Rock-bottom mortgage rates, tight inventory and increasing demand spurred double-digit rises in Bay Area home prices and sales volume in November, according to a real estate report released Thursday.
The nine-county region saw the highest November sales rate in six years, said San Diego-based DataQuick. A total of 7,296 new and resale homes changed hands in November, up 15.5 percent from a year earlier. That was nearing the long-term November average of 7,873 sales.
“We’re seeing a more-normal level of sales and a more-normal distribution of sales across price categories,” said Andrew LePage, a DataQuick analyst. “The market isn’t quite as lopsided.”
Bay Area buyers paid a median price of $438,000 last month, up 20.5 percent from November 2011. DataQuick said about half of the increase stemmed from a shift in the mix of houses sold.
Bargain-basement foreclosure resales are now at their lowest level in five years, accounting for 11.5 percent of November resale transactions. A year ago they were a quarter of the market; at their peak in 2009, foreclosures were 52 percent of all resales.
Short sales – homes sold for less than is owed on the mortgage – were 23 percent of the resale market, down from 24.9 percent a year ago.
More buyers committed to pricier homes. Mortgages above the old “jumbo” limit of $417,000 were 40.1 percent of the November market, up from 29 percent a year earlier.
Realtors throughout the Bay Area report that a dearth of supply is fueling bidding wars, with properties selling well above asking prices.
“We’re getting 30 offers on properties at the lowest price points,” said Don Faught, managing broker with Alain Pinel Realtors in the Tri-Valley area.
“The challenge we have now is that there’s nothing to sell,” he said. “But now that prices are increasing, people are finally realizing that they can sell their house.”
LePage agreed. “This is a strengthening market that is still undersupplied, hence the pressure on prices,” he said. “If these trends hold, we will see a lot more inventory. As prices ratchet up, fewer people are underwater and those who are in a position to sell will be tempted to make their move now.”
Investors remained a potent market force. Buyers paying all cash bought 28.7 percent of Bay Area properties in November, the same as a year earlier, paying a median $320,000, up 27 percent from November 2011.
Low interest rates – one trend underlying the surge in sales – seem likely to continue. The rates on 30-year mortgages dipped last week to an average of 3.32, nearing the record low, according to a Freddie Mac survey, also released Thursday. The all-time low was 3.31 percent in the Nov. 21 report.
The Federal Reserve said Wednesday it would continue buying government securities and mortgage bonds until unemployment drops below 6.5 percent – something it predicts will not happen until 2015. The tens of billions of dollars it is pouring into those purchases will keep interest rates low.
Carolyn Said is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org