Don't Look Now, But SoCal Home Sales Surged in April
Add some fuel to the "worst is already behind us" crowd's fire, because April was the best month the battered Southern California housing market has seen in at least nine months. Home sales in Southern California surged to their highest level since August of last year this past April, rising an astounding 21.9 during April compared to one month earlier, real estate information service DataQuick Information Systems reported Monday. While the monthly comparison is not seasonally-adjusted, sales typically rise by an average of 1.2 percent between the two months, the company said. Sales remained 19 percent below year-ago levels, and the bump in activity came despite record foreclosure activity within the state. A total of 15,615 new and resale houses and condos sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties during April, DataQuick said. And it appears that much of the buying activity has been centered on foreclosures; of all the homes that resold in April, 37.5 percent had been foreclosed on at some point in the prior 12 months, compared with a revised 35.8 percent in March and 4.6 percent a year ago. Across the six-county area, "foreclosure resales" ranged from 26.9 percent of resale activity in Orange County to 52.7 percent in Riverside County. Not a jumbo conforming bounce Perhaps more unexpected than the sales bounce was what didn't cause it: new jumbo conforming loan limits appear to have had little to do with the rebound in Southern California housing. Last month's upswing in sales was most pronounced for homes priced under $500,000, which accounted for two-thirds of the Southland's sales gain over March, DatQuick said. Riverside County, the epicenter of Southland foreclosure activity and price declines, actually posted the region's only year-over-year sales increase -- that county's first in two years. Zip codes showing relatively large annual gains in sales of existing houses included those in San Jacinto and Lake Elsinore in Riverside County, Victorville in San Bernardino County, Lake Forest and Anaheim in Orange County, Lancaster in Los Angeles County and Chula Vista in San Diego County. "Quite a few more buyers stepped off the sidelines last month to snap up homes at substantial discounts relative to the market's short-lived peak," said Marshall Prentice, DataQuick president. "We continue to look for evidence of a sales bounce in the mid-priced and higher-end markets along the coast. If the higher conforming loan limits are making a difference in those areas, it's certainly not a large one, at least not as of the end of April." The median price paid for a Southland home was $385,000 last month, unchanged from March and down 23.8 percent from the peak median of $505,000 in April of last year. Last month was the first in eight months that the median price in Southern California did not decline on a month-to-month basis. For more information, visit http://www.dataquick.com.