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Existing homes sales drop 31 percent in California

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In September existing home sales in California decreased 31.7 percent compared to the same period a year ago, while the median price of an existing home increased 1.8 percent, the California Association of Realtors reported Wednesday.

“We expected a fairly steep decline in sales last month compared with a year ago, when sales were near their all-time record,” said Vince Malta, CAR president.

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in the state totaled 444,780 in September, a decrease from the 650,780 sales pace recorded in September 2005.

“Overall, year-to-date sales were down 24 percent, in line with our 2006 projection,” said Leslie Appleton-Young, CAR vice president and chief economist

The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home was 54 days in September, compared with 30 days (revised) for the same period a year ago.

“Unsold inventory is holding steady, and is close to the long-term historic average typical of a more ‘normal’ market,” Malta said.

CAR.’s Unsold Inventory Index for existing, single-family detached homes in September was 7 months, compared with 3.2 months (revised) for the same period a year ago. The index indicates the number of months needed to deplete the supply of homes on the market at the current sales rate.

The median price of an existing, single-family detached home in California during September was $553,050, a 1.8 percent increase over the revised $543,510 median for the same month last year. The September median price decreased 4 percent compared with August’s $576,360 price.

In a separate report covering more localized statistics generated by CAR and DataQuick Information Systems, 59.6 percent, or 227 out of 381 cities and communities, showed an increase in their respective median home prices from a year ago.

Areas that experienced a lot of homebuilding in recent years or second home activity have experienced larger declines in sales and weaker prices than the state as a whole. These include San Diego County, Northern California, the Northern Wine Country, the Central Valley, and the Lower Desert in Southern California, according to Appleton-Young.

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