Home sales inching up in California

AP News
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Posted: Dec 18, 2009 7:49 AM

The median price of a home in California is up from a year ago, sales are rising, and foreclosure resales are declining _ all signs that the housing market may be undergoing a sustained recovery, a tracking firm said Thursday.

San Diego-based MDA DataQuick said an estimated 35,860 new and resale houses and condos were sold statewide last month, up 11.5 percent from about 32,160 in November 2008. Sales fell 13.1 percent from October, but a decline in sales from October to November is normal for the season, the firm said.

The median price paid for a home in California last month was $261,000, up 1.6 percent from $257,000 in October and up 1.2 percent from $258,000 a year ago. The year-over-year increase was the first since July 2007, when the $478,000 median price was up 0.8 percent from $474,000 a year earlier, DataQuick said.

Last month also saw the lowest percentage of foreclosure resales in more than a year. Of the existing homes sold last month, 40.6 percent were properties that had been foreclosed on during the past year. That is the lowest since May 2008, when it was 39.8 percent. In November 2008 it was 55.9 percent.

Foreclosure resales peaked at 58.8 percent of statewide resales in February this year.

DataQuick President John Walsh said home sales have been stoked by several incentives, including a federal tax credit for first-time home buyers, record low mortgage rates and the availability of government-insured, low-down-payment mortgages for first-time buyers.

But, the statistics are slightly misleading, Walsh said.

"In the short run," he said, "we'll be comparing the new data to some ridiculously low median sale prices a year earlier _ medians severely skewed back then by so many inland foreclosures selling, and so few coastal high-end sales."

The long-term outlook Walsh added, is "far from clear."

"A lot of people sense lenders are holding back," he said, "and that there's at least one more round of foreclosures lurking around the corner."