Home values continue their downward spiral in Central Valley

Down again, darn it. Median home sales prices plunged further during August in Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties and throughout most of California.

As usual, the housing meltdown was worst in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, according to MDA DataQuick sales statistics released Thursday.

Buyers love a bargain.

They can find plenty of them in Merced County, which has suffered the largest price declines in California.

Merced County homes sold for a median $150,000 in August. That's down 47 percent in one year and 60.8 percent from the December 2005 peak. Merced prices haven't been this low in seven years. Last month, 549 Merced homes were foreclosed on, costing lenders $176.6 million.

Stanislaus County median sales prices fell to $185,000 in August. That's a one-year drop of 41.3 percent. Even more depressing, it's 53.3 percent below what homes were selling for at the building boom's December 2005 peak.

Stanislaus prices haven't been this low since the spring of 2002. Six years of appreciation have been wiped out.

Blame foreclosures for the price drops. The Northern San Joaquin Valley continues to be the fore- closure capital of the universe.

During August alone, 867 Stanislaus homes were foreclosed on, costing lenders $284.4 million in unpaid debt, according to Foreclosure- Radar.

Those lenders, desperate to recoup losses, have been reselling foreclosed properties at deep discounts. Buyers have been scooping them up. More than 900 homes -- almost all of them foreclosures -- were sold in Stanislaus during August. That's twice as many sales as during August 2007.

San Joaquin homes sold for a median $207,000 in August. That's down 44.1 percent in one year and 54.8 percent from the November 2005 peak. San Joa- quin prices also are back to summer of 2001 levels. Last month, 1,245 San Joaquin homes were lost to foreclosure, costing lenders $467.7 million.

California as a whole isn't suffering quite as much.

The state's median home price dropped to $301,000 in August, down 35.3 percent in one year.

Bay Area home prices sold for a median $447,000, down 31.8 percent in one year.

Want happier news? Try Tuolumne County, where homes went for a median $267,500 in August. That was only 7.8 percent below a year ago, and it's about what homes sold for during the summer of 2004.

Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at jnsbranti@modbee.com or 578-2196.