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California home prices match nearly 4-year high; median now at $281,000

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POSTED September 14, 2012 9:17 p.m.

 

SAN DIEGO (AP) — California home prices matched a nearly four-year high last month as buyers snapped up pricier homes and the supply of foreclosed homes dwindled, a research firm reported Friday.

The statewide median price for new and existing houses and condominiums was $281,000 in August, up 12.9 percent from the same period last year, DataQuick said.

It matched July's median price, which was the highest since September 2008, when it reached $283,000.

There were 41,280 homes sold in the state last month, up 9.4 percent from a year ago and the highest August tally in six years.

Foreclosed properties made up a smaller part of the sales mix last month, lifting the median price because the homes tend to sell at steep discounts. DataQuick said homes that were foreclosed in the previous year accounted for 20 percent of existing homes sold, compared to 34.3 percent a year earlier and 58.5 percent in February 2009.

Gains were posted across the state as low interest rates and an improving economy attracted buyers.

In the San Francisco Bay area, the median price reached $410,000, up 10.8 percent from a year ago. There were 8,579 homes sold in the nine-county region, up 14.2 percent from last year.

"Most economists agree that the housing market is off bottom. But there's a big gap between the market being 'off bottom' and being normal, which it's not," said John Walsh, DataQuick's president.

On Thursday, DataQuick reported that Southern California home prices hit a four-year high of $309,000 last month, up 10.8 percent from the same period last year. Sales in the six-county region jumped 14.2 percent to 22,438 homes.

Buyers continued to find slim pickings. The California Association of Realtors' index of unsold inventory stood at 3.4 months in July — the latest period available — down from 5.6 months a year earlier. The figure represents how long it would take to sell all existing single-family homes at the current sales clip. Supply in a normal market is considered to be six to seven months.

Trenton Temple, 32, who works at a San Francisco art magazine, paid $360,000 for a two-bedroom Oakland home last month after getting outbid before on a search that lasted about a year.

"At the very end, I was saying to my wife that things seemed to be drying up a little, that the competition had gotten fiercer," Temple said. "We were very happy this one came through."

 

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