Homebuyers negotiated higher discounts in December, according to a study by real estate search and valuation site Zillow.

Buyers nationwide haggled a median 2.7 percent, or $5,618, off the last listing price of homes sold in December, a slight increase from 2.6 percent, or $5,538, in November, and the first and only month-to-month increase in 2009. Bargaining power decreased significantly year-over-year, however. In December 2008, buyers were able to knock a median 4.5 percent, or $10,018, off the last listing price.

To calculate the figures, the site compared the last listing price to the final sale price of about 49 million individual homes (single-family houses, condominuims and co-ops) in 131 metropolitan areas nationwide.

The median national listing price increased 0.4 percent month-to-month, to $209,900, but decreased 6.7 percent year-over-year.

Discounts varied widely by region, with Florida buyers especially likely to get them and California buyers more likely purchase homes at or above the asking price.

Florida metropolitan areas account for seven out of the top 10 cities with the highest discounts. Buyers in the Vero Beach, Fla., metro area had the highest discount rate, a median 8.8 percent off the last listing price, or $20,214. The second- and third-highest discount rates were in Toledo, Ohio, and Atlantic City, N.J. Buyers in each got a median 7.7 percent discount equal to $8,948 in the former and $21,859 in the latter.

The highest median discount by dollar amount was in Stamford, Conn., at $27,081, or 5.2 percent off the asking price.

In many California markets, "sellers continued to be in the driver’s seat," the report said, not least because foreclosure resales make up more than half of all home sales in most of the metro areas studied. Such distressed homes often receive multiple bids, pushing prices up (see story).

Close to the U.S.-Mexico border, homes in El Centro, Calif., sold for the highest percentage above the asking price, at 2.9 percent, or $2,859. The second-highest increase was in Stockton, Calif., at 2.8 percent, or $5,272 above the last listing price. The third-highest was in Modesto, Calif., at 0.9 percent, or $1,336. Both Central Valley cities were hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.

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