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San Francisco Bay Area home prices inch toward stability with fewer foreclosure sales

November 19, 2009 | 11:08 am

San Francisco house Home prices in the San Francisco Bay Area registered year-over-year gains last month for the first time in nearly two years.

The gains marked a move back toward stability for the region’s real estate as fewer distressed properties were sold and homes costing more than $500,000 accounted for a larger portion of sales.

The median price paid for all homes reached $390,000, up 6.8% from $365,000 in September and up 4% from $375,000 in October 2008, according to MDA DataQuick of San Diego. The last time the nine-county area  booked a year-over-year gain was in November 2007.

Last month’s median was the highest since hitting $395,000 in July this year. But the October median was still 41.4% below the $665,000 peak reached during the height of the Bay Area’s boom in June and July of 2007. The median is the point at which half the homes sold for more and half sold for less.

A total of 7,933 homes were sold last month, up 0.7% from 7,879 in September and 4.2% from 7,613 in October 2008. Sales in the region’s pricier areas – Marin, San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Mateo – made up 42.2% of October sales, up from 35.3% in October 2008.

Sales of homes that cost more than $500,000 constituted 36% of sales in October, up from 34.9% in October 2008 and well up from a low of 22.7% in January.

Last month’s increase in the median sales price also came as foreclosure properties made up a smaller portion of the resale market. Sales of homes that had been foreclosed upon in the prior 12 months made up 31.9% of all previously owned homes sold in October, DataQuick said.

That was down from 32.3% in September and 44% in October 2008. Foreclosure sales peaked at 52% of the resale market in February.

The drop in foreclosure sales came as banks and loan servicers increasingly pursued alternatives to the foreclosure process such as loan modifications and short sales -- where a lender agrees to sell a home for less than the value of a mortgage, DataQuick said.

-- Alejandro Lazo

Photo: A house for sale in San Francisco. Credit: Associated Press