"While home sales were down statewide, the housing market continued to perform at a solid pace by historical standards," said CAR President LeFrancis Arnold.
"In fact, sales jumped significantly in most regions of the state, with many areas experiencing double-digit gains," he added. "Tight inventory and robust home sales, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area, fueled the substantial increase in the March median home price."
Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 505,360 units in March, according to information collected by CAR from more than 90 local Realtor associations and statewide MLS reports.
Sales in March were down 4.5% month-over-month and 2.3% year-to-year. The statewide sales figure represents what would be the total number of homes sold during 2012 if sales maintained the March pace throughout the year. It is adjusted to account for seasonal factors that typically influence home sales.
The statewide median price of an existing, single-family detached home jumped 9.2% to $291,080 in March from February's $266,660 median price and was up 1.6% from a revised $286,550 recorded in March 2011. The month-to-month increase was the largest since March 2004.
"Housing inventory remains extremely tight throughout the state and at levels severely under normal market conditions," said CAR Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young.
"In areas, such as Los Angeles and Riverside counties, where the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) wants to implement the REO bulk sale pilot program, inventory is running at levels well below the long-run average," he added. "These low inventory levels demonstrate that the pilot program is not necessary in California."
The pilot program calls for the sale of more than 600 Fannie Mae-owned foreclosed homes in Los Angeles and Riverside counties to institutional investors.
Other key facts of CAR's March 2012 resale housing report include:
* California's housing inventory declined in March, with the Unsold Inventory Index for existing, single-family detached homes decreasing to 4.1 months in March, down from a revised 5.4 months in February and down from the 5.4-month supply in March 2011. The index indicates the number of months needed to sell the supply of homes on the market at the current sales rate. A 7-month supply is considered normal.
* Interest rates edged up slightly in March. Thirty-year fixed-mortgage interest rates averaged 3.95% during March 2012, down from 4.84% in March 2011, according to Freddie Mac. Adjustable-mortgage interest rates averaged 2.77% in March 2012, compared with 3.22% in March 2011.
* The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home fell to 53.1 days in March 2012 and was down from a revised 57 days for the same period a year ago.