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Glitter returning to Golden State's housing market

(9/16/2011) ERATE Exclusive - California's home sales posted strong gains month-to-month and year-to-year in August as the median price played catch-up rising to it's highest level in nearly a year.

The California Association of Realtors (CAR) revealed home sales on single-family homes were up by double-digits, 10.2 percent, while condo sales weren't far behind, rising 8 percent, both over the past year, ending in August.

Nearly the reverse was true for the July to August figures as single-family home sales rose 8.6 percent and condo sales where up 10.9 percent.

Prices continue to lag with single-family home prices down 7.4 percent since last year. Condo prices were off more, 9.8 percent.

Condo prices were also down month-to-month by 2 percent, but single-family home prices were up 1 percent.

"August's median price marked the highest since December 2010, signifying that prices may be stabilizing in some market segments, as investors and first-time buyers continue to see value and opportunity in the market," said CAR President Beth L. Peerce.

The August statewide median price of an existing, single-family detached home sold in California was $297,060, up from $294,050 in July, but down 7.4 percent from the $320,860 median price recorded for August 2010.

The median price for condos, $228,060, was down from $232,630 in July and down from $252,750 in August last year, CAR reported.

"While the increase in August sales is encouraging, these sales are based on closings that occurred before the debt ceiling debate in early August and subsequent heightened concern about the future direction of the economy," said Leslie Appleton-Young, CAR Vice President and Chief Economist.

"How these events and the impending reduction in the conforming loan limits will impact home sales and prices in the coming months remains to be seen," Appleton-Young said.

Only a handful of areas CAR measures in California saw year-over-year sales declines.

Median-sized markets saw some of the largest year-over-year sales gains, including Alameda, up 22.5 percent; San Bernardino, up 18.9 percent; San Luis Obispo, up 43.3 percent and Santa Barbara, up 38 percent.

The hard-hit, over-built Inland Empire managed a 14 percent increase in sales.

Most of the largest metro areas, north-to-south, didn't fare quite as well as the sales boomers, with Sacramento, up 14.3 percent; the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area, up 12 percent (The City of San Francisco was down 3.8 percent); Santa Clara County (Silicon Valley) up 9.9 percent; Los Angeles Metro Area up 8 percent (City of Los Angeles up 1.7 percent); and San Diego up 5.7 percent.

Buyers are more active, but they are taking their time mulling over prices.

CARS Unsold Inventory Index for existing, single-family detached homes was 5 months in August, down from 5.5 months in July and down from 5.8 months in August 2010.

However, revealing buyers' hesitancy, the median number of days it took to sell a single-family home was on the rise, at 52.7 days in August 2011 from 45.5 days for the same period a year ago.

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