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RISMEDIA, Jan. 31, 2008-Home sales decreased 33.4% in December in California compared with the same period a year ago, while the median price of an existing home fell 16.5%, the California Association of Realtors® (C.A.R.) reported.

“December is typically one of the slower months for sales, and the liquidity crunch continued to dampen sales beyond the normal seasonal decrease,” said C.A.R. President William E. Brown. “Even so, seasonally adjusted sales edged above 300,000 homes for the first time since August 2007.

“The liquidity crunch also contributed to the significant decline in the median price due to the lack of financing options for loans above the conforming loan limit of $417,000,” Brown said. “It is imperative that the proposed increase to conforming loan limits that is part of the economic stimulus package receive swift approval by both houses of Congress.”

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled 301,040 in December at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate, according to information collected by C.A.R. from more than 90 local REALTOR® associations statewide. Statewide home resale activity decreased 33.4% from the 452,060 sales pace recorded in December 2006.

The statewide sales figure represents what the total number of homes sold during 2007 would be if sales maintained the December pace throughout the year. It is adjusted to account for seasonal factors that typically influence home sales.

The median price of an existing, single-family detached home in California during December 2007 was $475,460, a 16.5% decrease from the revised $569,350 median for December 2006, C.A.R. reported. The December 2007 median price fell 2.9% compared with November’s revised $489,570 median price.

The statewide median price for 2007 was $558,100, a 0.3% increase from 2006. Annual sales for 2007 were 353,290, a 26% decrease compared with 2006. Regional price and sales data for 2007 will be released on Feb. 22.

“It will take some time for the Federal Reserve Bank’s recent reduction of the federal funds rate to have an effect on the housing market, but should result in more favorable real estate finance rates as we move through the year, ” said C.A.R. Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young. “Jumbo loan financing remains a serious problem. Just under half of the California market relies on jumbo loans, but funds are limited — because of the liquidity crunch — and the rate spread between jumbos and conforming loans is three to four times greater than normal.”

Highlights of C.A.R.’s resale housing figures for December 2007:
– C.A.R.’s Unsold Inventory Index for existing, single-family detached homes in December 2007 was 14.5 months, compared with 5.9 months (revised) for the same period a year ago. The index indicates the number of months needed to deplete the supply of homes on the market at the current sales rate.
– Thirty-year fixed-mortgage interest rates averaged 6.10% during December 2007, compared with 6.14% in December 2006, according to Freddie Mac.
– Adjustable-mortgage interest rates averaged 5.50% in December 2007 compared with 5.45% in December 2006.
– The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home was 67.2 days in December 2007, compared with 72.1 (revised) for the same period a year ago.

Regional MLS sales and price information is contained in the tables that accompany this press release. Regional sales data are not adjusted to account for seasonal factors that can influence home sales. The MLS median price and sales data for detached homes are generated from a survey of more than 90 associations of REALTORS® throughout the state. MLS median price and sales data for condominiums are based on a survey of more than 60 associations. The median price for both detached homes and condominiums represents closed escrow sales.

In a separate report covering more localized statistics generated by C.A.R. and DataQuick Information Systems, 8.8%, or 25 out of 285 cities and communities, showed an increase in their respective median home prices from a year ago. DataQuick statistics are based on county records data rather than MLS information. DataQuick Information Systems is a subsidiary of Vancouver-based MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates. (The top 10 lists are generated for incorporated cities with a minimum of 30 recorded sales in the month.)

Note: Large changes in local median home prices typically indicate both local home price appreciation, and often, large shifts in the composition of housing market activity. Some of the variations in median home prices for December may be exaggerated due to compositional changes in housing demand.

Statewide, the 10 cities and communities with the highest median home prices in California during December 2007 were: Burlingame, $1,590,000; Los Gatos, $1,400,000; San Juan Capistrano, $1,125,000; San Clemente, $1,007,000; Santa Monica, $950,000; Danville, $949,000; Encinitas $900,000; Redwood City, $837,500; Santa Barbara, $835,000; and San Ramon, $750,500.

Statewide, the 10 cities and communities with the greatest median home price increases in December 2007 compared with the same period a year ago were: Los Gatos, 44.3%; Encinitas, 23.8%; Burlingame, 20%; Chino Hills, 16.4%; Mountain View, 14.1%; Redwood City, 10.9%; San Clemente, 9.9%; Moorpark, 7.2%; Santa Cruz, 5%; and South Lake Tahoe, 4.8%.

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