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Southern California home-price decline slows in March

April 17, 2012|By Alejandro Lazo | This post has been updated, as indicated below.
  • Homes under construction in Carlsbad in January.
Homes under construction in Carlsbad in January. (Lenny Ignelzi / Associated…)

Southern California's home-price decline slowed to a crawl in March as sales improved from the same month a year prior and homes in more expensive areas sold.

The Southland's median home price slipped just 0.2% from March 2011 to hit $280,000. Compared with the prior month this year, the median price rose 5.8%, the second consecutive increase, real estate research firm DataQuick reported. The median is the point at which half the homes in the region sold for more and half for less.

Sales increased 2.8% year-over-year to total 19,953 homes in the six-county region, DataQuick reported. Sales improved the most in Orange, Ventura and San Diego counties.

[Updated, 11:14 a.m. April 17: As is normal with the start of the spring shopping season beginning to get underway, home sales from February to March jumped 28.1%. Historically, sales have jumped 37.0% between those two months, DataQuick said.

“The year is young and lots could still change, but the results from the first big sales month of 2012 suggest the market is stuck in low gear,” DataQuick president John Walsh said. “This remains a very gradual -- not to mention fragile -- recovery.”

Sales have shown improvement recently, increasing for the last three consecutive months and for seven out of the last eight months. A good chunk of that activity has been driven by historic levels of investor and all-cash purchasers. Those groups have been buying homes on the cheap with the intent of renting them or quickly selling those properties for a profit.

Activity by speculators continued at a strong clip last month. Investor activity nearly hit a record for the month and cash purchases were double their historical average, DataQuick said. Absentee buyers bought 27.9% of all homes while cash buyers accounted for 31.7% of all homes bought.

Foreclosed homes and short sales -- where a home is sold for less than the outstanding debt on the property -- accounted for about half of all sales last month.]

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