California's real estate market seemed to heal in 2012 after the ravages of the mortgage crisis, but upper-end homes did more than just return to pre-recession levels: The number of homes that sold for $5 million or more in California in 2012 set a record, according to a DataQuick analysis released Wednesday, led by a Peninsula city.
The real estate information service reported that 697 homes sold for more than $5 million; the previous record was 491 in 2011.
Other high-end sales totals broke records as well, with the state setting records for homes sold in the $4 million-to-$5 million range (460) and the $3 million-to-$4 million range (1,104).
Overall, 26,993 homes sold for more than $1 million in the Golden State in 2012, the highest total since 2007 and a 26.9 percent increase from 2011. That gain easily outpaced the overall sales increase, which was still impressive: 8.2 percent growth with 447,573 homes sold.
"It should go without saying that buyers and sellers in the prestige market tend to respond to different motivations and incentives than the rest of the market," DataQuick President John Walsh pointed out in Wednesday's news release. "Job security, down payment sizes and mortgage interest rates don't play the same role. Returns on investments in a low-interest-rate financial environment and safe-haven investing do play a role."
The way purchasers pay for expensive homes also differs from the traditional, as a record
In the Bay Area, DataQuick pointed out that some communities sold few to no houses for less than $1 million, specifically mentioning Los Altos, Atherton and Hillsborough. Hillsborough's ZIP code had the largest number of homes sold in California for more than $1 million last year, 422. Menlo Park -- home of Facebook, which set records with its 2012 initial public offering -- had the third-most $1 million-plus sales, at 370.
"You cannot buy anything in Menlo Park for less than $1 million," Wendy McPherson, who manages Coldwell Banker's Woodside, Portola Valley and Menlo Park offices, told this newspaper last week.
San Diego-based DataQuick confirmed that its research shows the most expensive purchase in 2012 was the $117.5 million sale of a house in Woodside reported by this newspaper last week. The sale, which closed in November, eclipsed the previous Silicon Valley record of $100 million paid for a Los Altos Hills mansion by Russian investor Yuri Milner in 2011.
Staff writer Pete Carey contributed to this report. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/mercbizbreak.