2 reports show Calif. real estate on a roll

By MARILYN KALFUS / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Two reports show California real estate on a roll.

California home sale prices came close to a 4-year high in July, with the pace of sales year-over-year growing for the fourth month in a row, the California Association of Realtors says.

Article Tab: image1-2 reports show Calif. real estate on a roll

“It’s hard to generalize the state of California’s housing market because the markets are so diverse and are performing so differently,” LeFrancis Arnold, the association’s president, said.

“REO-dominated areas (of homes seized by banks) such as those in the Inland Empire and Central Valley are experiencing sales constraints due to an extreme shortage of available homes,” he said. “On the other hand, a robust economy in the San Francisco Bay area and a relatively larger inventory at higher price levels is helping to fuel sales and prices.”

The July median price was the highest since August 2008, when it was at $352,730. July also marked the 5th straight month that the state’s median home price saw both month-over-month and year-over-year gains.

The report says:

•The median price of an existing single-family home (or price at the midpoint of all sales) was $333,860 last month, up 4.2% from $320,540 in June and nearly 13% from the state’s July 2011 median of $296,160 . During the housing crash, the state’s median price got as low as $245,230.

•July sales rose to an annualized pace of 529,230 homes – that is, homes that would sell if transactions were to occur for a year at July’s sales pace. That’s an increase of 15.3 percent over the pace in July 2011 – 459,140 homes.

•California’s housing inventory was pretty much flat in July, with the index of existing, single-family homes at 3.4 months compared to 3.5 months in June. However, July’s inventory was down from a revised 5.6-month supply in July 2011. The index indicates the number of months needed to sell the supply of homes on the market at the current sales rate. A seven-month “inventory” of homes for sale is considered normal.

In Orange County, prices slipped slightly, while sales had a dramatic increase. The association reported:

•The median house price was $551,160 in July, barely down from $551,510 the year before and down about 3% from June. The low since the housing crash was $442,170 in January 2009, CAR spokesperson Lotus Lou said in an interview.

•House sales in O.C. were up 32.1% from year-ago levels.

•The county’s “inventory” of homes for sale was at a 4-month supply, down a bit from 4.2 months in June and plunging from 7.5 months in July 2011.

Another indication of improvement in the state’s real estate sector: California added the most new construction jobs in the country in the year ended July, a construction industry report shows.

An analysis of federal data by the Associated General Contractors of America found California’s construction bosses adding 27,300 jobs in the year ended in July — or a 5 percent jump — bringing the workforce to 576,300. California was followed in construction job creation by Texas (22,900, up 4.1 percent) and Indiana (9,300, up 7.8 percent).

But construction employment dropped in 31 states year over year as of July, the report says, and in 28 states in the past month.

Florida lost the most jobs year over year (-16,900, down 5.2 percent), followed by Illinois (-9,800, down 5 percent) and Missouri (-9,500, down 9.2 percent.

California slipped by 0.2% since June.

Association officials pointed to shrinking public construction budgets as offsetting homebuilding and non-residential construction gains.

Ken Simonson, AGCA chief economist, said: “Public constructions cuts in particular are taking their toll on construction employment in many parts of the country. With economic growth remaining sluggish, there is a chance construction employment will begin to slip in even more places.”

The group is urging officials in Washington to provide employers with more certainty about future tax rates and enact various infrastructure measures.

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