California’s resale housing market was unseasonably brisk in December, the California Association of Realtors reported Friday, with sales of existing homes rising 1.7 percent and median home prices climbing 8.4 percent year-over-year.

"Historically, the median price declines November through February and then rises in March. However, lean inventory, historically low interest rates, and incentives for homebuyers have resulted in California’s housing market experiencing non-seasonal variations," said Leslie Appleton-Young, the state association’s vice president and chief economist, in a statement.

"While we expect to experience price gains in the near term, it remains to be seen how the market will fare once the Federal Reserve discontinues its purchase of mortgage-backed securities."

The statewide median home price was $306,820, compared with the revised $283,060 median for December 2008. The price also represents a 0.8 percent month-to-month increase.

Santa Barbara County saw the biggest year-over-year median price increase in the state, 28.4 percent, to $425,000. Five of the state’s 19 regions saw median prices decreases, with the High Desert region seeing the biggest hit, -12 percent, to $121,010.

CAR, along with a data company partner, also released a county-by-county and city-by-city table of median prices for December.

The association’s unsold inventory index fell 32 percent, from 5.6 months to 3.8 months in December 2008. Inventory is measured by the number of months it would take to exhaust the current supply of homes at the current sales rate. In December, single-family homes sold in a median of 35.3 days, compared with a revised 46.3 days in December 2008.

Homes in the $750,000 to $1 million range saw the highest inventory decrease, 45.7 percent, from 8.3 months in December 2008 to 4.5 months in December 2009. Homes over $1 million saw the second-highest decrease, 45 percent, from 14.2 months to 7.8 months. Inventory of homes $300,000 to $500,000 fell the least, 27 percent, from 4.8 months to 3.5 months.

The report was based on closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California, which totaled 558,320 in December at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate. CAR collected the data from more than 90 local Realtor associations throughout California.


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