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Southland housing market strengthens in April

May 16, 2012|By Alejandro Lazo
  • The Antelope Valley has been especially hard hit by the foreclosure crisis, but there are signs that Southern California's housing market appears to be getting stronger.
The Antelope Valley has been especially hard hit by the foreclosure crisis,… (Michael Robinson Chavez…)

With sales increasing from the same month a year prior, Southern California’s median home price rose 3.6% in April, the first year-over-year pop since late 2010.

The median, which is the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less, rose to $290,000 as foreclosures made up a much narrower share of the market last month, real estate research firm DataQuick reported on Wednesday.

Sales rose 5.1% to hit 19,284 in total last month. Prices appear to be stabilizing as the number of homes for sale on the market decreases and buyers get more competitive.

The California Assn. of Realtors reported earlier this week that the amount of inventory of homes for sale statewide is low. About four months and just under a week's worth of homes were available for sale on the market, according to the group's inventory index. About six to seven months is considered a healthy market.

[Updated 9:55 a.m.: The year-over-year rise in the median was the first in 16 months and reflected a significant drop in the number of foreclosures selling and more homes bought in pricier coastal markets, DataQuick reported.

“The housing market continued its painfully slow crawl back toward normalcy last month,” DataQuick President John Walsh said in the company's news release. “You can see it in the fading role of foreclosures, the uptick in median prices here and there, and the higher levels of sales in coastal counties.”

Foreclosures made up the lowest share of the resale market since January 2008, underscoring the big decline in bank-owned properties since the start of the crash. Investors and buyers paying cash have grown increasingly willing to snap up such properties in big numbers to resell or hold as rentals. Foreclosures made up 28.6% of the market down from 33.8% a year earlier, DataQuick said.

Short sales, which are homes that are sold for less than the outstanding mortgage debt on the properties, are also making an increasingly important part of the market. Short sales typically sell for more than foreclosed properties. Short sales made up 18.4% of the market, up from 17.3% a year earlier, DataQuick said.

Sales of homes in San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles and Ventura counties made up 68% of sales last month, up from 71.5% a month prior. The increase in buying in these counties likely helped push the median higher as homes are generally costlier in these areas than they are in the Inland Empire, which was hit hard by the housing bust and subprime mortgage meltdown. The median is heavily influenced by the mix of homes selling any month.

Last month’s $290,000 median was still 42.6% below the $505,000 peak in 2007, indicating that even though housing may be on the mend, prices will probably not return to those frothy heights anytime soon.]

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