Higher-End Housing Moves Buyers in SoCal, Bay Area

Improvements in mortgage availability and the belief that prices have hit rock bottom has buyers moving in the Southern California and the San Diego Bay area, according to La Jolla-based data analyzer MDA DataQuick. In So Cal, buyers are responding to price cuts on mid- to high-end homes and the availability of credit for pricier homes. There were a 23,262 total new and existing homes and condo sales completed in San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura, Riverside and San Bernardino counties in June, up 12% from May. While foreclosures are still having an impact on the SoCal market, the effect is weakening. Foreclosure sales made up 45.3% of resales in June, down from 49.7% in May and the February peak of 56.7%. Fewer foreclosure sales meant resale of homes priced $500,000 and above rose to represent nearly 20% of all sales in the SoCal region. It’s the first time that segment of the market made up more than 19% of all sales since October 2008, and comes after that figure had dipped to a low of 13.4% in January. The increase in pricier home sales helped increase the median sales price for the second consecutive month to $265,000, up 6.4% from $249,000 in May. DataQuick president John Walsh said the numbers should be viewed with cautious optimism. “The rising median should still be viewed mainly as a sign the market’s moving back toward a more normal distribution of sales across the home price spectrum,” he said in a press release. “Sales in many higher-cost neighborhoods couldn’t have gotten much lower, so this recent uptick in activity should come as no surprise.” Walsh added: “The recession and problem mortgages are fueling more high-end distress, hence more high-end ‘bargains.’ What’s missing, still, is a wide-open financing spigot for the would-be buyers of these more expensive homes.” In the nine-county San Diego Bay area, sales were up 16.1% from 7,447 in May to 8,644 in June. The median price paid for those homes and condos was $352,000 last month, up 3.1 percent from $341,500 in May, the highest since the median was $375,000 in October 2008. The percentage of foreclosure sales dropped to 37.3% in June, down from 40.5% in May, and is at its lowest point since August 2008 when foreclosure sales made up 36% of all transactions. Write to Austin Kilgore.

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