"While home sales were essentially flat from February, sales declined moderately from last year, as an extreme shortage of available homes continued to dictate the market," said CAR President Don Faught, a Realtor at Alain Pinel Realty in Pleasanton.
Statewide inventory dropped 36% from last March and was below three months for the second time in the past few months," he said. "Supply conditions are particularly tight in the lower-priced segment of the market, as inventory for homes priced below $300,000 plunged more than 50% from the previous year."
Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled a revised seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 417,520, according to information collected by CAR from more than 90 local Realtor associations and MLSs statewide.
March closings were up a slight 0.1% from a revised 417,310 in February but down 4.9% from a revised 439,260 in March 2012. The statewide sales figure represents what would be the total number of homes sold during 2013 if sales maintained the March 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 climbed 13.7% from February's $333,380 median price to $378,960 in March, reversing a two-month decline.
The month-to-month increase was the highest since CAR began tracking this statistic in 1979. The March price was up 28.2% from a revised $295,630 recorded in March 2012, marking the 13th consecutive month of annual price increases and the ninth consecutive month of double-digit annual gains.
"No doubt the dearth of home listings is driving the upsurge in the median price, as is an increase in sales in the higher-priced segments," said CAR Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young.
"Sales of homes priced $500,000 and higher are up more than 34% from last year, and have been on a rising trend since early 2012," she said. "Sales growth in the coastal regions, Marin, Orange, San Diego and San Luis Obispo, in particular, helped push the statewide median price up to the highest level in more than four years."
Other key facts of CAR's March 2013 resale housing report include:
* The available supply of homes for sale fell significantly in March, falling to a 2.9-month supply, as measured by CAR's Unsold Inventory Index. The March Unsold Inventory Index for existing, single-family detached homes was down from 3.6 months in February and down from 4.2 months in March 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 March, with the 30-year fixed-mortgage interest rate averaging 3.57%, up from 3.53% in February but down from 3.95% in March 2012, according to Freddie Mac. Adjustable-mortgage interest rates also edged up, averaging 2.63% in March, up from 2.61% in February but down from 2.77% March 2012.
* Homes continued to move off the market faster in March, with the median number of days it took to sell a single-family home decreasing to 29.4 days in March, down from 34.2 days in February and down from a revised 52.2 days for the same period a year ago.