DQNEWS – The San Francisco Bay Area posted its strongest home sales for the month of August in six years, the result of low mortgage interest rates, an improving economy and increasing demand in mid- to move-up market segments.
The median price paid for a home eased back a notch from June and July, but was well ahead of last year for the fifth consecutive month, a real estate information service reported.
A total of 8,579 new and resale homes were sold in the nine-county Bay Area last month. That was up 1.4 percent from 8,461 in July, and up 14.2 percent from 7,513 for August 2011.
A July-to-August sales increase is normal for the Bay Area summer season. August sales have varied from 6,688 in 1992 to 13,940 in 2004, while the average for all months of August since 1988, when DataQuick’s statistics start, is 9,638.
The median price paid for all new and resale houses and condos sold in the Bay Area last month was $410,000. That was down 2.6 percent from $421,000 in July, and up 10.8 percent from $370,000 in August 2011.
The Bay Area median almost always drops from July to August. Roughly half the year-over-year increase in the median can be attributed to a shift in market mix.
The median’s low point of the current real estate cycle was $290,000 in March 2009. The peak was $665,000 in June/July 2007. Around half of the median’s peak-to-trough drop was the result of a decline in home values, while the other half was the result of a shift in the sales mix.
“Most economists agree that the housing market is off bottom. But there’s a big gap between the market being ‘off bottom’ and being normal, which it’s not. The single biggest bottleneck is still the dysfunctional mortgage lending market. It’ll be interesting to see how (last week’s) announcement that the Fed is going to buy mortgage-backed securities plays out,” said John Walsh, DataQuick president.
Jumbo loans, mortgages above the old conforming limit of $417,000, accounted for 38.7 percent of last month’s purchase lending, up from a revised 38.6 percent in July, and up from 32.9 percent a year ago. Last month was the highest since 43.4 percent in November 2007. In the current cycle, jumbo usage dropped to as low as 17.1 percent in January 2009. Before the credit crunch struck in August 2007, jumbos accounted for nearly 60 percent of the Bay Area purchase loan market.
Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs), an important indicator of mortgage availability, declined again last month, accounting for 12.8 percent of the Bay Area’s home purchase loans. That was down from a revised 13.5 percent in July, and down from 16.0 percent in August last year. Since 2000, ARMs have accounted for 49.4 percent of all purchase loans. ARMs hit a low of 3.0 percent of loans in January 2009.
Government-insured FHA home purchase loans, a popular choice among first-time buyers, accounted for 16.1 percent of all Bay Area home purchase mortgages last month. That was the same as in July and down from 21.1 percent a year earlier.
The most active lenders to Bay Area home buyers last month were Wells Fargo with 17.0 percent of the market, RPM Mortgage with 4.6 percent and Bank of America with 3.3 percent. A year ago, Bank of America’s market share was 8.2 percent.
Last month 40.2 percent of Bay Area sales were for $500,000 or more, down from a revised 42.0 percent in July, and up from 35.9 percent in August 2011. The low for the current cycle was January 2009, when just 22.7 percent of sales crossed the $500,000 threshold. Over the past 10 years, a monthly average of 48.0 percent of homes sold for $500,000-plus.
Last month distressed property sales – the combination of foreclosure resales and “short sales” – made up about 33.8 percent of the Bay Area’s resale market. That was down from 34.0 percent in July and down from 43.8 percent a year ago.
Foreclosure resales – homes that had been foreclosed on in the prior 12 months – accounted for 14.9 percent of resales in August, down from a revised 15.1 percent in July, and down from 25.7 percent a year ago. Last month was the lowest since 14.0 percent in December 2007. Foreclosure resales peaked at 52.0 percent in February 2009. The Bay Area’s monthly average for foreclosure resales over the past 17 years is about 10 percent.
Short sales – transactions where the sale price fell short of what was owed on the property – made up an estimated 18.9 percent of Bay Area resales last month. That was the same as in July and up from 18.1 percent a year earlier.
Absentee buyers – mostly investors – purchased 23.0 percent of all Bay Area homes sold last month, up from a revised 22.6 percent in July, and up from 21.2 percent a year ago. Absentee buyers paid a median $264,500 in August, up 5.8 percent from a year ago.
Buyers who appear to have paid all cash – meaning there was no evidence of a corresponding purchase loan in the public record – accounted for 28.0 percent of August sales. That was up from a revised 27.6 percent in July, and up from 27.5 percent a year ago. The monthly average going back to 1988 is 12.6 percent. Cash buyers paid a median $273,250 in August, up 9.3 percent from a year earlier.
San Diego-based DataQuick monitors real estate activity nationwide and provides information to consumers, educational institutions, public agencies, lending institutions, title companies and industry analysts. Because of late data availability, sales were estimated in Alameda, San Francisco and San Mateo counties.
The typical monthly mortgage payment that Bay Area buyers committed themselves to paying last month was $1,491, down from $1,522 in July, and up from $1,460 a year ago. Adjusted for inflation, last month’s payment was 46.6 percent below the typical payment in spring 1989, the peak of the prior real estate cycle. It was 60.6 percent below the current cycle’s peak in July 2007.
Indicators of market distress continue to move in different directions. Foreclosure activity remains high by historical standards but below peak levels reached over the last three years. Financing with multiple mortgages is low and down payment sizes are stable, DataQuick reported.