California's housing market showed strength in April as median prices rose and sales outperformed the same month last year.
The Golden State's median home price popped 6% in April to $264,000, according to real estate information firm DataQuick of San Diego. The median is the point at which half the homes in the state sold for more and half for less.
In Southern California and the Bay Area, the share of home sales that were foreclosures declined significantly, which economists see as key because sales of those homes tend to drag prices down.
"It appears that the market is taking a step in the direction of normalization, but only a step," DataQuick President John Walsh said. "The mortgage market is critical, as is market mix and the receding importance of foreclosure resales."
A total of 38,241 newly built and previously owned houses, town homes and condominiums sold statewide in April. That was up 2% from March and up 8.6% from April 2011. The total was the highest for any April since 2006, DataQuick said, and the ninth consecutive month that sales improved year over year.
Sales of foreclosed homes made up 30.3% of resale homes last month, down from a revised 32.8% in March and 36.4% in April 2011. Short sales made up 18.3% of the market, down from 19.1% in March but up from 16.9% in April 2011.
In Southern California last month, the median home price rose 3.6% from a year earlier to $290,000 and sales rose 5.1% to 19,284. The Bay Area's median home price rose 8.3% to $360,000, and sales rose 13.1% to 7,675.
A separate report by RealtyTrac showed U.S. foreclosure activity fell last month to its lowest level since the start of the credit crisis in 2007, driven largely by drops in states such as California, where the process occurs largely outside the courtroom.
Foreclosure filings — default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — were logged on 18,780 homes, according to RealtyTrac. That was down 5% from the previous month and a 14% decline from April 2011. One in 698 U.S. housing units had a foreclosure filing during the month.