Calif. median home prices, sales plunge

A typical home in the Bay Area is now worth 11.6 percent less than it was a year ago -- the new median price: $548,000 dollars.

Sales: not much better. They're up from January, but way off from last year -- 35 percent down in Contra Costa and San Mateo counties; 40 to 45 percent down in Santa Clara, Sonoma and Alameda.

Until now it seemed high end homes were immune from the down turn of the real estate crisis, but not anymore. A home in Concord which is definitely high end has been sitting in the market since December.

In the Bay Area real estate market, the name of the game is still wait and see.

At least, that's what it appears buyers are doing after yet another month of record low sales numbers, according to the real estate tracking firm DataQuick.

In Alameda County, sales in February were down more than 44 percent compared with February 2007. Prices dropped 17-percent.

Frank Cannella is with Prudential California Realty in Pleasanton.

"We have not had a very robust couple of months this year. I think buyers are a little leary. They think if they wait, they may do better," said Cannella.

Houses in the Bay Area are sitting longer, and selling for less than they might have before.

In Contra Costa County, February sales were down 35-percent compared with last year, prices dropped 16-percent.

A house in Concord has been sitting on the market for four months. It is 13,000 square feet, five bedrooms, seven and a half baths on three acres. The asking price is $3.5 million dollars.

"We've had a couple of offers. We've actually had some good activity on this house considering the market conditions being so poor. We've had some good activity. Not a doubt in my mind it's going to go, it's just going to take a little bit longer in this marketplace," said real estate broker Dudum Del Santo.

A major contributor to the down real estate market is reluctance on the part of banks to dole out the so-called "jumbo" mortgages that traditionally dominate the bay area market.

"It's a heck of a lot harder to get those loans than it was a year ago. The qualified buyers who have always been prudent, and the banks that have been making those loans that have always been prudent, are the ones left in the marketplace. That is a way smaller segment of available capital to buy these homes than was available a year ago," said mortgage broker Bill Erb.

The closest thing to a crystal ball in the real estate market are the number of listings, the houses coming on the market and these past couple of months those two have been down by more than 10 percent in the Bay Area.

Everyone will be watching as Spring approaches and whether those listings will start to go back up.

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