Wednesday, 15 February 2012

REAL ESTATE: Inland home sales, prices dip in January

Despite record low mortgage interest rates, home sales and median home prices dropped in Riverside and San Bernardino counties last month, compared to January of 2011.

There were 2,684 home sales in Riverside County, which was a 2 percent decline from a year earlier. The county’s median home price — where half were priced higher and half lower — dropped by 5 percent to $180,500.

In San Bernardino County, home sales fell 1.6 percent to 2,051, while the median home price dipped 1 percent to $150,000. That is down $1,500 from the median home price a year earlier.

By contrast, DataQuick — which released the January data today — reported that the entire Southland, which also includes Los Angeles, San Diego, Ventura and Orange counties, started the year with slightly higher sales. Sales regionwide have increased year-over-year for five of the last six months. There was a sharp sales decline in December, which is normal for the season.

Home builders have fared the worst, with January sales of newly built homes falling to 669, the lowest number for any month since DataQuick started keeping track in 1988.

“January numbers have never been very good at providing an indication of what upcoming activity will be like. For that we need to wait until March,” said John Walsh, DataQuick president. “What we can determine is that the mortgage market remains dysfunctional. It will be interesting to see how a potential surge of refinance activity (in response to new federal refinancing programs for underwater mortgages) plays into the purchase market once the administration’s guidelines are implemented.

The median price paid for a Southland home last month was $260,000, down 3.7 percent from $270,000 for both December and January last year. The median was the lowest since $249,000 in May 2009. In the recent down cycle the median price bottomed at $247,000 in April 2009, after falling from a high of $505,000 in mid 2007.

The drop was due to both a decline in home values and a shift in sales to lower-cost homes, especially foreclosed homes in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, said DataQuick.


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