February 16, 2012 (Chris Moore)

Monthly sales of new and existing homes in Southern California fell almost 25 percent in January with investors grabbing an even larger share of the sales resulting in home prices falling to their lowest levels since 2009 according to real estate information provider DataQuick.

Sales in the Southern California region, which includes Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties, totaled 14,523 new and re-sale homes in January, a 24.5 percent decline from the 19,247 homes sold in December, but 0.4 percent higher than the 14,458 homes sold in January of last year.

The Southern California area typically averages 17,671 sales in January putting last month’s sales total 17.8 percent below the average, but it was still the fifth time in the last six months that year-over-year sales have seen an increase.

New home sales were not only at their lowest level on record for a January, but at the lowest level ever for the region. Only 669 new homes were sold during the month.

John Walsh, president of DataQuick, “January numbers have never been very good at providing an indication of what upcoming activity will be like. For that we need to wait until March. What we can determine is that the mortgage market remains dysfunctional. It will be interesting to see how a potential surge of refinance activity plays into the purchase market once the administration’s new guidelines are implemented.”

The median sales price paid for all new and re-sale homes in the Southern California region fell 3.7 percent in January to $260,000 from $270,000 in December and are at their lowest level since May 2009. The median price a year ago was also $270,000.

The highest median sales price for homes in the region during the current housing cycle’s peak was $505,000 in mid-2007 while the lowest was $247,000 in April 2009.

The median sales price has declined year-over-year for the past 11 months and has declined or remained unchanged since December 2010.

Distressed properties accounted for 53.9 percent of the re-sale market in December, up from 52.0 percent in December, with foreclosure re-sales accounting for 32.6 percent of the market, up from 32.4 percent in December, while short sales made up an estimated 21.3 percent of re-sales, up from 19.6 percent the previous month.

Cash buyers accounted for 31.4 percent of the homes sold for the month, up from 29.8 percent in December, paying a median price of $199,000 for their purchases, down from $202,500 the previous month.

Absentee buyers, usually investors and vacation home buyers, accounted for a record high 26.8 percent of all sales, up from 26.4 percent in December and paid a median price of $193,500 for the homes they purchased, down from $200,000 last month.

Tags: DataQuick, Southern California, new homes, re-sale homes, median price, home sales, investors, absentee buyers