Housing prices are up in Sacramento, Calif.

The Sacramento BeeDecember 18, 2009 

Sacramento's housing prices have tiptoed into positive territory for the first time in more than three years.

In November, Sacramento County's median sales price for resale homes rose from the same time a year earlier — the first time that's happened since May 2006.

La Jolla-based property researcher MDA DataQuick on Thursday pegged the county's November median sales price at $177,000 — up slightly from $175,000 in November 2008. The change in direction comes after 41 months of declines that slashed county prices by 55 percent from their mid-2005 peaks.

Though an encouraging signal that the free-fall in sales prices has ended, other factors are still adding stress in the real estate market. These include 12.3 percent unemployment in the capital region and widespread wage cuts that have sent 90-day mortgage delinquency rates skyrocketing to 11 percent, according to First American CoreLogic.

Nonetheless, November looked better than last year.

"This is the same across much of the state," said DataQuick analyst Andrew LePage. "At this point last year these price numbers were ridiculously low. Those were highly unusual markets with foreclosures ruling the day."

Fewer foreclosure sales and more sales in pricier areas pushed Bay Area median values higher than last year for a second straight month to $387,000. The median is where half the homes cost more and half cost less. The Los Angeles region's year-over-year median price of $280,000 also steadied for the first time since September 2007.

What's driving this change?

"It's a very complicated answer," said Coldwell Banker real estate agent Carlos Kozlowski of Sacramento. In short, the cheap bank repos that accounted for 69 percent of sales last November in Sacramento County fell to 49 percent last month. Simultaneously, higher-cost home sales doubled in Land Park and east Sacramento from November 2008 to November 2009, DataQuick reported. Finally, banks are fixing up the houses they repossess so they can be sold at higher prices, Kozlowski said.

To read the complete article, visit www.sacbee.com.

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