California home sales fell from both the previous month and year in March as the coronavirus pandemic began taking a toll on the housing market, especially in the last two weeks of the month as the state’s stay-at-home order was put in place, the California Association of Realtors (CAR) reported.
However, Napa County bucked that trend. According to data from BAREIS.com, 65 homes sold in Napa County in February and 83 sold in March. One year earlier 85 homes sold in March.
Statewide, closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 373,070 units in March, according to information collected by CAR from more than 90 local Realtor associations and MLSs statewide.
The statewide annualized sales figure represents what would be the total number of homes sold during 2020 if sales maintained the March pace throughout the year. It is adjusted to account for seasonal factors that typically influence home sales.
March’s sales total was down 11.5 percent from the 421,670 level in February and was down 6.1 percent from a year ago. The month-to-month drop was the first double-digit loss in more than nine years and the largest since August 2007. Additionally, the year-over-year decline was the first in nine months and the largest decrease since March 2019.
“The relatively moderate sales decrease that occurred in March is only a prelude to what we’ll see in April and May because sales were still modestly strong during the first two weeks of March before stay-in-place orders were implemented throughout the state,” said 2020 CAR President Jeanne Radsick, a second-generation Realtor from Bakersfield, Calif.
“However, pending sales, which is a better reflection of the current market conditions and consumer concerns about the coronavirus, dropped nearly 25 percent and suggest the decline could extend beyond the next couple of months, depending on the duration of the pandemic and the lockdown.”
Despite a dip in housing demand, the statewide median price rose from both the previous month and previous year.
In fact, at $612,440 in March, the median price of an existing single-family home surged past the $600,000 benchmark for the first time in three months, registering an 8.3 percent year-over-year gain.
On a monthly basis, the median price increased 5.6 percent from February’s $579,770. A year ago, the statewide median price was $565,740.
In Napa County, the median rose to $764,000, from $659,500 in February.
“While the median home price continued to record a strong gain in March, most, if not all, of the closed sales were negotiated in mid- to late-February prior to the COVID-19 outbreak,” said CAR Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young.
“Still, the fast deterioration of the economy, the steep decline of the financial market and record-setting job losses have not been factored into March’s closed sales but will become obvious in coming months.”
Reflecting the dramatic change in market conditions, a monthly Google poll conducted by C.A.R. in early April found just one in four (26 percent) consumers said it is a good time to sell, down from 59 percent a month ago, and down from 48 percent a year ago.
The market uncertainty has not curbed the optimism for homebuying as much; 28 percent of the consumers who responded to the poll believe that now is a good time to buy a home, slightly less than last year (22 percent), when interest rates were 82 basis points higher.
At the regional level, all major regions experienced a sales decrease from last year, with the Bay Area dropping the most at 12.1 percent, followed by the Central Coast (-7.3 percent), the Central Valley (-6.4 percent), and Southern California (-0.3 percent).
Twenty-nine of the 51 counties tracked by C.A.R. experienced a year-over-year sales loss, with Plumas declining the most from last year at -53.8 percent, followed by Glenn (-40.7 percent), and Butte (-36.1 percent).
Median prices in all regions increased in March from last year, with the Central Valley up the most at 7.7 percent, followed by the Bay Area (7.4 percent), Southern California (7.3 percent), and the Central Coast (7.0 percent).
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