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California's median home sale price jumps 11.2% in February

Analysts attribute the increase, to $249,000, to more higher-end houses and fewer bank-owned properties changing hands.

March 19, 2010|By Alejandro Lazo

California's median home price rose a robust 11.2% in February from the same period a year ago as fewer foreclosure properties sold, while the number of homes sold fell 3.8%.

The median price paid for a home in the Golden State was $249,000 in February, up from $224,000 for the same month a year ago and from $247,000 in January, a 0.8% month-to-month increase, San Diego research firm MDA DataQuick reported Thursday.

It was the fourth consecutive month that the median -- the price at which half the sales are higher and half lower -- increased on a year-over-year basis, DataQuick said.

The increase reflects a change in the sales mix with more homes sold in higher-priced areas and fewer lower-end or bank-owned homes selling, said Richard Green, director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate.

"We started seeing sales come back in the least-expensive areas with investors buying at very low prices with cash," Green said. "As the mix changes to include more higher-cost areas and a smaller share in lower-cost areas, that will make it look like prices are going up too."

DataQuick reported that 28,111 homes sold statewide in February, down 3.8% from the previous February and up 0.9% from the month before.

Of the existing homes sold last month, 44.3% were foreclosed properties. That was up from a revised 43.8% of the total resale market in January but down from an all-time high of 58.8% in February 2009, DataQuick said.

In the San Francisco Bay Area the median price paid for a home jumped 20% in February from the previous year to $354,000. Sales fell for the second month in a row to 4,987 from 5,032 a year earlier. DataQuick attributed the drop in the number of homes sold to buyers having trouble getting financing, worrying about job security or being unable to compete for a home as inventory tightened.

"The market remains fundamentally off kilter," said John Walsh, DataQuick's president. "There's still relatively little lending going on in the upper price ranges, and little adjustable-rate financing, which had been vital to the Bay Area."

Sales in the Bay Area were at their second-lowest level for a February in 15 years. The record low was 3,989 homes sold in February 2008.

alejandro.lazo @latimes.com

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