The rate of existing-home sales decreased 31.7 percent in September compared to September 2005, the California Association of Realtors trade group reported today, while the statewide median price for an existing single-family detached home increased 1.8 percent to $553,050.

The September 2006 median price declined 4 percent since August.

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled 444,780 in September at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate, according to information collected from about 90 local Realtor associations. The rate projects the monthly sales total for a 12-month period, adjusted for seasonal fluctuations that typically affect home sales.

C.A.R.’s Unsold Inventory Index for existing, single-family detached homes in September 2006 was seven months, compared with 3.2 months (revised) for the same period a year ago, the association noted.

The index indicates the number of months needed to deplete the supply of homes on the market at the current sales rate. A supply of six months is indicative of a market that is roughly balanced, while a supply greater than six months can be considered a buyer’s market.

Thirty-year fixed mortgage interest rates averaged 6.4 percent during September 2006, compared with 5.77 percent in September 2005, according to Freddie Mac. Adjustable mortgage interest rates averaged 5.56 percent in September 2006 compared with 4.51 percent in September 2005, the association reported.

The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home was 54 days in September 2006, compared with 30 days (revised) for the same period a year ago.

In a report covering localized statistics generated by C.A.R. and real estate data company DataQuick Information Systems, 59.6 percent — or 227 out of 381 cities and communities — showed an increase in their respective median home prices from a year ago. DataQuick statistics are based on county records data rather than MLS information.

Statewide, the 10 cities and communities with the highest median home prices in California during September 2006 were: Los Altos, $1.55 million; Manhattan Beach, $1.47 million; Newport Beach, $1.35 million; Burlingame, $1.33 million; Los Gatos, $1.21 million; Rancho Palos Verdes, $1.15 million; Danville, $1.01 million; Cupertino, $968,750; San Clemente, $940,000; and Santa Barbara, $917,500.

Statewide, the 10 cities and communities with the greatest median home-price increases in September 2006 compared with the same period a year ago were: Los Gatos, 38.6 percent; Delano, 31.7 percent; Paramount, 26.9 percent; Inglewood, 24.5 percent; Colton, 23.8 percent; Barstow, 22.4 percent; San Juan Capistrano, 21.8 percent; Irvine, 19.1 percent; Lake Forest, 15.4 percent; and Compton, 14.9 percent.

“We expected a fairly steep decline in sales last month compared with a year ago, when sales were near their all-time record,” said Vince Malta, C.A.R. president, in a statement. “Unsold inventory is holding steady, and is close to the long-term historic average typical of a more ‘normal’ market.”

“Overall, year-to-date sales were down 24 percent, in line with our 2006 projection. Regional trends in sales and prices were consistent with recent months,” stated Leslie Appleton-Young, C.A.R. vice president, in a statement. “Areas that experienced a lot of home building in recent years or second-home activity have experienced larger declines in sales and weaker prices than the state as a whole. These include Northern California, the Northern Wine Country, the Central Valley, San Diego County, and the Lower Desert in Southern California.”

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