Real Estate

Valley home sales dismal

So much for summer being the hot selling season.

June home sales were dismal throughout the Northern San Joaquin Valley, and sales prices plummeted.

Merced County home prices plunged more than 23 percent in June compared with a year ago, dropping to a median selling price of $290,000.

That was the biggest decline in California, according to DataQuick Information Systems, a real estate research firm that released sales statistics Wednesday.

Stanislaus County homes sold for a median $343,250 in June, which was about 9 percent less than last year.

San Joaquin County homes sold for $396,000, nearly a 12 percent drop.

As low as those prices were, homeowners who sold property in June should consider themselves lucky because most who tried failed.

Sales nose-dived throughout the region by more than 43 percent, compared with last year.

Things were worse in some places:

Northeast Modesto, including the new home developments of Village I, had sales volume drop 31 percent and prices tumble 23 percent to a median $336,000.

Ripon sales dropped 60 percent and prices fell 27 percent to $455,000.

Patterson sales dropped 54 percent and prices fell 23 percent to $407,000.

Waterford sales dropped 46 percent and prices fell 28 percent to $285,500.

Atwater sales dropped 42 percent and prices fell 25 percent to $275,000.

Livingston sales dropped 70 percent and prices fell 25 percent to $310,000.

"Home prices now are back to about what they were in 2003," said Ernie Ochoa, who manages the Century 21 M&M and Associates office in Merced.

Even those rolled-back prices are too high for most families.

"The median-income family earns about $47,000 a year in Merced County," Ochoa said. "So it only can afford to buy a home priced about $175,000."

Ochoa said Realtors listed 1,437 existing homes for sale last month in Merced County, but they sold only 53.

"We've got a huge supply of homes for sale," Ochoa said. So to attract buyers, successful sellers slashed prices. "On average, the homes sold for about 10 percent below their list price."

The downward slide may last awhile, predicted Loren Gonella of Coldwell Banker Gonella Realty in Merced.

Gonella expects prices to continue falling throughout 2007, then flatten in 2008 before starting to rise in 2009.

"Today you should be buying, for heaven's sake. But it's tough for people to go against the grain," Gonella said. "There are buyers out there, but they're sitting there taking a good look at the market."

Buyers have lots to look at. They can pick among foreclosed properties repossessed by banks, new houses just-finished by builders and older homes offered by anxious owners.

"People have been asking about affordable housing. Well, here it is," said Steve Madison, the Building Industry Association of Central California's executive officer. His association represents builders throughout the Northern San Joaquin Valley.

"Builders are lowering their prices to lower their inventory," Madison said. "Once the standing inventory is gone, the prices will go up."

To get houses sold, Madison said, builders have made many upgraded amenities standard, so buyers are getting more value.

Sales stall throughout state

Summer normally is a brisk time for home sales, Madison said: "This is when folks tend to move their families because their kids are out of school."

But sales have been sluggish throughout the state.

California home sales hit a 12-year low for the month of June, according to DataQuick.

Only 38,291 new and existing houses and condos sold last month across the state. That was down 32.8 percent compared with June 2006.

"Obviously, there's still a bit of a standoff between buyers and sellers," DataQuick President Marshall Prentice said. "It looks like unsuccessful sellers would rather take the home off the market than bring the price down, which is remarkable after almost 2½ years of sales declines."

The statewide median sales price fell to $479,000 in June, a 0.2 percent decline from last year.

Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at jnsbranti@modbee.com or 578-2196.

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