Sacramento sees year-long rise in home sales

It's lasted a year.

For 12 straight months, home sales in the Sacramento area have exceeded those of the same month a year earlier. That's a phenomenon typically associated with a housing market recovery – which then leads the broader economy out of trouble.

But is the recovery under way this time?

Brisk home sales have made Sacramento the envy of real estate agents in 45 other states where sales are still declining. And in March, for the first time in more than a year, the median prices for new and existing home sales combined rose to $165,000 in Sacramento County – a $5,000 hike from February. The county's median sales price has risen only a handful of times from one month to the next since prices peaked in 2005 at $387,000.

Yet analysts remain stubbornly cautious. They say there are still too many conflicting signals to accurately forecast a bottoming out of the real estate cycle. The year's worth of increases, after all, follow 37 straight months of year-over-year declines,

"Usually, after 12 months, you start looking for prices to stabilize," said Andrew LePage, an analyst with researcher MDA DataQuick. DataQuick announced Thursday that March saw 3,419 homes close escrow in the region, an increase of about 31.5 percent from March 2008.

"But we've never been down this road before," he said, "and historical road maps haven't done a good job of showing where we're headed."

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