Real estate sales brisk in state, prices up in the county |

Real estate sales brisk in state, prices up in the county

The number of previously owned homes sold in California soared 16.2 percent in January, lifting prices in the process by a robust 17.1 percent more than last year.

Nevada County home sales were down during the same period, but the median price was up sharply, in line with the rest of the state.

The median sale price of a house in Nevada County was up 20.9 percent in January 2002 from a year ago.

The median sale price reached $264,175 in January 2002, up from $218,500 in January 2001, according to the Nevada County Board of Realtors.

The total number of sales were down, however, from 106 homes sales in January 2001 to 88 in January 2002.

Skip Lusk, executive officer for the board, said sales here could be affected now by a downturn in the Bay Area real estate market last year. Normally, there is a lag between the market here, and the Bay Area.

Tight supplies are also a factor in the Nevada County real estate market, said Lusk, a possible factor in higher home prices.

Tight supply and pent-up demand drove the median price of an existing, single-family detached home up to $285,860 during January 2002, from $244,110 a year earlier, the California Association of Realtors reported earlier this week.

”We are seeing a surge well beyond everyone’s expectations,” CAR president Robert Bailey said. ”This is like a spring or summer market.”

Fred Furlong, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said the primary driver of the housing market continues to be low interest rates.

Thirty-year fixed mortgage interest rates averaged 7 percent last month, down slightly from 7.03 percent in January 2001, according to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp.

Adjustable mortgage interest rates decreased to a greater degree, averaging 5.16 percent in January compared with 6.70 percent a year earlier.

”The decline in interest rates has offset any decline in household income,” Furlong said. ”If rates stay low, we will continue to see ongoing support for residential real estate.”

The housing market has also benefited from consumers shaking off the psychological effects of the terrorists attacks.

”September 11th created a good deal of uncertainty which caused people to postpone decisions. Some of the overall uncertainly has dissipated,” Furlong said.

In addition to growing consumer confidence, the housing market is benefiting from people moving their long-term investments out of the stock market, Bailey said.

”People continue to look at homes as the safest investment,” he said.

Median home prices increased in most parts of the state. Of 307 California cities and communities, 240 had rising prices from a year ago, CAR reported.

Two of the few exceptions were the San Francisco Bay area and the Santa Barbara south coast. But buying and selling activity was up dramatically in those regions, signaling that a price rebound may be coming, Bailey said.

Another sign of real estate market strength is that it would take just three months to deplete the supply of existing homes for sale on the market at the rate shoppers were buying in January. That compares with 4.2 months in January 2001, CAR said.

The buoyancy of California’s market exceeded the upward national trend last month.

The National Association of Realtors reported Monday that the median sales prices of existing homes climbed 10.2 percent in January – to $151,100 – from the same month a year ago.

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