California home sales mixed by region; prices post record declines
With sales up slightly in Southern California and down in the San Francisco Bay Area, the only trait common to these regions in May was a sharp drop-off in median home price from last year’s level, according to real estate information service DataQuick.

The median home price paid in Southern California fell a record 27 percent from a year ago — from $505,000 to $370,000 — because of sluggish high-end sales, more sellers dropping their asking prices, and lenders selling off more of their aggressively priced, repossessed homes.

In the Bay Area, the median price paid was $517,000 last month, down 0.2 percent from $518,000 in April, and down a record 21.7 percent from $660,000 a year ago.

And while Southern California home sales picked up in May they were still the weakest on record for that month, according to DataQuick’s statistics, which go back to 1988.

Some 16,917 new and resale houses and condos closed escrow in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties last month, up 8.3 percent from 15,615 in April but down 14.9 percent from 19,874 in May last year.

Sales of post-foreclosure homes continue to dominate many inland markets, DataQuick reported. Of all the Southland homes that resold in May, 37.4 percent had been foreclosed on at some point in the prior 12 months, compared with a revised 36.2 percent in April and 5.5 percent one year ago. Across the six-county area, these "foreclosure resales" ranged from 25.6 percent of resale activity in Orange County to 56.6 percent in Riverside County.

In the nine-county Bay Area, total sales of new and resale houses and condos in May (6,216) were off 1.5 percent from April and 23.1 percent from a year ago. Sales posted their slowest rate for a May in more than 20 years, DataQuick reported.

Post-foreclosure homes continued to play a big role in the market last month, as 25.6 percent of the homes that resold had been foreclosed on at some point in the prior 12 months, down from 26 percent in April but up from 3.3 percent a year ago.

The impact was greatest in inland counties: Solano County’s foreclosure resales were 57.6 percent of the resale market; in Contra Costa they were 43.3 percent; and in Sonoma they represented 26.6 percent. It was much different on the coast, where foreclosure resales were just 5.8 percent of the resale market in San Francisco and 4.5 percent in Marin County.

Housing starts hit 17-year low in May
The rate of May housing starts dropped to the lowest level in 17 years, the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development reported Tuesday.

Single-family housing starts dropped to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 975,000 in May — this rate is a projection of a monthly total over a 12-month period, adjusted to account for typical seasonal fluctuations in sales activity. The rate was about 3.3 percent lower than the April 2008 estimate and was 32.1 percent below the May 2007 rate, according to the report.

The rate of housing starts hit the lowest level in May since March 1991, when the rate was 921,000. The May rate of housing units authorized by building permits was down 36.3 percent from the May 2007 rate and down 1.3 percent compared to the April 2008 rate.


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