Home sales in the nine-county San Francisco region continued to shift toward its more expensive markets in April, reducing overall sales and lifting the area's median sales price from year-earlier levels, a report by MDA DataQuick said on Thursday.

The region posted 7,003 sales of houses and condominiums in April, up 0.2 percent from March and down 1.9 percent from a year earlier, while the area's median home price last month of $370,000 marked a decline of 2.6 percent from March and an increase of 21.7 percent from a year earlier, the report by the real estate information service said.

The April median's nearly 22 percent increase over a year ago is largely a reflection of the changes that have occurred in buying patterns across the region, the report said.

A year ago many more homes being sold were inland foreclosures -- homes that were often in less-than-stellar condition, and which had highly motivated sellers, the report added. Also a year ago, sales in many high-end communities were extremely sluggish. This spring the reselling of foreclosures has waned and high-end activity is much stronger, in part because prices have come down, there's more inventory in some areas and it appears high-end financing has loosened a bit.

MDA DataQuick President John Walsh said the outlook for improving access to so-called jumbo mortgages necessary to buy housing in many parts of the San Francisco region's homes market is uncertain.

Other challenges for the market is California's high jobless rate -- currently more than 12 percent.

For months we've seen growing signs of a recovery taking hold. But plenty of challenges remain like high unemployment, the possibility of many more distressed properties hitting the market in a rising interest rate environment, and a dysfunctional jumbo loan market, which is a big deal in the (San Francisco) Bay Area, Walsh said in a statement.

It's not clear how many April sales might have been pushed into May or June by tax credits. The bigger picture is that the housing market will gradually be decoupled from government stimulus and be on its own again, Walsh added.

(Reporting by Jim Christie; Editing by Diane Craft)