California Home Prices Remain Strong

According to the California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.), California's media home prices marked a full year of annual price gains, fueled by strong sales of higher-priced homes in February.  

“The demand for homes remains solid, but a shortage of homes for sale, especially in the lower-priced segments, is negatively impacting housing sales,” said C.A.R. President Don Faught.  “Sales of homes priced above $500,000 continue to be strong, posting nearly 31 percent higher than a year ago, while homes priced below $300,000 were down 27 percent from last February due to fewer available homes for sale.”

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 416,610 units in February, according to information collected by C.A.R. from more than 90 local REALTOR® associations and MLSs statewide.  Sales in February were down 0.9 percent from a revised 420,270 in January and down 5.9 percent from a revised 442,660 in February 2012.  The statewide sales figure represents what would be the total number of homes sold during 2013 if sales maintained the February pace throughout the year.  It is adjusted to account for seasonal factors that typically influence home sales.

The statewide median price of an existing, single-family detached home slipped 1 percent from January’s revised median price of $337,360 to $333,880 in February.  February’s price was up 24.2 percent from a revised $268,810 recorded in February 2012, marking a full year of annual price increases and the eighth consecutive month of double-digit annual gains.  The median sales price is the point at which half of homes sold for more and half sold for less; it is influenced by the types of homes selling as well as a general change in values.

“With housing inventory dropping nearly 39 percent from a year ago, supply constraints continued to propel strong gains in the median price, but also intensified market competition,” said C.A.R. Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young.  “With an imbalance between supply and demand, home buyers have been fiercely competing with each other.  More than half of home sales are receiving multiple offers, with homes getting an average of four to five offers, and some even more.”

Other key facts of C.A.R.’s February 2013 resale housing report include:

• The available supply of homes for sale was essentially unchanged from January, but was down markedly from a year ago.  The February Unsold Inventory Index for existing, single-family detached homes was 3.6 months in February, up from 3.5 months in January, but down from 5.4 months in February 2012.  The index indicates the number of months needed to sell the supply of homes on the market at the current sales rate.  A six- to seven-month supply is considered normal.

• Increased market competition has significantly driven down the time on market compared to a year ago.  Homes sold more quickly in February, with the median number of days it took to sell a single-family home decreasing to 34.2 days in February, down from 36.6 days in January and down from a revised 57.4 days for the same period a year ago.

• Mortgage rates edged up in February, with the 30-year fixed-mortgage interest rate averaging 3.53 percent, up from 3.41 percent in January 2013 but down from 3.89 percent in February 2012, according to Freddie Mac.  Adjustable-mortgage interest rates also edged up, averaging 2.61 percent in February, up from 2.58 percent in January but down from 2.78 percent Fe