SAN FRANCISCO ( DQNews) San Francisco Bay Area home sales were subpar again in February, dipping below the year-ago level for the second straight month as some potential buyers worried about job security, some couldn't get financing and others found a thin inventory of homes for sale. The median price paid rose year-over-year for the fifth consecutive month, mainly because fewer low-cost foreclosures have sold and more higher-end homes have turned over this year compared with last, a real estate information service reported. A total of 4,987 new and resale houses and condos closed escrow in the nine-county Bay Area last month. That was up 2.8% from 4,853 in January and down 0.9% from 5,032 in February 2009, according to MDA DataQuick. The San Diego firm tracks real estate trends nationally via public property records. Last month's sales fell 22.2% short of the February average of 6,413 sales since 1988, when DataQuick's statistics begin. February's sales were the second-lowest for that month since 1995, behind the record-low 3,989 homes sold in February 2008. January and February this year are the only two months since August 2008 in which sales have fallen year-over-year. "The sales and price data remain choppy, with more ups and downs and inconsistencies than we'd typically see. It's partly the season - January and February are often atypical and don't serve as good barometers. But it's more than that. The market remains fundamentally off kilter. There's still relatively little lending going on in the upper price ranges, and little adjustable-rate financing, which had been vital to the Bay Area. Investor and cash-only deals remain well above normal, as does the level of sales involving distressed property," said John Walsh, MDA DataQuick president. "Despite the widening stability seen in the housing market in recent months, the outlook remains murky," he said. "Whether prices will firm, or remain firm, will depend largely on three factors: The market's response as the government reduces its housing stimulus, the economy's ability to gain traction, and the decisions that lenders and borrowers will make in countless distress cases. The key question is how much more distressed inventory is coming, and when."