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CAR: Home prices up, sales down

Unsold inventory falls to 5.8 months

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Median home prices increased 15 percent year-over-year in January, according to a report by the California Association of Realtors. Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes fell 10.6 percent year-over-year, to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 539,040 units, and fell 3 percent month-to-month, the report said. Home prices increased to $287,440 in January compared to the revised $249,960 median for January 2009; they fell 6.3 percent month-to-month, the report said. "Many sales that closed escrow in January were on homes with offers accepted during the holiday season -- a time when many house hunters are first-time buyers," said Steve Goddard, the association's president. "First-time buyers typically purchase homes priced below an area's median home price. Reflecting this, the percentage of homes priced under $500,000 increased to 77 percent of all sales in January, compared with 75 percent in December. "Despite the year-to-year de...