North Bay home prices continued to climb upwards in 2012, part of an overall 32 percent year-over-year boost for housing prices around the Bay Area and the fastest median price increase in more than 25 years, according to a monthly real estate market report released this week.
Combined with a continued decrease in foreclosure rates, as indicated by a separate monthly report by Irvine-based foreclosure tracker RealtyTrac, the trend points toward gradual but steady recovery for the region's housing market.
"Prices are in the midst of bouncing off bottom right now, and nobody really knows what the trajectory of this bounce will be at this point," said John Walsh, president of San Diego-based real estate data service DataQuick, in his company's report."So far, supply has been a bottleneck, but as prices go up, more homes will be put up for sale."
The North Bay median prices for the year rose most in Marin County, which had a 27.6 percent increase to $660,750 from 2011, according to San Diego-based real estate data service DataQuick.
Sonoma County's median increased 23.4 percent to $345,000; Solano County's, 19.6 percent to $218,000; and Napa County's, 10.2 percent to $350,000.
The median price for a home sold in the nine-county Bay Area was $442,750, up from a low of $290,000 in March 2009 but down from a high of $665,000 in summer 2007.
The price increase for homes sold around the Bay Area reflected, in part, a greater number of sales for medium- to high-priced homes. The number of homes sold for less than $500,000 decreased 12.6 percent year-over-year, while the number sold for more than that amount increased 61.2 percent.
The number of homes sold rose 4.5 percent across the Bay Area, but declined in two North Bay counties. Napa had 129 homes sold in December, down 2.3 percent, and Solano had 610 homes sold, down 14.6 percent.
Conversely, the number of homes sold in Marin rose 3.9 percent to 291 and in Sonoma, 3.2 percent to 555.
A shortage of inventory continues to slow the rate of sales, according to the report. In addition, mortgage lenders have been overwhelmed by purchase and refinance requests, further slowing the market.
Rising prices could mean more homes coming to the market in coming months, according to the report.December sales highest since 2006
While the number of homes sold across the Bay Area in December was the highest since 2006, the 7,832 homes sold was still 9 percent lower than the average number sold for all Decembers since DataQuick began gathering data in 1988.
Distressed property sales, which include foreclosure resales and short sales, made up 34.2 percent of the resale market. There were 18.2 percent fewer than in the same month in 2011.
Foreclosure resales, at 11.8 percent of sales, were at their lowest levels since accounting for 10.1 percent in November 2007.
Short sales made up 22.4 percent of Bay Area resales in December, down from 24.6 percent one year earlier.Investors, cash buyers dominate market
Investors purchased 25.8 percent of all Bay Area homes in December, an all-time high for the month since statistics began in January 1999. The level was up from 23.8 percent one year ago, and those investors paid a median price -- $315,000 -- 34 percent higher than a year prior.