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California home prices hit nearly 5-year high

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- California home prices neared a five-year high in April as sales picked up for mid- to high-end properties, a research firm said Wednesday.

The median price for new and existing houses and condominiums hit $324,000, up 22.7 percent from $264,000 a year earlier, DataQuick said. It was the 14th straight month that the median rose from a year earlier and the highest level since June 2008, when it was $328,000.

Thin inventory kept a lid on sales, which nonetheless were the highest for any April since 2006. DataQuick said there were 39,051 homes sold during the month, up 2.1 percent from a year earlier.

The California Association of Realtors said Wednesday that its index of unsold homes in the state was 2.8 months in April, down from 4.2 months a year earlier. The figure represents how long it would take to sell all existing single-family houses on the market at the current sales clip. Supply in a normal market is considered to be five to seven months.

The average time on the market for homes sold last month was 27.9 days, down from 48 days a year earlier, the Realtors group said.

The median sales price in the San Francisco Bay Area surged 17 percent in just one month, to pass the half-million dollar mark for the first time in nearly five years, DataQuick said.

The median price for new and existing houses and condominiums reached $510,000 in the nine-county region, up 30.8 percent from $290,000 April 2012. The price rose by $74,000 during April alone, the biggest month-to-month increase in percentage terms since DataQuick began keeping track of regional sales in 1988.

There were 7,621 homes sold in the Bay Area, down 0.6 percent from a year earlier.

San Diego-based DataQuick said nearly half of the Bay Area's price gains appeared to be a shift in the sales mix. Home sales for less than $500,000 slid 25.7 percent from last year, while home sales above the half-million mark jumped 24.9 percent.

Foreclosed homes, which tend to sell at steep discounts, were a much smaller part of the market. Properties that were foreclosed upon in the previous year accounted for 8.5 percent of existing home sales in the Bay area, down from 21.9 percent in April 2012 and 52 percent in February 2009.

DataQuick reported similar trends for Southern California on Tuesday. The median sales price in the six-county region was $357,000, up 23.1 percent from $290,000 a year earlier. There were 21,415 homes sold, up 9.5 percent from a year earlier.