State

Median home price: $140,000, again

Stanislaus County's median home price climbed back to $140,000 for February, the sixth time in the past eight months it has been at the level.

The median price was up from $131,750 in January and slightly higher in year-to-year comparisons for the first time in almost four years, according to sales statistics released this week by MDA DataQuick.

February saw a small year-to-year improvement of 2.8 percent (an increase of $3,750 in sales price) in the county. The last time median home prices increased from the previous year was August 2006.

Veteran real estate agent John Walton, who has been with Coldwell Banker Vinson Chase Realtor since 1978, said coming back to $140,000 shows stabilization in what has been a bumpy housing market.

"I think (prices) are flat, but that is a good thing," he said. "It stopped that ugly movement, that downward movement."

The $140,000 number brings home prices to the same as they were in 2000, meaning a decade of equity has been lost. During the height of the housing market boom in 2005, median prices soared to $396,000.

Walton said with housing prices at a 10-year low and the $8,000 federal tax credit still available, it's a strong buyer's market.

"I don't think (prices) are going up, but I don't think they're going down for next month, either," he said. "I'm not seeing any crazy stuff happen right now."

Some up, some down vs. '09

Many surrounding counties also saw small gains in year-to-year median prices. San Joaquin was at $160,000 for February, up 3.2 percent from last year and Merced was at $110,000, up 4.3 percent. But both counties saw small slips in their month-to-month prices. (MDA Data- Quick notes that the Merced County numbers are incomplete, as some data from the last week of February has not been reported.)

Tuolumne was down by 10 percent from last year, but up by $1,000 from January to $180,000.

PMZ Real Estate Associate Broker Bob Brazeal was excited about the area's housing outlook.

"Our housing market has done much more than 'stabilize.' Our prices have been going up nicely for several months in a row," he said.

"Generally a measure of 'median price' is more accurate than 'average price.' But from time to time 'median price' is not accurate and I believe we are definitely in one of those times. ... Our real estate values are absolutely going up."

But Stanislaus County still lags well behind the state, where median home prices recorded their fourth consecutive year-to-year increase.

California had an 11 percent increase in the median price from February 2009, largely because of a dip in foreclosures and an increase in high-end sales.

The median for the state increased to $249,000 from $224,000 in February 2009 and about 1 percent from $247,000 in January.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at mrowland@modbee.com or 578-2284.

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