California home sales continued strong last month as investors snapped up mid- to high-end homes, though it was unclear whether the rebound will continue through the year, real estate research firm DataQuick reported Wednesday.
The region recorded its highest February sales in six years, with 15,945 homes sold in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura counties, DataQuick said.
That was down 0.7 percent from January but up 1 percent from February 2012.
The median sales price was $320,000, down slightly from January but up nearly 21 percent from February of last year, DataQuick reported.
Year-over-year prices - that is, prices compared with the same month in the previous year - have jumped by double digits each month since last August. Even so, the median sales price was only about what it was in mid-2003, DataQuick said.
And despite year-over-year improvement, sales remained nearly 10 percent below the February average.
Many of the January and February sales were to investors who went shopping for bargains during the 2012 winter holiday season, DataQuick President John Walsh said in a statement.
"That's when many traditional buyers and sellers drop out of the market, leaving a relatively high concentration of very motivated market participants, especially investors," Walsh said. "March and April will offer a better view of how broader market trends are shaping up this year."
Investor and cash buying was at or near all-time highs, DataQuick said.
Absentee buyers - mostly investors and some second-home purchasers - bought a record 31.4 percent of the Southern California homes sold in February.
More mid- to high-end homes - those going for between $300,000 and $800,000 - were sold in February compared with a year earlier, while lower-cost homes lagged, partly because a slowdown in foreclosures meant fewer homes for sale, DataQuick said.
There were some good signs.
"Foreclosure activity remains far below peak levels. Financing with multiple mortgages is very low and down payment sizes are stable," DataQuick said.