Investor activity continued to buoy Sacramento County's real estate market in September, when the share of homes bought by absentee owners and cash buyers each hit new highs, DataQuick reported Monday.
About 40 percent of the county's homebuyers last month were absentee owners, and about 40 percent of all buyers in the county paid cash, according to the San Diego-based real estate information service.
Those were the highest figures since at least 2000, when the firm started keeping track, and possibly the highest ever, said DataQuick analyst Andrew LePage.
Many absentee buyers are cash-paying investors from the Bay Area or wealthier Sacramento-area communities such as Granite Bay.
The high percentage of investor activity is consistent with fledgling recoveries during prior boom-and-bust cycles "just not at this level," LePage said.
"Early in a recovery, investor activity gets elevated," he said.
Today, it's a larger share of the market because so many families are shut out, LePage said. More than half of area homeowners owe more than their homes are worth, and many would-be buyers can't meet tight lending standards.
"There are a lot of people who want to buy, but can't," LePage said. "Who are we left with? Cash buyers."
The percentage of homes bought and sold by real estate "flippers" also increased, DataQuick said.
Homes in Sacramento County that sold twice within six months rose to 7.4 percent of the market in September from 4.4 percent in September 2011, the firm reported.
The investor activity is helping to prop up sales.
"We continue to rely on investors to maintain this volume, and we still have a lot of buyers (about 15 percent) from outside the region," LePage said.
Sacramento County's median home price fell slightly from August to September, in a typical seasonal fluctuation, but was up more than 10 percent from September 2011.
El Dorado, Placer and Yolo counties all posted year-over-year gains in September.
Placer's median home price hit the $300,000 mark after rising 13 percent from a year before. Absentee buyers bought up 36 percent of the homes sold in Placer County in September, LePage said.
Foreclosures, as a percentage of the market, continued falling.
Bank-owned homes made up about 23 percent of the resale market in Sacramento County in September, compared with 44 percent in September 2011 and a high of 71 percent in January 2009, DataQuick said.
September's foreclosure resale level was the lowest since July 2007, when it stood at 19.5 percent.
The feared "shadow inventory" consisting of bank-owned homes not yet listed for sale and those in danger of foreclosure has yet to materialize.
Investors and first-time buyers have been snatching up foreclosed homes, and the number of homes being repossessed has fallen because of alternatives such as loan modifications and short sales, in which lenders accept less than what's owed.
Short sales now account for about 35 percent of the resale market in Sacramento County and West Sacramento, compared with 26 percent a year ago, the Sacramento Association or Realtors reported Monday.
Low inventory is also helping to prop up prices.
The inventory of homes for sale remains extremely low, the Realtors group said. In September, it would have taken only about three weeks to sell off all the single-family resale homes in Sacramento County and West Sacramento. Agents say a six-month supply of homes is optimal.