California existing-home sales slipped 17.6 percent from December 2004 to December 2005 while median prices jumped 15.6 percent to $548,430, the California Association of Realtors reported today.

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled 531,910 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 decreased 17.6 percent from the 645,860 sales pace recorded in December 2004.

The statewide sales figure represents what the total number of homes sold during 2005 would be if sales maintained the December pace throughout the year. It is adjusted to account for seasonal factors that typically influence home sales.

The median price of an existing, single-family detached home in California during December 2005 was $548,430, a 15.6 percent increase over the $474,270 median for December 2004, C.A.R. reported. The December 2005 median price remained nearly unchanged compared with November’s $548,680 median price.

C.A.R. president Vince Malta blamed the sales drop on consumers’ worries about rising interest rates. “The last few months of 2005 marked the first time since mid-2004 that the fixed-rate mortgage was above 6 percent on a sustained basis and the adjustable-rate mortgage was above 5 percent for three months in a row.

“Consumers also were rattled by both the spike in energy costs and the hurricanes late last year,” he said. “Looking ahead, we expect those concerns to impact transactions completed in January as well.”

Leslie Appleton-Young, C.A.R. vice president and chief economist, said, “We are experiencing a return to a more balanced market, in line with our expectations, although unsold inventory is still near historical lows, with a 3.6-month supply of homes for sale.” Time on the market was at 44 days in December compared with 40 days for the same period last year.

Appleton-Young added, “Housing affordability in the state remains at record lows, which also is impacting the robust sales trend we experienced throughout much of 2005.”

  • C.A.R.’s Unsold Inventory Index for existing, single-family detached homes in December 2005 was 3.6 months, compared with 2 months (revised) 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.

  • 30-year fixed mortgage interest rates averaged 6.27 percent during December 2005, compared with 5.75 percent in December 2004, according to Freddie Mac. Adjustable mortgage interest rates averaged 5.17 percent in December 2005 compared with 4.18 percent in December 2004.

  • The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home was 44 days in November 2005, compared with 40 days (revised) for the same period a year ago.

  • Sales dropped 37.6 percent in Monterey County, 34.8 percent in the Monterey Region, 32.8 percent in Northern Santa Barbara County, 32.2 percent in the Sacramento area, 30.7 percent in Northern California, and 30.4 percent in Santa Cruz County from December 2004 to December 2005, the association reported.

  • Median prices soared 35.4 percent in the Santa Barbara South Coast area, 31.1 percent in the High Desert region, 26.2 percent in Santa Barbara County, 20.7 percent in the Riverside-San Bernardino region and 19.3 percent in the Los Angeles area from December 2004 to December 2005.

The association’s MLS median price and sales data for detached homes are generated from a survey of more than 90 associations of Realtors throughout the state, C.A.R. reported. MLS median price and sales data for condominiums are based on a survey of more than 60 associations. The median price for both detached homes and condominiums represents closed escrow sales.

In a separate report covering more localized statistics generated by C.A.R. and real estate information company DataQuick Information Systems, 95.5 percent or 379 of 397 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.

Large changes in local median home prices typically indicate both local home price appreciation, and often, large shifts in the composition of housing market activity, C.A.R. reported. Some of the variations in median home prices may be exaggerated due to compositional changes in housing demand.

  • Statewide, the 10 cities and communities with the highest median home prices in California during December 2005 were: Los Altos, $1,427,500; Calabasas, $1,295,000; Newport Beach, $1,080,000; San Clemente, $1,025,000; Rancho Palos Verdes, $1,020,000; Santa Barbara, $1,000,000; Los Gatos, $972,500; Danville, $960,000; Cupertino, $924,000; and Mill Valley, $918,000.

  • Statewide, the 10 cities and communities with the greatest median home price increases in December 2005 compared with the same period a year ago were: Twentynine Palms, 81.8 percent; Taft, 79.9 percent; Yucaipa, 56.4 percent; Upland, 56.1 percent; Ridgecrest, 51.9 percent; Ceres, 48.2 percent; San Dimas, 46.9 percent; Atwater, 46.2 percent; Merced, 46.2 percent; Moorpark, 45.7 percent; and Barstow, 45 percent.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to glenn@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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