California real estate: ‘Distressed sales’ are 51% of market in March

The real estate market in the Golden State was less dominated by “distressed sales” in March than the month before, the California Association of Realtors reported Wednesday.

Foreclosures and short sales — transactions for less than the value of the mortgage on a home — accounted for 51 percent of the market last month, down from 56 percent in February and flat from March 2010.

“Consistent with the state as a whole, nearly all the counties for which we have data also experienced an improvement in distressed sales,” association President Beth L. Peerce noted in an email. “However, distressed sales in most of the counties were higher than a year ago, as the market continues to work through large numbers of troubled mortgages,” Peerce said.

Meanwhile, the number of pending home sales — deals with signed contracts but which haven’t closed — was up 15.2 percent from the month before, but dropped 0.3 percent from March 2010, when California’s real estate market was still benefiting from tax credits for many homebuyers. The association’s reports are based on information from local chapters and multiple listing services.

Also Wednesday, the National Association of Realtors reported a 3.7 percent seasonally adjusted increase in existing-home sales in March from the month before. However, sales volume nationwide was down 6.3 percent from March 2010. The median home price dropped 5.9 percent year over year to $159,600.

“Existing-home sales have risen in six of the past eight months, so we’re clearly on a recovery path,” Lawrence Yun, the association’s chief economist, said in a news release. “We project moderate improvements into 2012, but not every month will show a gain — primarily because some buyers are finding it too difficult to obtain a mortgage.”