Bay Area home sales lowest in 20 years

Home sales in a nine-county region around San Francisco Bay plunged last month to the lowest level for December in at least 20 years, with several counties posting steep median price declines, a real estate research firm said Thursday.

A total of 5,065 homes were sold in the area last month, down 39.5 percent compared to December 2006 and off 1.2 percent from November, according to DataQuick Information Systems.

Sales in the region that includes Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano and Sonoma counties have dropped year-over-year for the past 35 months.

Prior to last month, the slowest December on record was 1990, when 5,458 homes were sold. DataQuick has been tracking sales since 1988.

Meanwhile, the median price of a home in the region slipped to $587,500, a 4.9 percent drop from December 2006 and a 6.6 percent decline from November's median, DataQuick said.

Sonoma County posted the sharpest decline, plummeting 21.9 percent to $410,000 from December 2006.

The median price in Solano County fell 15.8 percent to $370,000, while Contra Costa County saw a drop of 11.3 percent to $505,000.

The median price for a home in San Francisco County declined 1.9 percent to $731,000.

Prices in other counties dipped by single-digit percentages or stayed flat.

The median price has been falling in part because of a sharp drop in the number of high-end homes sold as lenders cut back on so-called jumbo mortgages that exceed $417,000.

Earlier this week, DataQuick said the average median price in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Ventura, Riverside and San Bernardino counties hit $425,000 last month, the lowest level since February 2005, when the figure was $420,000.

Home sales throughout those six counties plunged 45.3 percent to 13,240 from a year ago.

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