California Home Sales Drop to Lowest in 16 Years

Higher borrowing costs contribute to historic decline, says report
Published on Dec 20, 2023

California existing home sales in November have registered the biggest monthly decline in the past year, and dropped to the lowest level since the Great Recession, according to a report released Tuesday from the California Association of Realtors (CAR).

Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 223,940 in November, said the report, based on information from more than 90 local realtor associations and MLS numbers statewide. 

“Elevated mortgage interest rates and a persistent shortage of homes for sale hindered home sales in November,” said 2024 CAR. President Melanie Barker. “With mortgage rates dropping to the lowest level in four months in recent weeks and the Federal Reserve indicating it plans to cut rates more than previously anticipated in 2024, more prospective homebuyers could reenter the market early next year.”

The November figure represents what would be the total number of homes sold during 2023 if sales maintained the November pace throughout the year, said the report, which is adjusted to account for seasonal factors.

November’s sales pace was down 7.4 percent on a monthly basis from 241,770 in October and down 5.8 percent from a year ago, the report noted, when a revised 237,730 homes were sold on an annualized basis. 

Sales have been weak for the past several months, but a tight supply of homes for sale is keeping home prices from falling, said CAR Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Jordan Levine. 

Levine added, “Going into 2024, the recent decline in mortgage rates, along with the upward momentum in home prices, could motivate more would-be sellers to list their homes for sale in the spring homebuying season.”

At the same time, according to CAR, sales of existing single-family homes in California remained below the 250,000-unit pace for the third consecutive month, the 29th straight drop, but this decline was actually the smallest in the last 20 months.

For the fifth straight month, November’s median home price also took a step back from the previous month but rose from the year-ago level, according to the report. California’s statewide median price decreased 2.2 percent from October’s $840,360 to $822,200 in November,  and rose 6.2 percent from a revised $774,150 recorded a year ago. 

This decline was the largest in 10 months but again,  smaller than the October-to-November average price adjustment of -2.5 percent observed in the last five years. 

The year-over-year price gain was the largest in 18 months, the report noted.

Other key points from C.A.R.’s November 2023 resale housing report include:


  • Regionally,  sales in all major regions dipped in November on a year-over-year basis. The Central Valley  -14.4 percent) and Central Coast regions (-10.4 percent), experienced the biggest dip, the only two regions with a drop of more than 10 percent from the same month of last year. 


  • Housing inventory improved from last month but was due mostly to the sales decline rather than an increase in active listings. The statewide unsold inventory index (UII) increased 11.1 percent on a month-over-month basis to 3.0 months and fell below last year’s level by -6.3 percent. Active listings at the state level dipped again on a year-over-year basis for eight straight months, and the decline in each of the last seven months all registered more than 10 percent year-over-year.


In addition, the report noted that the median number of days it took to sell a California single-family home was 21 days in November and 29 days in November 2022, and that the statewide sales-price-to-list-price ratio* was 100 percent in November 2023 and 96.7 percent in November 2022.

Statewide, according to the report, the average price per square foot,  for an existing single-family home was $421, up from $388 in November a year ago.

Finally, the 30-year, fixed-mortgage interest rate averaged 7.44 percent in November, up from 6.81 percent in November 2022, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage survey data.

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