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Southern California home sales inch higher, prices dip lower

January home sales in Southern California inched higher while prices fell — a trend occuring in other parts of the U.S. across the nation — as traditional buyers retreated and investors snapped up homes at a record level.

More than 14,523 new and resale houses and condos sold in January in the six counties that comprise Southern California, according to DataQuick. The figure held steady from a year earlier when home sales totaled 14,458, but fell 24.5% from 19,247 in December.

Sales increased year-over-year for the last six months, except for December, which is normal for the season.

The median price paid for a home in the six-county area in January was $260,000, down 3.7% from $270,000 for both a year earlier and December 2011. The median was the lowest since $249,000 in May 2009. The median’s low point for the cycle was $247,000 in April 2009, while the high point was $505,000 in mid-2007.

The trend of rising sales and falling prices was also seen recently in Illinois. There, home sales rose in the fourth quarter over the year-earlier period, while the state's median price dwindled, reflecting the downward pressure distressed sales continue to have on property values.

"The mortgage market remains dysfunctional," DataQuick President John Walsh said. "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."

Distressed sales made up more than half of January’s resale market in Southern California.

Foreclosures accounted for nearly one-third of resales last month, down from almost 37% a year earlier and up from a revised 32.4% in December. Foreclosure resales hit a high of 56.7% in February 2009 and a low of 32.8% last June.

Short sales made up 21.3% of resales in the area last month, a high for the current real estate cycle, compared to 19.6% in both January and December 2011.

Source: DataQuick

Source: DataQuick

jhilley@housingwire.com

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