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Monday, February 8th, 2010, 2:41 pm

Million-dollar home sales continue to decline in California, as price declines are bringing homes below the $1m threshold and hesitant buyers have yet to return to the market, according to property data provider MDA DataQuick.

A total of 18,621 California homes sold for $1m or more last year, down 23.8% from 24,436 sales in 2008. It marks the fourth consecutive year of sales volume declines and follows similar year-over-year declines in 2007 (42,506 sales), 2006 (50,010) and the peak year of 2005 (54,773), DataQuick said.

The decline in higher-priced house sales was countered by higher sales in all price levels. Total California home sales increased 16.9% to 460,166 in 2009, from 393,703 in 2008, DataQuick said.

“Prestige home sales are a unique sub-category of the real estate market,” said DataQuick president John Walsh. “The buyers and sellers respond to a different set of motivations. In the multi-million-dollar price ranges, decisions are largely discretionary and aren’t as dependent upon jobs, prices and interest rates the way they are for most buyers and sellers.”

The overwhelming majority — 15,569, or 83% — of homes that sold for more than $1m priced between $1m and $2m. There were 1,902 homes sold between $2m and $3m. Another 590 units sold between $3m and $4m, 228 sold between $4m and $5m and 332 sold for more than $5m.

DataQuick calculates its figures from public records confirming the presence of a buyer, a seller, money transfer, and legal transfer of property ownership, including sales to companies and trusts. The data does not include property swaps, sales of multiple lots, sales where no price or loan amount was available, property tear-downs, or large farm or ranch properties.

The largest and most expensive purchase DataQuick confirmed for 2009 was a 22,721-square-foot, 9-bedroom, 10-bathroom Bel Air house built in 2008 that sold for $26.5m in July.

Million-dollar home sales in Riverside County dropped 48.6% last year, while they dropped 13.3% in Los Angeles County, DataQuick said. Sales in Portola Valley and Atherton in San Mateo County, Newport Beach in Orange County, Ross in Marin County and Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego County were almost exclusively million-dollar or higher transactions.

New homes accounted for 1,457 of last year’s $1m-plus sales, down 50.3% from 2,933 for 2008. There were 1,542 condo sales priced at $1m or more, down 34.7% from 2,362 in 2008. The median size for a million-dollar home was 2,646 square feet, with 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms.

There were 4,925 notices of default issued in 2009on homes previously sold for $1m or more, while the number of trustee deeds, which count total foreclosures, was 2,698 in 2009.

DataQuick said 29% of buyers in the $1m-plus range paid cash, up from 24% in 2008. In the $5m or higher category, two-thirds of buyers paid cash. The median down payment for a buyer who financed a purchase was 39.4% of the purchase price.

DataQuick said the lenders that extended the most credit for $1m or more home purchases were Bank of America (BAC: 14.28 -1.38%), Wells Fargo (WFC: 26.42 -0.04%) and Union Bank (UB: 0.00 N/A).

Write to Austin Kilgore.

The author held no relevant investments.

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