Real Estate

Valley home prices continue to plummet

Welcome to 2004.

It's back to the future in the Northern San Joaquin Valley as median home prices have plummeted to 2004 levels.

The region posted some of the biggest home price declines in California during September.

Stanislaus County's median-priced homes sold for just $300,000 last month. That's lower than during November 2004, when the region's housing market was booming. In the last 12 months alone, Stanislaus' prices have dropped nearly 19 percent.

Merced County is even worse. Prices there plunged nearly 26 percent to $260,000 in September compared with a year earlier. That's the biggest decline in California, according to DataQuick Information Systems, which gathers the sales statistics from public records.

Merced home prices haven't been so low since October 2004.

San Joaquin County prices also are grim: down 16 percent in the past year to $363,500. That's below what homes there sold for in November 2004.

Here's some more bad news: Home sales volume has sunk to levels not seen since the region's mid-1990s recession.

Only 372 homes sold this September in Stanislaus County. In September 2005, more than 1,400 homes sold in the county. Back then the region was in a housing boom.

These days, it's foreclosures that are booming. Last month, 268 homes were repossessed by lenders at foreclosure auctions on Stanislaus' courthouse steps, according to ForeclosureRadar, which tracks such sales.

While the housing market is bad across the nation, most statistics show that things are worse in the Northern San Joaquin Valley than almost anyplace else.

Statewide sales at 20-year low

Real estate experts blame the situation on a lethal combination of housing oversupply, prices that had spiraled far beyond what local residents could afford, hikes in adjustable- mortgage interest rates and property speculators who flooded, then abandoned, the region.

Elsewhere, California's me-dian sales price was $430,000, down 7.5 percent from September 2006. Only 24,460 new and resale houses and condos sold statewide last month, which was the lowest number in more than 20 years.

That was down 45.2 percent from September 2006 and 26.8 percent from August, according to DataQuick.

A total of 5,014 new and resale homes and condos were sold last month in nine Bay Area counties, a 40.1 percent decrease from the same period a year ago, according to DataQuick.

Last month was the slowest September in the region since the firm began keeping records in 1988.

But prices rose nearly 1 percent in the Bay Area, pushing the median price there to $620,000.

Los Angeles County prices climbed more than 1 percent to $519,000.

Statewide, the typical monthly mortgage payment that home buyers committed themselves to in September was $2,046. That was down from the $2,218 that buyers had agreed to in September 2006.

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

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