Home sales’ fall worst since ’82

Area prices still manage one-year gain of 1.6%

Sales of existing homes plunged 30.1 percent in August in California compared with the same period a year ago, while the median price of a home increased 1.6 percent, the California Association of Realtors trade group said in its monthly report.

“We experienced the greatest year-to-year sales decline last month since August 1982, when sales fell 30.4 percent,” said association President Vince Malta, a San Francisco Realtor. “This is another indication that we’re in the initial stages of a long-anticipated adjustment in the market.

“Buyers today have a much greater selection of properties from which to choose, while some sellers are still clinging to price expectations that are no longer valid in today’s market,” he said.

Closed escrow salesof existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled 442,150 in August at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate, according to information collected by the Realtors from more than 90 local associations. Statewide home resale activity decreased 30.1 percent from the 632,240 sales pace recorded in August 2005.

The median price of an existing, single-family detached home in California during August 2006 was $576,360, a 1.6 percent increase over the revised $567,320 median for August 2005. The August 2006 median price increased 1.7 percent compared with July’s revised $566,940 median price.

“Although the median price in the state and in several regions hit an all-time record in August, we expect softer prices toward the end of the year,” said Leslie Appleton-Young state Realtors’ VP and chief economist. “The median price typically peaks somewhere between June and August before declining toward the end of the year. Some areas of the state already have experienced year-to-year declines for more than two months. This is in stark contrast to the past several years when there were constant double-digit increases. The long-term trend remains to be seen.”

“Homes are taking longer to sell than a year ago, with just 29 percent of homes on the market for 30 days or less, compared to 51 percent a year ago,” she said. “The share of homes on the market for 90 days or longer has nearly quadrupled from 6 percent in August 2004 to 22 percent last month.

The Realtors reported the inventory of existing, single-family detached homes in August was 6.8 months, compared with 2.6 months for the same period a year ago. That indicates the number of months needed to deplete the supply of homes on the market at the current sales rate. The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home was 52 days in August, compared with 29 days in August 2005.

The Realtors caution the only valid comparisons for median prices arewith the same period a year earlier due to the seasonality in buying patterns. Month-to-month comparisons do not compensate for seasonal changes, especially for the timing of family buying patterns.

Nationally, sales of existing homes fell for the fifth consecutive month in August, further evidence the once-booming housing market slowed further.

The National Association of Realtors reported existing home sales slipped by 0.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.30 million units. The median price of an existing home sold in August dropped to $225,000, 1.7 percent below August 2005. It marked the first year-over-year price decline in more than 11 years.

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