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California Housing Sees Improvements in March

California’s housing market looked healthier in March than it did at any other point so far this year but remained sluggish compared to last year’s numbers.

Data released last week by the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) shows statewide sales of existing, single-family homes totaling a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 367,000 last month, up 1.4 percent from February but down 12.3 percent from year-ago levels.

It was the fifth straight month in which sales came in below 400,000 and the eighth straight annual decline, C.A.R. reported.

“While the demand for housing was up from February, the market is taking a hit from lower housing affordability compared to a year ago, which led to a decline in home sales from last year,” said association president Kevin Brown.

“Moreover, concerns over tighter lending standards and increased borrowing costs are also contributing factors to the sluggish market as they both negatively impact the bottom line of home buyers who obtain financing through mortgages,” he added.

According to the group’s report, which compiles data from more than 90 local Realtor associations and multiple listing services around the state, the median price of an existing home in March was $435,470, coming up 7.7 percent from February and reversing a declining trend that started the year. Compared to March 2013, prices were up 14.9 percent, marking more than two years of straight yearly gains.

Meanwhile, housing inventory fell between the previous month and the previous year, ending March at a months’ supply of 4 months. That figure was down from February’s Unsold Inventory Index of 4.7 months but up from 2.9 months in March 2013.

A six- to seven-month supply is considered typical in a normal market, C.A.R. said.

Out of those homes left unsold, many were “priced above what the market will bear and are not moving,” said Leslie Appleton-Young, VP and chief economist for C.A.R.

“As such, even with improved home prices over the past year, new listings are lagging because would-be sellers who have limited options on where to move are hesitant to put their properties on the market,” she said.

The association’s report came a day after DataQuick released its monthly statistics for the state. In its own findings, the company reported an estimated 32,923 transactions, slightly higher than C.A.R.’s calculated seasonally adjusted monthly average.

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