There is fresh proof that California's housing recovery is in full swing.
Homes are selling quicker, attracting multiple bids, and the median profit to sellers has almost doubled since last year, according to the latest housing finance survey of the California Association of Realtors.
The median discount to the listing price was only 2% in the first quarter, the survey found. Discounts have not been so slim since 1988 and 1989, when the state's housing market was peaking.
"There's no doubt anymore (that) we are entering the exuberant period of the California housing market," said G.U. Krueger, the association's economist.
The survey also shows that Southern California has finally caught up with the housing boom in the northern part of the state, Mr. Krueger said. "If anything, the action is now in the south," he said.
Conducted annually between May and July in past years, the survey will now be conducted quarterly. Questionnaires are sent to 5,000 members, who are asked to describe their most recent real estate transaction. The number of responses for the first-quarter survey was 564.
Among the survey's findings:
The median time it took to sell a California home fell from eight weeks last year to four weeks in the first quarter.
In Southern California, 36.2% of properties received multiple offers. Statewide, 33.9% did. "It's a pretty amazing number," Mr. Krueger said.
On average, California homebuyers paid 96% of the list price in the first quarter. The median price was 98%.
But 35% of homeowners sold at prices equal to or greater than the list price. In Southern California, that share was 31%.
The median profit to sellers almost doubled-from $35,000 last year to $66,500 in the first quarter. In Southern California, the median profit was $60,000.
Only 4% of sellers lost money on their transactions, compared to 12.5% last year. In Southern California, 5.1% of homeowners sold at a loss.
Repeat buyers continued to fuel the California market-they made up 53.5% of sales in the first quarter. Last year, that share was 59.7%.
The median loan-to-value ratio on mortgages in the first quarter was 90%. Though bankers worry about falling credit standards, a far greater worry is that rising prices may lock too many first-time homebuyers out of the California market, Mr. Krueger said. That is particularly so because restraints on new construction lead to a very tight housing supply, he said.
Though the outlook is sunny, Mr. Krueger pointed out that California's housing boom faces two primary risks.
The first is that the Asian economy slowdown will spread to California, particularly the Silicon Valley, whose software products are heavily exported.
The second risk is that the market will overheat-that is prices will rise too quickly and affordability will fall too fast.
But, Mr. Krueger said, the two risks are balancing each other out to some extent.
"The Asian crisis could actually keep the market from overheating-create a mellowing effect that is needed now, because things are a little bit too exuberant," Mr. Krueger said, "and it could prolong the cycle."