Pending California home sales rise slightly in May, Realtors group says

Original Post Date: June 22, 2011

By: Mark Glover

California’s mangled real estate market saw a sliver of promise Tuesday.

The California Association of Realtors said pending home sales statewide rose in May, the first year-over-year increase in 18 months.

CAR said its Pending Home Sales Index in May was 118.3, up 1.6 percent from April’s revised index of 116.4 and a 12 percent gain over May 2010.

The index is based on contracts signed in May. CAR considers pending home sales an indicator of future sales activity.

“May marked the first year-over-year increase in pending sales since November 2009 and the largest annual increase since August 2009,” said Beth L. Peerce, CAR president. “And as a result, annual sales for all of 2011 should match or exceed last year’s annual pace.”

However, like many statewide gauges of real estate, some areas are lagging.

In Sacramento County, for example, CAR said single-family distressed home sales comprised 65 percent of all sales in May, down from 67 percent in April but up from 62 percent in May last year.

By comparison, distressed home sales in Marin County comprised only 28 percent of sales in May. In San Diego County, it was 29 percent; in Humboldt County, 17 percent.

“Pending sales (statewide) are certainly a positive sign, but we’ve had a few false starts before,” said Kris Vogt, president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage’s Sacramento-Tahoe region. ” … The good news is there’s more and more affordability and we’re seeing a little more confidence in buyers. We need to get more unit sales to get to a turnaround.”

Last week, CAR reported that the median sales price of existing single-family homes in Sacramento County in May was $168,200, compared with $170,270 in April and $191,430 in May last year.

Doug Covill, president of the Sacramento Association of Realtors, said a seasonal increase in sales is not a surprise but added, “I just feel like we’re going to have a bumpy road here for awhile.”

CAR said Tuesday that the share of all distressed property types sold statewide was unchanged in May from April’s 48 percent, but that it was up from 46 percent in May 2010.

Tuesday’s report also noted that 28 percent of distressed properties sold statewide in May were real estate-owned, unchanged from April but up from 26 percent in May last year.

The statewide share of short sales also was unchanged from April to May, standing at 19 percent. That was down from 20 percent in May 2010.