Higher home prices, declining foreclosures and fewer homeowners underwater.
Those were among the hopeful signs for the Sacramento real estate market contained in several reports released today and Wednesday.
"It's a market rebalancing itself and moving toward normalcy, but we're not there yet," said Andrew LePage, analyst with DataQuick.
Median prices for homes sold across the region rose by double-digit percentages in October compared with the same month a year before, DataQuick reported Wednesday.
Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties saw the largest year-over-year price increases since the height of the housing bubble in late 2005, the San Diego-based real estate information service said.
Sacramento's median home price rose by more than 16 percent, from $155,000 in October 2011 to $180,000 in October 2012.
Placer County's median home price rose by nearly 19 percent during the same period, going from $252,500 in October 2011 to $300,000 last month, DataQuick said.
And Yolo County experienced a 21 percent jump in the median home price from October 2011 to October 2012, the information service said.
El Dorado County had a 13 percent rise in the median sale price from October to October, but it wasn't enough to best the county's 21 percent year-over-year price gain in September, LePage said.
A scarcity of homes for sale and strong investor demand for rental houses have fueled the price pressure. Absentee and cash buyers, often one and the same, still account for about 40 percent of Sacramento-area home purchases, according to DataQuick.
But the mix of homes sold is slowly changing, with more owner-occupants drawn to the market, LePage said.
"We continue to yank more people off the housing sidelines because the interest rates, which have been great all year, recently got greater," he said. "People are more confident in the housing recovery. People are feeling more confident in the economy and their jobs."
Sacramento County, for instance, experienced a drop in the percentage of homes that sold for less than than $200,000, the range where investors have been most active, and an increase in the share of homes that sold for more than $300,000, typically the move-up market for area homeowners, LePage said.
Meanwhile, foreclosures continued to make up a smaller portion of the region's housing market. Foreclosure resales represented about 23 percent of the Sacramento County market in October nearly half the figure in October 2011.
And RealtyTrac, another housing market tracker, said today that foreclosure activity including notices of default and bank repossessions fell by nearly 38 percent in October from the same month a year ago.
Zillow weighed in, too. The Seattle-based online housing data firm reported today that the percentage of homeowners in the Sacramento region who owe more than their homes are worth shrank from about 49 percent to 45 percent in the third quarter of 2012 compared with the third quarter of 2011.
The four percentage point drop was based largely on rising prices, said Zillow senior economist Svenja Gudell. "That's among the highest drops we've seen among the large metros," she said.