State

Stanislaus home prices rise

Three months in a row.

Stanislaus County's median home sales price rose $1,000 in July to $140,000, continuing the upward trend that started in May.

After 3½ years of crashing real estate prices, the gentle climb is sorely welcome. Stanislaus' home prices peaked in December 2005 at $396,000, then started a steady drop to $133,000 by April 2009.

This is the first time since 2005 that home prices have increased three consecutive months.

MDA DataQuick's statistics, released Friday, showed 889 homes sold in Stanislaus last month, which was about the same as during May and June.

While home sales remain brisk and countywide median prices are up, that doesn't mean every city is doing better.

"Each neighborhood has its own characteristics," said Phil Harris, owner of Harris Appraisal Service in Modesto. "We're starting to see some of these markets stabilizing, but others aren't."

Appraisers consider many factors in determining a home's fair market value, and where it's located is a key element.

Harris said that from one part of town to another, the strength of the real estate market varies. In Modesto, for example, some sectors of the city are edging up in value, while others have continued to decline.

Stability varies by area

Northwest Modesto, Harris said, "is the only Modesto market right now showing it is stable."

He said that corner of the city, north of Briggsmore Avenue and west of McHenry Avenue, had a median sales price of $145,500 during the past three months.

Northeast Modesto, by contrast, "is still showing a declining market overall," Harris said. Those homes, north of Briggsmore and east of McHenry including Village I, sold for a median $183,000.

Home prices elsewhere in Modesto are much lower, according to the sales data used by appraisers.

Southwest Modesto homes sold for a median $60,000 during the past three months, Harris said. And in the southern Modesto region that includes the airport neighborhood, the median sales price was just $37,000.

There are differences from one neighborhood to the next in Patterson, too.

"Patterson as a whole still is showing a little bit of a decrease, but the newer neighborhoods and starting to stabilize," Harris said.

The citywide median sales price was $145,000 over the past three months. "The bigger houses, however, are showing an uptick in price," Harris said.

Merced County isn't faring as well.

DataQuick reported that Merced's home prices dropped in July, down $2,500 to a median $107,500. That's still higher than in May when Merced prices hit bottom at $105,000, but that county's housing market doesn't seem to be recovering as quickly as others in California.

Merced's home sales volume slumped in July, with just 369 homes selling. During June, by contrast, 576 Merced homes sold.

Sales continued to soar in San Joaquin County last month, with 1,212 homes selling for a median $165,000. That was $13,000 more than homes sold for in May or June.

Even with the recent increases, homes throughout the Northern San Joaquin Valley are worth less than 40 percent of what they were at the peak of the real estate boom.

Tuolumne down from June

In Tuolumne County, where home sales prices often vary widely from month to month, 50 homes sold in July for a median $199,500. That was $24,000 less than in June.

Statewide, DataQuick said homes sold for a median $250,000 in July, up $4,000 from June. Typical California home buyers last month committed themselves to paying a monthly mortgage payment of $1,101.

Bay Area buyers agreed to pay far more. Buyers in the nine-county region paid a median $395,000 for homes in July, which was a $43,000 increase from June. Bay Area homeowners committed themselves to paying $1,739 per month for mortgages.

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

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