The median price of an existing home in California in December increased 19.4 percent and sales increased 11 percent compared to the same period a year ago, the California Association of Realtors reported Monday.

“The median price of a home in California topped $400,000 for the second time in 2003, hitting a record $404,520 last month,” said C.A.R. President Ann Pettijohn. “Demand for homes continued unabated, propelled by mortgage rates that remained below 6 percent and an extremely low inventory of homes for sale.”

The median price of an existing, single-family detached home in California during December increased 19.4 percent over the revised $338,840 median for December 2002, C.A.R. reported. The December 2003 median price increased 5.1 percent compared to a revised $384,930 median price in November.

Statewide, the 10 cities and communities with the highest median home prices in California during December 2003 were: Malibu, $1,178,750; Los Altos, $1,165,000; Manhattan Beach, $1,100,000; Palos Verdes Estates, $1,065,000; Beverly Hills, $1,062,000; Burlingame, $1,030,000; Calabasas, $936,000; Laguna Beach, $927,500; Newport Beach, $925,000; and Saratoga, $870,000.

Statewide, the 10 cities and communities with the greatest median home-price increases in December 2003 compared to the same period a year ago were: Calabasas, 49.8 percent; Malibu, 44.8 percent; Sanger, 44.2 percent; Desert Hot Springs, 43.9 percent; Palm Springs, 41.2 percent; Perris, 41 percent; Beverly Hills, 39.7 percent; Newport Beach, 37 percent; Chino Hills, 36.7 percent; and La Verne, 36.5 percent.

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled 637,080 in December 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 11 percent from the 573,790 sales pace recorded in December 2002.

The statewide sales figure represents what the total number of homes sold during 2003 would be if sales maintained the December pace throughout the year. It is adjusted to account for seasonal factors that typically influence home sales.

“Overall, year-to-date sales increased 5.1 percent compared to the same period a year ago,” said Leslie Appleton-Young, C.A.R.’s vice president and chief economist. “Nearly every region in the state posted double-digit increases in the median price, with the Riverside/San Bernardino region reporting a gain of more than 32 percent.”

The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home in California was 27 days in December, compared to 28 days (revised) for the same period a year ago.

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

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