REAL ESTATE: Home prices rise 18 percent; sales decline

(Courtesy of The Press Enterprise)
by Debra Gruszecki

REAL ESTATE: Home prices rise 18 percent; sales decline

A report on the Inland real estate market shows an 18 percent spike in area house prices


New construction along commuter corridors have helped push up sales prices, as inventory loads in the Inland region remain in crunch mode.
0 0 0
AText Size

Southern California’s real estate market had its strongest February in six years, as a record share of homes sold to absentee buyers and the move-up market gained momentum.

There were 15,945 sales of new and resale houses and condos across Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties, 1 percent more than February 2012 when 15,780 sales were logged in the six-county region, a new real estate information report says.

“We are at a six-year high since the start of the year,” said DataQuick analyst Andrew LePage.
Even so, sales in the Inland region declined, falling 5.9 percent in San Bernardino and Riverside counties to 4,792 from 5,093 in February 2012.

Realtors have blamed the decline — amid pent-up demand, increased consumer confidence and low mortgage lending rates — on sparse inventory.

The upshot of the sparse pickings has had a teeter-totter effect: It’s pushed the February median home sale price up more than 18 percent.

The median price of a home sold in Riverside County jumped to $228,000 from $193,000 in February 2012. In San Bernardino, the median sale price climbed to $175,000 from $148,000 one year earlier.

LePage agreed low inventory drives prices up, but he suggested that other factors are also in play.

Traditional buyers and sellers drop out of the market around the holidays, leaving the field open to a higher concentration of super-motivated customers who include investors.

Riverside County had 38.4 percent of all home and condo sales go to absentee or second-home buyers in February, a record since 2000 when this data began to be kept. San Bernardino County’s hit a record-high the month before with 38.9 percent of its sales going to absentee or second-home buyers.

The percentage of cash buyers rose, as well. February data reflected near-record cash-buy levels of 41.3 percent in Riverside County and 40.6 percent in San Bernardino County.

Also, move-up markets gained traction.

The median-price paid for all new and resale houses and condos sold in the six-county Southland was $320,000, up 20.9 percent from $264,750 in February 2012. The double-digit gains have been occurring consistently since last August.

Sales on homes priced between $300,000 and $800,000 rose 33.4 percent year-over year. The number of homes and condos that sold for $500,000 or more jumped 54 percent from February 2012, while sales of $800,000-plus homes increased 62.7 percent compared with one year earlier.

“Most every gauge shows prices are up significantly over the past year,” DataQuick president John Walsh said, before advising to keep price gains in proper context: The median sale price across Southern California region is still 37 percent below the 2007 peak of $505,000. It is trending about where the median was in mid-2003.

The move-up buyer pattern in February appeared to take a similar path in the Inland counties.
Total sales on Riverside County homes priced under $200,000 fell 30 percent from February 2012, LePage said. Homes and condos in the $300,000 to $800,000 price range rose 27.2 percent. Homes priced above $500,000 are up 19 percent in Riverside County, but still represent only 6 percent of all transactions.

Home sales at prices under $200,000 in San Bernardino fell 21 percent from February 2012, while sales in the $300,000 to $800,000 range rose 53 percent. “If you set the bar at $500,000 plus, the number of sales jumped 78.4 percent,” LePage said, “but only 5 percent of all sales were in this category.”