Firm: California home sales up 10 pct. from Dec. 2008 |

Firm: California home sales up 10 pct. from Dec. 2008

Evelyn Nieves
Associated Press Writer

SAN FRANCISCO – The California housing market is showing signs of life, with sales rising 10.6 percent last month from December 2008 and an uptick in prices as well, a real estate tracking firm reported Thursday.

San Diego-based MDA DataQuick said the median price paid for a home in California last month was $264,000, up 6 percent from $249,000 a year earlier but down 1.1 percent from $261,000 in November.

Indicators of market distress continue to move in different directions, according to DataQuick. Foreclosure activity has declined somewhat but remains high by historical standards.

Of the existing homes sold last month, 41 percent were properties that had been foreclosed upon during the past year, DataQuick said. That was up slightly from 40.1 percent in November and down from 55.2 percent in December 2008. Foreclosure sales statewide peaked at 58.8 percent in February 2009.

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DataQuick’s president, John Walsh, said that a couple of years from now, the beginning of 2009 will most likely be considered the bottom of the market.

But, Walsh cautioned, “That doesn’t mean we’re anywhere near normal yet.” Obtaining a mortgage is still a daunting process, he said. “We don’t expect much genuine improvement until lending institutions reopen their spigots.”

An estimated 41,837 houses and condos were sold statewide last month, DataQuick said.

The nine-county San Francisco Bay Area’s market remains lopsided toward lower-cost homes, driven by tax incentives and distress activity. In the six-county Southern California market, which posted its first year-on-year gain last month since summer 2007, more higher-priced homes in relatively expensive neighborhoods continued to enter a market that had been dominated by lower-end sales, according to DataQuick.

The largest gains were seen in high-end markets that saw few sales last year, such as Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Newport Beach.

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