California home prices and sales increase in March

A "for sale" sign on a house in Compton.
(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

Home prices across California jumped 8.3% in March compared to February and 24.7% compared to a year earlier, according to figures released by real estate firm DataQuick on Thursday.

Sales rose slightly, with about 1% more new and resale homes sold last month compared with a year earlier. The estimated 37,764 homes sold was 31.5% more than the previous month, a typical seasonal increase from February to March.

Extremely low inventory has led to sharp price increases, as buyers look to take advantage of historically low interest rates and cash investors snatch up properties to rent or resell.


Both Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area — two of the country’s most desirable markets — saw significant price gains in March. “There’s been a shift in psychology, where more people worry prices will rise and fewer fear a decline,” DataQuick President John Walsh said in a statement.

The median sales price for the nine-county Bay Area hit $436,000 in March, a 21.8% jump from last year and an 7.7% increase from February. Southland buyers paid a median of $345,500, rising 8% from February and 23.4% from a year earlier.

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The sharp increases have concerned some observers who worry about another housing bubble, but many real estate experts believe that the price increases will slow and that the market remains on solid footing. Inventory should loosen as rising prices tempt more homeowners to sell.

Moreover, California’s March median of $313,000 remains far below the peak of $484,000 in spring 2007.

The median sales price is the point at which half of the homes sold for more and half for less; it is influenced by the types of homes selling as well as a general change in home values.


Properties that had been foreclosed upon in the last year made up 15.2% of California resales in March — the lowest level since September 2007. Short sales were also down.

In the Bay Area, all nine counties saw their median sales price rise from a year earlier, but only one county — Marin — saw more sales last month than in March 2012.

Buyers shelled out a median of $818,000 for a home in San Francisco, 25.8% more than a year earlier.

Contra Costa County saw the largest pop. Its median sales price rose 34.9% to $346,000.

Sales volume increased year over year in all Southern California counties, except San Bernardino and Riverside, where investors have taken many low-priced properties off the market.

The median sales price in Los Angeles County, released Wednesday, rose 24.2% from a year earlier to $380,000; buyers in Orange County paid a median of $505,000, or 26.3% more than March 2012.



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