Home sales in California got a minor boost in June, but activity was still slower than it was a year earlier, a tracking firm reported Thursday.
A total of 38,975 homes were sold in the state last month, up 9.7 percent from 35,536 in May, San Diego-based DataQuick said.
"June likely benefited from a combination of factors, such as price reductions, low mortgage rates and perhaps a batch of short sale transactions from spring that took months to close," DataQuick president John Walsh said.
But Walsh cautioned that "last month was not a particularly strong June, historically speaking, and one month's increase in sales from the prior month doesn't constitute a trend."
Indeed, last month's sales were 11.3 percent lower than the 43,964 posted in June 2010.
DataQuick also said the median price for a home in the region was down 6.3 percent to $253,000 from $270,000 in June 2010, a ninth consecutive year-over-year decline after what had been 11 months of increases, although the median was up 1.6 percent from $249,000 in May.
More than half of the existing homes sold came from distressed property sales, maintaining the downward pressure on prices.
Foreclosures accounted for 35 percent of last month's sales, down slightly from 35.3 percent in May but up from 34.1 percent a year earlier.
Short-sale transactions, in which lenders allow distressed homes to be sold for less than what is owed, accounted for 17.6 percent of existing home sales. That was identical to May's portion but down from 20 percent a year earlier.
In a nine-county region of Northern California dropped 7.9 percent to $377,750 last month from $410,000 in June 2010. In the six-county region of Southern California, the median price declined 5 percent to $285,000, down from $300,000 in the year-ago period.
The median home price in Northern California, sales dipped 4.5 percent to 7,998 in June from a year earlier. In Southern California, sales dropped 14 percent to 20,532 from May 2010.
But sales were up from May in both regions, increasing 14.5 percent in Northern California and 11.6 percent in Southern California.
G.U. Krueger, principal economist at research and consulting firm HousingEcon.com Inc., said buyers might be emboldened by the state's gradually improving employment situation, with joblessness rates declining for a fifth consecutive month in their most recent tally in May to reach 11.7 percent.
"Maybe they feel a little less hopeless," he said. "Even though we haven't had great news lately, the general economic situation has gotten a little better."
Bill Aboumrad, who owns a real estate agency in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Fremont, said an uptick in hiring by the technology firms in his region was clearly instilling confidence in many of his clients.
"There's jobs," he said. "That's what's really helping us."