Pleasanton Weekly

Real Estate - February 4, 2011

California home sales rose in December

Buyers take advantage of rock bottom interest rates, real estate group reports

by Jeb Bing

California home sales rose in December, posting their highest level since May, according to data from the California Association of Realtors.

The statewide median price increased from November, but was down from a year ago.

"December's sales increase reflects buyers taking advantage of rock bottom interest rates and improved affordability since the first half of the year, when prices were higher," said CAR President Beth L. Peerce. "Most of December's sales opened escrow in October and November. Rates hit their absolute lowest in October but began edging higher in November, prompting buyers to get off the fence."

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 520,680 in December, according to information collected by CAR from more than 90 local Realtor associations statewide.

December's sales were up 5.9% from November's revised pace of 491,590 but were down 6.8% from the revised 558,840 sales pace recorded in December 2009. The statewide sales figure represents what would be the total number of homes sold during 2010 if sales maintained the November pace throughout the year. It is adjusted to account for seasonal factors that typically influence home sales.

Following three consecutive monthly declines, the median price of an existing, single-family detached home sold in California increased 1.7% from a revised $296,690 in November but was down 1.6% from the revised $306,860 median price recorded for the same period a year ago.

"While sales rose in December, the sales pace in the second half of the year was lower than the first half as the housing market weaned itself off home buyer tax credits," said CAR Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young. "For 2010 as a whole, sales reached 494,900 homes sold, down 9.5% from the 546,860 homes sold in 2009. However, the statewide median price increased 10.2% to reach $302,900 for the year, up from the $275,000 recorded in 2009," she said.

Here are other highlights of CAR's resale housing report for December 2010:

* A greater than usual drop in listings combined with the sales increase caused CAR's Unsold Inventory Index to decline more than one month. The Unsold Inventory Index for existing, single-family detached homes was 5.0 months in December, down from 6.2 months in November. The index was 3.8 months in December 2009. The index indicates the number of months needed to deplete the supply of homes on the market at the current sales rate.

* Thirty-year fixed-mortgage interest rates averaged 4.71% during December 2010, compared with 4.93% in December 2009, according to Freddie Mac. Adjustable-mortgage interest rates averaged 3.31% in December 2010, compared with 4.31% in December 2009.

* The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home was 57.5 days in December 2010, compared with 35.1 days for the same period a year ago.

In a separate report covering more localized statistics generated by CAR and DataQuick Information Systems, 97 of the 329 cities and communities reporting showed an increase in their respective median home prices from a year ago.

Statewide, the 10 cities with the highest median home prices in California during December 2010 were: Beverly Hills, $2,180,000; Los Altos, $1,300,000; Calabasas, $1,175,000; Laguna Beach, $1,105,000; Manhattan Beach, $1,085,500; Newport Beach, $1,000,000; Santa Monica, $921,000; Cupertino, $904,500; Rancho Palos Verdes, $849,000; Los Gatos, $840,000.

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