Southern California Home Sales Surge in March

April 19, 2012 (Chris Moore)

Monthly sales of new and existing homes in Southern California surged from February to March while home prices made another strong showing, reaching their highest level since September of last year 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 19,953 new and re-sale homes in March, a 28.1 percent increase from the 15,573 homes sold in February and 2.8 percent higher than the 19,412 homes sold in March of last year.

Home sales in the area typically increase 37.0 percent between February and March and were 18.6 percent below the historical average for the month of March. It was also the seventh time in the last eight months that year-over-year sales have seen an increase.

New home sales were almost nine percent higher than a year ago but were still the second lowest total for a March. Sales of existing single-family homes were at their highest level in two years while condo sales were at a three year low.

Cash buyers accounted for 31.7 percent of the homes sold for the month, down from the previous month’s record of 33.7 percent. Cash buyers paid a median price of $214,000 for their purchases, up from $210,000 the previous month.

Absentee buyers, usually investors and vacation home buyers, accounted for 27.9 percent of all sales in March, down from what was also a record high 29.9 percent in February, and they paid a median price of $210,000 for the homes they purchased, up from $197,750 the previous month.

The median sales price paid for all new and re-sale homes in the Southern California region increased 5.8 percent in March to $280,000 from $264,750 in February. The median price a year ago was $280,500.

The median sales price has declined year-over-year for the past 13 months and has declined or remained unchanged since December 2010.

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.

John Walsh, president of DataQuick, stated, “The year is young and lots could still change, but the results from the first big sales month of 2012 suggest the market is stuck in low gear. This remains a very gradual – not to mention fragile – recovery. Last month’s big gain in sales from February was seasonal. A lot more people get out and shop after the holidays and as spring approaches. More telling was the relatively small gain in sales activity compared with a year ago. It’s a reminder that, for many potential buyers, lower prices and amazingly low mortgage rates still aren’t enough to get them over their hurdles: tight credit, home values below what they owe on their mortgages, and uncertainties over the economy and home prices.”

Distressed properties accounted for 50.0 percent of the re-sale market in February, down from 52.5 percent in February, with foreclosures accounting for 31.1 percent of the re-sale market, down slightly from 32.1 percent in February, while short sales made up an estimated 18.9 percent of re-sales, down from 20.4 percent the previous month.

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