The median price of an existing, single-family detached home in California hit a new record during the fourth quarter of 2003, rising 17.9 percent to $391,680, the California Association of Realtors reported on Thursday.

For the year as a whole, the median price of an existing, single-family detached home was a new annual record at $372,720, a 17.9 percent increase compared to 2002.

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California amounted to 633,650 for the fourth quarter of 2003 at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate, a 12.1 percent increase from 565,050 in the fourth quarter of 2002. Sales for all of 2003 increased 5.1 percent to 601,770 compared to 2002, when sales were 572,550.

“Sales in the fourth quarter were unseasonably strong this year,” said C.A.R. Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young. “It’s a testament to the role lower interest rates played in the real estate market, and the expectation that they will rise in 2004.”

“The median price of a home also surged in the fourth quarter, reaching record highs in every region in the state,” she said.

Statewide, the 10 cities and communities with the highest median home prices in California during the fourth quarter of 2003 were: Los Altos, $1,175,000; Laguna Beach, $1,060,000; Malibu, $1,060,000; Palos Verdes Estates, $1,015,000; Manhattan Beach, $1,014,500; Beverly Hills, $1,005,000; Burlingame, $938,000; Del Mar, $920,000; Saratoga, $905,000; and Carmel, $890,000.

Statewide, the 10 cities and communities with the greatest median home-price increases in the fourth quarter of 2003 compared to the same period a year ago were: Westlake Village, 58.8 percent; Sierra Madre, 56.7 percent; Fairfax, 49.3 percent; Sanger, 45 percent; Highland, 42.2 percent; Hermosa Beach, 40.4 percent; El Segundo, 37.8 percent; Perris, 37.5 percent; Desert Hot Springs, 35.9 percent; and Reedley, 35.3 percent.

Los Angeles-based C.A.R. is a state trade organization with more than 115,000 members.

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