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The California Association of Realtors has released March sales figures, reporting that overall volume is down but prices have shown their first year-over-year increase in 16 months. ForeclosureRadar, meanwhile, says that the number of properties sold at foreclosure auction are also down for the second straight month.

Last month’s sales indicate resale figures for detached homes of about 505,000 annually, down 4.5 percent from last month and 2.3 percent as compared to a year ago. Statewide median prices, however, jumped 9.5 percent from February’s $266,660 to March’s $291,080, which is up from $286,550 a year ago, reversing a general downward trend.

Locally, values in San Diego County are up 0.3 percent over last month, but still 5.2 percent below the $383,620 median last year.

Realtors are using the relatively upbeat forecast to strike preemptively against a Federal Housing Finance Agency plan to sell foreclosed homes in bulk to investors, ostensibly to guard against a glut of bank-owned housing hitting the market and further depressing prices. Last month we addressed the potential threat from a “shadow inventory” of homes either delinquent yet not foreclosed or with mortgage balances far higher than their market values being brought to market.

“Housing inventory remains extremely tight throughout the state and at levels severely under normal market conditions,” said C.A.R. Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young in a release from the group.

On the foreclosure front, 86,487 sales were scheduled for last month in California, though 80 percent were postponed and 10.6 percent were cancelled, leaving only 8,392 properties that actually went to auction. Of those, a record 38.6 percent were snapped up by third parties, typically cash investors.

But while foreclosure sales, the final step in a months-long process, were down, new foreclosures were up over 18 percent to total 22,512 statewide last month. This has been an expected consequence of last year’s “robo-signing” scandal, which tied up foreclosure departments at many lenders for months.

The average time it takes to reach foreclosure from the day a bank files to begin proceedings was 260 days in San Diego County last month, down from 301 days a year ago.

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