The Sacramento metro area leads the nation in an unenviable category.
The number of area homes listed for sale on Zillow was down 48 percent year-over-year in late February, a percentage plunge that topped the 30 largest U.S. metro markets tracked by the Seattle-based company.
Los Angeles was second with a drop of 45.7 percent. By comparison, the national decline was 16.6 percent.
Zillow's report looked at all homes available for sale on Zillow on Feb. 24 and compared the total with the homes available on Feb. 24, 2012.
In the Sacramento metro area, Zillow broke down the year-over-year declines this way: top-tier homes, down 33.4 percent; middle-tier homes, down 53.2 percent; bottom-tier homes, down 61.5 percent.
The area's middle-tier and bottom-tier percentage drops also led the nation's 30-largest markets, according to Zillow.
Sacramento's paltry home-for-sale inventory was only one chapter of a statewide trend.
California metro areas accounted for the top four U.S. markets seeing the biggest decrease in homes for sale over the past year. San Francisco was down 40.9 percent, and San Diego declined 39.4 percent.
Stan Humphries, Zillow's chief economist, said, "The supply of for-sale listings continues to dry up, driven in part by potential sellers trapped in negative equity and homeowners that won't sell out of fear they won't be able to find a suitable home to buy later."
Humphries added, however, that "the impact of constrained inventory will create the solution to the problem. Over the past year, inventory tightness has contributed to increases in home values in many markets. As home values rise, some homeowners will be freed from negative equity and able to list their homes, which will contribute to an easing of the inventory crunch."
Rising home values have been evident throughout the area.
San Diego market research firm DataQuick recently reported that the median price of all homes sold in Sacramento County rose 22.4 percent in January from the same month of 2012 - to $187,000 from $152,750.
In Yolo County, the January median was $250,500, up 26 percent from $199,000 in January 2012.
Kris Vogt, president of the Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage's Sacramento-Tahoe regional office, said, "We're looking for anything good we can find in these reports. I can tell you that we were seeing a one-month supply (of homes) not that long ago, and now we're seeing just over a one-month supply.
"It's not huge, but it is some increase."
On Thursday, the Sacramento Association of Realtors likewise noted the decline in homes for sale.
SAR said there were 984 active listings in Sacramento County and West Sacramento at the close of January. That represents less than a month of inventory - meaning it would take about that time to sell all the houses on the market.
SAR calculated the January total as eight-tenths of a month of inventory. In February, SAR said active listings rose to 1,072, representing nine-tenths of a month of inventory.
Historically, a four-to-six-month supply is considered healthy.
Vogt speculated that, with rising home values, some area homeowners are likely "getting to the point where they're thinking 'maybe I can sell,' when they couldn't a month ago, or maybe they were underwater."
Vogt does not expect a land rush of sales activity in the upcoming spring/summer months, but he expects a gradual thawing in the local market.
"We're trying to get the message out that the market has changed in terms of increased sales prices," he said.
Call The Bee's Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.