The rate of single-family existing-home sales in California fell 25 percent in May compared to sales for that month last year, while building permits issued for single-family homes declined 40.1 percent, state Realtor and builder trade groups reported this week.

The California Association of Realtors reported a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 366,370 closed escrow sales of existing single-family detached homes in May, compared to a record sales rate of 488,260 in May 2006.

This sales rate is a projection of a monthly sales total over a 12-month period, adjusted for seasonal variations in sales activity.

Building permits issued for new single-family homes dropped to 7,164 in May from 11,969 sales in May 2006, the California Building Industry Association reported.

During the first five months of the year compared to the same period last year, new single-family home sales shrank 70.3 percent in the Merced metro area, 67.8 percent in Madera, 62.2 percent in El Centro, 49.2 percent in Modesto, 46.8 percent in Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, 46.7 percent in San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, 46.6 percent in Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, 46 percent in Chico, 44.7 percent in Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, and 40.4 percent in Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine.

Meanwhile, permits issued for new single-family homes increased 20.8 percent in the San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City metro area, 8.7 percent in Fresno, 5.6 percent in San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, 0.2 percent in Yuba City-Marysville and 0.1 percent in Visalia-Porterville compared to the same period last year, and permit activity declined in all other areas of the state.

Total building permits for single-family units dropped 32.9 percent for the first five months of the year compared to the same period last year, and multifamily units fell 18.7 percent.

The Realtor group reported that sales of existing single-family detached homes declined in 18 of 20 state regions in May compared to the same month last year, with Northern California and the Santa Barbara Southern Coast experiencing sales gains of 6.9 percent and 6.8 percent, respectively. The High Desert region had the steepest decline at 52.7 percent, followed by the Riverside-San Bernardino region at 43 percent and the Northern Santa Barbara County region at 35.7 percent.

The median price of existing single-family detached homes in May was $591,180, a gain of 4.8 percent compared to May 2006, the Realtor association reported. The resale condo price was $434,790 in May, up 0.5 percent compared to the same month last year.

Regionally, the association reported that the price of resale single-family detached homes fell 7.5 percent in Northern California, 6.8 percent in Sacramento, 6.7 percent in the Central Valley, 5.6 percent in the High Desert and 3.7 percent in the Northern Wine Country in May compared to the same month last year.

Regions with the largest price gains were the Santa Barbara Southern Coast at 25.1 percent, followed by the San Francisco Bay at 8.7 percent, Santa Clara at 7.3 percent, Palm Springs-Lower Desert at 4.6 percent and San Luis Obispo at 4.1 percent.

The Realtor group’s Unsold Inventory Index for resale single-family detached homes was 10.7 months in May, compared to six months for the same month last year. The index indicates the time it would take 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 51.7 days in May 2007, compared with 44.5 days for the same period a year ago, the Realtor group reported.

Thirty-year fixed-mortgage interest rates averaged 6.26 percent during May 2007, compared with 6.6 percent in May 2006, according to Freddie Mac. Adjustable-mortgage interest rates averaged 5.52 percent in May 2007 compared with 5.63 percent in May 2006.

According to a separate report that includes local statistics generated by the Realtor association and real estate research company DataQuick Information Systems, 36.7 percent (136 out of 371) cities and communities in the state, showed an increase in median home prices in May compared to the same month last year. DataQuick statistics are based on county records data.

The top-10 cities and communities with the highest median home prices in California during May 2007 were: Los Altos, at $1.68 million; Burlingame, at $1.67 million; Saratoga, at $1.65 million; Manhattan Beach, at $1.46 million; Beverly Hills, at $1.43 million; La Canada-Flintridge, at $1.42 million; Newport Beach, at $1.4 million; Laguna Beach, at $1.36 million; Mill Valley, at $1.29 million; and Los Gatos, at $1.23 million.

Statewide, the 10 cities and communities with the largest median-home-price increases in May 2007 compared to May 2006 were: La Habra, at 57.6 percent; Moorpark, 37.5 percent; San Juan Capistrano, 36.9 percent; Atascadero, 28 percent; Mill Valley, 27.2 percent; Lake Forest, 24.5 percent; Burlingame, 21.5 percent; Hawthorne, 21.4 percent; Dana Point, 19.9 percent; and Manhattan Beach, 17.2 percent.

The 10 cities and communities with the largest decline in median home price were: Newhall, down 38.9 percent; Sonoma, down 36 percent; Westlake Village, down 33.3 percent, Millbrae, down 30.2 percent, Big Bear Lake, down 28.6 percent, San Luis Obispo, down 22.8 percent; Los Banos, down 21.4 percent; Patterson, down 21.4 percent; Ojai, down 20.3 percent; and Merced, down 20 percent.

Among California Counties, Merced County had the steepest median-home-price decline of 19.6 percent in May compared to May 2006, while Napa County had the largest gain at 12.6 percent.

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