California home sales decreased 28.5 percent in February compared with the same period a year ago, while the median price of an existing home fell 26.2 percent, the California Association of Realtors reported today.

"Although sales rose for the fourth straight month in February by 9.5 percent compared with the previous month, they continue to be dragged down by the ongoing effects of both the credit/liquidity crunch and tighter underwriting standards that have reduced the pool of qualified buyers who can obtain a loan," C.A.R. President William E. Brown said in a statement.

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled 343,220 in February at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate, C.A.R. reported, down 28.5 percent from the revised 480,170 sales pace recorded in February 2007.

The statewide sales figure represents what the total number of homes sold during 2008 would be if sales maintained the February 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 February was $409,240, a 26.2 percent decrease from the revised $554,280 median for February 2007, C.A.R. reported. The February 2008 median price fell 4.8 percent compared with January’s revised $429,790 median price.

"It is crucial that FHA reform legislation currently under consideration by Congress include higher loan limits for high-cost states like California," he said. "The proposed legislation also includes a reduction in the down-payment requirement for FHA loans and will include condominiums in the FHA single-family program, which will make it easier for buyers in the condominium market to qualify for loans."

C.A.R. reported that its Unsold Inventory Index for existing, single-family detached homes in February was 14.3 months, up from 8.2 months 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.

Statewide, the 10 cities and communities with the highest median home prices in California during February were: Santa Barbara, $1,150,000; Redwood City, $875,000; Danville, $875,000; Encinitas, $842,500; Santa Monica, $787,000; Mountain View, $784,000; San Clemente, $770,000; San Mateo, $750,000; Sunnyvale, $741,750; San Francisco, $737,750; and Carlsbad, $675,000.

The 10 cities and communities reporting the greatest median-home-price increases in February compared to a year ago were: Encinitas, 25.7 percent; Santa Barbara, 23.4 percent; Walnut Creek, 21.5 percent; Redwood City, 14 percent; Carlsbad, 10.9 percent; Sunnyvale, 5.3 percent; Mountain View, 3.4 percent; Rancho Mirage, 2.6 percent; Santa Monica, 1.5 percent; Los Angeles, 1.5 percent; and Santa Clarita, 0.9 percent.

For tables listing median home prices in California cities and counties, visit C.A.R. Online at http://www.car.org/index.php?id=MzgzNzM.


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