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Typical winter sales doldrums, along with a continued tight housing supply, contributed to a decline in home sales in January, housing trade group California Association of Realtors said in a February 21 release.

It’s not uncommon for potential home buyers to take a break from shopping during the winter holidays, and since January sales mostly reflect contracts written in November and December the 22.1% month-over-month decline in sales throughout San Diego County is expected, if a bit more pronounced than usual for the season. Overall, sales in the region were still up 16.3% as compared to a year ago.

A number that does raise an eyebrow, however, is a sharp decline in median sales price, from $418,290 to $390,890, between December 2012 and January 2013. Even though the figure is still 11.5% higher than the $350,680 reported a year ago it represents a 6.6% decline from a month earlier.

“A rush by home buyers trying to complete sales of higher-priced homes by the end of last year in order to avoid capital gains increases pulled forward sales that might have closed in January instead,” explains C.A.R. President Don Faught. With a recent capital gains tax hike, sellers of high-priced properties who stood to gain more than $250,000 (individuals) or $500,000 (couples) pushed hard to close their transactions before year-end, artificially skewing the sales price data in December.

Housing prices across the state are inflating even faster than in San Diego, with average single family home prices spiking more than 24% on average over the last year. Industry experts have warned that an inventory kept deceivingly low due to banks delaying foreclosures and holding back tens of thousands of homes that would otherwise be hitting the market could be fueling another housing bubble.

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