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Apr 17, 5:22 PM EDT

California home prices hit new 7-year high, sales rebound



SAN DIEGO (AP) -- California home prices reached fresh seven-year-highs in March, a research firm said Friday, helping sales rebound from a two-month slide as some homeowners put their property on the market to reap gains.

The median sales price for new and existing houses and condominiums was $397,000, up about 5 percent from $378,000 in February and about 6 percent from $376,000 in March 2014, CoreLogic said.

It marked the highest level since December 2007, when the median was $402,000, and the 37th straight month of annual gains.

There were about 35,000 homes sold in March, up 38 percent from about 26,000 the previous month and 7 percent from nearly 33,000 during the same period of 2014. Sales typically increase from February to March but the jump was higher than some expected and followed two straight months of declines from year-ago levels.

The San Francisco Bay Area's stratospheric prices and thin supplies stood out. Leslie Appleton-Young, chief economist of the California Association of Realtors, said sellers are getting multiple offers well above asking prices.

"The market in the Bay Area is really unique," Appleton-Young said. "You've got this concentration of job and income growth in an environment with very little new construction (and) limited land."

The median sales price in the nine-county Bay region was $623,000, up 7 percent from about $583,000 in February and almost 8 percent from $579,000 in March 2014, according to Irvine-based CoreLogic.

It marked the Bay area's highest median since November 2007, when it was $629,000, and 36th straight month of annual gains.

The median sales price in the city of San Francisco was $938,000, down from nearly $1.1 million a year earlier but still more than twice the statewide number.

There were almost 7,000 homes sold in the Bay area, up 46 percent from 4,700 in February and nearly 8 percent from 6,400 a year earlier.

The median sales price in Southern California was $425,000, up 2 percent from $415,000 in February and 6 percent from $400,000 in March 2014. It was the highest median since December 2007, when it was $425,000.

There were about 20,000 homes sold in the six-county region, up 44 percent from about 14,000 in February and 11 percent from 18,000 in March 2014.

The rebound in sales, particularly in Southern California, gave economists some comfort amid concerns that a mix of rising prices and thin supplies could keep homes out of reach for many potential buyers.

There was a 3.8-month supply of single-family homes for sale in California last month, down from five months in February and four months in March 2014, according to the California Association of Realtors. A five- to seven-month supply is considered is normal.

But that number masks large differences within the state. Parts of the Bay Area had less than two months' supply.

"Some parts of the state, especially in the Bay Area, are approaching or exceeding prior peaks in terms of prices, and that's going to get a lot more people thinking about selling and moving somewhere else," said CoreLogic analyst Andrew LePage. "There's a huge question mark hanging over the market."

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