Thirty-three percent more homes sold in April than the previous month in San Diego County, marking the largest March-to-April jump on record since at least 1988, the year DataQuick Information Systems began keeping stats on the San Diego housing market.

The sales total — about 2,800 new and resale houses and condos — was still down about 18 percent compared to the total in April 2007.

More than one-third, 35.1 percent, of the homes that resold last month in the county had been foreclosed on in the prior 12 months.

The “unusually strong pop” in sales activity across Southern California led to some local head-scratching over the possibility the market bust has hit bottom.

DataQuick’s Andrew LePage said it’s “too soon to say.”

“One month isn’t a trend, period,” he said. “I don’t think it would surprise us if some months down the line we looked back and saw that (March’s sales total) was the worst of it for sales. It also wouldn’t surprise me if we haven’t seen the worst for sales.”

But, against the backdrop of those significant unknowns, the rise in activity was still a big deal, he said.

“We’re seeing some momentum — and I’m not talking price at all — in areas that have been heavily discounted from their peak,” LePage said. “Prices are 20 to 40 percent off their peaks in some places. That’s luring some buyers back into the market, getting what they perceive is a good deal.”

LePage cribbed the firm’s three Big Ifs we’ve been hearing for a few months: Are we in or headed for a recession? Will credit become un-crunched? What if foreclosure sales taper off?

There was more nuance where that came from.

“What we don’t know is how deep the demand is, even at these prices,” LePage said. “There are a lot of foreclosures that still haven’t sold and a lot more coming.”

“All we know for sure is that there has been some deep discounting in some markets and some people are responding,” he added.

KELLY BENNETT

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