According to the California Association of Realtors, California's housing market continued to pick up steam as existing home sales and prices propelled higher, with both posting back-to-back increases in March 2015.
Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 391,680 units in March, according to information collected by C.A.R.
Sales in March were up 6.3 percent from a revised 368,400 in February and up 7.3 percent from a revised 365,120 in March 2014. The year-over-year sales increase was the first back-to-back sales gain since December 2012 and the largest observed since May 2012. The statewide sales figure represents what would be the total number of homes sold during 2015 if sales maintained the March pace throughout the year. It is adjusted to account for seasonal factors that typically influence home sales.
"The housing market is picking up momentum and continuing its upward trend as economic conditions improved throughout the state", said C.A.R. President Chris Kutzkey. "A better economy, improved job creation, and an increase in inventory in Central Valley and Southern California, in particular, are pushing sales higher, which led to the strongest February-to-March increase we've seen since 2008."
The median price of an existing, single-family detached California home jumped in March from both the previous month and year. The median home price was up 9.2 percent from $428,970 in February to $468,550 in March, the highest level in seven months. The increase was stronger than the long-run February-to-March average of 3.9 percent. March's median price was 7.2 percent higher than the revised $437,100 recorded in March 2014. 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.
With home sales growing at a faster rate than active listings in March, the available supply of existing, single-family detached homes for sale statewide declined, with the Unsold Inventory Index falling from the 5 months reported in February to 3.8 months in March. The index, which indicates the number of months needed to sell the supply of homes on the market at the current sales rate, stood at 4 months in March 2014. A six- to seven-month supply is considered typical in a normal market.
"While housing supply has been improving in real terms in recent months, the growth rate in housing demand continues to outpace that of inventory, pushing the Unsold Inventory Index lower," said C.A.R Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young. "The shortage in housing units relative to demand, along with the attractive rate environment, pushed home prices higher."
Other key facts from C.A.R.'s March 2015 resale housing report include:
The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home also fell in March, down from 47 days in February to 39 days in March but was up from 35.1 days in March 2014.
According to C.A.R.'s newest housing market indicator measuring sales-to-list price ratio*, properties are again generally selling below the list price, except in the San Francisco Bay Area, where a lack of homes for sale is pushing sales prices higher than original asking prices. The statewide measure suggests that homes are selling at a median of 98.3 percent of the list price, essentially flat compared to a ratio of 98.6 percent at the same time last year. The Bay Area is the only region where homes are selling above original list prices due to constrained supply with a ratio of 105.9 percent.
The average California price per square foot** for an existing single-family home was $223 in March 2015, an increase of 6.1 percent from the previous month and a 5.6 percent increase from March 2014. Price per square foot at the state level has been showing an upward trend since early 2012, and has been rising on a year-over-year basis for 38 consecutive months. In recent months, however, the growth rate in price per square foot has slowed down as home prices level off. San Francisco County had the highest price per square foot in March at $761/sq. ft., followed by San Mateo ($741/sq. ft.), and Santa Clara ($566/sq. ft.). The three counties with the lowest price per square foot in March were Siskiyou ($112/sq. ft.), Tehama ($115/sq. ft.), and Madera ($115/sq. ft.).
Mortgage rates moved upward in March, with the 30-year, fixed-mortgage interest rate averaging 3.77 percent, up from 3.71 percent in February but down from 4.34 percent in March 2014, according to Freddie Mac. Adjustable-mortgage interest rates also rose in March, averaging 2.46 percent, up from 2.43 percent in February but down from 2.48 percent in March 2014.