The median price of an existing home in California in December increased 18.1 percent from a year ago to a new high, and sales increased 1.4 percent during the same period, the California Association of Realtors reported today.

The median price of an existing, single-family detached home in California during December 2004 was $474,480, compared to the revised $401,720 median for December 2003, C.A.R. reported. The December 2004 median price increased 0.5 percent compared with a revised $471,980 median price in November.

“Home buyers concerned about future mortgage-rate increases flooded the market in December, driving the median price to an all-time high of $474,480,” said C.A.R. President Jim Hamilton. “The median price increased by double-digits in every region of the state, with the High Desert, Riverside/San Bernardino, Sacramento, Santa Barbara and North Santa Barbara County regions posting increases of more than 30 percent.”

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled 645,860 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 1.4 percent from the 637,080 sales pace recorded in December 2003.

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

“After peaking in the middle of 2004, the number of homes for sale dropped again last month to a 2.8 month supply compared with 3.5 months in November,” said C.A.R. Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young. “Despite having fewer home to choose from, buyers are becoming more selective and are taking more time before making an offer on a home. The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home reached 43 days in December, compared to 27 days a year ago.”

Statewide, the 10 cities and communities with the highest median home prices in California during December 2004 were: Los Altos, $1,485,000; Burlingame, $1,417,750; Beverly Hills, $1,275,000; Manhattan Beach, $1,250,000; Palos Verdes Estates, $1,117,500; Saratoga, $1,000,000; Hermosa Beach, $976,500; Newport Beach, $925,000; Calabasas, $915,000; and Rancho Palos Verdes, $900,000..

Statewide, the 10 cities and communities with the greatest median home price increases in December 2004 compared with the same period a year ago were: Adelanto, 72.6 percent; Hesperia, 63.2 percent; Inglewood, 55.9 percent; Port Hueneme, 52.7 percent; Hercules, 49.3 percent; West Sacramento, 49.1 percent; Bellflower, 48.9 percent; San Bernardino, 48 percent; Victorville, 46.9 percent; and Los Banos, 46.4 percent.

Los Angeles-based C.A.R. is a state trade organization with more than 160,000 members.

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