Pleasanton Weekly

Real Estate - November 18, 2011

California home sales up slightly in October

But lower loan limits cool market overall

by Jeb Bing

California home sales posted a marginal increase in October and also were above year-ago levels, according to figures released today by the California Association of Realtors (CAR).

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California edged up to a seasonally adjusted 493,240 units in October, up 0.9% from a revised 488,700 in September, according to information collected by CAR from more than 90 local Realtor associations and MLSs statewide. October home sales also were up 8.5% from the revised 454,740 units sold during the like period a year ago.

The statewide sales figure represents what would be the total number of homes sold during 2011 if sales maintained the October pace throughout the year. It is adjusted to account for seasonal factors that typically influence home sales.

"Based on preliminary analysis, it appears that the lower conforming loan limits has had a cooling effect on home sales in October, particularly in the higher cost markets across the state, such as the San Francisco Bay Area and coastal regions of Southern California," said CAR President LeFrancis Arnold. "This evidence supports the need for reinstating the higher loan limits while the housing market is in transition to recovery."

The October statewide median price of an existing, single-family detached home sold in California was $278,060, down 3.3% from $287,440 in September and down 8.9% from the $305,150 median price recorded for October 2010.

"While October's sales were on track with expectations, the month-to-month drop in the median price was larger than usual for this time of year," said CAR Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young.

"Because of the lower Fannie, Freddie and FHA conforming loan limits, some buyers purchased less expensive homes so that their mortgages would meet the criteria for the lower limit, while others were unable to qualify for nonconforming loans that typically have higher down payment requirements and higher mortgage rates," she said. "The resulting change in the mix of sales drove down October's median price."

Other key facts of CAR's resale housing report for October 2011 include:

* The Unsold Inventory Index for existing, single-family detached homes was 5.3 months in October, up from 5.1 months in September but down from a revised 6.2-month supply in October 2010. 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 4.07% during October 2011, down from 4.23% in October 2010, according to Freddie Mac. Adjustable-mortgage interest rates averaged 2.92% in October 2011, compared with 3.36% in October 2010.

The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home was 55.2 days in October 2011, compared with 51.5 days for the same period a year ago.

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