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New-home sales increase

Some counties in the Southland see gains from March to April.

June 09, 2007|Annette Haddad | Times Staff Writer

Sales at major new-home communities in parts of Southern California picked up in April as Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties bucked statewide trends to post gains from the previous month, an industry report Friday showed.

Still, April's sales figures remained weaker throughout the state compared with a year earlier, with total sales falling 40%, the California Building Industry Assn. said.

And after holding steady for several months, median asking prices fell 6.2% statewide as builders slashed prices to move unsold inventory.

New-home prices rose year over year in Los Angeles and San Diego counties, however. Industry observers say builders in these areas are more likely to offer incentives such as free landscaping and interior upgrades, instead of discounts, to sell homes.

The median new-home price in Los Angeles County rose to $499,950, a 5.7% increase from a year earlier, even as sales declined 12.9%.

In San Diego County, new-home prices rose 14.3% from a year earlier to a median of $486,990 as sales dropped 32.7%.

On a month-to-month basis, sales in parts of Southern California were much better. Between March and April, L.A. County sales rose 12.2%. Orange County sales gained 14.1% and San Diego sales edged up 2.2%.

That's in contrast to San Bernardino and Riverside counties, where sales fell 18.3% from the previous month and were down 54% from a year earlier.

The median price edged down 4% to $419,000 from a year earlier.

"With such a varied mix of housing markets in California, it's not surprising to see them perform differently each month," said Patrick Duffy, a managing director of Hanley Wood Market Intelligence, a research firm based in Costa Mesa that compiled the statistics for the builders group.

"In general, it's those areas located close to job centers that will negotiate the current slowdown better than the outlying exurbs," he said.

Even though new-home sales constitute about 15% of total home sales, real estate experts watch the numbers closely because price swings can help predict trends in the larger existing-homes market.

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