Real Estate

Home sales hit 10-year low for March

California home sales slid to the lowest level for March in 10 years, a real estate research firm reported Thursday.

Statewide, 39,800 new and resale houses and condominiums were sold in March, up 27.5 percent from 31,228 in February but down 31 percent from 57,675 in March 2006, according to DataQuick Information Systems.

The latest result marks the slowest March since 1997, when 36,498 homes were sold, DataQuick said. An increase from February to March is typical.

California's median home price rose to an all-time high of $484,000 in March, led by increases in Los Angeles. The statewide price was up 2.5 percent from $472,000 in February and up 3 percent from $470,000 in March 2006.

In the nine-county San Francisco Bay area, sales fell to an 11-year low for March to 8,317 new and resale houses and condominiums. That's up 31.9 percent from 6,305 in February but down 19.6 percent from 10,343 in February 2006.

The median home price in the Bay Area climbed to $639,000, its highest since July. That was up 3.1 percent from $620,000 in February and up 2 percent from $626,000 in March 2006. The price peaked at $648,000 in June.

A strong economy fueled California prices, particularly on resale homes, said Andrew LePage, a DataQuick analyst. Foreclosures are rising but not fast enough to drive down prices.

"There are not that many cases where someone lost a job, has been foreclosed upon and absolutely needs to sell," LePage said. "If they can't get what they want, maybe they'll just take their house off the market."

Sales fell in eight of the nine Bay Area counties, with San Francisco being the lone exception.

Solano and Contra Costa counties showed the steepest declines. Prices dropped in five Bay Area counties and rose in four.

In a six-county swath of Southern California, sales fell to a 10-year low for March to 21,856 new and resale houses and condominiums. That's up 23.6 percent from 17,680 in February but down 32.4 percent from 32,320 from March 2006.

Southern California's median home price reached an all-time high of $505,000 in March, up 2 percent from $495,000 in February and up 4.6 percent from $483,000 in March 2006.

Los Angeles County's median home value surged to $540,000 in March, up 6.3 percent from $508,000 a year earlier. Prices elsewhere in Southern California remained flat or fell.

Sales fell sharply in all six Southern California counties, with Riverside and San Bernardino tumbling nearly by half.

Prices declined in two of the six counties, San Diego and Ventura, and barely rose in three others. The price in San Diego slipped 4.9 percent from last year to $490,000, below Los Angeles.