Thursday, August 16, 2012

SoCal home sales, prices spike

Homes sales in Southern California increased 14 percent in July from a year earlier and the median price rose to nearly a four-year high, a market tracker said Tuesday.

It's the seventh consecutive monthly year-over-year sales increase despite continued declines in low-end distressed sales, said San Diego-based DataQuick.

Last month there were 20,588 sales of previously owned homes and condominiums in the six county region, up from 18,090 a year ago. The median price increased 8 percent to $306,000 from $283,000 a year ago, DataQuick said.

In Los Angeles County sales increased 14.5 percent to 7,091 properties from 6,193 a year earlier. The median price rose 3 percent to $330,000 from $320,000 in July 2011.

Increased sales activity in move-up and high-end houses helped drive the price spike, DataQuick said. Region-wide July's median price was the highest since $308,500 in September 2008. The median has risen month-to-month for six consecutive months and has increased year-over-year for the past four.

And the percentage increase was the biggest for any month since 10 percent in July 2010.

Greater demand, partially triggered by historically low mortgage rates, and a thinner inventory of homes for sale help explain recent gains in the median price.

But the increases also stem from a sharp drop in foreclosure resales, which often sell at a steep discount and are concentrated in lower-cost areas, as well as a substantial increase in the portion of sales in mid- to high-end neighborhoods. 

DataQuick said that about half of the 8 percent price gain can be attributed to the shift in market mix.

"Even adjusting for changes in market mix, there's growing evidence prices have crept up in areas where more demand has met a shrinking number of homes for sale," John Walsh, DataQuick president, said in a statement.

"But we're approaching the peak of the traditional spring-summer home-buying season. Whether these trends hold into the fall and winter isn't clear. If they do, then logically the number of homes on the market would eventually rise to meet the demand."

The sales picture was mixed in July as sales declined 7 percent from 22,075 in July.

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