The median price of an existing home in California in February increased 20.7 percent and sales increased 3.9 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 February was $394,300, a 20.7 percent increase over the revised $326,640 median for February 2003, C.A.R. reported. The February 2004 median price decreased 2.9 percent compared to a revised $406,220 median price in January.

“While demand for housing gives no indication of slowing down, the inventory of homes for sale continues to decline,” said C.A.R. President Ann Pettijohn. “This dynamic is a key constraint in the housing market and why we’re experiencing such dramatic price appreciation.”

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled 589,220 in February 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 3.9 percent from the 566,890 sales pace recorded in February 2003.

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

“While year-to-date sales increased 4.6 percent this year compared to the first two months of 2003, the declining ability of households to afford a home is an increasing concern in California, given the dramatic increases in the median price over the past two years,” said Leslie Appleton-Young, C.A.R.’s vice president and chief economist. 

Statewide, the 10 cities and communities with the highest median home prices in California during February 2004 were: Manhattan Beach, $1,334,500; Laguna Beach, $1,085,000; Saratoga, $930,000; Calabasas, $910,000; Newport Beach, $897,500; Beverly Hills, $890,000; Santa Barbara, $830,500; Los Gatos, $814,000; Rancho Palos Verdes, $800,000; Cupertino, $732,000.

Statewide, the 10 cities and communities with the greatest median home-price increases in February 2004 compared to the same period a year ago were: Seaside, 60.9 percent; Rancho Santa Margarita, 51.2 percent; Redlands, 50.5 percent; Calabasas, 48.1 percent; Beaumont, 45.5 percent; Hawthorne, 44.5 percent; Laguna Beach, 43.7 percent; Sonoma, 43.4 percent; Poway, 42.7 percent; and Bellflower, 40.9 percent.

C.A.R.’s Unsold Inventory Index for existing, single-family detached homes in February 2004 was 2.3 months, compared to a revised 3.4 months 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 February 2004, compared to 34 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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