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November’s home sales increased 17.8 percent compared to a year earlier, continuing a streak of year-over-year increases that began in mid-2008, the latest numbers from MDA DataQuick show.

Sales dropped 14 percent from October’s levels, but that is a typical seasonal trend. Foreclosures captured their smallest slice of the sales pie since December 2007, at 32.6 percent of all of the 2,774 resale transactions.

That’s down from 34.5 percent in October and sharply down from 52 percent a year ago.

Government-insured Federal Housing Administration loans kept their corner on a sizable piece of the market as the federal agency continued its efforts to fill in the lending gaps left by the skittish private banking sector. In November, 28.1 percent of the loans used to purchase homes in San Diego County were FHA-insured.

That share was slightly smaller than 29.7 percent of the homes bought in October, but about the same as in August and September.

Two years ago these loans were virtually nonexistent in the market. In August 2007, a tiny 0.8 percent of the homes bought with loans were FHA-financed.

The FHA’s sustainability is coming under increased scrutiny. The agency has announced big changes for its loan programs that could dramatically affect the local market. That includes asking borrowers to bring more money — potentially more than the minimum 3.5 percent down payment currently required — to the table to get the loans. Officials say changes should be finalized in the next month.

The county’s median price has been the same — $325,000 — four months in a row now. I included a bit of back story on the median price in last month’s DataQuick post.

While today’s Union-Tribune characterized the market as stabilizing, the article included some cautionary words about the future from DataQuick analyst Andrew LePage:

“[The median price] suggests at least a temporary price plateau in a lot of markets, not all,” LePage said. “You can’t extrapolate, even if you think we’re at the bottom of a ‘U.’”

He and other market analysts caution about many unknowns — the course of interest rates, now at historically low levels below 5 percent; the health of the mortgage market, especially with the scheduled exit of the Federal Reserve from buying mortgages from lenders; and the biggest uncertainty, the state of the overall economy and whether employment grows and sparks renewed housing demand.

— KELLY BENNETT

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