Southern California's median home price rose 8% in March from February… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
Southern California’s housing market is headed toward the spring shopping season with strong price gains and a steady improvement in sales.
The robust price gains -- driven by a low inventory of homes listed for sale, more move-up purchases and fewer foreclosures -- should help solidify a recovery that began last year, experts said.
The March numbers were reported Wednesday by DataQuick, a real estate information service.
While some analysts have voiced concern about the potential for speculation in certain fast-gaining markets, many also note that a sharp recovery should be expected given how far home prices fell during the bust.
“It’s remarkable how much the housing scene has changed in a year,” DataQuick President John Walsh said. “We’re seeing the release of a lot of pent-up demand, especially in the middle- and higher-priced neighborhoods where activity had been sluggish for years.”
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The region’s median home price in March was up 8% from February and increased 23.4% year-over-year to hit $345,500. That 8% jump represented a gain of more than $25,000 in just a month.
The median, which is the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less, was at its highest level since July 2008. The increase in that price measure has been driven not only by improvements in value, but also by a change in the kinds of homes selling across the region. Fewer foreclosures sold in cheaper neighborhoods means the overall number looks better.
Foreclosures accounted for only 13.9% of sales last month, down from 16.2% in February and 31.5% of all sales a year earlier. In February 2009, foreclosure sales peaked at 56.7% of all sales.
Sales in lower-cost areas also fell. The number of homes that sold below $200,000 fell 33.3% over the year.
At the same time, sales of homes in the region’s move-up price ranges are strong. Sales between $300,000 and $800,000 rose 29.5% over the year. Sales of homes priced more than $800,000 increased 33.4%.
The number of absentee and cash buyers were near record levels. Absentee buyers bought 30.6% of all homes, while people paying cash bought 34.1% of all homes in March.
Home flips are also becoming more popular. In March, 6.1% of all homes sold had been sold previously in the six months prior. That was down from 5.7% in February but up from 4% a year ago.
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