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Sales of million-dollar homes soar in California

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Sales of million-dollar homes in California hit a five-year high in 2012, with sales of multimillion-dollar homes showing even bigger gains, a research firm said Wednesday.

There were 697 homes sold for more than $5 million last year, up 42 percent from 2011 and the highest since DataQuick began tracking sales in 1988. There were 460 homes sold between $4 million and $5 million, up 34 percent from the previous year and also the highest on record.

The most expensive sale was a Silicon Valley home in the community of Woodside that changed hands for $117.5 million in November. Public records identify SV Projects LLC as the buyer of the 8,930-square-foot, four-bedroom home that sits on nearly nine acres. The Los Angeles Times has identified the seller as Tully Friedman, chief executive of Friedman, Fleischer and Lowe, a San Francisco-based private equity firm.


The Woodside home eclipsed the 2011 purchase of a property in nearby Los Altos Hills for $100 million as the highest-priced sale in California public records, said DataQuick analyst Andrew LePage.

There were 26,993 houses and condominiums sold for at least $1 million last year, up 26.9 percent from 21,267 in 2011 and the highest since 42,502 sold in 2007, DataQuick said. The all-time high was 2005, when 54,773 homes sold for at least $1 million.

The increase far outpaced an 8.2 increase in all sales of California homes.

Janice Lee, director of luxury properties for California Prudential Realty, said she has seen an influx of Chinese buyers who are disenchanted with their government seeking to raise families in Southern California.

"There is a huge foreign buyer pool in Southern California," said Lee, who is based in Pasadena.


The Silicon Valley community of Hillsborough registered the most million-dollar sales, followed by Manhattan Beach, Menlo Park, Saratoga and Newport Beach. Rounding out the top 10 were San Diego's La Jolla area, Los Angeles' Brentwood section, Beverly Hills, Los Altos and Laguna Beach.

Buyers in the million-dollar-plus market are less motivated by job security, the size of down payments and lending rates than buyers in the rest of the market, said John Walsh, president of the San Diego-based research firm.

"Returns on investments in a low interest-rate financial environment and safe-haven investing do play a role," Walsh said.

DataQuick said 7,791 million-dollar home buyers paid cash, up from 5,802 a year earlier and the highest on record.

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