3 percent from third-quarter 2005 to third-quarter 2006 and grew 28.1 percent for homes selling above $2.5 million. Sales of homes priced between $1.5 million to $2.5 million dropped 34.3 percent, and there were 24 sales at or above $2.5 million in third-quarter 2006, up from 23 sales in third-quarter 2005. The highest-priced home of the quarter sold for $9.9 million in Lafayette.

In San Francisco County, 27 homes sold in third-quarter 2005 at or above $2.5 million, compared to 18 homes in third-quarter 2005, while home sales between $1.5 million to $2.5 million fell from 64 to 51 in that period. The inventory of homes priced at or above $2.5 million increased to 48 in the third quarter from 46 in third-quarter 2005, while the inventory of homes priced between $1.5 million to $2.5 million rose to 59 compared to 48 in third-quarter 2005. The highest-priced San Francisco home sold for $9.9 million.

In Santa Cruz County, 20 homes sold between $1.5 and $2.5 million in the third quarter compared to 19 in third-quarter 2005. Five homes sold at or above $2.5 million in third-quarter 2006 compared to nine in third-quarter 2005. Inventory fell 11.8 percent for homes priced between $1.5 million to $2.5 million, and 50 homes were listed for sale at or above $2.5 million at the end of the third quarter, compared to 46 for third-quarter 2005. The highest-priced home sold for $3 million in Santa Cruz.

And in Monterey County, 18 homes sold for $2.5 million or more in the third quarter compared with 33 in third-quarter 2005. In the price range between $1.5 million to $2.5 million, 43 homes sold in the third quarter compared to 59 in third-quarter 2006. Inventory for homes priced at or above $2.5 million increased from 156 homes in third-quarter 2005 to 194 homes in third-quarter 2006. And the inventory of homes priced between $1.5 million to $2.5 million increased by 29.4 percent in the third quarter compared to third-quarter 2005. The highest-priced home of the quarter sold for $9.3 million in Pebble Beach.

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