California home prices and sales showed steady improvement during the typically slow month of November, fresh data released Thursday showed, with the San Francisco area outpacing Southern California.
The state's median home price in November was $261,000, a 1.6% increase from the month before and up 1.2% from November 2008. The statewide year-over-year increase was the first since July 2007.
The increase reflected an overall improvement in the housing market, with fewer foreclosures making up the total mix of homes for resale and an overall bounce back from the severely depressed prices seen in 2008, according to MDA DataQuick, a San Diego research firm that closely tracks California's housing market.
"We have been in the middle of a kind of mini recovery in California," said Gerd-Ulf Krueger, principal economist and founder of HousingEcon.com. "It looks like the housing market, at least for now, has bottomed."
Home sales were up 11.5% statewide in November compared with a year earlier, though down 13.1% from October. A decline in sales between October and November is typical as the slower fall season kicks in. An estimated 35,860 homes were sold statewide last month, DataQuick said.
Of the previously owned homes sold in November, 40.6% had been foreclosed on during the last year. That is the lowest percentage since May 2008, when the figure was 39.8%. Foreclosure sales peaked at 58.8% in February 2008.
Many experts fear that a second wave of foreclosures could hit the market next year, putting pressure on prices. And the long-term housing picture is unclear, DataQuick President John Walsh said in a statement Thursday.
"A lot of people sense lenders are holding back and that there's at least one more round of foreclosures lurking around the corner," Walsh said. "Combine that with less government stimulus in 2010, and it would threaten whatever price stability we see now."
In the San Francisco Bay Area, the median price paid for a home was $387,000 in November. That was a 10.6% increase from November 2008 but a 0.8% decline from October of this year. The year-over-year uptick was significant as it was the second month in a row that the median price paid for a home in the Bay Area increased on that basis.
The median price paid for a Southern California home increased 1.8% in November from October, to $285,000, and was flat compared with November 2008, according to a DataQuick report released Tuesday.