California home sales rise in November

Sales of existing, single-family homes in California rose 9.2% in November, compared with the previous month, although overall sales were down from November 2009.

These statewide statistics, collected by the California Association of Realtors, also showed a median price decline from both the previous month and the previous year. The median price of an existing, single-family detached home sold in California fell below the $300,000 mark for the first time since February. The November 2010 median price was $296,820, down 2.4% from October’s $304,220 median price and down 2.5% from the $304,550 median price recorded for the same period a year ago.  It was the first year-over-year price decline in a year.

The report coincided with the National Association of Realtors' release of national figures showing a 5.6% increase in existing-home sales for November.

In California, there is a mixed picture. “We are encouraged by November’s sales increase, but realize a more sustained recovery is being hampered by the distressed market,” said Beth Peerce, the association’s president. “While we are experiencing a greater share of short sales, these transactions are notoriously difficult to navigate with no guarantee of closure.” A recent survey conducted by the realtors’ association found that lenders typically take 90 days or more to communicate whether a short has been accepted, causing frustration for buyers and sellers. 

“Moreover, the survey found that more than two out of five short sale transactions never close,” Peerce said. “The housing market can’t fully recover until lenders streamline and improve the short sales process, which would help expedite transactions.”   

The survey also found that the unsold inventory of existing, single-family detached homes was 6.2 months in November, down from 6.5 months in October. This compares with 4.5 months in November 2009. The unsold inventory index indicates the number of months needed to deplete the supply of homes on the market at the current sales rate.