"A lack of inventory remains an issue, as the housing supply fell more than 30% from last year," said CAR President LeFrancis Arnold.
"Inventory levels are at the lowest levels we've seen in seven years, and we are starting to see the supply shortage conditions having a negative impact on sales in the Central Valley and the Inland Empire, where REO properties are in short supply."
August marked the fifth consecutive month that sales were higher than the previous year, with closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaling a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 511,240 units, according to information collected by CAR from more than 90 local Realtor associations and MLSs statewide. Sales in August were down 3.4% from a revised 529,430 in July but up 2.3% from a revised 499,880 in August 2011.
The statewide median price of an existing, single-family detached home rose 3% to $343,820 in August, up from July's $333,860 median price. The August figure was up 15.5% from a revised $297,660 recorded in August 2011, marking the sixth consecutive month of both month-to-month and year-to-year price increases.
August's median price was the highest since August 2008, when the median price was $352,730. The year-to-year increase was the largest in more than two years.
"The median price is gaining in part because of a shift in the mix of what is selling," said CAR vice president and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton.
"The increasing share of sales in higher-priced coastal markets at the expense of the inventory-scarce distressed markets has been the primary factor in fueling the statewide median price," Young added.
"While higher-priced markets with a robust economy are experiencing a strong demand in equity sales and posting double-digit year-over-year price increases, sales in lower-priced markets that rely more on distressed properties were stagnant or even declined, as the inventory of REO properties continues to wane," she said.
Other key facts of CAR's August 2012 resale housing report include:
* California's housing inventory continued its downward trend in August, with the Unsold Inventory Index for existing, single-family detached homes declining to 3.2 months, down from a revised 3.5 months in July and a revised 5.2 months in August 2011. The index indicates the number of months needed to sell the supply of homes on the market at the current sales rate. A six- to seven-month supply is considered normal.
* Interest rates edged up slightly in August after four consecutive months of decreases. Thirty-year fixed-mortgage interest rates averaged 3.60% during August 2012, up from 3.55% in July, but down from 4.27% in August 2011, according to Freddie Mac. Adjustable-mortgage interest rates edged down in August, averaging 2.67%, down from 2.69% in July and down from 2.93% in August 2011.
* Homes moved faster on the market in August, with the median number of days it took to sell a single-family home falling to 41.1 days in August 2012 from 43.2 days in July and down from a revised 52.5 days for the same period a year ago.