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Home Sales Down, Median Price Up in California

For the first time in 16 months, the median home price in California rose, according to the California Association of Realtors.

Home sales in California declined in March compared to the previous month, but the median home price rose for the first time in 16 months, recording a "substantial increase," the California Association of Realtors reported Monday.

Thoughts from a Sierra Madre Realtor

"While home sales were down statewide, the housing market continued to perform at a solid pace by historical standards. In fact, sales jumped significantly in most regions of the state, with many areas experiencing double-digit gains," said CAR President LeFrancis Arnold. "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, CAR said in a statement, adding that sales in March were down 4.5 percent month over-month and 2.3 percent year-to-year.

The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home fell to 53.1 days last month and was down from a revised 57 days for the same period a year ago, according to the statement.

The statewide median price of an existing single-family detached home jumped 9.2 percent to $291,080 in March from February's $266,660 median price and was up 1.6 percent from a revised $286,550 recorded in March 2011, CAR said. 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 wants to implement the REO (real estate owned) bulk sale pilot program, inventory is running at levels well below the long-run average. These low inventory levels demonstrate that the pilot program is not necessary in California," Appleton-Young said.

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.

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