LOS ANGELES — California home sales fell for the fifth straight month in December as the distressed market plays a dwindling role in the state’s housing market. Sales for the year were down 5.9 percent from 2012 as tight housing inventory and higher home prices squeezed out would-be buyers, the California Association of Realtors reported.
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“We typically see an uptick in distressed sales at the end of the year as lenders try to move these properties off their books,” said CAR President Kevin Brown. “However, the supply of foreclosures and short sales is the lowest it’s been since well before the financial crisis, greatly constraining the number of these transactions. In addition, housing prices are improving across the board, even reaching pre-2007 levels in parts of the Bay Area. Higher prices and rising rates as the Fed slowly tapers are additional factors in the sales slowdown evidenced in the December numbers.”
Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 361,890 units in December, according to information collected by CAR from more than 90 local Realtor associations and MLSs statewide. Sales in December were down 6.7 percent from a revised 387,860 in November and down 18.6 percent from a revised 444,770 in December 2012. The statewide sales figure represents what would be the total number of homes sold during 2013 if sales maintained the December pace throughout the year. It is adjusted to account for seasonal factors that typically influence home sales.
For 2013 as a whole, a preliminary 413,870 single-family homes closed escrow in California, down 5.9 percent from a revised 2012 figure of 439,790.
Home prices reversed a three-month decline and climbed in December. The statewide median price of an existing, single-family detached home rose 3.7 percent from November’s median price of $422,210 to $438,040 in December. December’s price was 19.7 percent higher than the revised $365,840 recorded in December 2012, marking a year and a half of double-digit annual gains and the first time in 15 months that the annual increase was below 20 percent. The median sales price is the point at which half of homes sold for more and half sold for less; it is influenced by the types of homes selling as well as a general change in values.
“While the month-to-month price gain was higher than normal, home prices have been stabilizing in the second half of 2013, which is positive news for buyers who have been putting their home search on hold until prices leveled off,” said CAR Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young. “California’s housing market experienced strong price growth throughout the year, with the median price surging 27.5 percent for the year as a whole from $319,300 in 2012 to $407,180 in 2013. But again, the increase in the median price can be partly attributed to the increase in sales of higher-priced properties, where tight inventory was less of a factor.”
Other key facts of CAR’s December 2013 resale housing report include:
• The available supply of existing, single-family detached homes for sale dropped in December to 3 months, down from November’s Unsold Inventory Index of 3.6 months. The index was 2.6 months in December 2012. The index indicates the number of months needed to sell the supply of homes on the market at the current sales rate. A six- to seven-month supply is considered typical in a normal market.
• The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home also increased to 40.2 days in December, up from 36.7 days in November and from 38.1 days in December 2012.
• Mortgage rates rose in December, with the 30-year, fixed-mortgage interest rate averaging 4.46 percent, up from 4.26 percent in November and up from 3.35 percent in December 2012, according to Freddie Mac. Adjustable-mortgage interest rates in December averaged 2.56 percent, down from 2.61 in November but up from 2.54 percent in December 2012.