"Although sales rose for the fourth straight month in February by 9.5 percent compared to the previous month, they continue to be dragged down by the ongoing effects of both the credit/liquidity crunch and tighter underwriting standards that have reduced the pool of qualified buyers who can obtain a loan," said CAR President William E. Brown.
"It is crucial that FHA reform legislation currently under consideration by Congress include higher loan limits for high-cost states like California," he said. "The proposed legislation also includes a reduction in the down payment requirement for FHA loans and will include condominiums in the FHA single-family program, which will make it easier for buyers in the condominium market to qualify for loans."
Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled 343,220 in February at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate, according to information collected by CAR from more than 90 local Realtor associations statewide. Statewide home resale activity decreased 28.5 percent from the revised 480,170 sales pace recorded in February 2007.
The statewide sales figure represents what the total number of homes sold during 2008 would be if sales maintained the February pace throughout the year. It is adjusted to account for seasonal factors that typically influence home sales.
The median price of an existing, single-family detached home in California during February 2008 was $409,240, a 26.2 percent decrease from the revised $554,280 median for February 2007, CAR reported. The February 2008 median price fell 4.8 percent compared with January's revised $429,790 median price.
"The Federal Reserve Bank's recent action to reduce the federal funds rate will have little near-term direct effect on the housing market," said CAR Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young. "However, Fed rate cuts should result in more favorable real estate finance rates as we move through the year."
Highlights of CAR's resale housing figures for February 2008:
* CAR's Unsold Inventory Index for existing, single-family detached homes in February 2008 was 14.3 months, compared with 8.2 months for the same period a year ago. The index indicates the number of months needed to deplete the supply of homes on the market at the current sales rate.
* Thirty-year fixed-mortgage interest rates averaged 5.92 percent during February 2008, compared with 6.29 percent in February 2007, according to Freddie Mac. Adjustable-mortgage interest rates averaged 5.03 percent in February 2008, compared with 5.51 percent in February 2007.
* The median number of days it took to sell a single-family home was 68.6 days in February 2008, compared with 66.1 for the same period a year ago.