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Existing-home sales record last month

The number of previously owned homes sold in California hit an all-time high in February, jumping 25.5 percent from a year earlier and lifting prices by a robust 19.8 percent.

Concern about rising interest rates and ongoing tight supply drove the median price of an existing, single-family home up to $289,550 during February, from $241,690 last year, the California Association of Realtors reported Monday.



Nevada County home sales totaled 58 last month, according to statistics from the county Board of Realtors. That compares with 103 sales in February 2001.




The median home sale price here rose 23 percent, from $222,900 in February 2001 to $274,475 this February.

While the number of sales suggests the surge of home purchases has yet to show up in Nevada County, that could occur later this year. County sales activity often lags behind the Bay Area and other parts of the state.

“We would hope what is happening is that we’ll be catching that wave pretty soon,” said Skip Lusk, executive officer for the Nevada County Board of Realtors.

The unprecedented strength of the housing market has kept the state out of a serious recession, but, longer term, the effects could stymie economic growth, said Leslie Appleton-Young, chief economist at CAR.

”Three to four years from now, it’s going to be difficult for the economy to continue to grow because of the lack of housing supply. I consider it a warning sign today,” she said.

Existing home sales reached a record 610,380 in February at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate. That represented a 4.5 percent increase from January. But as demand grew, the number of homes listed for sale declined 14 percent from a year earlier, Appleton-Young said.

Some buyers have been spurred into action by three straight weeks of interest rate hikes. The average interest rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages reached 7.14 percent last week, up from 7.08 percent the previous week, according to the giant mortgage investment firm Freddie Mac.

Many economists are forecasting that 30-year rates will go as high as 7.5 percent by the end of the year.

High prices and short supply are causing some aspiring homebuyers to consider new ways to gain access to the market.

In San Francisco, renters have championed a proposal now before the Board of Supervisors that would ease the rules for tenants to buy their units from landlords.


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