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As the real estate market continues bouncing along the bottom, the Bay Area saw more homes change hands in March compared with a year ago, while the median price stayed flat, according to a real estate report released Thursday.

“I think 2012 is the year where we’ll find a rock-solid bottom to the market if current trends hold, such as a strengthening economy and no big surge in distressed properties,” said Andrew LePage, an analyst with San Diego’s DataQuick, which released the report. “In areas like Silicon Valley with strong job growth you could argue that we’re past the bottom, but that’s not true elsewhere. The data are still choppy; we’ll know when the market really turns the corner if we have month after month of year-over-year price gains.”

A total of 7,694 new and resale houses and condos sold in the nine-county region in March, up 9.1 percent from a year earlier, according to DataQuick. For existing single-family homes, the total was 5,376 sold, a 3.6 increase from the prior year.

For all homes, the median price, which closely reflects the mixture of homes sold (more high-end homes lead to a higher median, for instance), was $358,000, a notch below $360,000 in March 2011. For existing homes, the median was $390,000, down 1.5 percent from a year earlier. The median has steadily declined compared with the prior year every month since October 2010, but DataQuick said last month’s was the smallest decline so far.

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Bargain-hunting investors buoyed the number of Bay Area homes sold in December as the median price continued to soften, according to a real estate report released Wednesday.

“The lower end of the market everywhere is tending to do better as distress and heavier discounts draw bottom feeders, investors and first-time buyers,” said Andrew LePage, a DataQuick analyst.

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Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Wall Street Journal and Associated Press

Eva Holbrook, a home stager for Bella Casa Home Staging, adjusts a pillow at a condo for sale in San Francisco, CA.


Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Wall Street Journal and Associated Press

Katy Darcy, a home stager for Bella Casa Home Staging, removes screws from the wall of a recently sold condo in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011. The number of Americans signing contracts to buy previously owned homes rose more than forecast in November as falling prices and low borrowing costs boosted demand.

Sierra Madre’s Bella Casa Known for Creating Just the Right Mood to Show Off Homes

Homes listed in today’s challenging market often languish unsold for months, even years. Savvy sellers and agents in LA and in San Francisco have been turning to professionals Renee and Wyatt Sullivan from Bella Casa Home Staging to present their home’s best face to potential buyers.

The Sullivans began Bella Casa up in San Francisco “where staging really began”, according to Wyatt Sullivan. With construction, real estate and design backgrounds, the two decided to pool their expertise and market their talents, when their own staged rehab projects sold so well, and so quickly.

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