The number of Golden State homes sold for a million dollars or more rose last quarter to its highest level in almost five years, the result of an improving economy, some price increases and improved mortgage availability. The year-over-year gain for $1 million-plus sales was nearly double the increase for the overall housing market, a real estate information service reported.
A total of 7,763 homes sold for $1 million plus during the April-to-June period. That was up 79.5 percent from 4,325 during the first quarter, and up 18.5 percent from 6,553 in 2011's second quarter, according to San Diego-based DataQuick.
The jump in million-dollar sales last quarter outpaced overall home sales. Total California home sales - including all price levels - increased 10.3 percent year-over-year last quarter, from 109,713 in second-quarter 2011 to 121,058 last quarter.
Last quarter's $1 million-plus sales were the highest since third-quarter 2007, when 10,946 changed hands. The highest quarter in DataQuick's records, which go back to 1988, was third-quarter 2005, when 15,898 homes sold for $1 million or more.
"This market always responds to its own set of incentives. Most homebuyers agonize about income, down payments and mortgage interest rates. And while there may be some of that in the prestige market, buyers there also watch what kind of returns their assets are bringing from investments and savings. If your money is parked in a savings account or something else that is low-risk, you're not making much and real property might look good," said John Walsh, DataQuick president.
"Part of the sales increase is because prices are going up, pushing some near-million-dollar homes up over the million-dollar threshold. Those price increases don't appear to be dramatic, but they may also be pushing fence-sitters into the market," he said.
Statewide, 188 homes sold for $5 million or more last quarter, while 122 were in the $4-$5 million range, 316 were in the $3-$4 million range, 909 were in the $2-$3 million range, 5,100 were in the $1-$2 million range. The exact price on the rest could not be determined, although financing and other factors made it clear that it was a million-dollar sale.
DataQuick monitors real estate activity nationwide and provides information to consumers, educational institutions, public agencies, lending institutions, title companies and industry analysts.
The million-dollar transactions include home sales where it could be determined from public records that there was a buyer, a seller, that money changed hands, and that there was a legal transfer of property ownership. Not included were property swaps, sales of multiple lots, sales where no price or loan amount was available, teardowns, and large farm or ranch properties. Sales to companies and trusts were included.
The most expensive confirmed purchase last quarter was a 17,908-square-foot, 9-bedroom, 14-bathroom Beverly Hills mansion built in 2008 which sold for $34,500,000 in May. It was also the largest million-dollar home sold last year.
While second-quarter sales in some communities were a mix of prestige and non-prestige homes, some communities are exclusively million-dollar, including 92067 Rancho Santa Fe, 94024 Los Altos and 90402 Santa Monica.
Newly-built houses and condos accounted for 4.3 percent of last quarter's $1 million-plus sales, down from 5.2 percent a year ago. Condo sales made up 8.8 percent of the million-dollar category, up slightly from 8.6 percent. Most $1 million-plus condos were sold in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego counties.
The median-sized million-dollar home sold last quarter was 2,629 sq.ft., with 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. The median price paid per square foot for all million-dollar homes in the April-to-June period was $632, up 2.0 percent from $619 in second-quarter 2011. For the market overall, the square-foot median was $169, up 6.4 percent from $159, DataQuick reported.
Last quarter, 31.0 percent of the $1 million-plus buyers paid cash, down from 37.7 percent the previous quarter and down from 31.9 percent for second-quarter 2011. In the over-$5 million category, 59.4 percent of the purchases were cash. Of those who did finance their purchase last year, the median down payment was 26.0 percent of the purchase price.
The lending institutions most willing to provide mortgage financing for $1 million-plus homes were Wells Fargo, Union Bank, First Republic Bank and Bank of America. Wells Fargo's market share was greater than the next three combined.
There are 8.74 million houses and condos in California. Of those, 239,636 are assessed for more than a million dollars by county assessor offices, up from 233,006 a year earlier, DataQuick reported.