For the fourth straight year, fewer million-dollar homes sold in California last year, according to a report by San Diego-based real estate information service DataQuick.

These sales amounted to 18,621 in 2009, down 23.8 percent from 24,436 sold in 2008.

Last year’s count was the lowest recorded since 2002, when 15,703 sold; the peak was in 2005, when 54,773 such homes sold, according to the report. The number of million-dollar homes finding new owners has fallen each year since then, down 8.6 percent in 2006, down 15.2 percent in 2007, and down a whopping 42.5 percent in 2008.

While home sales at all price levels increased 16.9 percent in 2009, the number of those sold for $1 million or more fell to 1 in 25 homes, compared with 1 in 16 in 2008; in 2006, that ratio was 1 in 9, according to the report.

The report attributed the decline to "buyer reticence, a difficult mortgage market and several years of price drops that tugged the value of many homes below the million-dollar threshold."

Of the 441,545 homes sold in California last year below the million-dollar mark, 0.4 percent, or 1,900, had a previous sale price of $1 million or more at a median prior-sale date of April 2006, but sold for less than $1 million last year at a median decrease of $420,000, the report said.

In California’s inland Riverside County, million-dollar home sales plunged 48.6 percent in 2009, while in nearby Los Angeles County, sales dipped 13.3 percent, the report said.

"Traditional million-dollar markets are holding up relatively well, while expensive markets that emerged four or five years ago are not," said John Walsh, DataQuick’s president. …CONTINUED

Most million-dollar home sales, 83 percent, were in the $1 million to $2 million price range; 10 percent were in the $2 million to $3 million range; 3 percent were in the $3 million to $4 million range; 1.2 percent were in the $4 million to $5 million range; and 1.8 percent were above $5 million.

The most expensive home, sold in July 2009 in Los Angeles’ Bel Air neighborhood for $26.5 million, was also the largest at 22,721 square feet, nine bedrooms and 10 bathrooms, the report said.

The median size for a home in the million-dollar category was 2,646 square feet, with four bedrooms, three bathrooms and a median price per square foot of $605, which is 10.1 percent lower than in 2008, the report said. The decline of price per square foot was not as severe as in the overall market, which saw a 20.7 percent decrease to $149 last year.

Sales of newly built homes made up 7.8 percent of million-dollar sales, a 50.3 percent decline from the year before. Condo sales made up 8.3 percent of such sales, a 34.7 percent dip from 2008. Most million-dollar condo sales took place in San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco, the report said.

The report also identified California cities where virtually all homes sales fit into the million-dollar category: Portola Valley and Atherton in San Mateo County; Newport Beach in Orange County; Ross in Marin County; and Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego County.

A higher percentage, 29 percent, of million-dollar homebuyers paid cash in 2009 vs. 24 percent in 2008; of those over $5 million, two-thirds of buyers paid cash, the report said.

The median downpayment for those who did borrow was 39.4 percent; and Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Union Bank stood out as the banks most willing to lend for million-dollar homes, according to the report.


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