First-quarter home sales in California were up 12.5% from a year earlier, to 83,300, in a further indication of the state's growing momentum.

Sales of new and existing homes have been particularly strong in the San Francisco area, said a report by Experian, formerly TRW Reid.

Indeed, Sanwa Bank, which operates 100 branches in California, said its first-quarter mortgage originations reached their highest level ever-317- fueled by strong demand from first-time homebuyers.

The Los Angeles bank said the second quarter is shaping up even better: April's originations were the strongest for a single month since 1993.

"These loans may very well be the leading edge of a true residential real estate recovery," said Kathy Hermosillo, vice president at Sanwa.

So far, home prices have not risen in tandem with demand, said Experian analyst Nima Nattagh.

Indeed, right now, the Silicon Valley is the only area in California reporting price inflation, with homeowners typically receiving multiple purchase offers that exceed property values, analysts said.

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