Southern California home prices surged to a new record last month, and sales counts were at their highest for the season in more than 15 years, according to DataQuick Information Systems.

The median price paid for a southern California home was $351,000 in February, a new record, according to DataQuick figures. That was up 2.3 percent from $343,000 in January, and up 20.2 percent from $292,000 for February 2003. Year-over-year price increases have been around 20 percent since last summer and are expected to ease back to around 15 percent by summer.

A total of 23,004 homes were sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties in February. That was up 1.6 percent from January’s 22,652 and up 2.2 percent from 22,516 for February last year, according to DataQuick.

“We hadn’t anticipated numbers this strong, but, then again, we thought mortgage interest rates would edge up a bit, not down. The thinking is that today’s activity may be drawing from future sales activity, that buyers want to get in while the interest rates are low. Today’s lack of homes for sale is certainly giving prices an extra push,” said Marshall Prentice, DataQuick president.

DataQuick, a subsidiary of Vancouver-based MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, monitors real estate activity nationwide and provides information to consumers, educational institutions, public agencies, lending institutions, title companies and industry analysts.

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