SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT (publ. 4/20/2013, pg. A2)
A story on soaring prices for Bay Area homes incorrectly attributed data on 24-hour sales to Zip Realty. The data was from Redfin.

As many sellers remain on the sidelines, desperate Bay Area homebuyers are streaming through open houses, making offers tens of thousands of dollars above asking price and still coming away empty-handed.

A three-bedroom Dublin home recently drew more than 40 offers. Across the bay in Cupertino, 300 visitors streamed through one home for sale during a weekend showing, said Miawand Bayan of DeLeon Realty.

"It's nuts," said Livermore real estate agent Cher Wollard of Prudential California Realty. "We are seeing the evidence of real pent-up demand."

A sale pending sign stands in front of a home for sale on February 21, 2013 in Larkspur, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A sale pending sign stands in front of a home for sale on February 21, 2013 in Larkspur, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) ( Justin Sullivan )

The intense demand has sent prices soaring, according to a report released Thursday by DataQuick. Potential sellers are either waiting for prices to go higher or are unable to sell because they're still underwater. And homeowners who want to either downsize or move up are reluctant to sell because there is so little to buy.

The median sales price of an existing single-family home increased 20 to 30 percent in March over the year-ago March in the East Bay, Peninsula and South Bay, the San Diego real estate research company said.

It was the 13th straight month of year-over-year price increases for homes in Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties, according to DataQuick.


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Santa Clara County's median sales price of $665,000 was up 6.4 percent in one month and 24.3 percent from a year earlier. San Mateo County's median sales price was $760,000, up nearly 10 percent from February and a 19.7 percent jump from a year ago.

Alameda County's median sales price was $445,000, up 10.7 percent in a month and almost 22 percent above March 2012. Contra Costa County's price was $346,000, an increase of 13.4 percent from February and 33 percent from a year earlier.

Although the number of sales saw a big seasonal jump from February -- typical for this time of year -- they were flat compared with March 2012 in Alameda and Contra Costa counties and down in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. And the monthly increase wasn't enough to meet demand.

A "growing demand meets an exceptionally low supply of homes for sale," DataQuick President John Walsh said.

In the more affordable and desirable parts of the East Bay, open houses are jammed, said Lanny Baker, president and chief executive of ZipRealty.

The three-bedroom Dublin home that drew more than 40 offers had an open house with a line of prospective buyers extending across the cul-de-sac where it was located, he said. Listed at $399,000, it's in escrow for just over $500,000. A home in Contra Costa County drew 78 offers.

"People who have stayed out of the housing market for five to seven years, people who have been renting, are now moving back into the market and coming with fairly strong, cash-backed offers," Baker said.

Kevin Swartz of Coldwell Banker in Saratoga said the vast majority of sellers are people moving out of the area. He said he has just one homeowner who wants to sell and move to a bigger house in the same school district.

"No sellers want to move up and be thrown into that big group of buyers and have to rent for a period of time while they look," he said.

Buyers have to move fast. Redfin Real Estate said that this year, 332 homes in the East Bay, Peninsula and South Bay were under contract in 24 hours or less, and between 24 and 32 percent -- depending on the county -- had sales pending in a week.

For homeowners, it has rarely been easier to sell.

San Jose aerospace engineer Steven Harper sold his home in eight days this month, drawing nine offers and a swarm of about 100 visitors a day to a weekend open house, plus an additional 15 to 20 scheduled visits from realty agents.

"We had a pretty good feeling that it was going to be kind of frantic because of what we had been seeing in the news, especially in Palo Alto and Los Altos, where they have traffic jams at open houses," he said.

In Contra Costa County, sales above $800,000, accounting for 14 percent of the market, jumped 71 percent above March 2012. Sales under $500,000 were 14.9 percent lower than the previous March, while sales over $500,000 were up 46 percent. In Santa Clara County, sales of existing single-family homes for less than $500,000 were down 38.2 percent from the previous March, while sales over $500,000 were up 14.5 percent.