Bay Area home sales cool amid economic jitters

August 16, 2011 8:20:25 PM PDT
Wrangling over the debt ceiling and a wildly fluctuating stock market have taken a toll on the housing market. The DataQuick information service reports that July home sales in the Bay Area fell nearly 14 percent from June. That is the third worst month of July on record.

Home sales normally drop from June to July, but this summer, with all the uncertainty and turmoil in Congress and on the stock exchange, it appears buyers retreated in a big way.

With a turbulent summer nearly over, Bay area realtors are hoping late season open houses help push some prospective buyers off the fence and into the market.

"The summer is usually a peak of your market, and I think people just got a little stymied by the information they received in the stock market and some concerns and questions," said Nicole Tucker of Tucker Associates.

One Walnut Creek home just came on the market for $729,000. It's in the price range that's been a tough sell lately.

According to DataQuick, sales of homes priced over $500,000 dropped 25 percent in July, compared with June, and 19 percent since July 2010. Prices took a hit as well. In June, the median price of a home in the Bay Area was $374,000, down 1 percent from June.

"Buyers are nervous and buyers are fickle, and they feel that prices may continue to drop so they don't jump like they used to jump," said Tracy Tilin McKendell of Highland Partners.

"I've been looking for a house now for nine months," said prospective home buyer Alison Roessler of Oakland. She has been waiting out the swings in the Bay Area real estate market, still waiting for the right house at the right price. "I've noticed there's a lot of stuff out there, but what I'm finding is not very high quality stuff that's out there."

Sue Van Dyke is thinking about selling her Walnut Creek home. She visited an open house because it's very similar to the one she and her husband have lived in for seven years.

"I'm not wanting to go upside down, and we aren't, and we live in a nice area of Walnut Creek so I'm hoping that that stays that way," said Van Dyke. "So I'm just getting a pulse on what's happening out there because there's so much confusion."

That confusion may be coming from all of the contradictory signals in the market -- interest rates are low, but foreclosure activity remains high, although still well below the peak levels reached over the past three years.

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