California home sales and prices rise in May

Home sales and prices strengthened throughout California in May, providing the latest evidence that housing might be snapping out of its long slumber.

Sales popped 9.3% from April and jumped 17.6% from May 2011 to total 41,790 new and previously owned houses bought statewide, according to real estate research firm DataQuick of San Diego. The state’s median home price hit $270,000, rising 2.3% from the prior month and up 8.4% from May 2011.

“It’s not exactly a stampede, but people are starting to move off the housing market sidelines in numbers we haven’t seen in quite a while,” DataQuick President John Walsh said. “And it’s not just first-time buyers and investors. There are more move-up buyers in mid- to high-end coastal counties.”

Home sales in the Golden State have posted year-over-year gains for 10 consecutive months, and foreclosures have steadily been making up a smaller share of the market. Sales of distressed homes made up 46.2% of the market, the lowest figure since April 2008.

Just slightly more than 1 in 4 homes sold in California were foreclosures last month, while just under 1 in 5 homes were short sales, according to the data.

In Southern California, the number of homes sold soared 21% compared with a year earlier, while the median price rose 5.4%. In the Bay Area, sales were up 26.1% from May of last year and the median rose 7.5%.

Although the foreclosure problem is improving, a RealtyTrac report underscored that the large number of distressed properties remains a headache, particularly in some areas. The Inland Empire, for instance, had the highest foreclosure rate out of the nation’s 20 biggest metropolitan regions last month.