Sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California rose 3.1% from February to a seasonally adjusted annualized pace of 514,090 units in March, 1.5% ahead of March, 2010, the California Association of Realtors reported Thursday.

The Realtors saw the report as a net positive but noted that the market remains tentative.

"For the first time in many months, we are seeing a genuine improvement in the overall economy, especially with respect to jobs," said Beth L. Peerce, C.A.R. president. "However, while interest rates and current home prices are favorable, uncertainty about whether the economy has stabilized, concerns about inflation, and an unresolved state budget have created hesitation among buyers."

The statewide median price for detached single-family homes rose sequentially to $286,010, up 5.4% from February, but remained down 4.9% year-over-year from $300,900 in March 2010.

The group attributed the annual price decline in part to foreclosures and short sales. "While March's median home price declined year-over-year , the decline can be attributed partly to an increase in distressed sales in recent months, and to last year¹s federal home buyer tax credit, which pushed both sales and home prices higher," said Leslie Appleton-Young, C.A.R. vp and chief economist. "As for market activity, the pace of sales for the first three months of this year is in line with our expectations for all of 2011."

Inventory of single-family detached homes for sale fell to 5.3 months, down from 7.3 months in February but up from 4.8 months the previous March.Median time on the market was 56.7 days compared with 37 days for the same period a year ago.