Sales of existing homes in California dropped 21.1 percent in May, while the median price increased 8 percent, according to an industry report.

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled 488,260 in May at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate, down from 618,920 during the same month a year ago, according to the California Association of Realtors.

The statewide sales figure represents what the total number of homes sold during 2006 would be if sales maintained the May 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 May 2006 was $564,430, an 8 percent increase over the revised $522,530 median for May 2005, C.A.R. reported. The May 2006 median price increased 0.5 percent compared with April’s revised $561,750 median price.

It was the first time since November 2001 that the median price did not increase by double digits, said C.A.R. President Vince Malta.

So far this year, home sales are down 19.5 percent, according to C.A.R. Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young. This is in line with the association’s forecast, which projected a 16.8 percent decrease in sales for the year.

“We expect the rate of home price appreciation to increase 8 percent to $565,900 for the year as a whole, compared with the impressive double-digit gains we’ve witnessed over the past four years,” she said.

Unsold inventory in May was 5.9 months, compared with 2.7 months for the same period a year ago. The number 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 44 days in May 2006, compared with 27 days (revised) for the same period a year ago, C.A.R. said.

In a separate report covering more localized statistics generated by C.A.R. and DataQuick Information Systems, 84.4 percent, or 348 out of 405 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.

Statewide, the 10 cities and communities with the highest median home prices in California during May 2006 were: Laguna Beach, $1.69 million; Saratoga, $1.5 million; Burlingame, $1.37 million; Newport Beach, $1.34 million; Manhattan Beach, $1.24 million; Los Gatos, $1.12 million; Santa Monica, $1.16 million; Rancho Palos Verdes, $1.14 million; Lafayette, $1.14 million; Calabasas, $1.13 million; and Santa Barbara, $1.13 million.

Statewide, the 10 cities and communities with the greatest median-home-price increases in May 2006 compared with the same period a year ago were: Santa Monica, 60.3 percent; Ridgecrest, 56.3 percent; Adelanto, 42.5 percent; Loma Linda, 36.7 percent; Barstow, 36 percent; Laguna Beach, 33.8 percent; Delano, 33.3 percent; Tustin, 32.8 percent; Campbell, 32 percent; and California City, 30.6 percent.

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