Retail home sales: Market turnaround?

Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat

Housing prices in the Mother Lode took some positive moves in August and September, indicating that the area market might have reached a bottom after a multi-year slump.

According to preliminary numbers from the Tuolumne County Association of Realtors, the median home price was $160,000 in September - up from $153,500 the same month last year. But the overall number of homes sold in September are down to 65 compared to 92 last year, according to the preliminary numbers.

The county saw a year-to-year jump in August for both median home prices ($159,900 to $200,000) and overall sales (77 to 83), according to the organization. And year-to-date statistics are also up, with 602 homes sold through August at a median price of $165,000, from 472 homes at $162,000.

So is this an indication of an upward trend?

Ann Ritchie, executive director of the Tuolumne County Association of Realtors, said it's too early to tell. While it is promising and could indicate the rocky local housing market has finally bottomed out and is ready to rebound, the numbers have been up and down depending on the month.

One trend that also looks promising, Ritchie said, is that distressed sales represent a much lower percentage of overall sales in August than they did in January.

"It's just too soon to know," Ritchie said. "I think we're kind of bouncing along the bottom."

Housing markets statewide have also seen mixed results. According to the California Association of Realtors, the state has seen five consecutive months of year-to-year sales gains through August. However, overall sales declined statewide in August from the previous month.

The statewide median home price in August was $343,820, up from July's $333,860 and up 15 percent August 2011. According to the state association, higher-priced coastal markets are seeing strong demand, but some of the tougher markets - like those in the Central Valley - are still stagnant.

"The increasing share of sales in higher-priced coastal markets at the expense of the inventory-scarce distressed markets has been the primary factor in fueling the statewide median price," association Vice President and economist Leslie Appleton-Young stated in a release of the latest numbers.

Calaveras County real estate numbers were not included in the statewide report, and in inquiries with the county Association of Realtors were not returned in time for this story.

Contact Chris Caskey at ccaskey@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4527.

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The Union Democrat
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