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California’s housing market defied gravity as existing home sales and median home price registered increases on both a monthly and an annual basis in August, the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.) said Monday.

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California remained above the 400,000 benchmark for the 17th consecutive month and totaled a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 427,630 units in August, according to information collected by C.A.R. from more than 90 local REALTOR® associations and MLSs statewide. The statewide sales figure represents what would be the total number of homes sold during 2017 if sales maintained the August pace throughout the year. It is adjusted to account for seasonal factors that typically influence home sales.

The August sales figure was up 1.5 percent from the 421,460 level in July and up 1.3 percent compared with home sales in August 2016 of a revised 422,190. Year-to-date sales are running 2.7 percent ahead of last year’s pace, but have curtailed since the first quarter.

“While August’s strong housing market performance is encouraging, it’s really a tale of two markets. Despite sales growth across all segments of the market, lower-priced homes are particularly inventory constrained, which leads to weaker sales growth, faster rising prices, and fierce competition for the few homes that are listed,” said C.A.R. President Geoff McIntosh. “These homes are selling faster than historically and for top dollar, adversely impacting entry-level buyers who are already struggling to afford to buy their very first home.”

The statewide median price reached its highest level in a decade and remained above the $500,000mark for the sixth straight month. The median price rose 2.9 percent from $549,460 in July to $565,330 in August and climbed 7.2 percent from the revised $527,490 recorded in August 2016. 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.

“A shortage of available homes for sale continues to stoke robust growth in home prices,” said C.A.R.Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie-Appleton-Young. “August marked the third straight month that the median price gained 7 percent or more year-over-year, indicating that prices are not only growing, but are accelerating into the end of the year. For the most inventory constrained segment of the market – the bottom 20 percentile – home prices rose even higher with a double-digit gain (10.7 percent).”

Other key points from C.A.R.’s August 2017 resale housing report include:

All of the major regions experienced robust month-to-month and annual gains, with Inland Empire jumping 8.2 percent from a year ago, the San Francisco Bay Area rising 6.5 percent, and the Los Angeles metro region increasing 4.4 percent from August 2016.

San Francisco overtook San Mateo as the most expensive market in the state.
With consistent home price growth, even the most affordable markets are facing rising prices. California is no longer home to a single county with a median price below $200,000, and only 10 of 58 counties have a median price lower or equal to the national median price of $258,300.
Statewide active listings continued to decline, dropping 11.9 percent from a year ago.

With strong sales growth and little new inventory to replenish the housing supply, C.A.R.’s Unsold Inventory Index fell from 3.2 months in July to 2.9 months in August. The index measures the number of months needed to sell the supply of homes on the market at the current sales rate. The index stood at 3.4 months in August 2016.

Housing supply remained tight throughout the state as every single county in both the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California saw a reduction in unsold inventory, as did most parts of the Central Coast and Central Valley.

The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home was 18 days compared with 16 days in July and 28 days in August 2016.

C.A.R.’s sales price-to-list price ratio* was 99.5 percent statewide in August, 100 percent in July, and 98.9 percent in August 2016. At the county level, San Francisco had the highest ratio at 114.8 percent and Mono had the lowest at 93.8 percent.

The average price per square foot** for an existing, single-family home statewide was $268 in August, $270 in July, and $250 in August 2016.

San Francisco had the highest price per square foot in August at $871/sq. ft., followed by San Mateo ($863/sq. ft.), and Santa Clara ($668/sq. ft.). Counties with the lowest price per square foot in August included Siskiyou and Lassen (both at $129/sq. ft.), Kern ($135/sq. ft.), and Tulare($136/sq. ft.).

Mortgage rates declined further in August as the 30-year, fixed-mortgage interest rate averaged 3.88 percent in August, down from 3.97 percent in July but was up from 3.44 percent in August 2016, according to Freddie Mac. The five-year, adjustable-rate mortgage interest rates ticked down in August to an average of 3.15 percent from 3.22 percent in July but was up from 2.74 percent in August 2016.

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