California existing-home sales plummeted 24.1 percent in January compared to January 2005, the California Association of Realtors trade group reported today, while the median price of an existing home increased 13.8 percent.

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled 500,470 in January at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate, according to information collected by C.A.R. from more than 90 local Realtor associations statewide.

The statewide sales figure represents what the total number of homes sold during 2006 would be if sales maintained the January 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 January 2006 was $551,300, an increase of 0.5 percent compared with December’s $548,640 median price.

“The California real estate market is beginning to experience the soft landing that we expect to be the underlying dynamic driving the housing market this year,” said C.A.R. Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young. “The number of homes for sale has risen to a six-month supply, which will translate into a slower rate of price appreciation than we experienced in 2005.”

Vince Malta, C.A.R. president, said, “We expected January sales to fall below the record that was set in January 2005. The decrease was intensified by interest rates crossing the key psychological threshold of 6 percent in the last quarter of the year, and by weakness in consumer confidence due to the residual effects of Hurricane Katrina.”

C.A.R.’s Unsold Inventory Index for existing, single-family detached homes in January 2006 reached six months, compared with 3.2 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.

Housing experts have said that a supply of about six months represents a rough equilibrium between a buyer’s market and a seller’s market – a smaller supply represents a seller’s market while a larger supply represents a buyer’s market.

Thirty-year fixed mortgage interest rates averaged 6.15 percent during January 2006, compared with 5.71 percent in January 2005, according to Freddie Mac. Adjustable mortgage interest rates averaged 5.17 percent in January 2006 compared with 4.12 percent in January 2005.

The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home was 48 days in January 2006, compared with 44 days (revised) for the same period a year ago.

The association released regional MLS sales and price information containing data that is not adjusted to account for seasonal factors that can influence home sales. The MLS median price and sales data for detached homes are generated from a survey of about 90 Realtor associations throughout the state.

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, the association noted.

In a separate report covering more localized statistics generated by C.A.R. and DataQuick Information Systems, 93.2 percent or 355 of 381 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. DataQuick Information Systems is a subsidiary of Vancouver-based MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates.

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. Some of the variations in median home prices may be exaggerated due to compositional changes in housing demand, the association and DataQuick noted.

The DataQuick tables listing median home prices in California cities and counties are accessible through the C.A.R. Web site at http://www.car.org/index.php?id=MzU5NjU=.

According to this data:

  • Statewide, the 10 cities and communities with the highest median home prices in California during January 2006 were: Los Altos, $1.7 million; Newport Beach, $1.5 million; Laguna Beach, $1.39 million; Burlingame, $1.2 million; Los Gatos, $1.1 million; Calabasas, $1.1 million; Santa Barbara, $1 million; Danville, $936,000; Dana Point, $875,000; and Encinitas, $862,500.

  • Statewide, the 10 cities and communities with the greatest median home price increases in January 2006 compared with the same period a year ago were: Sonoma, 78.2 percent; Atwater, 62.3 percent; Barstow, 59.1 percent; Sanger, 54 percent; Ridgecrest, 49.6 percent; Banning, 48.9 percent; Hesperia, 47.2 percent; Walnut, 46.9 percent; Lake Arrowhead, 45.9 percent; and Upland, 45.1 percent.

January 2006 Regional Sales and Price Activity*

Regional and Condo Sales Data Not Seasonally Adjusted

na – not available

*Based on closed escrow sales of single family, detached homes only (no condos).  Reported month to month changes in sales activity may overstate actual changes because of the small size of individual regional samples. Movements in sales prices should not be interpreted as measuring changes in the cost of a standard home.  Prices are influenced by changes in cost and changes in the characteristics and size of homes actually sold.

sf = single family, detached home

Source:  California Association of Realtors 

Median Prices By Region – Current Month vs. Year Ago

na – not available

r – revised

Source:  California Association of Realtors

***

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

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