Cash buyers, an upturn in home prices and the recovering economy played a role in the increase, as did a year-end rush among the wealthy to take advantage of lower capital gains taxes by closing before year end.
Across California, 697 homes sold for more than $5 million compared to the previous high of 491 in 2011.
The 26,993 homes sold at $1-million-plus represented a 26.9% jump from 2011, according to San Diego-based DataQuick. In comparison, 42,502 home sales exceeded the million-dollar mark in 2007, before the mortgage meltdown dragged down home prices across the housing market.
The record was set in 2005, when 54,773 homes sold for a million dollars or more. The luxury market outpaced overall sales, which were up 8.2% statewide.
"It should go without saying that buyers and sellers in the prestige market tend to respond to different motivations and incentives than the rest of the market," John Walsh, DataQuick president, said in a press release. "Job security, down payment sizes and mortgage interest rates don't play the same role. Returns on investments in a low interest-rate financial environment and safe-haven investing do play a role."
Hillsborough claimed top spot with 422 sales at $1-million-plus. Southern California communities with the most $1 million-plus sales included Manhattan Beach, Newport Beach, La Jolla, Brentwood, Beverly Hills and Laguna Beach.
Cash buyers accounted for a record 7,791 of the million-dollar home sales, up from 5,802 in 2011.
The most expensive transaction to appear in public records was the $117.5-million sale of an 8,930-square-foot mansion on nine acres in the Northern California community of Woodside.
Among top sales locally last year was Oracle Corp. head Larry Ellison's purchase of a three-structure, copper-roofed compound along Malibu's Carbon Beach for $36.944 million.
Almost all home sales in the communities of Ross in Marin County; San Marino and Santa Monica in Los Angeles County; Los Altos in Santa Clara County; Atherton and Hillsborough in San Mateo County; and Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego County were in $1-million-plus territory.
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