"A rush by home buyers trying to complete sales of higher-priced homes by the end of last year in order to avoid capital gains increases pulled forward sales that might have closed in January instead," said Don Faught, vice president and managing broker for Alain Pinel Realtors in Pleasanton and this year's president of the CAR.
"Additionally, the extreme shortage of homes for sale continues to hinder California's housing market, as demonstrated by the nearly two months' supply drop compared with last year," he added.
Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 491,720 units, according to information collected by CAR from more than 90 local Realtor associations and MLSs statewide. Sales in January were down 6% from a revised 523,090 in December and down 3.9% from a revised 511,760 in January 2012.
The statewide sales figure represents what would be the total number of homes sold during 2013 if sales maintained the January pace throughout the year. It is adjusted to account for seasonal factors that typically influence home sales.
The statewide median price of an existing, single-family detached home fell 8.1% from December's $366,930 median price to $337,040 in January. January's price was up 24.1% from a revised $271,490 recorded in January 2012, marking the 11th consecutive month of annual price increases and the seventh consecutive month of double-digit annual gains.
"The drop in the median price from December to January is in line with the seasonal pattern that we've observed in recent years, when the sales share of lower-priced homes usually increases at the start of the year," said CAR Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young.
"For example, homes priced under $200,000 made up 28% of sales in January, up from 25% in December. Conversely, homes priced $500,000 and higher made up nearly 24% of sales in January, down from nearly 28% in December."
Other key facts of CAR's January 2013 resale housing report include:
* The available supply of homes for sale loosened in January, primarily as a result of fewer home sales. The January Unsold Inventory Index for existing, single-family detached homes rose to 3.5 months in January, up from 2.6 months in December, but down from a revised 5.8 months in January 2012. The index indicates the number of months needed to sell the supply of homes on the market at the current sales rate. A six- to seven-month supply is considered normal.
* Mortgage rates edged up in January, with the 30-year fixed-mortgage interest rate averaging 3.41%, up from 3.35% in December 2012 but down from 3.92% in January 2012, according to Freddie Mac. Adjustable-mortgage interest rates also edged up, averaging 2.58% in January, up from 2.54% in December but down from 2.76% January 2012.
* Homes moved off the market faster in January, with the median number of days it took to sell a single-family home decreasing to 36.6 days in January, down from 38.1 days in December and down from 59.6 days for the same period a year ago.