Wealthy bargain hunters helped sales of California homes costing more than $1 million increase last year for the first time since 2005, even as overall sales declined in the state, a tracking firm said Friday.
San Diego-based DataQuick Information Systems said 22,529 homes sold for $1 million or more in 2010, up 21 percent from 18,621 in 2009 and the highest since 2008, when 24,436 homes sold for $1 million-plus. Million-dollar sales peaked in 2005 at 54,773 and declined every year through 2009.
Overall home sales in the state, meanwhile, declined 9 percent to 418,578 in 2010 from 460,166 in 2009.
DataQuick President John Walsh attributed the high-end uptick to a "top-down" economic recovery, with investment gains boosting confidence among the state's wealthiest residents and prompting them to go bargain shopping after the years of declining prices.
"Prestige home buyers respond to a different set of motivations than the rest of us," he said. "Their decisions are less dependent on jobs, prices and interest rates, and more on how their portfolio is doing."
The most expensive home to be sold in the state last year was a 35,378-square-foot, 15-bedroom, 7-bathroom Bel Air house built in 2007 on a 2.2-acre property that sold for $50,000,000 in June.
The communities with the highest portions of $1 million-plus home sales last year were San Marino in Los Angeles County, Los Altos in Santa Clara County, Atherton and Hillsborough in San Mateo County, and Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego County.
But slumping home values pushed many previously $1 million-plus homes beneath that threshold, DataQuick noted.
Last year 3,380 homes that sold for less than $1 million had previously sold for $1 million or more, with the median price falling $416,500, the firm said.