California home prices near 4-year high

From OC Register, Lansner on Real Estate, Jonathan Lansner

California home sale prices came close to a 4-year high in July, with the pace of sales year-over-year growing for the fourth month in a row, the California Association of Realtors says.

“It’s hard to generalize the state of California’s housing market because the markets are so diverse and are performing so differently,” LeFrancis Arnold, the association’s president, said.
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“REO-dominated areas (of homes seized by banks) such as those in the Inland Empire and Central Valley are experiencing sales constraints due to an extreme shortage of available homes,” he said. “On the other hand, a robust economy in the San Francisco Bay area and a relatively larger inventory at higher price levels is helping to fuel sales and prices.”

The July median price was the highest since August 2008, when it was at $352,730. July also marked the 5th straight month that the state’s median home price saw both month-over-month and year-over-year gains.

The report says:

  • The median price of an existing single-family home (or price at the midpoint of all sales) was $333,860 last month, up 4.2% from $320,540 in June and nearly 13% from the state’s July 2011 median of $296,160 . During the housing crash, the state’s median price got as low as $245,230.
  • July sales rose  to an annualized pace of  529,230 homes – that is,  homes that would sell if transactions were to occur for a year at July’s sales pace. That’s an increase of 15.3 percent over the pace in July 2011 – 459,140 homes.
  • California’s housing inventory was pretty much flat in July, with the index of existing, single-family homes at 3.4 months compared to 3.5 months in June. However, July’s inventory was down from a revised 5.6-month supply in July 2011. The index indicates the number of months needed to sell the supply of homes on the market at the current sales rate.  A seven-month “inventory” of homes for sale is considered normal.

In Orange County, prices slipped slightly, while sales had a dramatic increase. The association reported:

  • The median house price was $551,160   in July, barely down from $551,510 the year before and down about 3% from June. The low since the housing crash was $442,170 in January 2009, CAR spokesperson Lotus Lou said in an interview.
  • House sales in O.C. were up 32.1% from year-ago levels.
  • The county’s “inventory” of homes for sale was at a 4-month supply, down a bit from 4.2 months in June and plunging from 7.5 months in July 2011.

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