California March Home Sales Up Sharply from February But Dip Year Over Year

Statewide Median Sale Price Below Pre-Crisis Peak but SoCal and San Francisco Regions Hit New Highs

By Andrew LePage Housing Affordability, Real Estate

California March 2018 home sales rose sharply from February – a seasonal norm – but fell modestly year over year as the median price paid for a home hit record levels in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Amid tight inventory, an estimated[1] 39,857 new and existing houses and condos sold statewide in March 2018, up 37.4 percent from February 2018 but down 3.7 percent from March 2017, CoreLogic public records data show. The average change in sales between February and March since 2000 is an increase of 33.9 percent. March 2018 sales were the second-highest for that month in five years (Figure 1) but were 14.4 percent below the average number of homes sold in March since 2000.

California March Home Sales

The median price paid for all new and existing houses and condos sold across California in March 2018 was $480,000, up 4.3 percent from $460,000 February 2018 and up 7.9 percent from $445,000 in March 2017. The March 2018 median was 1.3 percent below the peak $486,500 median in May 2007 (Figure 2). Adjusted for inflation, the March 2018 median remained 16.4 percent below the March 2007 peak. 

California Median Home Sales Price

The state’s median sale price has risen year over year for 73 consecutive months, since March 2012.

In the six-county Southern California[2] region a total of 20,883 new and existing houses and condos sold in March 2018, up 37.1 percent month over month from 15,231 sales in February 2018 and down 6.2 percent year over year from 22,260 sales in March 2017. The March 2018 median sale price was a record $519,000, up 2.4 percent month over month from $507,000 in February 2018, and up 8.4 percent year over year from $479,000 in March 2017. Adjusting for inflation, however, the March 2018 median sale price remained 13.4 percent below its July 2007 peak.

In the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area[3], a total of 7,122 new and existing houses and condos sold in March 2018, up 43.9 percent month over month from 4,948 sales in February 2018 and down 3.3 percent year over year from 7,362 sales in March 2017. The median sale price rose to a record $820,000 in March 2018, up 9.3 percent month over month from $750,000 in February 2018, and up 14.7 percent year over year from $715,000 in March 2017. Adjusting for inflation, however, the Bay Area’s March 2018 median was 0.3 percent below its June 2006 peak.

Adjustable Rate Mortgage

The rise in prices and mortgages rates over the past year has not yet led to a large statewide increase in the use of adjustable-rate mortgages, or ‘ARMs,’ which have lower initial rates and payments. In March 2018, ARMs represented 11.7 percent of all home purchase loans, up from 11.1 percent in March 2017 but well below the pre-bust (2000-2006) average monthly ARM share of 49.8 percent (Figure 3). However, the ARM share has increased more in some pricier counties. For example, in Southern California, Orange County ARMs made up 17.9 percent of March 2018 purchase loans, up from 16.4 percent a year earlier. In Santa Clara County, part of the Silicon Valley, 41 percent of March 2018 purchase loans were ARMs, up from 34.1 percent in March 2017.

[1] Because of late data availability, March 2018 sales were not complete in some smaller counties.

[2] The region comprises San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

[3] The region comprises Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano and Sonoma counties.

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