STANISLAUS COUNTY — It's been a great spring for real estate in Stanislaus County, at least for those selling homes.
Home sales prices have been climbing steadily since February, reaching a median $169,000 in May. That's an increase of more than 19 percent in three months.
But don't cheer just yet.
Even with the recent surge, Stanislaus homes are selling for about the same median price they were going for during the summer of 2001. A dozen years have passed and things are back to where they were.
DataQuick property records show Stanislaus home prices peaked in December 2005 at a lofty $396,000. Prices went into free fall in 2006 and continued dropping until 2009. They bounced around the bottom for three years, falling as low as $125,000. Then prices began edging upward last summer.
Some parts of the county are doing better than others, and even within Modesto, the recovery is uneven.
Patterson ($228,250) and Denair ($240,500) homes have rebounded the most during the last year. Oakdale ($188,750), Ceres ($151,250) and Riverbank ($158,250) haven't bounced back as strongly.
Within Modesto, the south and west sides of town had homes sell for a median $107,500 in May, while those in the northwest went for $225,000.
All homes in Stanislaus look like bargains compared with those elsewhere in California. The state's median sales price last month was $340,000, according to DataQuick research.
The only town around here even approaching that level was Ripon, where the median reached $320,000 in May. The median for San Joaquin County as a whole was $210,000, which was nearly 33 percent higher than a year ago.
Tuolumne County's median sales price was $165,500. Merced County data was not available.
Foreclosed properties which accounted for nearly 59 percent of all California sales in February 2009 have steadily dwindled. Last month, only 11.4 percent of existing home sales involved properties that had recently been foreclosed.
As foreclosures decline and prices increase, the mortgage crisis has eased.
Recently released data from CoreLogic, a residential property information service, show 37 percent of Stanislaus homeowners with mortgages owe more than their homes are worth.
That's well above the national average of less than 20 percent, but it's a big improvement from two years ago when nearly 55 percent of Stanislaus homeowners were "underwater" on their mortgages.
Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2196.