Pleasanton Weekly

Real Estate - May 20, 2011

Better market conditions, economy help state's home sales in March

But prices still dropping, Realtors' survey shows

by Jeb Bing

Improvement in the overall economy and favorable market conditions led to increases in both the median price and home sales in March, according to data from the California Association of Realtors (CAR).

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 514,090 units in March, according to information collected by CAR from more than 90 local Realtor associations and MLSs statewide. Sales in March increased 3.1% month-over-month and 1.5% year-to-year, aligning with CAR sales expectations for 2011.

"For the first time in many months, we are seeing a genuine improvement in the overall economy, especially with respect to jobs," said CAR President Beth L. Peerce. "However, while interest rates and current home prices are favorable, uncertainty about whether the economy has stabilized, concerns about inflation, and an unresolved state budget have created hesitation among buyers."

The statewide median price of an existing, single-family detached home sold in California increased 5.4% in March compared with February to $286,010, but declined 4.9% compared with March 2010's median price of $300,900.

"While March's median home price declined year-over-year, the decline can be attributed partly to an increase in distressed sales in recent months, and to last year's federal home buyer tax credit, which pushed both sales and home prices higher," said CAR Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young. "As for market activity, the pace of sales for the first three months of this year is in line with our expectations for all of 2011."

Highlights of CAR's resale housing report for March 2011:

* The unsold Inventory Index for existing, single-family detached homes was 5.3 months in March, down from 7.3 months in February 2011, but up compared with March 2010's 4.8-month supply. 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 4.84% during March 2011, compared with 4.97% in March 2010, according to Freddie Mac. Adjustable-mortgage interest rates averaged 3.22% in March 2011, compared with 4.20% in March 2010.

* The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home was 56.7 days in March 2011, compared with 37 days for the same period a year ago.

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