Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Created: 11/23/2010 05:59:00 PM PST

While California home sales showed a statewide decline in October, from both the previous month and previous year, some cities in San Bernardino County showed a sharp increase in median home prices, according to data released Tuesday.

In October, home resale activity statewide declined 3.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted rate of 450,360 homes, down from September’s revised pace of 466,930 homes. The pace was down 19.6 percent from the sales pace recorded in October of last year, according to data compiled by the California Realtors Association from more than 90 local realtor associations across the state.

The decline reflects a seasonal decline in home sales typically occurring around this time of year, combined with prevailing worries among potential homebuyers over the economy and job security, said Beth L. Peerce, president of the California Realtors Association, or CAR.

“The significant year-over-year sales decline also reflects particularly strong sales in October and November 2009, as buyers rushed to beat the then-anticipated federal tax credit expiration at the end of November 2009,” Peerce said in a statement Tuesday.

But while October showed a statewide decline in home sales, median home prices in some cities or towns across the county and Inland Empire showed some pretty substantial increases.

Among the communities showing increased median home prices in October over the previous year include Yucca Valley, San Bernardino, Highland, Colton, Pomona and Montclair. Yucca Valley showed a more than 40 percent increase in median home prices compared to October 2009, San Bernardino showed a 29 percent increase, Highland a 28 percent increase, Colton an 18 percent increase, Pomona a 21 percent increase and Montclair a 17.3 percent increase, the data shows.

CAR attributes the increases to a principle law of economics: supply and demand. Affordability of homes in these areas is at their lowest in years, more so than other areas, and many investors and first-time homebuyers are taking advantage of the opportunity, said Leslie Appleton-Young, CAR’s chief economist.

“It reflects a strong demand on the part of first-time homebuyers and investors,” said Appleton-Young. “There’s very good value in those communities because prices are down significantly, and so you have a lot of competition for the properties that are available.”

In San Bernardino and Riverside counties, the median home price, as of October, was $189,910 – 0.6-percent less than the previous month but 10.7 percent more than October 2009. In the High Desert, the median home price in October was $125,060, up 0.1 percent over the previous month and 5.5 percent over October 2009, according to CAR’s data.

One local real estate agent says the data is flawed because it does not show the year-over-year data of the quantity of homes sold in each city.

“While the home prices may be up in some areas, we may have only sold two homes in Yucca Valley this year versus 100 homes last year. So that would skew the pricing tremendously,” said Ontario-based real estate agent Kris Darney. “We have to be able to compare the number of homes sold in one area over a time period to the number of homes sold over another time period.”

The median home price of an existing, single-family detached home in California in October was $304,220, down 1.8 percent from September’s $309,720. October’s median price was up 2.3 percent from the $297,500 median home price in October 2009, according to CAR’s data.

It’s reflective of different housing markets – one at the lower-end driven by first-time homebuyers and investors, which is keeping prices stable, and one with nostalgic sellers who set unrealistic asking prices, Appleton-Young said.

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