Wednesday, January 25, 2006

More Pricey Homes Selling

More Pricey Homes Selling
1 in 8 Transactions Carries Price of $1 Million or More
Kelly Zito, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A whopping 1 in 8 homes sold in the Bay Area last year went for $1 million or more as robust appreciation helped push more properties into what was once considered a luxury price zone.

In some communities, including Los Altos, Menlo Park and Belvedere/Tiburon, more than three-quarters of all transactions were for seven figures or more in 2005, according to real estate information firm DataQuick.

"That part of the market is pretty stable, it's just that there's been across-the-board appreciation," said DataQuick researcher John Karevoll.

In the nine-county region, 16,981 houses and condos -- or 13.5 percent of total sales -- went for at least $1 million, up from 11,399, or 8.5 percent, in 2004. Only 2.6 percent of homes fetched as much in 1999.

The jump from 2004 to 2005 represented a 49 percent climb in million-dollar home sales, amid a housing boom fed by strong demand and low interest rates. Last year, home prices grew about 18 percent in the region.

As a result, an increasing number of unassuming bungalows and tidy townhomes worth a mere $500,000 six years ago have doubled in price, taking them past the $1 million threshold.

Nowhere was the rise in high-end homes more pronounced than in Solano County, typically one of the least-expensive sections of the Bay Area.

In that county, which includes Vacaville, Vallejo and Fairfield, million-dollar home sales soared 154 percent in 2005. By comparison, sales rose 43.3 percent in San Francisco.

Solano County "is the last affordable place to live," said Vallejo real estate agent David Thomas. "If you go to Marin, what are you going to buy for $1 million -- maybe an older home with three beds and two baths? Here, you get estate homes with 3,500 to 4,000 square feet. You actually get a million-dollar home."

DataQuick, which analyzes home sale data filed in county recorders' offices, included transactions where it could be determined there was a buyer and a seller, that money changed hands and that there was a legal transfer of ownership. The figure excludes sales involving multiple lots, property swaps, teardowns or large farms.

In the state, 48,666 homes sold for $1 million or more last year, up 47 percent from 33,107 in 2004.

The priciest confirmed sale was a $23.5 million home with six bedrooms and 12 bathrooms on six acres in La Jolla (San Diego County).

Ten percent of buyers statewide paid cash, down from 15 percent the previous year.

Although the Bay Area is home to a bevy of ritzy properties, Southern California dominated the list of cities with the most high-end sales. Of the top 10 priciest towns, only three -- Hillsborough (No. 3), Saratoga (No. 6) and Cupertino (No. 10) -- were in the Bay Area.

La Jolla was first, followed by Manhattan Beach (Los Angeles County).

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