North Bay home foreclosures fall, sales rise

New California legislation known as the "homeowner bill of rights" helped the rate of new foreclosures to plunge in the North Bay and beyond in January, while home prices and sales in general continued a steady upward climb, according to reports released by Irvine-based foreclosure tracker RealtyTrac and San Diego-based real estate data service DataQuick.

January home sales in the Bay Area reached a six-year high and brought the 10th straight year-over-year increase in median sale price, according to DataQuick. Last month, 5,330 homes sold, a 3.2 percent increase from January 2012. The median price of $442,750 was up 27.3 percent from the prior year.

In Sonoma County, median home prices rose over the year by 19.3 percent to $340,000. There were 398 homes sold, a 5.9 percent decrease from January 2012.

Marin County median prices rose 22.4 percent to $640,000. The 181 homes sold represented a 5.2 percent decrease.

The number of homes sold in Napa County rose 16.1 percent to 108. The median price of $380,000 increased 14.3 percent.

Solano County sales grew by 3 percent to 523 homes. The average price rose 21.8 percent versus the year before, to $219,000.

At least half the year-to-year price change was due to changes in the mix of homes sold, according to DataQuick. The number of Bay Area homes sold for less than $500,000 decreased 17.9 percent, while the number sold for more than that amount grew by 45.4 percent.

Distressed property sales, including foreclosure resales and short sales, made up 37.7 percent of the resale market, compared with 55.6 percent in January 2012.

"Jumbo loans" -- loans beyond the former limit of $417,000 -- were more common, accounting for 38 percent of lending on January purchases, compared with 23.6 percent a year prior. Adjustable-rate mortgages accounted for 11.4 percent of loans, down from 11.7 percent in January of last year.

Government-insured loans by the Federal Housing Administration, a popular choice for first-time buyers, accounted for 15.5 percent of Bay Area loans, compared with 23.6 percent in the prior year.

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