Statewide, 39,811 homes were sold in August, down 11.7% from July and up 4.8% from one year ago. 21,502 of these homes were sold in Southern California (So Cal), down 10.8% from July and up 11.0% from one year ago.

The statewide median price paid for the phantom median-priced home was $249,000, down 0.4% from July, and still down 17.3% from one year ago. The So Cal median price was $275,000, up 2.6% from its July price of $268,000, but still down16.7% from one year ago. These median dollar amounts and percentages represent no specific home, except by mere coincidence.

Of the homes sold statewide, 39.9% were foreclosed real estate owned (REO) properties, down from 46.5% one year ago when REO properties were in greater abundance. Foreclosed properties accounted for 38.8% of So Cal resales activity. Some mortgage payment taxes and insurance will be less than rent for many tenants, as they were prior to the mid-1970s before a home changed from being a nest to an investment.

The typical mortgage payment a homebuyer committed himself to paying was $1,093 statewide and $1,207 in So Cal. The So Cal typical mortgage payment is down from the $1,642 in August of 2008.

Speculator purchases are above-average in some markets, and while the trend in speculator-type financing with adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) is still relatively low, the volume of ARMs has increased over the last two months.

first tuesday take: While a tenuous consensus believes we are in recovery, employers remain reluctant to hire and are keeping an eye on their margins. With financial uncertainty in mind, many potential buyers (job holders) are being cautious and passively watching the housing market, ever vigilant for what they assess to be the bottoming-out of prices and job losses — before they will begin to buy a home.

The increase in median prices is attributable to the current dip in the availability of foreclosed properties (REOs), which are increasingly being snatched up by speculators interfering again with normal operations of the real estate market. Rents have begun to drop on single family residences (SFRs)  as well as apartment units, and vacancies stay empty longer, which will cause trouble for SFR speculators.  As speculators then drop out in 2010, the market will open up to first time homebuyers and those upgrading to mid-tier priced housing.

Re: “California August Home Sales” from MDA DataQuick