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RISMEDIA, March 2, 2010—Home sales decreased 10.6% in January 2010 in California compared with the same period a year ago, while the median price of an existing home rose 15%, the California Association of Realtors® (C.A.R.) recently reported.

“Many sales that closed escrow in January were on homes with offers accepted during the holiday season- a time when many house hunters are first-time buyers,” said C.A.R. President Steve Goddard. “First-time buyers typically purchase homes priced below an area’s median home price. Reflecting this, the percentage of homes priced under $500,000 increased to 77% of all sales in January, compared with 75% in December. “Despite the year-to-year decline, sales remained above the 500,000 unit threshold for the 17th consecutive month, holding steady at pre-peak levels from early in the last decade,” said Goddard.

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled 539,040 in January 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 10.6% from the revised 602,660 sales pace recorded in January 2009. Sales in January 2010 decreased 3% compared with the previous month.

The statewide sales figure represents what the total number of homes sold during 2010 would be if sales maintained the January 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 January 2010 was $287,440, a 15% increase from the revised $249,960 median for January 2009, C.A.R. reported. The January 2010 median price decreased 6.3% compared with December’s $306,820 median price.

“The story for the median price in January was mixed. In year-over-year terms, California’s median home price saw the greatest percentage increase since December 2005,” said Leslie Appleton-Young, C.A.R. vice president and chief economist. “However, the median fell by 6.3% from the December 2009 median price. Although the monthly decline was large, it was less than the declines for the same time period in both 2008 and 2009 when the median price fell by more than 11%.

“The median price still is 17.2% ahead of the trough in this cycle,” added Appleton-Young. “However, the expiration of the federal tax credit for home buyers and the impact of the Federal Reserve’s withdrawal from the mortgage market continue to be the wild cards as we move through the year.”

Highlights of C.A.R.’s resale housing figures for January 2010:

-C.A.R.’s Unsold Inventory Index for existing, single-family detached homes in January 2010 was 5.8 months, compared with 7.3 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 5.03% during January 2010, compared with 5.05% in January 2009, according to Freddie Mac. Adjustable-mortgage interest rates averaged 4.33% in January 2010, compared with 4.92% in January 2009.

-The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home was 33.8 days in January 2010, compared with 50 days (revised) for the same period a year ago.

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