The monthly sales increase drove inventory across the state down to a 4.8-month supply from the 6.6-month level in February. But inventory is still expected to outpace the levels of the past two years. Realtor Mike Somers said the supply buildup is prompting some of his sellers to reduce their asking price. For example, he initially listed an 1,800-square-foot home in Winnetka for $619,950 but didn’t get too much action. The would-be seller soon dropped the price to $599,950, then on Monday reduced it to $589,950. “The inventory is up substantially. With that much more to choose from, common sense says prices will level out a bit,” he said. The report also showed that: In Los Angeles County, the median price increased an annual 19.5 percent, to $556,750, but fell 1.6 percent from February. Sales fell 16.4 percent annually and jumped 49 percent from February. In Ventura County, the median price increased an annual 7.9 percent, to $678,850, and fell 0.9 percent from February. Sales fell 18 percent annually and increased 60.8 percent monthly. In the High Desert, which includes the Antelope Valley, the median price increased an annual 23.6 percent, to $326,710, and fell 0.6 percent from February. Sales fell 4.4 percent annually and rose 44.8 percent monthly. The median price rose in all 20 markets, but the increases were much less robust than in the past, ranging from a high of 23.6 percent in the High Desert to a low of 1.6 percent in northern Santa Barbara County. At $1.3 million, Calabasas had the state’s 10th-highest median price. Thirty-year fixed-mortgage interest rates averaged 6.32 percent during March 2006, compared with 5.93 percent in March 2005, according to Freddie Mac. Adjustable-mortgage interest rates averaged 5.42 percent in March 2006, compared with 4.23 percent in March 2005. “Many buyers who had adopted a wait-and-see approach with respect to interest rates earlier this year realize that, while rates are higher than they were six months or a year ago, they still remain just above historically low levels,” association president Vince Malta said in a printed statement. Independent market consultant Nima Nattagh said that the market performance is in line with earlier predictions from analysts and commentators. The rate of price appreciation will continue to subside, and it may eventually flatten out for a while. “All indications are that the market will soften up rather than crash, and I think these latest statistics really support that notion,” Nattagh said. [email protected] (818) 713-3743160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl eventIf the market matched last month’s pace for all of the year, there would be 539,170 sales. Sales edged up 4.8 percent from February. Sales declined annually across the 20 markets tracked by the association, with the decreases ranging from 27.2 percent in Sacramento to 4.4 percent in the High Desert, the most affordable area. “It’s not like the housing market has collapsed. It just down-shifted from an extraordinary level of sales to a more ordinary level of sales,” said Robert Kleinhenz, the association’s deputy chief economist. The market made its March move, though, with monthly sales increases ranging from a high of 64.9 percent in the Bay Area to a low of 35.1 percent in San Luis Obispo. These numbers are not seasonally adjusted. “That’s characteristic of this time of year. There is usually a fairly significant increase in sales from February to March throughout the state,” said Kleinhenz. Home-buying activity across California perked up in March but sales lagged behind the record pace of a year ago and price appreciation continued softening, a trade group said Tuesday. Last month the median price of a previously owned house increased an annual 13 percent, to $561,350, said the California Association of Realtors. That’s up 4.8 percent from February but down 1.3 percent from last August’s record of $568,730. Prices in many areas have been flat for months. And only six of 20 markets posted double-digit annual gains in March. On a seasonally adjusted basis, sales fell an annual 15.1 percent last month, but the pace in March 2005 was the briskest ever for that month, the association said.