The median price of an existing home in California in January increased 20.7 percent and sales increased 5.3 percent compared to the same period a year ago, the California Association of Realtors reported today.

The median price of an existing, single-family detached home in California during January was $405,720, up substantially from the revised $336,210 median for January 2003, C.A.R. reported. The January 2004 median price increased 0.5 percent compared to a revised $403,570 median price in December.

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled 615,660 in January at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate, according to information collected by C.A.R. from more than 90 local Realtor associations statewide. Statewide home-resale activity increased 5.3 percent from the 584,600 sales pace recorded in January 2003.

The statewide sales figure represents what the total number of homes sold during 2004 would be if sales maintained the January pace throughout the year. It is adjusted to account for seasonal factors that typically influence home sales.

“Home sales continued their climb into record territory last month, hitting their highest level on record for the month of January,” said Leslie Appleton-Young, C.A.R.’s vice president and chief economist. “Demand for homes continued unabated, with the median price of a home increasing by double digits for the 26th consecutive month to $405,720.”

C.A.R.’s unsold inventory index for existing, single-family detached homes in January was 2 months, compared to 2.8 months (revised) for the same period a year ago. The index indicates the number of months needed to deplete the supply of homes on the market at the current sales rate.

The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home was 27 days in January, compared to 32 days (revised) for the same period a year ago.

Statewide, the 10 cities and communities with the highest median home prices in California during January 2004 were: Malibu, $1,395,000; Burlingame, $1,175,000; Los Altos, $1,169,500; Beverly Hills, $1,150,000; Laguna Beach, $1,137,500; Palos Verdes Estates, $1,100,000; Manhattan Beach, $1,012,500; Calabasas, $995,000; Los Gatos, $942,500; Saratoga, $886,250.

Statewide, the 10 cities and communities with the greatest median home-price increases in January 2004 compared to the same period a year ago were: Malibu, 106.7 percent; La Quinta, 54.1 percent; Oxnard, 53.4 percent; Inglewood, 48.5 percent; Upland, 47.2 percent; Colton, 47.1 percent; Perris, 43.5 percent; Riverbank, 42.7 percent; Arcadia, 41.5 percent; Rancho Santa Margarita, 40.2 percent.

Los Angeles-based C.A.R. is a state trade organization with more than 135,000 members.

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