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Golden State Sees Overall July Growth in Sales, Prices

True to the state's nickname, California's housing market posted a gold-medal performance for July.

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The ""California Association of Realtors"":http://www.car.org/ (CAR) reported Friday that home sales and prices both showed strong gains in July, with the sales pace showing year-over-year growth for the fourth straight month and the median price reaching a four-year high.

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes hit an adjusted annualized rate of 529,230, a 2 percent increase from June's revised rate of 518,680. July's sales pace was also 15.3 percent higher year-over-year.

In addition, the median price for an existing, single-family detached home hit $333,860, up 4.2 percent month-over-month and the highest price since August 2008. July marked the fifth straight month to see both month-over-month and year-over-year price gains and the fourth straight month in which the median price was above $300,000.

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Leslie Appleton-Young, CAR VP and chief economist, said the price gains in the last few months reflect a market shift toward higher-priced homes.

""The strong performance in the median price over the past few months reflects a sales shift away from homes in the lower price ranges of the market due to stark inventory toward sales of homes priced above $500,000,"" Appleton-Young said. ""As an example, in July, sales of homes priced below $200,000 declined 9.4 percent from the previous year, and homes priced above $500,000 climbed 27.7 percent from a year ago.""

The state's housing inventory was more or less flat in July, with the Unsold Inventory Index for existing, single-family detached homes dipping slightly to 3.4 months (from 3.5 months in June). The long-run average is a 6- to 7-month supply.

While the flat supply may have choked sales in some areas of the state, CAR president LeFrancis Arnold said other areas saw a boom.

""It's hard to generalize the state of California's housing market because the markets are so diverse and are performing so differently,"" Arnold said. ""REO-dominated areas such as those in the Inland Empire and Central Valley are experiencing sales constraints due to an extreme shortage of available homes. 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.""

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