Despite an increasingly uncertain economy, homebuyers in California kept snatching up foreclosed homes last month, dragging down the median home price by 34 percent from a year ago, a real estate tracking firm said Thursday.

The statewide median home price plunged to $278,000 in October, compared with $424,000 in the year-ago period, according to San Diego-based MDA DataQuick.

Last month's median price was down 1.8 percent from September.

About half the drop in the median price was due to depreciation, while the other half came from a shift in sales toward distressed homes and the way those homes are financed, DataQuick said.

"What happens next to housing will be determined by the fate of the economy, and especially the job market, as well as the outcome of recently announced efforts to curb foreclosures," John Walsh, MDA DataQuick's president, said in a statement.

Despite efforts by government, lenders and others to help strapped homeowners with mortgage payments, foreclosures have continued to rise in California, particularly in inland counties with metro areas such as Stockton, Merced, Riverside, San Bernardino and Modesto.

But the worsening U.S. economy is not dissuading buyers with bargain home prices in their sights, although the latest figures represent homes that closed escrow in October on sales that were initiated probably as far back as August.

Statewide home sales jumped nearly 64 percent from a year ago to 42,293 and nearly 5 percent from September.

October's sales were the strongest since December 2006, when 43,431 homes were sold, according to DataQuick, which has kept the statistics since 1988.

Once more, foreclosure resales accounted for a major slice of sales last month — nearly 53 of the preowned homes sold.

The trend was evident in a nine-county region around San Francisco Bay, where nearly 45 percent of the preowned homes sold last month had been in foreclosure at some point in the last 12 months.

Most of that area's distressed sales took place in Contra Costa, Napa and Solano counties.

In all, home sales in the San Francisco Bay area climbed nearly 39 percent in October from a year ago to 7,613 and nearly 5 percent from September, MDA DataQuick said.

In pricier San Francisco County, where the median price slipped 12.1 percent to $699,000 from a year ago, sales plunged 21 percent.

The median home price in the region tumbled 41 percent to $375,000 in October, compared with $631,000 in the year-ago period.

The region's median price last month was down 6.3 percent from September and nearly 44 percent from the peak median of $665,000 in the summer of 2007.

Contra Costa County saw the steepest drop in price, with the median tumbling more than 46 percent to $285,000 from a year ago. Sales in the county soared by nearly 87 percent.

Meanwhile, a six-county region of Southern California also saw a sharp jump in home sales and a decline in median price last month.

Sales in the region rose by 67 percent, while the median home price fell 33 percent to $300,000, MDA DataQuick reported Tuesday.

Foreclosure resales amounted to 51 percent of all transactions in the region.