Home prices in Los Angeles County rose in June amid a larger trend of improving property values throughout the region and state, according to reports released Tuesday.
The median price of a home sold in the county was $318,000 last month, up 2.2 percent from a year earlier, according to San Diego-based DataQuick.
The median is the middle figure where half of homes sold for more and half for less.
In the six-county region encompassing Los Angeles County and surrounding areas, last month's median home price was the highest since June 2010, at $300,000.
The regional median was up 1.7 percent from May and 5.3 percent from June 2011.
DataQuick President John Walsh tempered his optimism of the market.
"Yes, the median sale price rose again. But it's clear this has a lot to do with changes in the types of homes selling, rather than across-the-board price appreciation," Walsh said in a statement. "Fewer of the homes selling now are foreclosures, while more are nice houses in mid- to higher-end neighborhoods."
To keep things in perspective, Walsh noted June's median was still about 20 percent less than the average for that month. In addition, the June median was 40.6 percent lower than the regional's peak of $505,000 in mid-2007.
And yet, last month's figure was a 21.5 percent improvement over the current real estate cycle's low point in April 2009.
Home sales also rose last month with a 1.9 percent annual increase in Los Angeles County.
For the region, June's 22,075 sales were 7.5 percent higher than a year earlier, representing the sixth consecutive month of a year-over-year rise.
"With inventory and foreclosure resales dwindling, more housing markets appear to be entering an early recovery phase," Walsh said. "But in some cases we consider their status to be fairly precarious. What happens next will hinge largely on the strength of the economy and the decisions lenders make regarding scores of distressed properties that continue to hang over the market."
Statewide, the median price of existing single-family homes was at the highest level since August 2010. June's median was $320,540, up 1.3 percent from May and an 8.1 percent rise over June 2011, the California Association of Realtors reported Tuesday.
However, statewide resales of single-family homes in June fell 8.6 percent compared with a month earlier, but rose 8.5 percent from June of last year.
A major reason for rising home prices is the lack of sufficient supply in the market, said Leslie Appleton-Young, vice president and chief economist for the statewide Realtor group.
"The demand is exceeding the supply," Appleton-Young said in an interview. "The inventory, depending on the area, is down 20 to 30 percent compared to a year ago. And year to date, sales are up 6 percent from a year ago."
Banks have hesitated to sell many foreclosed homes that would help increase supply. And many homeowners have been reluctant to sell their homes while the market is low.
For many of the homes that do go on the market, a sale usually follows soon after listing, according to Los Angeles area real estate agents.
"If you've got a nice clean property priced within the market, where it's a standard sale, it'll sell in today's market. It will just sell right away," said Paul Clark, who co-owns Dale S. Clark Co. Realtors in Hawthorne. "I have seen them sell in just a week and sometimes less."
The market is so tight, with multiple offers common, that many prospective homebuyers have become frustrated, Realtor Sara Quinonez said.
"Right now I have 249 buyers in my pocket that are looking for properties. And every property we're writing an offer on has 10 offers," said Quinonez, of Prudential California Realty in Bellflower. "It's tough because we don't have enough inventory right now."
Another challenge is that homes are often appraised at less than the agreed sale price. That has caused banks to deny loans, said Realtor Laurie Carrigan.
"Appraisals haven't caught up with the market," said Carrigan of Century 21 All Moves in Granada Hills.
"With a list price of $300,000, the offers may reach $320,000, $330,000, and the appraisals are $300,000. And it falls out of escrow. The homeowner then sits on it. They just don't want to go down."