October 14, 2011 (Chris Moore)

New and existing home sales in Southern California declined as expected in September, marking the beginning of the transition from the summer to the fall selling season. Home sales were still higher than last year, but just barely 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 18,149 new and re-sale homes in September. That was down 7.7 percent from the 19,654 homes sold in August and 25.3 percent below the September historical average of 24,310 sold homes. Sales were only 0.3 percent higher than September of last year when 18,091 homes were sold.

Sales typically fall 8.3 percent from August to September and have varied from a low of 12,455 in 2007 to a high of 37,771 in 2003.

A total of 1,056 new homes were sold across the six counties last month, down from 1,184 sold the previous month and 24.9 percent below September of last year. It was the lowest amount of new home sales for the month of September since DataQuick started keeping records in 1988.

“Last month’s Southland sales weren’t great but, like some other economic indicators of late, they came in a bit higher than some might have expected. Holding steady with a year ago isn’t so bad when you consider the hits the housing market has taken in recent months, including a big psychological blow from a tanking stock market in early August. Part of what’s keeping demand afloat is improved affordability thanks to ultra-low mortgage rates and lower home prices. We’ll have to wait and see what impact the lower conforming loan limits, which took effect recently, will have in some of the higher-priced markets,” said John Walsh, DataQuick president.

The median sales price paid for all new and re-sale homes in the Southern California region in September was $280,000, which was up 0.4 percent from $279,000 last month. The median price was 5.2 percent lower than in September of 2010 when the median price was $295,500.

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 seven months and has declined or remained unchanged since December 2010.

Distressed properties accounted for 50.8 percent of the re-sale market in September, down from 52.5 percent in August, with foreclosure re-sales accounting for 32.3 percent of the market while short sales made up an estimated 18.5 percent of re-sales.

Cash buyers accounted for 28.5 percent of the homes sold for the month, down from 29.1 percent in August, paying a median price of $210,000 for their purchases. Absentee buyers accounted for 24.3 percent of all sales, down from 24.6 percent in August, paying a median price of $202,000 for the homes they purchased. Nearly 52.9 percent of the absentee buyers paid cash for their purchases.

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