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Portland region May home sales fell to the lowest level for that month in at least 15 years - in part a reflection of the smaller pool of discounted foreclosures available compared with most of the West. The overall median sale price continued to erode more slowly than in many other U.S. markets, but it was still at its lowest point in nearly four years, a real estate information service reported.

Foreclosure resales - homes resold in May that had been foreclosed on at some point in the prior 12 months - accounted for about 17.2% of all Portland area resales, up from 5.9% in May 2008 but down from a peak of 18.9% in March 2009. The May figure was well below levels seen in many other major Western markets, where foreclosures accounted for half or more of all resale activity.

A total of 2,465 new and resale houses and condos closed escrow during May in the Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton metro area (see included MSA counties below). That sales total rose 4.6% from April but dropped 22.2% below a year earlier, according to MDA DataQuick. The San Diego firm tracks real estate trends nationally via public property records.

The number of homes sold in May was the lowest for that month since at least 1994, when DataQuick's complete (all home types) Portland region sales statistics begin. The May total marked the 39th consecutive month in which total sales have fallen on a year-over-year basis. Portland region sales have been the lowest on record for that particular month for the last 13 consecutive months.

The regional median price paid for all new and resale houses and condos combined in May was $240,000, down 0.4% from April and down 12.7% from $275,000 a year earlier. The May median was 16.9% below its $288,858 peak in August 2007 and was the lowest for any month since it was $237,000 in July 2005.

Another price gauge, the median price paid per square foot for resale detached houses, suggests more price erosion since the peak: Buyers paid a median $145 per square foot in May, up slightly from $143 in April but down 17.1% from a year ago and down 22.4% from the $187 peak in June 2007.

The Portland area's median sale price declines are well below those in many U.S. markets, especially in the West. Portland's 12.7% annual drop in its overall median price in May compares with a 32.7% drop in Southern California, a 43.7% decline in Las Vegas and a 38.4% decrease in Phoenix.

Last month about 35.8% of all Portland-area buyers used government-insured FHA loans, a popular choice among first-time buyers. Absentee buyers, including many investors, made up 14.7% of all purchases - a relatively low%age in the West and a reflection of the smaller role that low-cost foreclosures play in Portland. In addition to investors, absentee buyers include any others whom public records show will have their property tax bills go to an address other than the one for the home they just purchased.

DataQuick's Portland area statistics reflect sales in Clackamas, Multnomah, Washington and Yamhill counties in Oregon and Clark County in Washington.