Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Southern California home prices rise in July

SAN DIEGO — Southern California home prices jumped to their highest levels in nearly four years last month, lifted by sales in pricier coastal regions, a research firm said Tuesday.

The median price for new and existing houses and condominiums in the six-county region reached $306,000 in July, up 8.1 percent from $283,000 the same period last year, DataQuick reported. It was the fourth straight month that the median price rose from last year and the highest level since $308,500 in September 2008.

Sales jumped to 20,588 homes, up 13.8 percent from 18,090 homes last year, DataQuick said. It was the seventh straight month that sales climbed a year earlier.

Brisker sales in high-end coastal areas fueled price gains, with Orange County — the region's most expensive — showing a 25.7 percent increase in sales. San Diego, the region's third-most expensive county after Orange and Ventura, witnessed a 17.2 percent sales increase. Sales in Los Angeles County grew 14.5 percent.
Less expensive inland areas also saw sales grow, but the increases were more modest. Riverside County sales grew 7.8 percent from last year, while San Bernardino County sales climbed 2.4 percent.

Tightening supplies also drove prices higher, San Diego-based DataQuick said.

The California Association of Realtors' unsold inventory index in the Los Angeles metropolitan area stood at 3.5 months in June, the latest figures available, down from 5.4 months a year earlier. The figure represents the amount of time it would take for all homes on the market to be sold at the current sales clip. Other parts of Southern California showed similar tightening.

Foreclosed properties, which tend to sell at a steep discount, comprised a smaller part of the overall sales mix, lifting the median price. DataQuick said homes that were foreclosed upon in the previous year accounted for 21 percent of existing-home sales in Southern California last month, down from 32.6 percent a year earlier.
"Even adjusting for changes in the market mix, there's growing evidence that prices have crept up in areas where more demand has met a shrinking number of homes for sale," said John Walsh, DataQuick's president.

Sales were most robust in the price range between $300,000 and $800,000, gaining 22 percent, while sales of homes above $800,000 rose 7.2 percent, DataQuick said. Sales of homes of less than $200,000, which drove much of the market after the 2008 meltdown in financial markets, fell 5.8 percent.

Home foreclosure activity in California has fallen to five-year lows, easing concerns there might be a flood of distressed sales to slow or even reverse the housing market's recovery.

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported another dose of news last week that suggested a wave of foreclosures was less likely. It said 6.38 percent of California home loans were at least one payment behind during the second quarter, down from 8.12 percent a year earlier.
© 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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