Home prices in the San Francisco Bay Area declined in March from a year earlier, the sixth straight decline, as distressed properties accounted for almost half of all purchases, according to DataQuick Information Systems Inc.

The median price paid for houses and condominiums in the nine-county region was $360,000, down 5.3% from $380,000 in March 2010, the San Diego data seller said Friday. Prices rose 6.7% from $337,250 in February.

"The Bay Area has much less of a foreclosure problem than the rest of the state, but by its own standards it's still a sizable problem that acts as a drag on prices," John Walsh, DataQuick's president, said in a press release. "The big issue continues to be mortgage financing, which is still problematic for many potential borrowers."

Foreclosures made up about a third of transactions while short sales, where the price is less than the amount owed on the loan, accounted for almost a fifth of purchases, DataQuick said. A total of 7,051 houses and condominiums sold in the region last month, up 41% from February and 0.2% from a year earlier and the highest tally for a March in four years.

Prices declined from a year earlier in eight of the Bay Area's nine counties, dropping the most in Solano, 12%, to a median $190,000. Prices fell 8%, to $460,000 in Santa Clara, and 3.7%, to $650,000 in San Francisco. Marin showed the only gain, 4.4%, to a median $668,250.

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