Bay Area homes sales plummet to 20-year low


San Francisco is the only county which did not show a devastating drop. The hardest hit was Contra Costa County. According to /*real estate*/ information service, DataQuick, Bay Area home sales were down 41 percent over last March. Prices were down, too. The median home price of $639,000 dropped 16 percent to $536,000.

A sold sign is a rare sight in /*Contra Costa County*/ these days. The advertised price for a bank-owned three-bedroom home in /*Pittsburg*/ we visited was $211,000. It's a relative bargain when you consider the last time the same house sold in 2003, it went for $324,000.

"I saw my income go way down," says Pittsburg realtor Lynn Fogleman.

Fogleman is coming off a terrible year, but she's hoping things start to pick up and that potential buyers will jump into a market in serious decline.

"In fact, I talked to somebody yesterday who told me, 'I'm going to wait two more months and then I'm going to start looking and see.' And I told him, 'You know, a bird in the hand...' Who knows, nobody can predict the future," says Fogleman.

According to DataQuick, the recent past has been clearly bad. In Contra Costa County, March sales were down 33 percent compared with March of 2007.

Prices dropped sharply, too. In March of 2007, the median home price in Contra Costa was $575,000. This March it's just $420,500. That's a decline of 27 percent.

Prospective buyer Jean Davis sees opportunity behind every door. A lifetime government employee, she plans to retire soon and buy her very first home.

"(Prices are) way down, and the interest rate is good," says Davis.

Davis is looking at houses that are in short-sale, a step removed from /*foreclosure*/. They include a waterfront townhome now listed for $351,000. Two years ago, it could have sold for as much as $600,000.

"If you're planning on buying one, now is the time to do it," says Davis.

There will be plenty of inventory for Davis to look at considering there are over 600 active listings in the Pittsburg area. Some of those homes have been on the market for as long as a year.

Realtors see a hopeful sign in the number of pending sales. Currently there are 135, which is higher than what they've seen for the area in recent months.

In Alameda County, March sales dropped 47 percent and the median price fell 18 percent, down to $487,000. In Santa Clara County, sales dropped nearly as much, by 46 percent. However, prices only fell nine percent, falling from $682,000 to $620,000.

San Francisco is the only county in the Bay Area where prices actually increased. Sales still fell 20 percent, but the median home price actually rose slightly by three-tenths of one percent, up to $755,000.

To read the DataQuick report findings and to see data for your county, click here.

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