Home sales decreased 24.5 percent in March in California compared with the same period a year ago, while the median price of an existing home fell 29 percent, according to a recent report by the California Association of Realtors.

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled 318,830 in March at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate, according to C.A.R.

The statewide sales figure represents what the total number of homes sold during 2008 would be if sales maintained the March pace throughout the year. It is adjusted to account for seasonal factors that typically influence home sales.

C.A.R.’s Unsold Inventory Index for existing, single-family detached homes in March 2008 was 11.6 months, compared with 7.6 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.

The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home was 56.7 days in March 2008, compared with 52.9 for the same period a year ago.

Median prices for new and resale condos and single-family homes dropped in about 95 percent of the 250 California cities and city areas tracked by DataQuick Information Systems, a real estate data company, from March 2007 to March 2008, according to C.A.R.

Also, median prices fell in 30 of 31 counties included in the monthly report — San Francisco County was the lone exception with a 0.7 percent year-over-year price increase in March, and the average price drop for counties in the report was 20.7 percent.

San Benito County, an inland county south of San Jose, had a median price decline of 40.8 percent from March 2007 to March 2008, and median-price declines above 30 percent were reported in San Joaquin, Merced, Stanislaus and Monterey counties.

For single-family detached resale homes, prices dropped 29 percent year-over-year in March and the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate fell 24.5 percent, the California Association of Realtors reported. The sales rate, a projection of a monthly sales rate over a 12-month period that is adjusted to account for typical seasonal fluctuations in sales activity, was 318,830 in March. This sales data is based on information collected by the state Realtor group from about 90 local Realtor associations.

The statewide median sales price of single-family detached resale homes fell from $582,930 in March 2007 to $313,980 in March 2008, the California Realtor Association reported, and the median resale condo price fell from $439,950 in March 2007 to $361,760 in March 2008. The adjusted annual rate of condo sales dropped 45.5 percent year-over-year in March.

Regionally, median-price declines for single-family detached resale homes ranged from a high of 35.7 percent in the Monterey County region to a low of 2.4 percent in the Santa Clara region, and the year-over-year change in sale activity ranged from a 49.3 percent drop in the Santa Cruz County region to a 4.7 percent gain in the Sacramento region.

"The lack of available funds for loans, even for qualified buyers, continues to keep the demand side of the market thin, and enables buyers with financing (or all cash) to exert leverage over sellers," said Leslie Appleton-Young, vice president and chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, in a statement. "Both tighter underwriting standards and the ongoing effects of the credit/liquidity crunch continue to constrain sales."

A separate report on new-home construction activity in the state, released by the California Building Industry Association, revealed that a total of 4,713 residential building permits were issued in California in March, down 65.2 percent from the same month last year. Residential building-permit activity has declined 50.7 percent for the first three months of the year compared to the same period last year.

Residential foreclosures have impacted the new-home construction industry, said Alan Nevin, chief economist for the state builders’ trade group.

"The massive upsurge in the sale of foreclosures in inland California has largely displaced new-home and traditional resales, and it’s anticipated that the large wave of foreclosures will not subside until later this year," Nevin said in a statement. "As a result, home builders will continue to start new homes on a very limited basis, often requiring pre-sales prior to breaking ground."


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