Central Valley

Valley home sales, prices continued drop to close 2007

Home prices ended 2007 on a low note in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, with sales volume down 38.8 percent and sales prices down 25.5 percent in Stanislaus County last month, compared to December 2006.

San Joaquin County's sales volume dropped 37.2 percent, and Merced County's, 56.8 percent.

The median price for Stanislaus County homes sold last month was $281,250, while San Joaquin County's was $320,000 and Merced County's, $257,000. San Joaquin and Merced county's numbers were down from December 2006, by 24.7 percent and 21.2 percent respectively.

Those numbers were reported by DataQuick Information Systems, which noted that Merced County's figures don't include some sales on the last two days of the year.

Figures for Tuolumne County were not immediately available.

Sales prices dropped during most months in 2007 in Stanislaus, Merced and San Joaquin counties, with the trend becoming stronger toward the end of the year.

By most estimates, the valley leads the nation in foreclosures, a trend exacerbated by falling home prices that make it more difficult for owners who owe more than the home is worth to refinance or sell.

Because banks that repossess homes often sell them for below market value, the trend feeds itself and leads to further price declines.

Home construction starts fell 24.8 percent nationally in 2007, the largest decline from year to year in 27 years.