California Home Sales Start Out 2014 On A Low Note

For the month of January, California saw a 26.1% decrease from December of new and resale houses and condos sold statewide, as well as a 10.5% decrease from January 2013, according to a report from San Diego-based DataQuick.

According to the report, January sales in California have varied from a low of 19,145 in 2008 to a high of 47,138 in 2004. Last month's sales of 25,832 were 17.7% below the average of 31,393 sales for all the months of January since 1988, when DataQuick's statistics begin. California sales haven't been above average for any particular month in more than seven years, the company notes.

The median price paid for a home in California last month was $353,000 – down 3.3% from $365,000 in December and up 21.7% from $290,000 in January 2013. Last month was the 23nd consecutive month in which the state's median sale price rose year-over-year and was the 14th straight month with a gain exceeding 20%, says DataQuick.

In March/April/May 2007, the median peaked at $484,000. The post-peak trough was $221,000 in April 2009.

Of the existing homes sold last month, 7.7% were properties that had been foreclosed on during the past year. That was up from a revised 6.9% in December and down from 19.0% a year earlier. Foreclosure resales peaked at 58.8% in February 2009.

Short sales – transactions where the sale price fell short of what was owed on the property – made up an estimated 11.5% of the homes that resold last month. That was down from an estimated 13.1% the month before and down from 23.9% a year earlier.

The typical monthly mortgage payment that California buyers committed themselves to paying last month was $1,419 – down from $1,473 the month before and up from $1,030 a year earlier. Adjusted for inflation, last month's payment was 38.6% below the typical payment in spring 1989 – the peak of the prior real estate cycle. It was 50.2% below the current cycle's peak in June 2006 and was 54.0% above the February 2012 bottom of the current cycle.

DataQuick also reports that indicators of market distress continue to decline. Foreclosure activity remains well below year-ago and peak levels reached in the last five years. Financing with multiple mortgages is low, while down payment sizes are stable.


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