Home sales in California last month were off 4.2% from October but up 4% compared with November 2010. The median home price was $244,000, up 1.7% from October and down 4.3% from a year earlier.

By Alejandro Lazo, Los Angeles TimesDecember 15, 2011

California’s housing market showed some signs of luster in November with sales picking up over the same month a year earlier, but prices declined and foreclosures remained prevalent.

Sales fell 4.2% from the prior month, though a decline from October to November is common, and compared with November 2010 they were up 4%, according to real estate research firm DataQuick. A total of 32,669 homes sold last month, about 18% below the average going back to 1988, when DataQuick’s statistics begin.

The state’s median home price was $244,000, up 1.7% from October and down 4.3% from November 2010.

“These days, buyers and sellers have to contend with two sets of problems, which sometimes play into each other and sometimes conflict with each other,” DataQuick President John Walsh said in a statement. “The first is the lousy economy and the opportunities it presents, for better or worse. The second is the dysfunctional mortgage finance system. Interest rates may be at record lows, but the types of mortgages that are available have been drastically reduced and qualifying is a true grind.”

The state’s median price — the point at which half the homes in the state sold for more and half for less — has declined year-over-year for 14 consecutive months.

The most recent low in the median price was hit in April 2009, at the height of the financial crisis. After that, the housing market began showing some strength as a tax credit mostly aimed at first-time buyers helped fuel a buying spree. The market has been weak ever since that credit expired in April 2010.

Foreclosures are a big part of that weakness, as those homes and other so-called distressed properties tend to sell at a discount. Of the previously owned homes that sold last month, about 1 in 3 were foreclosures and about 1 in 5 were short sales, in which the home is sold for less than the outstanding debt on the property.

In Southern California, sales rose 0.3% from October and 4.2% from November 2010, with 16,884 homes bought across the six-county region. The median home price for the region was $275,000 in November, up 1.9% from October but down 4.2% from November 2010.

The San Francisco Bay Area’s housing market picked up a bit of steam last month. A total of 6,317 homes were sold in the nine-county region, down 2% from October and up 3.4% from November 2010. The Bay Area’s median home price was $363,500, up 3.9% from October and down 4.3% from November 2010.

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