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A report out last Friday from the California Association of Realtors shows the number of previously owned homes in escrow remained flat in May as compared to April, but that result still represents a double digit gain in year-over-year figures for nine of the last ten months.

The Association’s “Pending Home Sales Index,” which tracks the number of properties under contract to be sold, was at 128.8, up from 115.8 in May of 2011. Overall, May was the 13th straight month of increases in home sales, as banks have moved toward approving “short sales,” where they accept a discounted payoff instead of forcing a foreclosure.

As the market improves and many areas realize the first significant value increases in years, the percentage of sales involving homeowners with equity is also rising. These transactions represented 59.3 percent of all sales last month, compared to 55.8 percent in April and 51 percent overall a year ago.

Bank-owned inventory, which totals over 4,000 in San Diego and currently makes up about 21 percent of the total of available homes on the market, has shrunk from a total equal to two months’ total supply to 1.5 months in the span of a month.

While buyer activity, driven by low interest rates and increased optimism in the real estate market (perpetuated in no small part by the various Associations of Realtors), acts to increase sales, values remain somewhat hampered by a return to the market of sellers with equity that have been waiting for a turnaround to list their properties. The Reader’s Don Bauder reported yesterday that values in April were up 1.4 percent compared to March, but still down 1.8 percent versus last year.

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